For the first time since Roswell, coverage of UFOs has entered serious, mainstream news—featuring even on the front page of the New York Times in December 2017. And while that story was more about tax dollars than extraterrestrials themselves, it illuminated some of the otherworldly beliefs (and perhaps even knowledge) that exist at high levels of government.
But just how surprising is this news?
Here are 10 high-ranking officials who, at one time or another (and in some cases over and over again), have talked frankly about the existence of aliens.
10. Eric Gairy (Prime Minister of Grenada, 1974-1979)
On November 27, 1978, Prime Minister of Grenada Sir Eric Gairy led a delegation to the UN to discuss the urgent problem of UFOs. According to a cable published by Wikileaks, Gairy considered the issue to be of “world-wide importance and significance,” warranting serious consideration by world leaders—especially in light of the apparent abduction of Frederick Valentich over Australia the previous month.
Memorably, Gairy called upon the United Nations to “come alive to its responsibilities and take a serious look at the UFO phenomenon to which Planet Earth has been conspicuously exposed since 1947.”
In addition to his own Minister of Education, he was joined by the renowned ufologists Dr. Jacques Vallée and Stanton Friedman, as well as Lt.Col. Larry Coyne, each of whom testified to the reality of the UFO phenomenon. Friedman even went so far as to speculate on their motivations: keeping tabs on us in the knowledge that we’ll soon go interstellar. A letter from the astronaut L. Gordon Cooper was also read aloud. In it, he claimed to have seen formations of UFOs in the 1950s and argued that more qualified professionals would come forward if the UN pursued the issue.
In a somewhat amusing twist, though, while campaigning about UFOs in the States, Gairy was overthrown back home in a Marxist-Leninist revolution (despite having left his thuggish Mongoose Gang in charge) and found himself stranded abroad.
9. Miyuki Hatoyama (Spouse of the Prime Minister of Japan, 2009-2010)
Miyuki Hatoyama was the first wife of any Japanese prime minister to assume a more active and outspoken, First Lady-style role in public life. But she was already well known in Japan.
Nicknamed “Mrs. Occult” for her strange beliefs, she wrote a monthly column on paranormal phenomena for Mu magazine and frequently discussed her lifestyle on TV. Among other things, she said she “eats the Sun” every morning for energy and that she met Tom Cruise in a past life when he was Japanese.
But her most outrageous claim to date comes from her 2008 book Very Strange Things I’ve Encountered. While asleep one night in 1989, she wrote, her soul was abducted and taken to Venus—a very beautiful, very green place, apparently—aboard a triangular-shaped UFO.
Although her husband’s otherworldly manner and prominent eyes have earned him the nickname “the Alien,” he was bewildered by his wife’s account. Believing in UFOs was one thing, he said, but her trip was probably a dream. Nevertheless, he apparently joins her in “eating” the Sun every day and draws energy from his wife’s eccentricity.
8. Kazem Finjan (Iraqi Minister of Transport, 2016-present)
Iraqi Transport Minister Kazem Finjan evidently has a thing about airports. Last year, he caused an uproar for almost crash landing a passenger plane on a runway in Basra, having taken over the controls on a whim. And the year before, he made international headlines for claiming that the world’s first airport was built in Iraq 5,000 years ago, or 3,000 years before Christ. According to him, it served as a base from which ancient Sumerian astronauts took off and explored the solar system.
Finjan made his claims at a press conference in the southern governorate of Dhi Kar, where a new airport was to be built. The site was selected by the ancient Sumerians, he said, because of its favorable meteorological conditions, allowing ancient astronauts to take off, land, and maneuver with safety and ease. Traveling to the outer reaches of the solar system, the Sumerians were allegedly the first to discover the hypothetical Planet X—a potentially massive body beyond Pluto that Finjan, citing Zecharia Sitchin, called “the 12th planet” or “Nibiru.”
Sitchin, of course, is well known for his ancient alien theories. In his 1976 book The 12th Planet, he argued that Homo sapiens is a genetically engineered slave race created by the extraterrestrial Anunnaki, or Nephilim, to mine gold. These “gods,” he wrote, first came to Earth from Nibiru 450,000 years ago in search of the precious metal—which they needed to make a protective gold particle shield in the upper atmosphere of their planet.
7. Jimmy Carter (President of the United States, 1977-1981)
Jimmy Carter filed his UFO report when he was still just the Governor of Georgia, in 1973, a few years before starting his presidency. The incident itself occurred in 1969 and was witnessed by several other people as they all stood waiting for a Lions Club meeting in the small town of Leary, Georgia.
According to Carter, a green light suddenly appeared in the western sky just after sundown, hovering around 30 degrees over the horizon and gradually moving toward them. It then came to a halt beyond some pine trees and changed color to blue, then red, then white, before disappearing into the distance entirely.
As a trained scientist and amateur astronomer, Carter rejected outright the suggestion that what he was looking at was Venus. But neither did he believe it was aliens, insisting instead that what he saw was just an intangible light.
Even so, he’s never been able to explain the sighting. And it left such an impression on him that he vowed never to ridicule UFO witnesses again. He even promised during his presidential campaign to release “every piece of information” he could find—although he later reneged on this on the grounds of national security.
6. Paul Hellyer (Canadian Minister of National Defence, 1963-1967)
Like many old-school politicians, Paul Hellyer was long out of office before making outrageous claims. His last two government positions—as Canada’s Minister of National Defence and Minister of Transport—ended in 1967 and 1969, respectively. And it wasn’t until 2005 that he brought up the topic of aliens (although he did open a largely symbolic UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta, aka “Stargate Alpha,” in 1967).
Nevertheless, he remains on the Privy Council for Canada as one of its longest-serving members. So when he declared in September 2005 that “UFOs are as real as the airplanes flying overhead,” he became the first statesman of cabinet rank from any G8 country to do so.
Since then, Hellyer has repeatedly called for UFO disclosure, arguing that classified alien technology could help us tackle climate change. This technology, he says, was originally procured (alongside flying saucers and weapons systems) in exchange for President Truman’s consent for ETs to abduct US citizens.
According to Hellyer, several species of aliens (or “extraterrestrial biological entities,” as the government allegedly calls them) have been visiting the Earth for thousands of years. Some originate from within our own solar system and look just like us, while others, such as the Greys, come from further afield. One thing they all have in common, though, is a deep concern over our poor stewardship of the planet, and in particular our possession of nukes.
5. Dmitry Medvedev (President of Russia, 2008-2012; Prime Minister of Russia, 2012-present)
Nobody really knows whether Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev meant it when he said, off the air in 2012, that he believes in Father Frost (the Russian version of Santa Claus). And nobody’s quite sure what to make of his alien comments, either.
Speaking to reporters after a televised press conference, Medvedev, then just-former President of Russia, was asked about classified files. “Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes,” he replied, “the president of the country is given a special top secret folder … [which] contains information about aliens who visited our planet.” This information, he said, is accompanied by a report on the “absolutely secret special service” that monitors and controls ETs in Russia. He stopped short of saying exactly how many there were, however, out of fear that “it may cause panic.”
Although Medvedev is generally thought to have been joking, witnesses said he looked to be serious. And he was apparently pretty candid on other touchy subjects, calling federal investigators “jerks” and rejecting the 2012 end-date. Furthermore, the “well-known movie” Men in Black that he referred journalists to for “more detailed information” was probably not, as many assumed, the Will Smith version, but a Russian documentary of roughly the same name. For what it’s worth, the film echoes Paul Hellyer’s claims about secret abduction deals made by US presidents in exchange for alien technology.
Of course, Medvedev is unlikely to have disclosed such well-kept state secrets so casually to the press, whether on the record or not, but his comments caused a hubbub on the internet.
4. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (President of Kalmykia, 1993-2010)
In any case, that wasn’t the first time Dmitry Medvedev had been linked to extraterrestrials. In 2010, as President of Russia, he was urged by one of his MPs to investigate the claims of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, then President of the Republic of Kalmykia (part of the Russian Federation).
In TV and radio interviews, the regional president had been claiming not only to believe in aliens but actually to have been abducted by them. In 1997, he said, beings in yellow spacesuits took him aboard an enormous flying saucer and flew him to distant planets, landing on one to pick up equipment. Although the aliens described everything they were doing in detail, Ilyumzhinov regrets not asking more questions. Apparently he was too preoccupied with getting back to Earth in time to conduct Youth Government Week.
Intriguingly, in his letter to President Medvedev, Ilyumzhinov’s concerned MP was worried less about his leader’s mental stability and more about following official protocol for reporting alien contact. He also feared Ilyumzhinov may have inadvertently revealed state secrets to the spacefaring visitors.
For his part, Ilyumzhinov continues to believe in ETs and even claims they invented chess—which is interesting considering he’s been the President of the World Chess Federation since 1995.
3. John Podesta (White House Chief of Staff, 1998-2001; Counselor to the President, 2014-2015)
UFOs—or UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena), as Hillary Clinton calls them—were something of an up-and-coming issue in the 2016 presidential election, with the Democrat pledging to re-open and disclose any relevant files.
But her campaign chairman John Podesta was advocating for disclosure many years earlier. Speaking at a press conference in 2002 (shortly after serving as Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff), he declared it was “time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old” because “the American people, quite frankly, can handle the truth.”
He also wrote the foreword to ufologist Leslie Kean’s 2010 book UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record.
Even more interestingly, leaked private emails from 2015 reveal a bizarre correspondence between Podesta and the astronaut-turned-ufologist Edgar Mitchell. Among other things, the pair were discussing zero-point energy, which, according to Mitchell, we’ll be able to learn from the aliens—but only once we stop waging wars.
2. Fife Symington (Governor of Arizona, 1991-1997)
Pretty much everyone else on this list was basically alone in their claims—backed up, if at all, only by a ragtag, fringe community of fellow UFO fanatics. Not so for Fife Symington, who served as the Governor of Arizona for most of the 1990s. In March 1997, he and hundreds (or even thousands) of others saw a huge, V-shaped craft flying extraordinarily low overhead—so close “they could almost touch it”—as it slowly and silently traversed the state. According to some witnesses, it looked to be over a mile wide.
The encounter, which also involved a number of blinking orbs passing over the capital and disappearing into the mountains, came to be known as the Phoenix Lights. It remains one of the most noteworthy UFO sightings in history—and certainly one of the most widely reported, with many citizens having been outside that night looking for the Hale-Bopp comet. (Incidentally, this comet was believed by the Heaven’s Gate UFO cult—39 members of which killed themselves 11 days later—to have extraterrestrials in tow.)
Governor Symington famously made light of the phenomenon at the time, dressing his chief of staff up as an alien and presenting him as the “culprit” at a press conference. Before unmasking his stooge, he told his audience: “This just goes to show that you guys are entirely too serious.”
Ten years later, however (his name already tarnished by convictions for bank fraud), Symington changed his tune. Dismissing the official explanation of the lights as just flares, he apologized to his former constituents and admitted to having seen the “massive delta-shaped craft” for himself. As a pilot and former Air Force officer, he said, he could tell it was unlike anything used by the military. He also went on to urge the government to “stop putting out stories that perpetuate the myth that all UFOs can be explained away in down-to-earth conventional terms,” and called for “more openness in government, especially our own.”
1. Christopher K. Mellon (US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, 1999-2002)
As a member of the influential Mellon family, Christopher K. is practically American royalty—descended from the same Pittsburgh judges, industrialists, and financiers who helped shape American history.
His own career has involved a number of high-level intelligence positions at the Pentagon, including Coordinator for Advanced Concepts and Program Integration (1997-1998), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security and Information Operations (1998-1999), and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (1999-2002). He also spent nearly 10 years on the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, reporting back to the Senate on various classified programs—including Area 51.
Needless to say, he’s been trusted with a great many secrets over the years. Indeed, a photo of Mellon standing next to the former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen was even addressed by the latter: “To Chris Mellon, the other man who kept all the secrets.”
So it may be telling that he’s now on the boards of UFODATA, a crowd-sourced UFO surveillance network, and To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, Tom DeLonge’s seemingly hare-brained scheme to bridge science fiction and reality by way of alien technology.
Even so, Mellon highly doubts the government’s involvement in UFO cover-ups, insisting that Area 51 has nothing to do with aliens. In fact, despite compelling eyewitness testimony and recorded video evidence (including from the Maui Optical Tracking Facility), government officials, he says, have remained frustratingly uninterested in the phenomenon. As for whether UFOs might be experimental military craft, Mellon categorically states that the DoD never had anything like them.