LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid says he’s enthusiastic about reaction to a once-secret study of UFOs that Reid and congressional colleagues authorized more than a decade ago. 

The last two years have seen an explosion of interest in UFOs among mainstream media, but there’s been push back from conspiracy enthusiasts, and some military officials.

When Bill and Hillary Clinton came to Las Vegas in May to speak to a large audience on the Las Vegas Strip, their first stop was the Henderson home of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It’s the same path followed by many Democratic politicians and presidential candidates who visit Nevada, seeking guidance from the retired, but still-crafty senator. 

Reid and the Clinton”s share an interest in a controversial subject — UFOs.  As a presidential candidate in 2016, Hillary Clinton vowed to open up the Pentagon’s UFO files. And when Bill Clinton was still president, Reid asked him about UFOs during one White House visit.

George Knapp: “You discussed it with Bill Clinton. Don’t know if we can talk about this?”

Harry Reid: “Yeah, yeah Bill is, one thing about President Clinton, no one ever said he wasn’t smart. He was and is an extremely intelligent man, and this is something he was interested in.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks with I-Team reporter George Knapp about UFOs. (KLAS-TV)

Reid was cagey about whether the Clintons discussed UFOs during their recent visit, but told us the subject is definitely on the agenda for their next get together. Reid had similar conversations with other national figures during his years in the senate, including Senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye, who lent their support to the creation of a secret Pentagon study of UFOs, as well as senator and former astronaut John Glenn.

Knapp: “Did he ever give you specifics about why?”

Reid: “Nope, nope, but he, I didn’t want to push him, but he was very interested.”

The UFO study that Reid initiated was largely carried out by a Nevada contractor, Bigelow Aerospace. After the contract ended, a scaled down version of the program continued within the Pentagon called Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or AATIP. In a 2009 letter to the Department of Defense, Reid tried to move AATIP into a more classified special access status. The sensitive letter was sent to only a handful of people, one of whom was a career intelligence officer named Lue Elizondo.

AATIP was one of his Pentagon assignments. In 2010, Elizondo became the point man for AATIP, though in recent statements, Pentagon spokespersons deny he ever worked for it. UFO critics have pounced on those claims. Reid says he is appalled but not surprised.

“We have a fringe group of people out there who want to control this. The so-called conspiratorial folks,” Reid said. “They don’t want anybody that’s based on facts involved in this. So what do they do? They go online and try to belittle Elizondo and me and anybody else that is trying to do it in a scientific way. Elizondo is a man with a great record serving our country and people should leave him alone. And one thing about him, he’s not backing off and I appreciate that very much.”

Knapp: “Would you say — definitely — he was working for AATIP trying to figure out UFO stuff?”

Reid: “That’s one of the things he did, yes.”

Although the Pentagon says AATIP ended in 2012, Reid has been informed it is ongoing and with greater resources than it had before. The U.S. Navy’s announcement that it will encourage UFO encounter reports by pilots and others is a key development, Reid said. It’s an indicator the subject is no longer taboo or a career killer. The ongoing wave of media interest has even convinced Reid’s most formidable skeptic — Mrs. Reid.

“So, my wife said maybe you aren’t crazy after all.”