Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid is calling for formal congressional hearings probing the enduring mystery of UFOs.

The longtime leader of Senate Democrats quietly sponsored a secret Pentagon study of UFOs and related mysteries. The program was based in Las Vegas but ended in 2012.

Now, in his first on-camera interview in more than a year, Reid says both Congress and the Pentagon should take a fresh look at the topic, and he intends to help make it happen.

“Some people say, why is Reid doing this? He doesn’t know anything about science. Well, I’m doing it out of sheer curiosity,” Reid said .

Harry Reid’s interest in UFOs dates back 30 years, but he kept it quiet until Dec. 2017 when the New York Times reported about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a secret Pentagon study of UFOs and related phenomena, initiated by Reid and two other senators. Documents related to AATIP and its offshoot — Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program (AAWSAP) — do not mention UFOs , ET’s, or little green men, and Reid has been careful to avoid the tabloid slant.

Reporter George Knapp: “You’ve used that quote about ‘It’s not little green men.’ We don’t know, we don’t know what it is or where they are from?”

Harry Reid: “We do not know. What I have learned is, you can’t just hide your head in the sand and say these things are not happening. We have military installations where hundreds and hundreds of people who are there and see these things.”

Dramatic military episodes involving highly-advanced but unknown intruders, such as a fleet of so-called gimbal craft in 2015 or the 2004 incursions by large tic tac’s more than justify an ongoing study, Reid said.

“As I said, this is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s not just here in the United States. There are certain places we don’t understand why but there are more occurrences and have been for a long long time.”

The study based in Las Vegas explored topics far beyond the nuts and bolts of flying saucers. Physicist Dr. Hal Puthoff assigned 38 topics to academics and experts, tasking the authors to project to the year 2050 and speculate on what our cutting-edge technology might become. UFOs, whatever they are, have already demonstrated some of what is possible.

In July 2018, the I-Team first released the list of those papers. Two weeks ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed the list when it released a letter from late Senator John McCain, who had requested all available materials from AATIP for his armed services committee. Reid and McCain were from different parties but were close.

“Sure, John knew what I was doing. He didn’t hide the fact that he was interested also. It’s why he wrote the letter.”

Media critics have griped that the papers explored fringe science. That was the assignment, according to Dr. Puthoff. One publication explores invisibility cloaking — craft that are not only invisible to radar, but actually invisible. That research has reportedly been underway at Nevada’s Area 51 base in recent years.

READ: Invisibility Cloaking: Theory and Experiments

Another paper by a UNLV engineer explored how to detect and track hypersonic objects, things that traverse earth’s atmosphere at incredible speeds, similar to hypersonic missiles Russia’s military now claims to possess.

Reporter George Knapp: “It could tell us about UFOs but also Russian missiles, so it has practical benefits.”

Harry Reid: “Of course.”

One of the papers on the AATIP list focused on metamaterials, exotic compounds that could explain the physics of UFOs. Since AATIP ended, private groups such as To The Stars Academy have scoured the planet, seeking bits and pieces of supposed wreckage for testing.

Former Pentagon intelligence officer Lue Elizondo is spearheading that effort.

In 2009, Senator Reid tried to turn AATIP into a special access program, in part so it might gain access to evidence that has not yet been made public.

Reporter George Knapp: “It suggests there might be other studies and programs that might shed light on this?”

Harry Reid: “Other programs that have been done and information they have, including different pieces of evidence.”

Under Senate rules, Reid was prohibited from lobbying his former colleagues for two years. That time limit expired earlier this month and he’s been making calls to key people in Washington about this issue.

The I-Team asked Senator Reid if he thinks it is time for an official disclosure about UFOs. Here’s his answer.