As It Happens·Q&A

Why this UFO video analyst doesn't buy the hype around the Pentagon report

Washington and the media are abuzz with chatter of flying saucers and little green men, but a man who studies UFO sightings for a living says you shouldn't believe the hype. 

Mick West says report will be 'a bunch of accounts of unusual encounters that are difficult to explain'

The image from video provided by the U.S. Department of Defense labelled "Gimbal" shows an unexplained object in the sky in 2015. The Pentagon is expected to deliver a report about such phenomena to Congress this month. (U.S. Department of Defense/The Associated Press)

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Washington and the media are abuzz with chatter of flying saucers and little green men, but a man who studies UFO sightings for a living says you shouldn't believe the hype. 

Any day now, the Pentagon in the U.S. is expected to deliver a report to Congress about its task force investigation into "unexplained aerial phenomena" — or as most people know them, unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

But California's Mick West says people shouldn't expect any exciting news from the report. He analyzes UFO videos and says there's almost always a rational, mundane explanation for them. Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

When the Pentagon makes this report public, are you expecting something big? Are we going to have this moment about UFOs being real? 

I don't think so. And I think the key point is really that what everyone's really interested in here is: Are there aliens? And they've quite explicitly said already that there isn't actually any evidence of aliens going to be released in the report, or in the classified portion of the report. So then we're just left with a bunch of accounts of unusual encounters that are difficult to explain. 

But those encounters are still significant, right? That's the point of this report. 

They might be significant, and there are certainly very real issues to do with unidentified aerial phenomena. For example, drones are increasingly a very serious issue. Foreign powers will be using drones to spy on us and possibly even attack us at some point. 

But I think, you know, what people are thinking here is that there might be evidence of something more, something really spectacular, like some kind of new type of technology, like antigravity or warp drives or something like that. And, of course, even aliens. But really, I think the evidence that we've seen so far, and probably the evidence that's going to come out, will not substantiate that. 

We spoke just last month with a former U.S. Navy pilot who was there for what's known as the Nimitz encounter in 2004. I'm sure you know about that. And I want to play a bit of how she explains the encounter that she and others had on that day:

"We were flying off the coast of Southern California when we were redirected from our exercise to intercept a real-world contact that one of our ships in the carrier strike group was picking up on radar. And when we followed the vectors and went to merge with it, we encountered this unusual looking, unusual behavior, what we refer to as a Tic Tac, because that's what it looked like. And that's sort of our immediate label that we put on it that day. We didn't know what it was and couldn't really explain why it was moving and manoeuvring the way it was."

And Alex Dietrich went on to explain just how everyone that was in the air and in that environment were really taken by this object. But what do you make of that story? 

First of all, that was 17 years ago back in 2004. And I think memories have changed quite a bit since then. So it's difficult to read much into current accounts.

I was actually talking to Alex on Twitter last night, actually, and she was saying that the entire encounter lasted just around 10 seconds from the first time they saw it. But the other pilot involved, Dave Fravor, had said before that the entire encounter from the first time he saw it lasted about five minutes. So there are quite significant differences in the accounts of the two pilots.

Eyewitness accounts are very difficult to analyze because they are subject to observation errors and memory errors. So I prefer to go with the actual data where possible, like the videos. 

Mick West is a UFO video analyst from Sacramento, Calif. (Submitted by Mick West )

And you have gone with videos. You've looked at a lot of the so-called evidence of UFO sightings and you have debunked them. Can you just tell us what what are some of the examples of that? 

There's three main videos that came out that the Navy said were official videos that were at one time unidentified. 

One of them was called "Go Fast." And everyone thought it was showing an object that looked like it was moving really fast. But there's actually numbers on screen, angles and distances, and you can do some very simple high school trigonometry and figure out it's not actually moving very fast. It's not doing what they said it was doing. 

Then there's another one called "Gimbal," which looks really impressive, and people said it's the most impressive UFO video. And it seems to show a flying saucer that's rotating. But I think, and the evidence seems to show, that it's actually just a rotating infrared glare. It's kind of an artifact of the camera. The camera has this gimbal-mounted system, the way that rotates.... The Navy called it "Gimbal," like they already knew what was causing this rotation. 

There was another one, this green triangle flying video, where the guy who released it claimed it was the best UFO footage of all time. And then a whole bunch of people, including me, pointed out that it really just looked like an out of focus plane with a night vision camera that had a triangular aperture. 

When people start getting excited about UFOs, they start looking up and they start seeing them. They start seeing them everywhere- Mick West, UFO video analyst 

Why do you think that ... [UFOs are] getting so much attention right now?

It's kind of a media feedback loop. You're doing a story now because there's so much public attention. There's so much public attention because there's been a lot of media attention. And there's been a lot of media attention, in part, because it's been orchestrated by people who are really interested in pushing forward what they see as being disclosure.

A lot of those people think that there are actually aliens behind UFOs, and so they think it's a very important thing for people to know about. So they've been working, sometimes overtly and sometimes behind the scenes, to try to get this story into the media. So they leak videos to the New York Times, for example. And then the New York Times writes a story about it. This creates eventually what becomes a tsunami of media attention that creates more public attention and puts pressure on politicians. 

It's what we call a UFO flap. When people start getting excited about UFOs, they start looking up and they start seeing them. They start seeing them everywhere. So you see sightings will increase. But these things tend to blow over eventually. This one, I think, is a bit more significant than the flaps of the past. But I think if we come back and revisit this in two years, not a lot will have come of it. 


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Niza Lyapa Nondo. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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