For decades, the U.S. government has been accused of not only secretly investigating the existence of extra-terrestrials on and around our planet, but of conducting a generation-spanning cover up aimed at keeping the public at large in the dark about such visitors.  For many Americans, these accusations are little more than a plotline in some of the loftier episodes of the X-Files, but in certain circles, these accusations come with dire concern, if not a bit of dramatic exaggeration.

As we’ve covered before on SOFREP, in truth, the U.S. government did devote both personnel and resources to getting to the bottom of the rash of UFO sightings that occurred around the country in the 1950s and 60s, and even the infamously secretive CIA is willing to admit that not all of the occurrences the government investigated could be readily explained.  Of course, that admission stops short of suggesting the culprits were actually little green men (or grey as many accounts claim), but nonetheless, uncertainty leaves room for guessing; both educated and otherwise.

While the Air Force conducted higher profile investigations into the possibility of aliens visiting Earth, the CIA, unsurprisingly, was involved all the way back to 1940, seven years prior to the Roswell incident that would come to define a generation of UFO (and at least one Soviet) based conspiracy theories.  In fact, the CIA’s alien-related efforts date back even further than the FOO Fighter sightings reported by American and British pilots during World War II.

If the CIA ever turned up any substantial evidence of aliens visiting Earth, they certainly didn’t release it to the public, but in recent years, the combination of public interest and a steady slew of Freedom of Information Act requests has revealed quite a bit about the methods employed in trying to track down the truth behind claims of flying saucers.  Based on the documents available through the CIA’s archive, it’s clear that they at least seriously took the possibility that these strange aircraft were real, and with good reason.

For decades, there was a real concern that these flying saucer reports weren’t aliens at all, but rather advanced aircraft fielded by one of America’s competitors, or worse, enemies.  Legends about things like the Nazi Flying Bell or Russian flying wings pervaded the meetings of those tasked with protecting our national security.  It’s important to keep in mind that the period in which agencies like the CIA were feverishly investigating UFOs came within a decade or so of a very real surprise attack on Pearl Harbor carried about by enemy aircraft.  The chances that some nation on earth possessed vehicles that could infiltrate U.S. airspace undetected, therefore, was a truly terrifying one.

From the dark corners of the CIA library: Official 'Guidance to UFO Photographers'
An image from the CIA’s “How to Investigate a Flying Saucer” depicting a witness account of a UFO sighting

So, the CIA set out to determine if there was a legitimate risk to national security that came in the shape of a giant, metallic frisbee, and as is the case with all things government related, there were guidelines investigators in the field were expected to abide by.  One such set of guidelines comes from the CIA’s FOIA Library, entitled “Guidance to UFO Photographers.”

The intent behind this single sheet of photographer tips was to help ensure those who have an opportunity to photograph a flying saucer do so in a way the yields investigable evidence.  Like Bigfoot, the UFO phenomenon is ripe with blurry photographs, tricks of perspective, or pictures that can’t be duplicated without copying a print.  These issues, along with a slew of others, can render even a great picture of a pie-pan in the sky difficult to assess in terms of validity… because without a clear shot and a frame of reference, it can be impossible to say whether that pie-pan is just a pie pan, or if aliens are really traveling in massive baking sheets.

Kidding aside, many of these tips hold true today – as witnesses continue to report sightings in the sky of things that don’t seem to look, or behave, like the aircraft we’re accustomed to.  Some chalk these sightings up to secretive military projects like the Aurora, while others believe we’re being visited by life from beyond our solar system.  In either regard, snapping a good quality picture of such a craft could prove conclusively if aliens are really here, or if the Air Force is just out for a test drive.