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Nearly a year later, his name has come back into the news because of the uncovering of a secret program operated through the U.S. Department of Defense, which turns out to have spent $22 million to secretly hunt Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) since 2007 thanks to the then-Senator’s request, where much of the money spent to do so has gone to a Nevada-based aerospace company whose principals were frequent contributors to the Senator’s election campaigns. The New York Times reports:
The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.
The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space….
Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, said he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Mr. Reid said in a recent interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”
It might be more accurate to describe former-Senator Reid’s achievement as little more than a token demonstration of his then-great power, in which he compelled the Pentagon to spend $22 million over nearly 10 years to chase UFOs to directly benefit an influential campaign contributor without having any debate in the U.S. Congress on whether that was a worthwhile objective for the U.S. government to dedicate its limited resources to pursue.
It turns out that was by design, where Reid purposely conspired with two other senators with histories of shady backroom dealings, Ted Stevens of Alaska and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, to keep the nation’s other 97 senators and the entire House of Representatives in the dark.
None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid said. “This was so-called black money,” he said. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.” Mr. Reid was referring to the Pentagon budget for classified programs.
In 2008, Senator Ted Stevens was convicted over ethics charges involving disclosing gifts, which were subsequently dismissed in 2009. Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010. Meanwhile, Senator Inouye passed away in 2012. In 2009, Paul Kiel of ProPublica reported that Inouye abused his own personal clout to obtain a bailout for his personal bank, and in 2014, he was posthumously identified as having sexually-harassed a female Senator by the New York Times.
The U.S. government spends a lot of money on some pretty stupid things, and at $22 million, the spending to support Harry Reid’s personal pursuit of evidence of alien UFOs ranks low on the most wasteful things the federal government has ever done, but the abuse of power combined with the avoidance of honesty and transparency in establishing the secret program and the shell game of finances that has allowed it to continue long after it its apparent termination date are all evidence of a more serious failure of accountability to the public.
That failure of accountability to the American people was no accident. It was done entirely on purpose, for the express purpose of subverting the budgetary rules that are meant to keep wasteful spending on the part of politicians and bureaucrats from happening, by a clique of powerful politicians that the system relies upon to follow the rules in order to work.
Failure was not left to chance in this case, and that is the enduring legacy and lesson of Senator Harry Reid’s personal pet project to hunt UFOs using taxpayer money.