I was honoured and humbled to interview New York Times investigative journalist and best-selling author Leslie Kean this past week. She is a verified titan in the field of Ufology and co-authored the now famous 2017 New York Times article “Glowing Aurus and ‘Black Money’:The Pentagon’s Secret UFO Program.

That article kicked off the modern disclosure movement which resulted in the shocking admission by the US Government that not only do Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs or historically UFOs) actually exist, but elements inside the Department of Defense have been studying them for decades.

The admission amounted to a complete vindication of Leslie’s work. She ventured into the UFO field when in 2000, after investigating and writing about Burma for several years, she received the first English translation of The Cometa Report in the mail.

The Cometa Report was a landmark report made by high-ranking French Military and Civilian Personnel. After intense analysis, the report said it was most likely the “extraterrestrial thesis.”

“I just recognised it as a really big story,” Leslie recounts. “I thought I had a really big scoop. Can you imagine if the same level of US people made that claim? It would make front-page news around the world. So I spent a few months looking into the topic, since I didn’t know much about it, and eventually pitched the story to lots of editors I had worked with before. I had published a whole bunch of stories on Burma so they knew me and liked my work. It was really hard! I didn’t even use the word UFO when I made the pitch but they just couldn’t handle it, except for this one editor at the Boston Globe. She really respected me and was willing to do the story but it was really touch and go. At one point she said ‘forget it! Let’s cancel it.’”

Luckily, the Boston Globe editor had no one above her to say no and Leslie’s first UFO story was published finally in May 2000, titled “UFO theorists gain support abroad, but repression at home.”

Hooked on the topic

“Once that story came out I was so hooked on this topic!” Leslie said.
“I was shocked at how little response it got. It got a huge response from the UFO people but I expected Congress to jump on the story. I thought the leading investigative journalists of the time would have been all over it. I was just a freelancer, I didn’t have the kind of access they had. I was waiting for someone else to take the next step and nobody did anything. It was sort of my wake-up call for how bizarre it was. The way this topic was treated, everybody just acted like UFOs didn’t exist.”

Without a doubt, Leslie’s work helped bring about change. I found her through her landmark book from 2010, “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials go on the record.” That book was the culmination of 10 years in the field. It has 18 contributing authors including four generals and a former US Governor, all relating their own personal UFO experiences. It is a must-read book for anyone interested in the topic.

Although the book was an international bestseller and made a big impact in the UFO world, editors would still not touch the subject.

Radical change

Fast forward to May 2021 and the landscape was completely changed.

“Do you remember the media frenzy that took place right before the June report came out last summer?” Leslie asked. “I mean everybody was covering this. And then it was on 60 Minutes. The New Yorker wrote a huge feature story on it. It was like the media couldn't get enough.
When you think back to what I had to go through to get this one story published, it’s a radical change. It’s all because the government has come around and acknowledged that UFOs are real. It’s official.”

Leslie also had a hand in that. After grinding behind the scenes in an underappreciated and disbelieved topic for 17 years, she was invited by Christopher Mellon to meet with Lue Elizondo the day he resigned.

“He was the head of a Department of Defense program that had been studying UFOs for a decade, and no one knew about it,” Leslie said.

Leslie went to a meeting in Washington and sat right across the table from Lue, Christopher Mellon, Hal Puthoff, and colleagues for over 3 hours. They showed her document after document including the famous three Navy videos.

“They showed me Lue’s resignation letter to General Mattis and I just couldn’t believe what it was saying.”

By resigning, Lue gave up his military pension earned after 22 years.
The letter explained to the Secretary of Defense at the time that “despite overwhelming evidence at both the unclassified and classified levels, certain individuals in the Department remain staunchly opposed to further research…There remains a vital need to ascertain capability and intent of these phenomena for the benefit of the armed forces and the nation.”

The idea of the meeting was to take this story to The New York Times.

“Lue was resigning because he needed attention on the subject and he wasn’t getting it from inside the department. That was the key moment for Chris, after covering this thing for 17 years, it was like ‘Oh my God,' I couldn’t believe I was sitting at that meeting hearing what I was hearing. They had all the documentation, everyone was going on the record, they had videos.”

The rest is history thanks in large part to Leslie’s work on the subject. The US Government finally admitted in the 25 June Preliminary Report that Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, otherwise known as UFOs, are real.

Standby for part 2 of the interview in next week’s edition or watch the full interview below

Interview with Leslie Kean - UAPs, Writing the NY Times article, how the landscape has changed


Chris Lehto, ex-F-16 pilot, and YouTuber, combines aviation expertise and passion for the unexplained to investigate UAPs. He founded the UAP Society, funding decentralised research into alien existence using NFTs.

Chris Lehto