Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left quite a legacy.

Not only did he weaken the power of the minority party to filibuster Cabinet-level appointees and most judicial nominees, but he also funded a mysterious Pentagon program that sought Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO).

For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.

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.

Just before leaving his Defense Department job two months ago, Elizondo secured the release of three videos from Pentagon’s secret vaults: raw footage from encounters between fighter jets and “anomalous aerial vehicles”.

The videos, all taken from cockpit cameras, show pilots struggling to lock their radars on oval-shaped vessels that, on screen, look vaguely like giant flying Tic Tacs. The strange aircraft – no claims are made about their possible origins or makeup – appear to hover briefly before sprinting away at speeds that elicit gasps and shouts from the pilots.

Retired Cmdr. David Fravor, a Navy pilot who was on a mission recorded in the released videos, recounted his experience:

He and another pilot were with the USS Nimitz training in F/A-18F Super Hornets about 100 miles out in the Pacific Ocean when someone on the Navy cruiser USS Princeton contacted them by radio about mysterious aircraft.

The ship had been tracking objects that were described as being white, 40 feet long and shaped like Tic Tacs that would appear suddenly 80,000 feet up, then descend toward the ocean and hover at 20,000 feet before dropping out of radar range or blasting back up.

The ship and the pilots worked together to track one of the aircraft and when Fravor got close enough to examine one, it peeled away.

“It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he told The New York Times. “I have no idea what I saw.”

Given how much damage the Obama administration did to our intelligence capabilities, and knowing how rapidly our opponents have been developing new weapons systems, one could see some logic in trying to identify new objects cruising through our atmosphere. Personally, however, I would take more comfort in the determination they are of this Earth.

The trajectory of a technologically advanced civilization encountering one that was substantially less so is not promising for the lagging group.

On a side note: It will be interesting to see how much more “black money” will be found when the Pentagon completes its first audit! According to the reports, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was extremely difficult to find.