They say the truth is out there, but nobody ever said it would be easy to find. Now, after a search lasting decades, a giant trove of long-classified records held by the CIA in relation to reported UFO activity has finally come to light.

This huge public release of what the CIA claims is its "entire" archive of documentation on Unidentified Flying Objects – now termed "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" (UAPs) – comprises hundreds of formerly top-secret records going back more than a half-century.

The unprecedented and fascinating data dump is thanks to a long-sustained effort by intelligence website The Black Vault, which has been sourcing and sharing declassified government documentation on UFOs (among many other things) since the mid–1990s.

According to the site's founder, John Greenewald Jr., The Black Vault has been fighting since 1996 for the release of these UFO records, which began to emerge in dribs and drabs in the 1980s after legal proceedings in relation to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

While some of the documentation has seen the light of day before, this is the first time the supposedly complete archive of the CIA's UFO records has been publicly released, and was made possible after The Black Vault acquired a CD-ROM from the CIA containing what the intelligence agency claims is its entire haul of UFO records, including much information that has never been seen before.

As Greenewald points out however, there's no easy way of factually verifying whether this is the CIA's entire archive, as the agency claims – or whether the US government is still holding onto classified records on UFOs/UAPs we don't yet know about.

In any case, the 2,780-page collection now available on The Black Vault website represents a significant victory for freedom of information on this mysterious and tantalising subject, and a personal milestone for Greenewald.

Amidst the archive, hundreds of records dating back to the mid–20th century can now be read, either via individual PDFs, or a giant ZIP file.

010 ufos 1(The Black Vault)

It's worth pointing out that not all of the information is easily readable. Many details in documents are redacted, and the overall quality of scans and photocopies is hit and miss, with some of the records being quite difficult to read, while others are clearer.

Those hoping that the haul will finally offer proof that the US government has been concealing knowledge of alien life-forms visiting Earth will be disappointed, however.

As we've explained before, UFOs or UAPs are a real, serious topic, reflecting documented accounts of incidents involving objects or phenomena that can't be easily identified or otherwise explained, even by experts.

The terms – including related descriptors such as Anomalous Aerial Vehicles (AAVs) – are not themselves synonymous with (or evidence of) extraterrestrials life forms, even though they often get bundled together, given the wilder possibilities of what these strange sightings could represent.

In other words, UFO means Unidentified Flying Object – nothing more, nothing less, as astronomer Chris Impey from the University of Arizona recently explained.

That said, these hundreds of newly revealed reports offer countless riveting reads of strange and inexplicable episodes, and make a huge contribution to historical records on UFO sightings and how they get handled by those in the intelligence community.

Whether the timing is coincidental or not is unclear, but US intelligence services were already being obliged to publicly divulge more of their knowledge about UFOs in the coming months, thanks to a buried clause in the massive COVID–19 relief bill signed into law in late 2020. Strange but true.

Which is another way of saying that it's possible we may find out even more about UFOs this year – if the CIA's complete archive doesn't turn out to be as complete as it could be.

For Greenewald, it's all part of the job – an important duty to get to the truth, no matter how weird it might be.

"Plain and simple, the public has a right to know!" Greenewald told Motherboard. "I feel I am achieving what I set out to do. Easy access, to important material, for people to make up their own minds on what is going on."