Five things to know about the new spotlight on UFOs
The Biden administration is taking a more serious look into unidentified flying objects (UFOs), publicly acknowledging what had previously been considered the realm of conspiracy theories and science fiction.
Congress and the public are expected to hear more soon from intelligence agencies on what they are calling “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
CBS News recently reported on what it called the regular sightings of such phenomena, which led to President Biden’s top spokesperson answering questions from the White House podium this week about the government’s investigations into them.
And lawmakers are also taking an interest.
Here are five things to know about the recent UFO news.
An intelligence report is coming
A report on UFO sightings expected to be released next month could be, well, out of this world.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the secretary of Defense are set to deliver an unclassified report to Congress, which was commissioned by a provision in the coronavirus relief package then-President Trump signed last year.
The report will likely include information about how the government plans to investigate situations in which UFOs are spotted and how data from such encounters is analyzed. It will also outline who is responsible for gathering and analyzing data on UFOs, including specific agencies, personnel and systems.
It’s unclear if the administration will release the report in full or how much the public will be privy to. White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the extent of public knowledge last week and said that those decisions are in the hands of the ODNI.
The White House considers UFOs a concern
Psaki was also questioned about the level of Biden’s concern over UFOs, and she pointed to the fact that a team is actively working on a report.
“Certainly, the safety of our personnel, security of our operations, our airspace are of paramount concern, whether that is identified or unidentified aircraft. And we don’t discuss that publicly for a range of reasons, but certainly the president supports the ODNI putting together a report and following through on that commitment,” she told reporters.
Psaki noted that the president is taking the unidentified aerial phenomena very seriously.
“We’re aware of the report requirement, and our team at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is, of course, actively working on that report. And we take reports of incursions into our airspace by any aircraft identified or unidentified very seriously and investigate each one,” she said.
Military members are speaking out
Two former Navy pilots spoke to CBS News last week about an unidentified aerial phenomenon, claiming they saw a UFO in 2004 over the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. has also recently been more open about other cases, notably when the Defense Department last year declassified three videos of objects in the airspace that were filmed by Navy pilots.
Another leaked video, filmed from a Navy aircraft in 2019, showed an object flying above the ocean and diving into water.
The uptick in interest stems in part from former Pentagon official Lue Elizondo, who has been open about his reports of UFOs. He worked with a formerly secret team that investigated reports of unidentified aerial phenomena, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
Elizondo this week filed a complaint with the Pentagon’s inspector general, alleging that there was a coordinated effort to discredit him and label him as crazy while he was speaking out.
There is growing pressure to act
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is leading calls for a deeper investigation by the U.S. government into UFOs. He said in a recent interview that anything in U.S. airspace that shouldn’t be there is a threat.
Senate colleagues are “very interested in this topic and some kinda, you know, giggle when you bring it up,” he said. “But I don’t think we can allow the stigma to keep us from having an answer to a very fundamental question.”
Rubio called for a mechanism to catalogue and analyze UFO data.
Others who have given legitimacy to reports of unidentified aircraft include John Ratcliffe, Trump’s director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, former President Obama’s CIA director. Ratcliffe said that “there are a lot more sightings than have been made public” and Brennan recently speculated that these unidentified objects might “constitute a different form of life.”
Obama himself indicated earlier this month that the government is aware of more reports of UFOs.
“What is true, and I’m actually being serious here, is that there is footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are,” he said on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS.
There are possible national security implications
The Pentagon in August set up the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force to investigate such objects, including the nature of where they come from.
The Navy also has guidelines for pilots to report aircraft that are unidentified and could be considered UFOs in an effort to formalize the investigation process.
The U.S. military’s attention and focus on UFOs is a serious shift toward legitimizing reports that they exist and could be a threat to national security.
Christopher Mellon, a top defense official under former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, told NBC News that reporting UFO sightings should be destigmatized within the military.
“My hope is that this administration will provide our military people the support they deserve,” Mellon told NBC News. “On this issue, that means determining ASAP what threat if any is posed by the unidentified vehicles that are brazenly and repeatedly violating restricted U.S. airspace over hovering around our warships.”