How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation

How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation
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President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE promised to unify a fractured country. At the same time, his administration pledged to usher in a new era of transparency. Following the release of a highly anticipated government report on UFOs, Biden has a rare opportunity to live up to both commitments.

The UFO report prompted a flurry of bipartisan calls for a robust, open-minded investigation into these perplexing phenomena. If members of Congress can set aside seemingly intractable differences to take this issue seriously, the Biden administration – and the American public – should take note.

Beyond acknowledging that intelligence analysts are thoroughly stumped by mysterious objects – some of which appear to exhibit remarkable technology in restricted airspace – the report marks an extraordinary shift in how the government perceives UFOs. After seven decades of deflection, ridicule and brushing aside such encounters, the Pentagon is following in Congress’s footsteps and taking such phenomena seriously. Very seriously.

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Moreover, by demanding the report, Congress stumbled upon an issue that can unite Americans of all political stripes. Indeed, if strong, bipartisan statements on these encounters are any indicator, the UFO mystery could ultimately transcend the deep polarization of the post-Trump era.

America, after all, is at its best when it is united by curiosity about the unknown.

To that end, the Biden administration should declassify some basic, non-sensitive information, focusing on objects that seem to exhibit remarkable technology.

Of 143 unexplained encounters, 18 involved “unusual” “movement patterns or flight characteristics.” According to the report, analysts are attempting to determine if these objects demonstrated “breakthrough technologies.” This aligns with reporting by the New York Times that some of these craft accelerated, changed direction and submerged in seemingly extraordinary ways.

The report’s equivocation on these perplexing encounters stands in stark contrast to former director of national intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeBiden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Sunday shows preview: US grapples with rising COVID-19 cases Trump-era intelligence chief wants Beijing Olympics moved due COVID-19 'cover-up' MORE’s unambiguous comments that “there are technologies that we don’t have and frankly that we are not capable of defending against.”

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According to Ratcliffe, intelligence analysts “ruled out” weather incidents, visual disturbances, foreign adversaries or ultra-secret U.S. technology as possible explanations for the most exotic phenomena.

If Ratcliffe’s statements are accurate, this is an extraordinary development. More to the point, the Biden administration has a rare opportunity to live up to its pledges to restore transparency and national unity. It can begin by releasing a numbered list of the report’s 18 “unusual” encounters alongside the intelligence community’s preliminary confidence levels (low, medium or high) that each object exhibited some sort of “breakthrough technology.”

If Ratcliffe is correct and analysts ruled out mundane explanations or advanced U.S. and adversarial technology, the government’s high-level assessments would fuel a remarkable discussion, drawing in Americans from across the political divide.

Perhaps best of all, declassifying such data would not expose tradecraft or sensitive sources and collection methods. In other words, the Biden administration has no good reason not to release such basic information.

Ratcliffe’s eyebrow-raising comments are not the only reason more Americans’ curiosity should be piqued.

After reviewing government reports on UFOs, former astronaut, senator and current NASA administrator Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? Biden to talk Russia, anti-corruption with Ukraine's president Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos wages lawfare on NASA and SpaceX MORE said “the hair stood up on the back of my neck.”

John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Still in the game: Will Durham's report throw a slow curveball at key political players? UFOs are an intriguing science problem; Congress must act accordingly MORE, CIA director under President Obama, went further, speculating that UFOs might constitute a “different form of life.” In much the same vein, Luis Elizondo, the one-time head of a Pentagon unit tasked with investigating these phenomena, stated that the U.S. government is actively “considering whether the most extraordinary unidentified flying objects are not of earthly origin.” Meanwhile, Christopher Mellon, a former top Pentagon official, penned a post titled “Don’t Dismiss the Alien Hypothesis.”

And in recent weeks, former presidents Obama and Clinton – who still receive high-level intelligence briefings – openly speculated about extraterrestrial life when asked about UFOs.

Make no mistake: These are fascinating developments that should spur curiosity among Republicans and Democrats alike.

And if a thorough investigation, driven by intense bipartisan interest, ultimately determines that balloons, drones, birds or plastic bags explain the most extraordinary UFO encounters, the upshot is that America will be less politically and culturally fractured. (Ditto for any revelation that an adversary mounted an audacious espionage campaign.)

As large swathes of the country face a drought of “biblical proportions” and all-time temperature records are demolished, an unlikely shot at uncovering “breakthrough technology” is worth eroding the deep fault lines dividing America.

To that end, the Biden administration must live up to its twin commitments to transparency and unity.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.