Is the truth out there? Maybe.
A long-awaited US government report on UFO sightings released Friday was largely inconclusive, describing the more than 140 strange objects seen by military personnel across the nation as a threat to flight safety and possibly national security, but adding that there was no “single explanation” for their appearance.
The nine-page public report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said the lack of “high-quality reporting … hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent” of the unidentified objects, but concluded they were likely physical in nature since they were picked up on radar and other sensors.
The report found that 144 UFO sightings had been reported by government sources since 2004 and said it was likely that the objects fall into one of five categories: “airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena,” output from government or industrial “developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall ‘other’ bin” for objects that have yet to be understood “pending scientific advances” — the closest the report came to addressing the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
Just one reported UFO was identified “with high confidence” as a “large, deflating balloon.” In 18 reported incidents, witnesses described “unusual … movement patterns or flight characteristics” while military pilots reported 11 near-misses with a UFO.
The report also tackled what it described as “[s]ociocultural stigmas” in the armed forces and intelligence community surrounding the reporting of UFOs.
“Although the effects of these stigmas have lessened as senior members of the scientific, policy, military, and intelligence communities engage on the topic seriously in public,” it read, “reputational risk may keep many observers silent, complicating scientific pursuit of the topic.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the senators who pressed for the probe, described the report as “an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step.”
“For years, the men and women we trust to defend our country reported encounters with unidentified aircraft that had superior capabilities, and for years their concerns were often ignored and ridiculed,” said Rubio, who later added: “The Defense Department and Intelligence Community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he was first briefed on UFO sightings “nearly three years ago.
“Since then, the frequency of these incidents only appears to be increasing,” he added. “The United States must be able to understand and mitigate threats to our pilots, whether they’re from drones or weather balloons or adversary intelligence capabilities. Today’s rather inconclusive report only marks the beginning of efforts to understand and illuminate what is causing these risks to aviation in many areas around the country and the world.”
House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the panel would hold a classified briefing later in the year on the matter, “as it has become increasingly clear that unidentified aerial phenomena [UAP, the official term for UFOs] are not a rare occurrence.”
Another committee member, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), said the report “represents a much-needed shift on this issue.
“We have to take these potential threats to our security more seriously precisely because we can’t fully explain them,” he said. “I’ll keep working through the House Intelligence Committee to get answers.”
The report was funded as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and spending package enacted by former President Donald Trump this past December. That legislation instructed the Pentagon and the ODNI to provide “a detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data” collected by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the FBI, and the Pentagon’s UAP Task Force and report back in 180 days.
The report was funded as part of a $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and spending package enacted by former President Donald Trump this past December. That legislation instructed the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to provide “a detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data” collected by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the FBI, and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force and report in 180 days.
Congress also asked the ODNI for information on “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
The UAP task force, headed by Navy intelligence analyst Brennan McKernan, was created last summer to “detect, analyze and catalog” sightings of objects that could pose a threat to national security.
That move was made after a series of high profile, unexplained events were recorded on US Navy ships and made public last year. At least four warships off the coast of San Diego reported sightings of unexplained objects in July 2019 that didn’t match aircraft currently known to exist, some of which appeared to harass the vessels and another that suddenly disappeared into the ocean.
In another incident, from 2004, several Navy aviators from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz encountered unknown aircraft off the California coast that were described as resembling large “Tic Tac” breath mints.
One of the pilots, retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Alex Dietrich, recalled in an interview with Reuters this week that the oblong object lacked “any visible flight control surfaces or means of propulsion.”
Luis “Lue” Elizondo, the former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, has described receiving reports of vessels flying at 11,000 miles per hour, “making crazy right-angle turns” and being able to reverse “instantly.” Elizondo, who has accused the Defense Department of attempting to trash his reputation, also says he has seen radar and electro-optical data showing unknown aircraft zipping 60 miles in five seconds and descending at speeds of 14 miles per second.
Elizondo told The Post Friday that the ODNI report “is the first of many.”
“The American people now know a small portion of what I and my colleagues in the Pentagon have been privy to: That these UAP are not secret US technology, that they do not seem to belong to any known allies or adversaries, and that our intelligence services have yet to identify a terrestrial explanation for these extraordinary vehicles,” he added. “Out of 144 incidents, the Task Force was only able to identify one. This conversation is only just beginning.”
Months prior to the July 2019 incident, the Navy announced it would create a formal process for its pilots to report UFOs. Friday’s report noted that no “standardized reporting mechanism existed” prior to that time, and most of the incidents the task force examined were reported in the past two years as more military aviators knew about the process.
Some lawmakers suggested that the bizarre sightings could have captured advanced technology developed by a foreign adversary.
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe disclosed to Fox News in March that “there are a lot more sightings than have been made public” and “some of those have been declassified.”
In May, former President Barack Obama fueled speculation about the nature of UFOs during an appearance on CBS’ “Late Late Show.”
“What is true — and I’m actually being serious here — is that there’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are,” the 44th president told host James Corden.
“We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory … they did not have an easily explainable pattern.”
Pilots and sky-watchers have long reported sporadic sightings of UFOs in U.S. airspace, seemingly at unusual speeds or trajectories. In most cases, those mysteries evaporate under examination.
The current push for more information about recent sightings began in December 2017, when The New York Times revealed a five-year Pentagon program to investigate UFOs.