Real But Still Unexplained: Congress Holds Its First UFO Hearing In 50 Years

This morning Congress held its first public hearing on UFOs in more than half a century, with top U.S. intelligence officials and members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle agreeing that unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs) are indeed real, though they still remain a mystery.

The House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee — also known as the C3 — held an open hearing on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) followed by a closed, classified briefing. The open portion of the hearing was livestreamed on YouTube.

From the onset, committee members stressed that the government was determined to turn over a new leaf of investigation and transparency. “For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis. Pilots avoided reporting or laughed at when they did,” said subcommittee chairman Rep. Andre Carson in his opening remarks. “[Department of Defense] officials relegated the issue to the backroom or swept it under the rug entirely fearful of his skeptical national security community. Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained, it’s true, but they are real.”

Pentagon officials were clear on how much they still don’t know, due primarily to the challenges of collecting high-quality data. Scott W. Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence, showed a previously classified video of a reflective spherical object that appeared as a fleeting dot of light zooming past a military fighter jet.

“What are we observing?” asked Rep. Adam Schiff, who leads the Intelligence Committee, as a Pentagon staffer tried unsuccessfully to stop the video at the precise moment when the object appeared during the blink-and-you-miss-it encounter.

“What you see here is aircraft that is operating in a U.S. Navy training range that has observed a spherical object in that area,” said Bray. “And as they fly by and they take a video, it looks somewhat reflective in this video, and it quickly passes by the cockpit of the aircraft.”

“And is this one of the phenomena that we can’t explain?” asked Schiff.

“I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is,” said Bray.

In another video, shot through night-vision lenses, illuminated green triangles moving through the air, which officials later determined were drones.

Last year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a preliminary report covering 143 UAP sightings dating back to 2004. “The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP,” concluded the unclassified report, which many decried as a nothing burger after intelligence officials admitted they didn’t know what the vast majority of phenomena were.

Among the handful of theories offered in last year’s report: airborne debris, natural atmospheric conditions, technology from foreign adversaries or top-secret U.S. government technology, and a catch-all miscellaneous category that the authors simply called “other.” The report’s verdict was that there is simply not enough data to identify most of these objects.

The quantity of data being gathered is improving. The military’s efforts to destigmatize reporting UAPs has led to an increase in reports. In just the last year, the database of reports of UFOs has more than doubled to about 400 incidents, Bray told lawmakers.

But higher quantity has not led to higher quality. “We have insufficient data either on the event itself, the object itself or insufficient data,” said Ronald Moultrie, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security. “So it’s a data issue that we’re facing.”

The 2021 report determined that the government had found no evidence of aliens. Today Mr. Bray echoed that conclusion, telling lawmakers that “the UAP task force doesn’t have any wreckage that isn’t explainable, that isn’t consistent with being of terrestrial origin.”

Moreover, no UAP has ever attempted to communicate with U.S. pilots, and no fighter pilots have tried to communicate with a UAP. Bray said the objects shown in videos at the hearing appear to be unmanned. “And so we’ve not attempted any communication with that.”

Moultrie, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official, noted the government’s need to balance transparency with protecting national security. “Our goal is to strike that delicate balance,” he said, “one that will enable us to maintain the public’s trust while preserving those capabilities that are vital to the support of our service personnel.”

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