Text by Katie Bo Williams
The U.S. intelligence community on Friday released a much-anticipated report on what it knows of a series of mysterious sightings of unidentified flying objects by Navy pilots and others.
The report, which examined 144 reports of what the government calls “unexplained aerial phenomena” between 2004 and 2021, is among the first acknowledgments by the U.S. government that it considers UFOs a serious national security issue.
“The UAP clearly poses a flight safety problem and can pose a challenge to the national security of the United States,” the report said.
Here are the top four takeaways from the report:
No evidence of aliens – but what are they?
Investigators found no evidence the sightings represented alien life, a senior US official told reporters on Friday, although they did not rule out the possibility.
“Of the 144 reports we’re dealing with here, we have no clear indication that there is a non-terrestrial explanation for them – but we’ll go where the data takes us,” the official said.
Even if they don’t visit anotherworldly life, that doesn’t mean investigators know what these bizarre sightings are. Of the 144 reports covered by the study, officials could only explain one.
Investigators were convinced the majority of the sightings were indeed “physical objects,” the official told reporters on Friday.
“Most of the UAPs reported are likely to represent physical objects as a majority of UAPs were recorded on multiple sensors, including radar, infrared, electro-optics, weapons researchers and visual observation,” the report revealed. In 11 cases, pilots reported “near miss” collisions with these strange objects.
No evidence of the involvement of a foreign government either.
For lawmakers, intelligence and military personnel working on the matter, the biggest and most likely concern was not that alien life was visiting Earth, but rather that some foreign adversary like Russia or China had. been able to develop some kind of next-generation technology that the United States does not know.
At least for now, there is no evidence that the strange sightings are alien surveillance or new technology, according to the report.
Still, it’s possible that some of the 143 unexplained cases end up being foreign technology. This is one of the reasons the report does not include more examples of observations that have not been made public before.
“They’re very sensitive to, if it’s an opponent you have to be really careful saying, ‘We know this and we don’t know that,'” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut. on House intelligence. Committee that received a briefing on the matter from Navy and FBI officials last week.
“The report is going to be a little unsatisfactory for that reason and that reason alone,” he said.
Why don’t they know more?
In short: bad data.
“The limited amount of high-quality reports of unidentified aerial phenomena hinders our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of the UAP,” the report revealed.
Officials don’t believe that two of those 144 sightings are necessarily the same. For the report, investigators tried to classify the incidents into five categories: air traffic jams, such as birds or weather balloons; natural atmospheric phenomena; US government or industry development programs; foreign adversary systems; and an alluring tote – “Other”.
But in 143 cases, analysts simply did not have the technical information they needed to be able to draw firm conclusions. Some sighting reports did not include any sensor data for engineers to review, but were instead verbal memories of pilots.
Reports have also been hampered by the cultural “stigma” associated with UFOs, investigators found.
“Accounts from operational community aviators and analysts from the Army and IC describe the disparagement associated with sighting, reporting or attempting to discuss the UAP with officials. colleagues, ”the report says.
Part of what the Pentagon and the intelligence community intend to do next is develop a standardized reporting system for sightings.
They also plan to start collecting data in places pilots don’t fly to see if there is a basic level of activity they can record. Right now, the senior US official said, there is “reporting bias” in the database of sightings they have, as most of the reports they have come from Navy pilots.
Ufologists (and some legislators) disappointed
Some congressional sources who have seen the confidential version of the report have already expressed disappointment that there is no more explanation for the episodes, saying the report raises more questions than it answers.
Many lawmakers have said the report signals the need for further study of UFOs.
“This report is an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is only the first step,” said Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Friday. “The Department of Defense and the intelligence community have a lot of work to do before we can truly understand whether these air threats present a serious national security concern.”
The report is almost certain to disappoint ufologists who had hoped it could offer definitive proof that the US government made contact with alien life – what is known in these communities as “Disclosure.”
But the report signals an extraordinary change in attitude within the national security community over what has long been seen as a marginal issue, after years of infighting in Washington.
Erasing the stigma surrounding serious discussion of UFOs was also the goal of lawmakers in 2020 when they passed legislation requiring the Pentagon and the intelligence community to produce this report.
That goal, at least, seems to be in sight, some lawmakers say.
“The stigma is gone,” Representative Mike Quigley, D-Ill., Said last week following the House Intelligence Committee briefing.
“That they are taking this stuff seriously for the first time, I think, is important,” Quigley added.