On World UFO Day, Congress Wants 'Unidentified' Sightings to Be Declassified

This year the unofficial July 2 holiday known as World UFO Day may have a real reason to celebrate: members of Congress are calling for significant disclosures regarding what the military has dubbed "unexplained aerial phenomena," or UAP.

In mid-June, the Senate Intelligence Committee submitted a draft of the Intelligence Authorization Act. While primarily outlining new funding to intelligence organizations, the Committee also attached a report which includes a call for the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to produce a primarily unclassified report on "Advanced Aerial Threats" like UAP.

That's right, the government wants the receipts.

"The Committee supports the efforts of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence to standardize collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations," the section from the Committee Comments on the funding bill reads. "However, the Committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat."

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After the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 is signed into law, the Senate Intelligence Committee will anticipate the submission of a report on UAP from the DNI within 180 days of its enactment.

The Committee laid eight specific directives for the report, including a "detailed analysis" of UAP "data and intelligence" from the Office of Naval Intelligence and its subordinate Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, in addition to UAP data collected via other intelligence methods. The FBI is also expected to provide an analysis of its data, "derived from investigations of intrusions of unidentified aerial phenomena data over restricted United States airspace." Additional directives outline coordination between agencies going forward, including the naming of an official for coordinating "timely data collection and centralized analysis" throughout the federal government.

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A 1993 depicition of an Unidentified Flying Object, or UFO. Photo by Alfred Gescheidt/Getty Images

While described as UAP or even "anomalous aerial vehicles" within the report, the only explanation contemplated explicitly isn't the extraterrestrial hypothesis that looms so large in the public imagination. Instead, the Committee called for "an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries," further requesting threat assessments regarding "breakthrough aerospace capabilities" developed by a "potential adversary."

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"The fact that the Senate is asking for a report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena is huge news and should be highly commended," John Greenewald of the declassified government records database The Black Vault told Newsweek in emailed comments. "It has been decades since Congress and the Senate have shown an interest in the topic and require that the intelligence community produce anything relating to the topic."

Newsweek has reached out to the offices of the Committee's acting chairman, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and minority party member of the Committee, Senator Kamala Harris of California, but did not receive comment back by time of publication.

The 2017 unauthorized release of three videos showing Navy pilots encountering unexplained aerial phenomena has spurred renewed interest in UFOs, both from the public and members of the government. Further disclosures followed, including military officials describing multiple UFO intrusions on to military airspace per month and connections between the Pentagon and a private organization that investigated poltergeists.

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A screenshot taken from the GIMBAL video. Department of Defense

In April, the Navy officially declassified the videos. Depicting apparent UFOs captured on infrared and commented upon by Navy pilots, the videos appear to show unidentified craft performing accelerations and maneuvers beyond the capabilities of known aerospace technologies. However, independent researchers have presented comparative evidence demonstrating how conventional aircraft, including commercial flights, can generate similar visual results when captured in infrared. A remarkably similar UFO video released by the Chilean Navy was eventually found to have a terrestrial explanation.

Still, the unclassified report has the potential to offer significant disclosures regarding what the government knows concerning UFOs and unexplained aerial phenomena. But there are a number of caveats that could limit how much is revealed.

The first, of course, is passage of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 through Congress and signing by President Donald Trump. But even assuming its advancement through the legislature, the request to the DNI—appearing in the comments appended to the bill—is technically nonbinding. Furthermore, the Committee's report includes a classified annex that may include additional stipulations on what will or will not be public regarding UAP investigations. A classified annex may also be appended to any report delivered to the Committee by the DNI, further constricting what enters the public record.

Greenewald, who specializes in obtaining formerly declassified documents via Freedom of Information Act requests, explained that even classified information has the potential to eventually inform the public.

"Even though they plan on a classified annex, they do have to justify that classification internally," Greenewald said. "With the use of the FOIA, requests can be made for that information to be reviewed for release, and if they withhold it based on various FOIA exemptions, legal action can be taken to bring it to the courts."

Even if an eventual report released by the DNI to Congress has little to offer the public, what has already been revealed incidentally by the Senate Intelligence Committee may open new avenues of exploration for UFO and UAP researchers. It was previously not known, for example, that the FBI investigated UAP intrusions into restricted U.S. airspace. The Committee request also reveals an apparent lack of coordination between agencies, offering a peek at a seeming behind-the-scenes lack of clarity regarding the phenomena.

"This entire news is fantastic, no matter what happens to the classified annex portion," Greenewald told Newsweek. "That public report will hopefully shed some light on what this phenomena is, what it does, if or why it poses a threat and how the powers that be handle it all. At least, that's the hope."

With 180 days to wait after the bill's passage, the eventual report has the potential to provide us with even more to celebrate come World UFO Day 2021.

On World UFO Day, Congress Wants 'Unidentified' Sightings to Be Declassified | Culture