UFOs are finally having a moment. In Congress that is.
On Tuesday, for the first time in more than 50 years, a congressional hearing is being held to address UFOs – or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) as they are now known.
“For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis,” said Indiana Rep. André Carson, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation subcommittee. “Pilots avoided reporting, or were laughed at when they did. DOD officials relegated the issue to the back room, or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community. Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained, it’s true. But they are real. They need to be investigated. And any threats they pose need to be mitigated.”
Congress’ openness to talk about flying objects with no known or proven origin has increased exponentially in recent years.
That increased interest – and ramped-up belief that UAPs pose a national security threat – began in earnest in April 2020 when the Pentagon released three short videos documenting UAPs.
As CNN wrote at the time: “The videos show what appear to be unidentified flying objects rapidly moving while recorded by infrared cameras. Two of the videos contain service members reacting in awe at how quickly the objects are moving. One voice speculates that it could be a drone.”
Then last summer, the US intelligence community issued an unclassified report to Congress on UAPs that, among other things, detailed 144 UAP sightings or incidents – documented by military aviators – between 2004 and 2021.
The report also included these lines: “In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion.”
That UFOs UAPs are having a moment in Congress would be of considerable gratification to the late Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who, for a very long time, was a lone voice in pushing the importance of studying this phenomenon more closely.
Reid had advocated for the creation of the secretive Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which was housed within the Department of Defense.
In a 2017 profile of the program, The New York Times wrote:
“The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.”
In 2019, Reid defended the $22 million he had earmarked for AATIP over his time in the Senate.
“We know that China is doing it,” Reid said in reference to studying UAPs. “We know that Russia, which is led by someone within the KGB, is doing it, too, so we better take a look at it, too.” Added Reid: “We got a volume of research that was done, $22 million worth of research. It showed that not two people, four people or six people or 20 people but hundreds and hundreds of people have seen these things, sometimes all at the same time.”
The following year, Reid was blunt about his interest. “I personally don’t know if there exist little green men places,” Reid said. “I kind of doubt that, but I do believe the information we have indicates we should do a lot more study.”