House committee to hold public hearing into unexplained aerial sightings

A House subcommittee is scheduled to hold the first congressional public hearing on unidentified aerial vehicles in more than half a century next week, with testimony from two senior defense intelligence officials.

The hearing comes after the publication last June of a report requested by Congress on “unidentified aerial phenomena”. The nine-page “preliminary assessment” from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on 144 incidents dating back to 2004 and could explain only one.

The report declined to draw conclusions, saying the available reports were “largely inconclusive” and noting that limited and inconsistent data created a challenge in assessing the phenomenon. But he said most of the phenomena reported “represent physical objects”.

The assessment concluded that the objects were not secret U.S. technology and that “we currently lack data to indicate that any UAPs are part of a foreign collection program or indicate a major technological advancement by a potential adversary.”

The hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday, is intended to focus on the work of a group within the Pentagon that is monitoring national security and flight safety issues raised by the report.

“Because this is an area of ​​high public interest, any undue secrecy may be an obstacle to solving the mystery, or it could prevent us from finding solutions to potential vulnerabilities,” said Representative André Carson. , an Indiana Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation, which is holding the hearing. “This hearing is about examining what steps the Pentagon can take to reduce the stigma around reporting by military pilots and civilian pilots.”

Among the scheduled witnesses are Ronald S. Moultrie, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, and Scott W. Bray, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence.

“The federal government and the intelligence community have a critical role to play in contextualizing and analyzing the reports,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He said the purpose of the hearing was to illuminate “one of the great mysteries of our time and to break the cycle of excessive secrecy and speculation with truth and transparency”.

The report delivered to Congress last June was authored by the intelligence community with the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, which the Pentagon replaced in November with a new office, the Synchronization Management and Intelligence Group. identification of airborne objects. The group’s job is to “detect, identify and assign objects of interest in special use airspace and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to flight safety and national security”.

Mr. Moultrie oversees this new group, which will be the focus of upcoming hearings.

Last December, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, succeeded, with bipartisan support, in inserting an amendment into the annual National Defense that directs the Pentagon to work with the intelligence community on the matter and report publicly on its findings. The amendment expanded the scope of the research beyond what the Pentagon group was already conducting.

Congress has held no public hearings on UFOs since the Air Force closed a public investigation known as Project Blue Book in the early 1970s.

In 1966, Gerald R. Ford, then Republican Minority Leader in the Michigan House, held a hearing in response to UFO reports by more than 40 people, including 12 police officers. The Air Force explained them as “swamp gas,” which Mr. Ford called “offhand.”

“I believe the American people are entitled to a more thorough explanation than has been given to them by the Air Force to date,” Mr. Ford said in a letter to two House committees on March 28, 1966. Air Force officials testified about the sightings. .

Two years later, Congress held a second hearing in which scientists outside the Air Force presented papers on their own studies of the phenomenon and called for further study of flying objects. not identified.

The Air Force concluded in 1969 that no UFO had ever threatened national security; that the objects did not display technology beyond current knowledge; and that there was no evidence that the objects were extraterrestrial. The Air Force concluded that no further investigation was warranted.

In recent years, intelligence reports and official statements have raised concerns about a threat to national security from UFOs through advanced technology suggested by reports from pilots of, for example, vehicles traveling to extreme speeds without visible means of propulsion. Officials have expressed doubts that they could be linked to known adversaries.

“I had a few laughs, but it’s something I’m passionate about and I think I can handle the heat,” Mr Carson said. “That may be the very thing that brings Democrats and Republicans together, at least for an hour or two.”

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