Congress-sanctioned UFO report to be released in June 2021. (Photo: U.S. NAVY)
Republicans and Democrats agree on almost nothing. They can’t settle on how much is too much to spend on pandemic recovery, whether a commission is needed to investigate the U.S. Capitol riot of Jan. 6, or even what “infrastructure” means. But there has been an uncanny, some might even say otherworldly, meeting of the minds on one curious issue: What the heck are those UFOs flying around?
Lawmakers of all stripes are pushing hard for information from the military about those things in the sky the Pentagon officially calls “unidentified aerial phenomena.” At the urging of Congress, a Defense Department report detailing whatever has been learned is scheduled for release any day now. (Spoiler alert: There’s no evidence they’re aliens, but there’s also no evidence they’re not.)
There was a time when seriously contemplating UFOs was the political equivalent of getting caught on a Zoom session without pants. Think Dennis Kucinich, who suffered a few slings and arrows for admitting in a presidential debate in 2007 that he saw a UFO flying over actress Shirley MacLaine’s house.
‘Stuff flying in our airspace’
But no more. The views of Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike, after hearing closed-door testimony about the phenomena, have gone beyond questions regarding whether they’re real to questions concerning what are they and what should be done about them.
“There is stuff flying in our airspace,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News. “We don’t know what it is. We need to find out.”
“If other nations have capabilities that we don’t know of, we want to find out,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told NBC. “If there’s some explanation other than that, we want to learn that, too.”
It was three high-ranking senators, two Democrats and a Republican, who secretly secured $22 million in 2007 for the military to study UFOs. That began in 2008, and last August, the Pentagon announced creation of a task force that broadened the effort. Then the Senate included a provision in a pandemic relief package request by President Donald Trump that required intelligence officials to produce the unclassified report due this month about what is known. NASA has also gotten involved.
‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’
The nation’s capital has a long, kitschy UFO history, starting in 1951 when alien Klaatu – in the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” – landed on the National Mall in a big flying saucer and stepped out to say, “We have come to visit you in peace.” The next year, there were reports of sightings over the city, accompanied by a screaming Washington Post headline, “ ‘Saucer’ Outran Jet, Pilot Says; Air Force Puts Lid on Inquiry.”
"We have come to visit you in peace," says Klaatu in the 1951 movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still." (Photo: 20th Century Fox Home Video)
But the lid’s off now. Military pilots have tracked and recorded these unidentified boogeys using sophisticated radar and infrared targeting cameras, and they’ve been allowed to tell their stories to Congress and even news outlets such as “60 Minutes.” The military has set up a process for gathering the accounts from pilots and radar operators and encouraging the reporting of sightings to drain the stigma out of doing so. That’s a far cry from what happened in 2004, when Navy pilots off the USS Nimitz reported seeing an object flying low over the Pacific Ocean, only to be hazed with a showing of the comedy “Men in Black” on the ship entertainment system that evening.
Detractors continue to dismiss the gathering evidence with more mundane explanations such as camera anomalies, weather balloons, flares, planets, temperature inversions and the like.
But if further research and study reveal anything about these lights in the night sky, the nation might draw some measure of comfort that – at least based on their initial bipartisan actions – American political leaders will set aside differences and respond with one voice.
Who knows? Maybe Klaatu will be invited to address a joint session of Congress.
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