The thought of alien life has long seemed like a fantasy, immortalised in pop culture and cast aside in the mainstream as a wacky conspiracy, but a certain Republican Senator from Florida wants you to know that the truth, uh, may be out there.
In a recent appearance on US 60 Minutes, Marco Rubio spoke about the existence of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” which according to a forthcoming report compiled by the Office of Naval Intelligence and the FBI, have been routinely traversing unauthorised airspace above the U.S. for years, confounding pilots and the Pentagon’s top brass.
“Men and women we have entrusted with the defence of our country are reporting encounters with unidentified aircraft with superior capabilities,” Rubio said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We cannot allow the stigma of UFO’s to keep us from seriously investigating this. The forthcoming report is one step in that process, but it will not be the last.”
These aren’t the rumblings of a man hallucinating, but part of a growing concern that there are literal UFOs racing through Earthly skies, corroborated by Naval pilots and high-ranking intelligence officials. On the 60 Minutes segment, Luis Elizondo, the former director of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, described technology with otherworldly capabilities:
Imagine a technology that can do 6-to-700 g-forces, that can fly at 20,921 km an hour, that can evade radar and that can fly through air and water and possibly space. And oh, by the way, has no obvious signs of propulsion, no wings, no control surfaces and yet still can defy the natural effects of Earth’s gravity. That’s precisely what we’re seeing.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions when it comes to the possibility of alien life, which is a debate often firmly divided among two camps — one that insists there is an unknown truth that merits study, while the other dismisses it as science fiction. But with the U.S. government really taking these sightings seriously, what are we to make of this issue, and how do you talk about the possibility of extraterrestrial life without seeming like you’ll jump at any chance to trumpet a baseless conspiracy?
What to know about the Pentagon UFO report
In recent years, Congress has been publicly exploring the study of various alleged UFO sightings, with former Nevada Senator Harry Reid pressing the Pentagon to research the phenomena in 2017 (the agency released a report on the topic that year).
The current report scheduled to become partially public in around six weeks was part of a clause subtly wedged into last year’s $US2.3 ($3) trillion COVID-relief package. Specifically, it’s part of a provision that applies to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, specifically under the section that examines “Advanced Aerial Threats,” the Washington Post reported in March. The effort was spearheaded by Rubio alongside a bipartisan faction of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Office of Naval Intelligence, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force and the FBI compiled the details. If the hype bears out, June’s report is primed to be a bombshell, providing “detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence,” in what will probably be the public’s most unvarnished look at the government’s previously classified intel on UFOs.
The report, of course, didn’t come without precedent. Last April, the Department of Defence declassified two videos taken by Navy pilots in 2004 and 2015. The videos were subsequently leaked in 2007 and 2017, respectively, and show bizarre encounters with aircraft that baffled military officials. Despite all the rumination the videos inspired over the years, the Pentagon hasn’t jumped to any conclusions or offered definitive answers, noting in a statement that “the aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterised as ‘unidentified.’”
Now, with the 60 Minutes segment airing nationally, the intrigue has only been further stoked, in what’s likely to presage a significant news event. In his interview with CBS, Elizondo, the former intelligence officer, struck an ominous tone: “I’m not telling you that it doesn’t sound wacky…what I’m telling you is it’s real. The question is, what is it? What are its intentions? What are its capabilities?”
How do we talk about UFOs now?
While all of this evidence can make for very compelling drama, the truth remains that you don’t really know anything. As far as civilians are concerned, we can only really echo the public statements of intelligence officials and the Naval pilots who have witnessed these strange events, lest you run the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist.
Sure, officials from the Pentagon to the Senate and FBI are hedging and urging caution, and there remains the fact — and probably the likelihood — that the government is still guarding sensitive details about these unknown sightings.
All we can possibly do, as people who have no access to facts or classified government documents, is speculate, which is fine and probably pretty fun, but just understand that all we can do is speculate. Postulating your own theories based off a few short news videos only makes someone seem like a kid who’s let their imagination run wild.
I mean, at the expense of sapping all the fun from humanity’s first (possibly) confirmed brush with extraterrestrial life, let’s do ourselves a favour and wait until we know more before screaming “aliens!” out of our bedroom windows. After all, the report releases next month. And then we can scream a whole lot more.