Washington (CNN)Members of the House Intelligence Committee will receive a classified briefing on Wednesday morning on one of the most controversial topics circulating in Washington today: UFOs.
The briefing, which was confirmed to CNN by two sources familiar with the committee’s plans, comes just weeks before the US intelligence community is scheduled to deliver an unclassified report on the matter for Congress. According to one committee source, Wednesday’s briefing will be conducted by the Navy and FBI.
The fact that Congress is receiving briefings and the intelligence community is producing reports on what the Pentagon has labeled UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) is itself extraordinary. After years of Washington infighting, including bureaucratic battles within the Pentagon and pressure from certain members of Congress, the US government finally appears to be taking seriously what has for so long been considered a fringe issue.
Even as sightings of unexplainable objects rose into the hundreds, Pentagon officials wrestled with how much time and resources to devote to investigating them. Interviews with a half-dozen officials as well as documents reviewed by CNN depict a US military and intelligence community that’s struggled over how to remove the issue from the world of science fiction and consider its actual national security implications.
Even now, multiple sources told CNN, the government almost certainly wouldn’t have moved to produce the report without public pressure from key lawmakers, as both Republicans and Democrats have taken an interest in the matter.
While former senior defense officials with knowledge of the most recent iteration of the department’s investigations say the Pentagon took it seriously, some pilots and former officials tasked with investigating the matter say senior Pentagon leaders downplayed or ignored the threat.
“Everyone who’s paid enough attention to it understands they need to take it seriously,” said former deputy defense secretary David Norquist, who set up a task force in 2020 to investigate UAPs. “But once you go beyond that circle, you get people who don’t want to be assumed to have tinfoil hats.”
For most serious people inside the Pentagon studying the strange incidents, the former officials said, the investigation is not about proving whether or not aliens are visiting Earth and buzzing Navy pilots. Rather, it’s about trying to understand what is behind these otherwise unexplainable encounters in US airspace. In particular, some officials are concerned that they might be some kind of next-gen technology deployed by China or Russia.
“If [these objects] had the flag of Russia on the side, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Norquist said. “Every one of these would be reported; everyone would be on top of it.”
The report, which is due to Congress in late June, isn’t likely to resolve the debate — nor is it expected to provide the kind of juicy details UFO-ologists hoped for, like confirming that strange sightings by American Navy pilots were alien spacecraft. One administration official noted that many of the incidents in the Pentagon’s database of encounters will likely turn out to have multiple causes — a strange weather anomaly combined with a weather balloon sighting on the horizon, for example. But some could eventually turn out to be adversaries operating in US airspace, that person said.
For that reason alone, officials are likely to be reluctant to offer too many details of what they’ve seen in the upcoming report: If any of these incidents are Russia or China or another nation state, the US won’t want to show what they know for counterintelligence reasons.
Proof that the US government has made contact with extraterrestrial life — what UFO-ologists call “the Disclosure” — will have to wait for another day.
Growing pressure on the Pentagon
The US government has sporadically examined the phenomenon for decades. One iteration began in 2007 when the Defense Department began running an investigation known as the “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program.” The program was officially shut down in 2012 — although a former head of the division claims that its work continued part-time at least into 2017.
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