US Senate committee aims to regulate UFO information

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) Senate intelligence committee is aiming to regulate a Pentagon UFO programme so that the public is better informed of its activities and the country’s intelligence branches can more easily share information.

The panel said that it “supports the efforts of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force”, officially confirming the programme’s continued existence, in a provision to the annual intelligence authorisation bill.

In December 2017, the Pentagon acknowledged funding a secret multi-million dollar programme to investigate sightings of UFOs, although it said it had ended in 2012.

The New York Times reported at the time, however, that it was still up and running.

The Senate’s focus on the programme stems less out of a concern over extraterrestrials, and more from the threat posed by real-world US adversaries, such as China.

The programme, managed by the Office of Naval Intelligence, is responsible for “collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to US military assets and installations”.

The US is particularly worried about China’s espionage capabilities, including use of drones and other aerial technology. While recognising that the topic is sensitive, the senators said that previous “information sharing and coordination across the intelligence community has been inconsistent”, and called for a detailed and public report on the programme’s progress as well as any phenomena it observes. The provision is part of the 2021 intelligence authorisation bill, which has yet to make its way to the full Senate. If it passes, the Pentagon will have 180 days to submit a report to Congress.

In April the Pentagon released three videos taken by US Navy pilots showing mid-air encounters with what appear to be UFOs. One of videos was shot in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015. In one, the weapons sensor operator appears to lose lock on a rapidly moving oblong object which seconds later suddenly accelerates away to the left and out of view. In another video tracking an object above the clouds, one pilot wonders if it is a drone.