2023: The year the US government started taking UFOs seriously

2023: The year the US government started taking UFOs seriously

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Last year marked a profound shift in the conversation around unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), the new preferred term for what everyone knows as UFOs.

The reflexive giggles that long followed any mention of “UFO” now subside quickly when the uninformed learn about bipartisan legislation and serious elected officeholders alleging that surreptitious government “legacy programs” possess “biological evidence of non-human intelligence” and are attempting to reverse engineer exotic “technologies of unknown origin.”  

Although the UAP Disclosure Act passed the Senate with flying colors, House Intelligence chairman Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) successfully killed the most extraordinary elements of the legislation for no apparent reason that makes any sense.  

After blasting this obstruction as an “outrage,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who are sponsoring the legislation, vowed to continue fighting for truth and transparency in 2024. 

Speaking on the Senate floor in the waning weeks of last year, Schumer charged elements of the U.S. government with illegally withholding UFO-related information from Congress. The Senate majority leader cited “multiple credible sources” and a “vast web” of whistleblowers to support his astounding allegation. 

Ultimately, President Biden signed legislation directing government agencies to turn over any documents that “unambiguously and definitively pertain to [UFOs], technologies of unknown origin, and non-human intelligence” to the National Archives for preservation.

Given a multitude of pressing priorities and the decades-long stigma associated with UFOs, such extraordinary language does not receive a presidential signature on a whim. 

Biden also signed into law provisions sponsored by two former presidential candidates, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), cutting off funding for illegal, unreported government UFO programs. Gillibrand and Rubio appear particularly concerned that America’s adversaries may have retrieved highly advanced UFOs and that excessive secrecy is inhibiting scientific understanding of “exotic” technologies recovered by the U.S. 

The remarkable language in the UFO-related legislation proposed in 2023 closely mirrors the allegations of whistleblower David Grusch, a decorated Air Force veteran and former intelligence officer who, along with two other senior officials, first spoke publicly in June. 

Of note, the inspector general of the intelligence community deemed “credible and urgent” Grusch’s allegations that elements of the U.S. government improperly withheld UFO-related information from Congress. This triggered legally-mandated congressional notifications.  

It is impossible to dismiss Grusch’s stunning allegations out of hand considering that the intelligence community’s first inspector general — nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate — serves as Grusch’s attorney. 

Asked under oath during a historic congressional hearing whether he believed that the U.S. government has retrieved UFOs, Grusch stated, “Absolutely, based on interviewing over 40 witnesses over four years.”  

According to Grusch, officials with firsthand knowledge of the alleged UFO retrieval and reverse engineering activities testified to the intelligence community inspector general. Importantly, individuals claiming firsthand knowledge of such efforts have little incentive to lie. Providing false statements to the inspector general is punishable by fines and jail time. 

Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, corroborated much of Grusch’s account, noting that several high-level government officials with top security clearances have informed Congress that the U.S. government has retrieved “exotic materials” and “reverse-engineered those materials to make advances in our own defenses and technologies.” 

This, Rubio stated, leaves only one of two astounding possibilities. Either a sizable cohort of top government officials is “crazy,” or these individuals are revealing the “biggest story in human history.” Given the caliber and stature of the officials involved, Rubio seems to doubt that such “serious people” would simply “make something up.” 

Echoing Rubio, Gillibrand described the UFO whistleblowers as “very thoughtful, serious people.” 

In June, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) stated that new protections enacted by Congress resulted in “all sorts of [whistleblowers] coming out of the woodwork.” These individuals, Gallagher said, are telling congressional investigators that “they’ve been part of this or that program,” resulting in “a variety of pretty intense conversations.” Gallagher, like NASA administrator Bill Nelson, needs to work on his poker face when discussing UFOs. 

Not to be outdone by Congress, the executive branch made its share of eyebrow-raising references to “aliens” in 2023. 

In a striking shift from decades of government ridicule and disavowal of potential extraterrestrial explanations for UFOs, the recently-retired director of the government’s UFO analysis office co-authored a scientific paper hypothesizing that extraterrestrial “parent craft” could release “many small probes” that seek out water-rich planets like Earth. 

The ET-themed paper becomes even more interesting when placed in a broader context. During a May presentation, the director of the UFO office stated that military sensors are observing “metallic orbs” “all over the world…making very interesting apparent maneuvers.” Several images and videos of such objects have been released in recent years. 

Intriguingly, observations of enigmatic “metallic orbs” date back to at least World War II, when American aviators reported encounters with “large numbers of silver spheres.” The New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Stars and Stripes and the now-defunct International News Service all published stories describing military air crews’ encounters with “mysterious silver balls which float in the air.”  

Newsweek followed up with a Christmas Day, 1944, article titled “The Silver Sphere Puzzle.” Zeroing in on the mystifying nature of the objects, the headline of a second Associated Press dispatch read: “Balls of Silver Seen Over Reich Intrigue Science.” 

American aviators’ bewildering encounters with “metallic orbs” did not end after World War II. Intelligence assessments from the late 1940s and early 1950s describe flying “silver balls” and “spherical” objects “of bright metallic lustre,” alongside larger “metallic” discs

Eighty years after the first U.S. pilots reported them, the government still seems perplexed by anomalous “metallic orbs.” 

In an apparent nod to the long, continuous history of encounters with such objects, the logo of the government’s UFO analysis office prominently features a large, silver-colored sphere.  

Perhaps more intriguingly, a stock image titled “alien technology in a metallic ball” is hidden in a key document outlining the office’s mission. 

According to the office’s former director, only one of two startling culprits — “aliens” or a foreign power — will ultimately explain UFOs that exhibit “concerning performance characteristics.” Of note, none of the hundreds of military UFO reports analyzed recently were attributed to foreign nations.

At the same time, military aviators are speaking more openly about encounters with spherical objects that conduct seemingly physics-defying maneuvers in tightly controlled training airspace. According to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, these objects are “not slow movers,” like surveillance balloons, but “fast movers.” 

In July, the White House made clear that UFOs have “had an impact on [military] training ranges” and that “there’s something that our pilots are seeing.” Despite heavy redactions, government documents offer a fascinating glimpse into military UFO incidents, including some eyebrow-raising surprises

As Reuters noted, “after decades spent deflecting, debunking and discrediting” UFOs, the seriousness with which the U.S. government began treating such phenomena in 2023 marks a striking “turning point.” 

With the most powerful member of the Senate firmly committed to UFO transparency, 2024 may hold even more intriguing revelations than last year did. 

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, and was an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense.

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