A new report from the intelligence office overseeing UFO investigations has done little to quell growing calls for greater transparency into the government’s handling of what it calls unidentified aerial phenomenon or UAPs.
Several senior members of Congress, including those responsible for ordering the review, almost immediately criticized the dearth of details in the 2022 annual report released Thursday afternoon by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – the second such document since the government began to acknowledge publicly its analysis of UFO sightings, reported largely by military pilots.
Though they applauded the sharp increase in pilots’ reporting – a sign of a shift away from the stigma that discouraged aviators from acknowledging mysterious aerial encounters – the intelligence service and the Defense Department office that supports it must exercise more transparency in how it studies an issue with such broad interest and relevance, they say.
“We are making important progress in our ongoing efforts to understand these activities and what threat they may pose to America’s national security,” Sen Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and instrumental in the legislation that instructed intelligence and military offices to study the aerial phenomena and report their findings, said in a statement.
The Florida Republican drew attention to one of the only new, tangible details from the report, which acknowledged the number of unexplained aerial sightings since 2004 is now 510, a significant jump from the 144 mentioned in last year’s document, including 247 new reports since March 2021.
Rubio, and others, criticized the DNI and the Pentagon’s new agency, known as the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office or AARO, for not presenting more information about an issue that matters as much to enthusiasts of the otherworldly as it does to those concerned about potentially dangerous new technologies fielded by earthbound powers.
Photos: Space Over Time
“More needs to be done across the Defense Department and Intelligence Community to utilize existing sensors to collect and analyze more data on UAPs,” Rubio said. “I am committed to ensuring we get to the truth for the American people.”
“The DNI’s most recent UAP report reinforces what we already know,” Rep. Mike Gallagher of
Wisconsin, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement, “that we must figure out what our military aviators are observing in our airspace.”
He applauded new whistleblower protections as “an essential step forward to solving this decades-long mystery” that will “ensure that those entrusted with defending America from potential threats have all the required information, historical context, and scientific resources to do so.”
Prior to 2021, the global community of direhard analysts, experts and enthusiasts who study UFOs agreed the subject matter had for too long been buried under impenetrable layers of government bureaucracy and otherwise dismissed to the realm of fantasy shows like “The X-Files.” But they felt a veritable groundswell in June of that year when Congress received a government-wide review that it ordered into cases of documented but unexplained aerial sightings and what might have caused them.
The broadly celebrated shift away from the stigma – expected to change not only how the U.S. handles contemporary or historical records of aerial phenomena but also how other world powers would – almost immediately gave way to renewed frustrations the following December. The Defense Department announced that it would oversee the office handling the entire government examination, signaling a swift end to a brief spell of transparency as it shoved information on the subject back into a closed under lock and key.
The Pentagon pushed back on that characterization from senior U.S. officials and analysts, insisting that it “is committed to transparency with the Congress and the American people while balancing its obligation to protect classified information.”
Those who have followed the issue closely for decades believe the latest report shows those assertions have not yet materialized.
“The new UAP report is disappointing since it doesn’t present any details and comes out more as a description of how AARO works than another step to understand what lies behind the UAP enigma,” says Clas Svahn, chairman for the Sweden-based Archives for the Unexplained, among the most comprehensive digital libraries for UFO sightings and investigations into them by governments worldwide.
The report does offer some “initial analysis” about its findings, to include speculation that 26 of the sightings appear to have been drones, that 163 of them appeared to be “balloon or balloon-like entities” and that six others appeared to be “clutter.” However, it does not offer any definitive conclusions or “positively resolved” sightings. It adds that this initial analysis allows the military and intelligence analysts to focus on the 171 reports that remain uncharacterized and unattributed.
“Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” the report states.
It remains unclear, though, whether the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or the Pentagon will ever release positively resolved findings, or whether its current limitations are due only to the relative newness and volume of the sightings. The office declined to comment. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Svahn also observes that the reports does not specify how many of the 366 reports added after the first report in June 2021 have been identified or how they were observed. Rather it repeats the fact that unidentified aerial phenomena are posing a safety hazard to pilots without offering conclusions for addressing that risk.
“The good thing is that more pilots are reporting, the bad thing is that the reports still lack ‘detailed data’ which makes identification of the objects difficult,” he says.
Even just reporting the number of explained observations without details about the source would add a layer of transparency, Svahn adds, if only to demonstrate how effective the new offices have been in fulfilling their congressionally mandated responsibilities.
“Now we have no idea about that.”