Close encounters: Republicans and Democrats unite on UFOs

Last month, former CIA director R James Woolsey told Black Vault, a website that collects paranormal case files, that he is “not as sceptical as I was a few years ago, to put it mildly”, about UFOs ”.

While speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes, Republican senator Marco Rubio said while UFOs prompt a “giggle” from some lawmakers, “I don’t think we can let the stigma keep us from having an answer to a fundamental question”.

A day after Mr Rubio’s comments aired, former president Barack Obama told CBS’s The Late Late Show with James Corden: “What is true – and I’m being serious here – is that there is footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are.”

UFOs – also known as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs, in official parlance – are having their moment in politics, and a bipartisan one at that.

President Joe Biden’s director of national intelligence will soon release a report containing everything unclassified that the US government knows about UAPs as part of a provision contained in former president Donald Trump’s pandemic relief package.

An increasing number of Democrats and Republicans – from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former Democratic Senate leader Harry M Reid to Fox News host Tucker Carlson – have expressed an openness to UAPs, urging the nation’s leaders to investigate the phenomenon.

“After this last year, it’s kind of nice to see something that’s bipartisan,” said Robert Powell, an executive board member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies. 

The US government’s effort to better understand UAPs began in earnest in 2007 with Mr Reid, the then Senate majority leader whose home state of Nevada includes Area 51, the air force’s top-secret testing site that has long attracted UFO hunters.

Mr Reid privately approached Democrat senator Daniel Inouye and  Republican senator Ted Stevens to request $22m (€28m) in Pentagon funding for a secret operation that became known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme.

Now a new government programme, known as the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, has continued investigating UAPs.

For years, UFOs remained a taboo topic, relegated to the fringe of society and certainly of politics. But by 2015, while campaigning for president in New Hampshire, Mrs Clinton told the Conway Daily Sun she thought Earth might have already been visited by extraterrestrial life and pledged to “get to the bottom of it”.

More recently, in addition to Mr Woolsey, former CIA director John Brennan also expressed openness to UAPs

What is fascinating now is that the issue has emerged as a topic deemed deserving of serious investigation at a moment when misinformation and conspiracy theories reign supreme

Christopher Mellon, a former intelligence official at the Defence Department, said there were two major turning points recently: a December 2017 New York Times article in which the Pentagon admitted the existence of its programme to study UFOs and public interviews with members of the military talking about their personal encounters with UFOs. 

“Coming from the US military – that’s the one institution in our government everybody still supports and the one institution in our government everybody still trusts,” Mr Mellon said.

 Adam Jentleson, a former top aide to Mr Reid in the Senate, said that as the country moves its faith away from institutions, a growing openness to the paranormal makes sense – even if it is taking the unlikely form of bipartisanship toward UAPs. (© The Washington Post)

© Washington Post

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