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Connecticut congressman questions Pentagon officials about UFOs

U.S. Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray explains a video of an unidentified aerial phenomena, as he testifies before a House Intelligence Committee subcommittee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. The committee met to investigate Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, commonly referred to as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).
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U.S. Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray explains a video of an unidentified aerial phenomenon as he testifies before a House Intelligence subcommittee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2022, in Washington, D.C. The committee met to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena, commonly referred to as unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

For the first time in half a century, Congress held a hearing on unidentified flying objects Tuesday.

While there was still no government confirmation of extraterrestrial life, Pentagon officials said they had picked a director for a new task force to coordinate data collection efforts on UFOs, which the government now calls “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAPs).

During the hearing before a House Intelligence subcommittee, Connecticut U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District) asked U.S. Naval Intelligence Deputy Director Scott Bray to help reduce conspiracy theories by better defining what the military means by unexplained sightings.

“When you say, ‘We can’t explain,’ give the public a little bit better sense of where on that spectrum of ‘We can’t explain’ we are,” Himes said. “Are we holding materials – organic or inorganic – that we don’t know about? Are we picking up emanations that are something other than light or infrared – that could be deemed to be communications?”

“When it comes to material that we have – we have no material,” Bray responded. “We have detected no ‘emanations’ within the UAP task force that would suggest it’s anything non-terrestrial in origin.”

“When I say, ‘unexplained,’” Bray continued, “I mean everything from too little data, to … the data that we have doesn’t point us towards an explanation. But we’ll go wherever the data takes us. Again, we’ve made no assumptions about what this is or isn’t.”

During the hearing, Pentagon officials did not disclose additional information from their ongoing investigation of hundreds of unexplained sightings in the sky.

Ronald Moultrie, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said the Pentagon was trying to destigmatize the issue and encourage pilots and other military personnel to report anything unusual they see.

“We want to know what's out there as much as you want to know what's out there,” Moultrie told lawmakers, adding that he was a fan of science fiction himself and has “gone to conventions.”

“We get the questions not just from you. We get it from family,” Moultrie said, “and we get them night and day.”

Lawmakers from both parties said UFOs are a national security concern.

Sightings of what appear to be aircraft flying without discernible means of propulsion have been reported near military bases and coastlines, raising the prospect that witnesses have spotted undiscovered or secret Chinese or Russian technology.

“One of the objectives of this open hearing is to try to erode some of the stigma that attaches to – in particular – our military men and women reporting this,” Himes said. “It’s obviously really very serious because should one of our adversaries have developed a technology that we don’t know about it, we need to know about it yesterday.”

But the sightings are usually fleeting. Some appear for no more than an instant on camera – and then sometimes end up distorted by the camera lens. The U.S. government is believed to hold additional technical information on the sightings that it has not disclosed publicly. Some of that data was held for a classified intelligence session with lawmakers that same day.

An interim report released by intelligence officials last year counted 144 sightings of aircraft or other devices apparently flying at mysterious speeds or trajectories. In all but one of the sightings investigated, there was too little information for investigators to even broadly characterize the nature of the incident.

A top Pentagon official on Tuesday briefly demonstrated the challenge. Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence, stood next to a television to show a short video taken from an F-18 military plane.

The video shows a blue sky with passing clouds. In a single frame – which it took several minutes for staff in the room to queue up – there is an image of one balloon-like shape.

“As you can see, finding UAP is harder than you may think," Bray said, using the acronym for “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

Rep. Rick Crawford, an Arkansas Republican, noted that the investigations were not “about finding alien spacecraft but about delivering dominant intelligence."

“The inability to understand objects in our sensitive operating areas is tantamount to an intelligence failure that we certainly want to avoid,” he said.

This story contains information from The Associated Press.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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