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Have you seen a UFO? Pentagon launches new reporting tool, but it’s not for everyone

A view of the Pentagon. (AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Have you seen a UFO? If so, the government may be interested.

The Pentagon, on Oct. 31, unveiled a form for reporting information on unidentified flying objects (UFOs) — also known as unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP).

The new reporting tool is not for everyone, though. Only current or former federal employees, military members and contractors are permitted to use it. And among them, only those with “direct knowledge of alleged U.S. government programs” concerning UAP are invited to come forward, according to a Defense Department news release.

“We want to hear from you,” Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), said in the release.

All information provided will be secure, though classified information should be withheld on the initial form.

Those who submit information may be contacted by officials at the AARO, an office in the Defense Department, to set up follow-up interviews.

Renewed interest

The Pentagon’s call for information comes as government officials have expressed renewed interest and unprecedented openness on the subject of UAP in recent years.

In 2020, the Defense Department released three videos — one from 2004 and two from 2015 — depicting “unidentified” aerial phenomena. The videos, recorded by Navy pilots, show grainy objects hurtling through the sky at high speeds.

In July, Congress held a public hearing in which former military officials testified about their alleged firsthand accounts of UAP.

One of the officials, a former Navy commander, testified that he saw a “small white Tic Tac shaped object” during a flight over the ocean in 2004. The object “did not operate with any of the known aerodynamic principles that we expect for objects that fly in our atmosphere,” he said.

The same month, an amendment was added to the National Defense Authorization Act that mandates the disclosure of government records related to UAP.

Experts weigh in

Despite the surge of attention UAP are now receiving, anecdotal reports of otherworldly objects should be met with a high degree of skepticism, according to experts.

“There’s no good evidence that UAP sightings are non-human (alien) craft,” Mick West, a science writer who specializes in UFOs, told McClatchy News. “Eyewitness accounts are unreliable. Video evidence invariably turns out to be much less interesting than claimed.”

“However, there’s still value in investigating sightings that are unexplained,” West said. “If a pilot is failing to identify something ordinary (like a balloon), then that’s a problem because it’s (at the very least) a distraction. There’s also the possibility that there are things like adversary drones — either being used offensively or for surveillance. And we can’t 100% rule out the possibility of some technological advance.”

Another reason to be skeptical is that the government — including the military and at least one intelligence agency — has a history of lying about UAP reports, or signaling a desire to manipulate them.

During the Cold War, a flurry of UAP sightings were made, striking fear into the public, according to a 1997 New York Times report. However, unbeknownst to observers, most of these sightings were actually U-2 spy planes and other high-flying, high-tech military aircraft.

Rather than clarify the reports, the Air Force put out fake cover stories, according to the outlet, citing the CIA.

The CIA, too, has in the past signaled a desire to exploit UAP reports for its own purposes.

“Unidentified flying objects appear to have implications for psychological warfare as well as for intelligence and operations,” CIA Director Walter Smith, who led the agency from 1950 to 1953, wrote in a report.

The government, Smith added, should consider using UAP phenomena for defensive or offensive “psychological warfare purposes.”

“As to what happens in the government, I have no insight except to say that the Pentagon’s day job is national security and not interstellar affairs,” Avi Loeb, a professor of science at Harvard University, told McClatchy News.

“If we want to learn whether we have a cosmic neighbor, we better do it the scientific way, with open data,” Loeb said.

Loeb, an astrophysicist, runs Harvard’s Galileo Project, which uses a “state-of-the-art” campus observatory to systematically monitor the sky in search of UAP. The collected data are then analyzed by machine learning.

“The sky is not classified and if UAP are truly anomalous, we hope to notice that,” Loeb said.


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