Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, is pushing legislation to create a commission with broad authority to declassify government documents on UFOs and extraterrestrial affairs, in an attempt to force the government to share everything it knows about unearthly phenomena. identified.
The move offers the chance to push back against conspiracy theories surrounding UFO discussions and fears that the government is withholding critical information from the public.
The legislation, which Mr. Schumer will introduce as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, enjoys bipartisan support, including Sen. Mike Rounds, R-SD, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. , who has defended legislation that has forced the government to publish a series of reports on unidentified phenomena.
There is also likely to be support in the House. On Wednesday, the chamber included a narrower measure in his version of the annual defense bill that would push the Pentagon to release documents on unidentified aerial phenomena.
(While the government has agreed not to call the mysterious sightings UFOs, various branches and agencies disagree on whether to refer to aerial phenomena or anomalous phenomena.)
The Senate measure sets a 300-day deadline for government agencies to organize their records on unidentified phenomena and deliver them to the review board.
President Biden would appoint the nine-person review board, subject to Senate approval. Senate staffers say the intent is to select a group of people who will push for disclosure while protecting sensitive intelligence-gathering methods.
Interest in UFOs has always been high, but it has grown even more since a collection of videos showing unidentified phenomena recorded by military sensors became public and naval aviators described difficult-to-explain events during their training missions.
Some of the videos released by the Pentagon have been explained as optical illusions or drones, but others remain unexplained and the subject of much speculation. Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies have compiled hundreds of reports of unexplained phenomena. Authorities have said most of the unexplained incidents are airborne trash, Chinese spy efforts or errant weather balloons. US officials have repeatedly said that none of the videos or other material they have collected appears to be evidence of extraterrestrial visitation.
It is difficult to know how many unpublished documents exist in the government archives. Intelligence agencies have repeatedly said that they have made the material they have public. Its freedom of information offices are constantly inundated with requests for UFO material, only to receive responses that the files have been released.
Still, the most recent work, particularly from the Pentagon, has not been made public, and the reluctance of some government agencies to produce records has frustrated both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Schumer’s staff members said.
For example, various Pentagon task forces have conducted extensive studies on videos taken by naval aviators and other military personnel that have been kept secret. Some work has been published on the videos, including at a recent NASA meeting. In some cases, officials believe the disclosures could reveal the capability of classified optics and sensors. But in cases where no formal conclusion was reached, officials have been reluctant to share information about their deliberations or theories.
It is the reluctance to share all that is known about incidents that are not fully understood that has fueled endless speculation on social media, in television specials, and in public debates.
The new legislation builds on the commission that oversaw the release of information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That legislation, passed in 1992, has been imperfect, and both the disclosure and withholding of documents have continued during the Biden administration.
Still, the Kennedy Assassination Review Board has forced the release of thousands of pages of documents, and lawmakers believe the approach could work here.
Under Mr. Schumer’s legislation, the president could decide to delay material the commission has chosen to release based on national security concerns. But the measure would establish a schedule for publishing documents and codify the presumption that the material must be public.
“You will now have a process through which we will declassify this material,” said Allison Biasotti, a spokeswoman for Schumer.
Government officials have repeatedly said that they do not have the remains of a crashed alien spacecraft or any manufactured materials of extraterrestrial origin.
Those claims have been disputed by some former officials who believe the government is not divulging everything it knows. The legislation would likely force more details of the government’s study into unknown materials to be released, but it also gives the federal government the power to reclaim any crashed spacecraft in private or corporate hands, however unlikely such things exist.
Mr Biden, unlike former President Barack Obama, has not directly addressed the issue of unidentified phenomena. But Mr. Biden ordered two unknown objects and a Chinese spy balloon to be shot from the sky. Later, the president said that he would not apologize for shooting down the spy balloon and that the United States would continue to adapt its approach to dealing with unknown objects.
karoun demirjian contributed reporting from Washington.