J.P. Hague, Barrister-at-Law, offers an international perspective on the legislative path and outcome of the Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Disclosure Act of 2023, also known as the “Schumer Amendment.”
In a post-mortem speech in the Senate on 13th December 2023, the Majority Leader, Charles “Chuck” Schumer rightly lamented the death of his sponsored “The Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) Disclosure Act of 2023” Bill originally passed by the Senate in July of this year:
“Unidentified anomalous phenomena are of immense interest and curiosity to the American people. But with that curiosity comes the risk for confusion, disinformation and mistrust, especially if the government isn’t prepared to be transparent. The United States government has gathered a great deal of information about UAPs over many decades but has refused to share it with the American people. That is wrong, and additionally, it breeds mistrust. We’ve also been notified by multiple credible sources that information on UAPs has also been withheld from Congress, which, if true, is a violation of the laws requiring full notification to the legislative branch, especially as it relates to the four congressional leaders, the defense committees and the Intelligence Committee. So, the bill I worked on with Senator Rounds offered a common-sense solution.”
The fallen bill is from hereon referred to as the “Schumer Amendment”. Indirectly, the effects and implications of the US body of law applicable to UAP are clearly universal to the world at large and this article comprises the attempts of a dual-qualified non-US lawyer to set out and analyze the legislative journey, key events, and their interactions over the last two years.
The author of this article writes from the remote tropical island of Mauritius, a new republic that gained independence from the British in 1968 and remained within the Commonwealth, following centuries of colonization by the Dutch (1598 -1710), French (1715-1810) and British (1810-1968). It was one of the first countries, if not the first in the world, to be granted an American consul in 1872 by the name of Nicholas Pike. Some say this was done as an acknowledgment of the island’s contribution to the US War of Independence against the British (1775-1783) while the island was under French control. Pike rightly said of the island that it was “in reality the Gem of the ocean, but little known to the world at large, small as it is, only a dot in a vast ocean”. He was right and his remarks remain true today but for the foreign elite of ultimate beach-seekers. Due to the apparent inconsistency of the US alliance with the French one might think that the naval and military contribution was quickly forgotten.
Over two decades later, in April 1896, author Mark Twain wrote of the island that:
“From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius. Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration (…) Mauritius is a garden and a park combined. It affects one’s emotions as parks and gardens affect them. The surfaces of one’s spiritual deeps are pleasantly played upon, the deeps themselves are not reached, not stirred. Spaciousness, remote altitudes, the sense of mystery which haunts apparently inaccessible mountain domes and summits reposing in the sky—these are the things which exalt the spirit and move it to see visions and dream dreams.”
The opening of Twain’s commentary is more often than not misquoted to project an image of the island’s perfection whereas, in truth, his diary entries reveal a bi-polar contrast of exalted nature and the humdrum of society. The landscape has set the dramatic backdrop for the author to witness the mystery of UAP that enter and leave the Indian Ocean and haunt the tropical skies. These impressions naturally create subjective colour and personal meaning behind the objective subject matter outlined in this article, originating from the US and viewed from afar.
The hybrid and somewhat antiquated Mauritian legal system broadly inherits the dual traditions of the French Napoleonic civil and criminal codes and more modern British Commonwealth business, finance, and court procedural laws, while having continuously developed its own unique body of jurisprudence. The juxtaposition to the diversity, pace of evolution, and modernity of the US legislature and system could not be starker. In relative terms, the same could be said for all other nations when reviewing the length and complexity of the annual US National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) updates, which effectively serve as annual bi-partisan and bicameral defense budget and provisioning legislation and have been promulgated across seven decades. None more so than the NDAAs from the previous two years concerning UAP. Indeed, the most recent UAP draft legislative installment for the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2024, as proposed by the Senate Majority Leader, Charles E. Schumer, was nothing less than revolutionary in furtherance of urgent national security concerns and the public interest, namely:
“The compelling interest in the prompt public disclosure of unidentified anomalous phenomena records for historical and Governmental purposes and for the purpose of fully informing the people of the United States about the history of the Federal Government’s knowledge and involvement surrounding unidentified anomalous phenomena.”
Despite the gargantuan effort of a limited but well-placed team of professionals behind the Schumer Amendment, it has ultimately been whittled down to minimalistic provisions on preserving and making available national records on UAP and window-dressed funding restrictions for unreported phantom programs harboring recovered materials and/or reverse-engineered technology.
The visible bedrock to what was built and ended on Capitol Hill this month is undoubtedly found in the December 2017 New York Times article revealing that the Department of Defense (DoD) was running a secret program on tracking the presence of UAP following initial funding at the request of former Senate majority leader, the late Senator Harry Reid. In August 2020, the DoD created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) under Deputy Defense Secretary, David Norquist, formalizing an effort that had previously been under the purview of the Office of Naval Intelligence since 2018. In June 2021 the foundations were publicly exposed by the US Pentagon, through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which published a landmark albeit basic unclassified Preliminary Assessment on the presence of UAP and the threats it presents to US national security and air safety.
1. The NDAA Regime Reveals Extraordinary Objectives & DoD Management Thereof (2022-2023)
The first NDAA to pass was in 1961 under newly elected President, John F. Kennedy (JFK), at a time of heightened Cold War tension with the USSR. In connection to the author’s part of the world, it was in 1964, following the initiatives of the JFK and Johnson administrations, that the British entered into secret negotiations with the US to lease an island, Diego Garcia, for a strategic military base nestled among the Chagos Islands within the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The BIOT was a colonial jurisdiction created in 1965 for the sole purpose of facilitating the militarisation of Diego Garcia. The strategic base has been the subject of several NDAA updates, remains the subject of international legal action and controversy before the United Nations due to its continued excision from Mauritius by the UK, and has been associated with potentially exotic aircraft technology.
In December 2021, the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2022 was signed into law. This 61st annual Congressional update to defense policy was momentous and historic by virtue of Section 1683 – “Establishment of Office, Organisational, Structure and Authorities to Address Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”. The major highlights of the NDAA 2022 in respect of UAP were:
1) The creation of a DoD office for the collection of data on the technical and operational characteristics, origins and intentions of UAP. The office was named the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMG) and primarily focussed on airborne and spatial UAP;
2) The collection of data on the adverse effects of UAP on civil and military DoD personnel;
3) The collaboration and coordination with the allies and partners of the USA to better assess the nature and extent of UAP;
4) The requirement for the DoD to issue both public and private classified Congressional annual reports on the technical and operational characterises and origins and intentions of UAP as between October 2022 to October 2026 in respect of UAP events in each year, including geospatial intelligence;
5) Including in the report UAP incidents that took place at nuclear sites;
6) Forming a rapid response team to conduct field investigations of UAP incidents;
7) An update on any efforts underway on the ability to capture or exploit discovered UAP; and
8) Scientific analytical reports on data gathered by field investigations conducted including the “testing of materials”, medical studies and the development of theoretical models with a view to better understand and explain UAP.
Yes. Many reading the text would have had difficulty in processing that this was actually signed into the law books. The author included.
A year later, in December 2022, the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2023 was passed and required the creation of a new Pentagon office, the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) and reporting procedures for “trans-medium” phenomena operating between air and sea. There were also provisions creating whistle-blower protections for disclosures made by employees of and contractors working within the intelligence community to the US Congress. Just weeks prior to this law passing the author happened to meet, in an unrelated context, a former UK Cabinet Minister and current Member of Parliament (MP) who was aware of these legislative developments and the author’s interest in the subject but was understandably reticent to openly pursue in Parliament or open US diplomatic channels. Later sending the Minister the then draft text caused a solemn moment of reflection as to how much the political context and legal scenery had changed in so little time albeit there was no written follow-up reply after the MP thinking aloud to the effect of: “even if it is all true, what are we all meant to do about it?”. Following the passing into law of the NDAA 2023 a delayed and underwhelming unclassified ODNI UAP follow-up report was released to Congress in January 2023.
In May 2023 NASA held a public meeting with ostensibly well-meaning but uninformed panelists, providing an update in advance of a report on the possible data that could be collected in the future to shed light on the nature and origin of UAP. Concomitantly, a Canadian Member of Parliament was reported to have written to the Canadian Minister of Defence requesting a classified briefing on the retrieval and study of “foreign materials” within the Five-Eyes defense network of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The Canadian Defence Research and Development Canada (created in 1947) is the equivalent to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and, it is said, has worked on the materials since the 1950’s. Astoundingly, the letter was carbon copied to Major General Michael Wright, Commander of Canadian Forces Intelligence Command.
Then the floodgates opened.
2. The Opening of the Artillery on the Beachhead of UAP Secrecy
Three days short of the 79th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches of Northern France, on 3rd June 2023, Christopher Mellon, the former staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Intelligence penned an article, entitled “If the US Government Has UFO Crash Materials, It’s Time to Reveal Them: The benefits to humanity outweigh the fear of discovering we’re not alone in the universe.” The author often refers to this article as the “opening of the artillery” to what followed over June and July this year. In the article, Mr. Mellon wrote:
“Since AARO was established, I have referred four witnesses to them who claim to have knowledge of a secret U.S. government program involving the analysis and exploitation of materials recovered from off-world craft. Other sources who, rightly or wrongly do not trust AARO’s leadership, have also contacted me with additional details and information about an alleged secret U.S. government reverse engineering program. Some have supplied information to the intelligence community’s inspector general, others directly to staff of the congressional oversight committees. As this process has progressed, and the credibility of these claims has grown, so too have my concerns.”
If it is proven that the US government is in possession of advanced non-human technology, Mr. Mellon rightly highlighted that “a successful reverse engineering program might bring about a revolution in energy, transportation and materials technologies.” In reply, the Pentagon’s AARO stated it “[had] not discovered any verifiable information to substantiate” claims about downed craft, and many stories about aliens and UFOs have been shown to result from some combination of delusion, confusion, and disinformation.
The following week, a groundbreaking article published in The Debrief and a hard-hitting interview with Mr. Grusch conducted by Australian award-winning investigative journalist, Ross Coulthart, on the US channel, NewsNation, broke. A former US intelligence official turned whistleblower, David Grusch, gave the US Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) extensive classified information about deeply covert programs that he says possess retrieved intact and partially intact craft of non-human origin. The ICIG stated that the assertion that UFO-related information was being inappropriately concealed from Congress was both “urgent and credible.” We are reminded that the whistleblower’s complaint to the ICIG of the DoD was filed by his lawyer, Charles McCullough III, who is the former Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, appointed by President Obama.
Mr. Grusch unequivocally claimed that classified information has been illegally withheld from Congress, and his complaint alleges that he suffered illegal retaliation for his confidential disclosures. It was reported that other intelligence officials, both active and retired, with knowledge of these programs through their work in various agencies, have independently provided similar, corroborating information, both on and off the record. Described as an exemplary and decorated former combat officer in Afghanistan, the whistleblower is a veteran of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). He served as the NRO’s representative to the UAPTF from 2019 to 2021. From late 2021 to July 2022, he was the NGA’s co-lead for UAP analysis and its representative to the task force. We will recall that he gave private testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee (together with other current employees with top-secret clearances) and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. Further, his account was approved for release by the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review (DOPSR).
3. The First Bi-Partisan Statement of Intent to Recover Oversight of UAP Materials
The next successive initiative occurred on 22nd June 2023 whereby the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) 2024 Bill, was unanimously approved by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SCCI) and contained extraordinary UAP provisions in Section 1104 (Funding Limitations Relating to UAP), targeting clandestine activities, including:
1) Suspension of US government funding for illicit UAP programs and the provision of a legal amnesty to defense contractors suspected of possessing non-human craft or materials. The amnesty provisions required defense contractors and other entities in possession of UAP-related material or information obtained from or through the USG to voluntarily disclose it to AARO, the government’s dedicated UAP office, within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.
2) Subsequently, within 180 days, any contractor falling under the purview would have needed to make the disclosed information or materials available for assessment, analysis, and inspection, including “all non-earth origin or exotic unidentified anomalous phenomena material.” If complied with, any defense contractor linked to potential illegal UAP programs would not have faced criminal or civil actions. An intelligent proviso to truth and reconciliation.
3) Withdrawal of funding from any potentially illegal UAP activities that are safeguarded under ‘special access’ or ‘restricted access’ limitations. This would have applied had such activities not been “formally, officially, explicitly, and specifically described, explained, and justified to the appropriate committees of Congress”, including Congress being informed of:
a. Recruiting, employing, training, equipping, and operations of, and providing security for, government or contractor personnel with a primary, secondary, or contingency mission of capturing, recovering, and securing UAP craft or pieces and components of such craft;
b. Analyzing such craft or pieces or components thereof, including for the purpose of determining properties, material composition, method of manufacture, origin, characteristics, usage and application, performance, operational modalities, or reverse engineering of such craft or component technology; and
c. The development of propulsion technology, or aerospace craft that uses propulsion technology, systems, or subsystems, that is based on or derived from or inspired by inspection, analysis, or reverse engineering of recovered unidentified anomalous phenomena craft or materials. In other words, any aerospace craft that uses propulsion technology other than chemical propellants, solar power, or electric ion thrust.
Inspired by the pending IAA 2024 Bill, the team behind the concerted efforts of the Schumer Amendment incorporated these provisions. The practical issue here was that the flow of funding for unacknowledged or highly compartmentalized programs, outside of government awareness, would effectively not be caught due to an assumed significant diversion of funding. Nonetheless, the wording crystalized a bi-partisan intent to flush out any unlawful hidden activities being carried out by defense contractors, involving non-earth origin or exotic materials. These activities were believed to entail the possession of aerospace craft that operate using unconventional propulsion technologies. All the while, AARO was unable to validate claims regarding current or past programs related to the possession or reverse engineering of non-human materials.
4. A Historic Congressional Hearing: Disclosure Goes Supersonic But Short of The Moon Landings
In the wake of June’s breaking news and the IAA 2024 Bill’s approval, a monumental historic event occurred on 26th July 2023: a live congressional hearing with the whistleblower, David Grusch, alongside retired US Navy pilots, David Fravor and Ryan Graves. The author was visiting friends and family back in the UK at the time. There was a surrealness to watching the live BBC News coverage and testimony from the living room of friends having visited one of the decommissioned supersonic Concorde aircraft at Manchester Airport that morning. This was also on the week that marked the twenty-third anniversary of the Air France Concorde disaster that sounded the death knell of the Anglo-French airliner after three decades of flying up to twice the speed of sound. The symbolism of “ahead of its time” technology, transonic speeds, funding issues, disaster striking, and the implications for new beginnings preceding the hearing did not go unnoticed.
In a sequence that was true to the SCCI’s IAA 2024 Bill and prescient to the Schumer Amendment, towards the end of the hearing, Representative Ogles (R-Tennessee), who sits on a Congressional Sub-Committee for National Security and Financial Services, stated that the Congress would seek to invoke “the Holman rule” on any non-compliant UAP special or controlled access program or personnel who obstructed the Congressional investigation any further. This rule allows the US House of Representatives to make amendments to appropriations legislation that would reduce the salary of or dismiss specific federal employees or cut a specific program within scope.
5. The Schumer Amendment: A Second Legislative Initiative to Outpace Contractor Domination
The following day, 27th July 2023, the hugely ambitious and lengthy Schumer Amendment, a freestanding Bill, passed the Senate. This bipartisan bill aggressively set out a comprehensive plan to advance transparency and control the disclosure of all US government records connected to UAP and biological lifeforms considered to be of “non-human intelligence” (NHI), defined as:
“Any sentient intelligent non-human lifeform regardless of nature or ultimate origin that may be presumed responsible for unidentified anomalous phenomena or of which the Federal Government has become aware.”
Further, ‘‘technologies of unknown origin’’ were adeptly defined as:
“Any materials or meta-materials, ejecta, crash debris, mechanisms, machinery, equipment, assemblies or sub-assemblies, engineering models or processes, damaged or intact aerospace vehicles, and damaged or intact ocean-surface and undersea craft associated with unidentified anomalous phenomena or incorporating science and technology that lacks prosaic attribution or known means of human manufacture.”
The term “UAP” also helpfully included the so-called ‘five observables’, an incisive category that was coined by the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the secretive program and unit that studied aerial threats presented by UAP. AATIP was spearheaded by its trailblazer director, Luis Elizondo (as was confirmed in a letter by the then Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, whose initiative funded AATIP). The five observables were subsequently used within the military circles interacting with and monitoring UAP. They are:
Hypersonic velocity absent a thermal signature and sonic shockwave;
Trans medium (such as space-to ground and air-to-undersea) travel;
Positive lift contrary to known aerodynamic principle; and
Multispectral signature control.
A sixth additional factor or observable was added to the original Schumer Amendment definition of “UAP”: Physical or invasive biological effects to close observers and the environment. The addition of this sixth factor as a cumulative factor may have been a minor drafting error since the author considers it should have been additional or optional and not cumulative to the preceding established five observables.
The above three key definitions concisely captured the phenomena in issue, in overview, the original Schumer Amendment set out to achieve the following:
Mandatory Preservation of Federal Government Records on UAP and Creating a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): to generate an official UAP Records Collection drawn from the Federal agencies. The wording acknowledged the potential hiding of records at nuclear sites exemptions under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the inadequate scope of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
A Controlled Disclosure Campaign Plan: with respect to unidentified anomalous phenomena records, particular information in UAP records, recovered technologies of unknown origin, and biological evidence for non-human intelligence. The Review Board would have been compelled to submit this to the President, the NARA Archivist, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate, and the Committee on Oversight and Accountability of the House of Representatives and would have been subject to Presidential refinements.
Limitations on Funding for Unreported Programmes: in alignment with the IAA 2024 Bill on disclosure and allowing access to materials (as per Section 3 above).
Creation of a New Independent Agency, the UAP Records Review Board: responsible for determining whether such records should be declassified or qualify for the postponement of disclosure and periodically report to Congress and its committees and AARO within the DoD. This agency would have been established within 60 days of the Schumer Amendment being enacted had it been included. This aspect of the Schumer Amendment is said to be modeled on the 1992 commission that oversaw the release of information about JFK’s assassination, with the release and withholding of documents having continued through to the Biden administration.
A distinguished panel of nine experts would have been appointed to the Review Board by the US President and confirmed by the Senate with a view to recommending a course of action for records on a case-by-case basis towards “controlled disclosure” on UAP, technologies of unknown origin and/or non-human intelligence(s). The Review Board was to be composed of nine security-cleared, integral, independent experts in UAP. Nine is appropriately and esoterically a number symbolic of Man and the completion of a phase or cycle. Six positions were to be compulsorily from the following professional backgrounds:
Science or engineering
The personal interest and conflicts wording could have been extended to “connected persons” such as spouses, close contacts, or relatives on legacy programs. On the public disclosure of relevant records and materials, the “offering up” required of Government heads of office is only as good as the chain of awareness and the will to produce the relevant UAP records within the originating body. This issue plagues the final wording retained and to be adopted. Further, a lengthy 25-year grace period from disclosure as of the date of creation of the relevant UAP record applies, and predictable key derogations and grounds permitting a Presidentially approved postponement were and are to be for reasons of national security and identifiable harm of such gravity outweighing the public interest. While such hurdles of the status quo remain embedded unclassified reasons are required to be given and Federal Register notices made where a delay or withholding is made.
Enhancements in Current Protections for Whistleblowers within the Intelligence Community: Subject to national security and public interest considerations the Review Board would have had the power to request the Attorney General to subpoena private persons to compel testimony and records. These provisions effectively would have protected persons professing to have UAP-related information. The proposed changes pertain, among other things, with procedures by which whistleblowers may communicate with Congress, the remedies for cases in which a whistleblower’s identity is unlawfully disclosed, and the remedies available in cases in which a whistleblower suffers adverse actions with respect to his security clearances or access in reprisal for a making a lawful whistleblower disclosure.
Eminent Domain: e., government appropriation and control over recovered technologies of unknown origin and biological evidence of non-human intelligence under private control. Overall, the author considers that the themes of the Schumer Amendment were thoroughly addressed and well thought out. However, claims of government overreach and a far-reaching and all-encompassing “catch-all” net in the drafting of the eminent domain provisions on all recovered materials of unknown origin is controversial in a modern representative democracy that values private property rights. Particularly against the backdrop of an unclear and complex hidden history that appears to have occurred within the National Security State. Nonetheless, it is important to also recognize that eminent domain is an inherent US Constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment albeit the current context would never have been contemplated at the time of the ink drying under the pens of the Founding Fathers in 1787.
A legitimate concern that arose from the eminent domain wording was the potential chill on bona fide research conducted by private citizens who discovered materials of unknown origin and/or biological matter and any records created as a result of their study (for transfer to the archives). A good example of a well-organised private citizen initiative with potentially discoverable materials of unknown origin that might be at risk is the now renowned Skinwalker Ranch owned by Utah businessman, Brandon Fugal. Subordinate legislation would have been useful here or further amendment to qualify the application of the provisions and distinguish aerospace contractors from private citizens.
To disregard this reality would have been to invite a legal game of semantics whereby loopholes would have been picked apart from the text. For example, an unintended contradiction in the drafting of the text assumed the status of materials or biological matter of unknown origin connected to UAP being applied and given up while, at the same time, leaving the powerful Review Board of Nine to decide as to whether they constitute the same beyond all reasonable doubt (i.e., the high standard of proof of the criminal law). Private owners of such materials could have argued that the uncertain and wide scope of the drafting would require the Review Board or its agent authority to identify and make a specific demand for specific materials or records to be given up before being legally compelled to do so.
Instead, a system of government notifications could have been deployed whereby the onus is on any owner reasonably suspecting such materials to be of unknown origin. Further, where the technology of unknown origin lies in the hands of a military or aerospace contractor, it would have been fair and proportionate for a distinction to be made between contractor-paid and government-paid recoveries and any engineering derived from the recovery. An appropriate sharing of intellectual property rights (IPR) would be appropriate in the case of the former. The length in time and scale of such operations would also clearly play a factor in any IPR sharing. There are, of course, potentially serious ethical issues and unknown consequences surrounding such operations in terms of whether the government and/or private contractors were themselves, through advanced classified weaponry, causing UAP to crash for the purposes of research and design (R&D) and with disregard for authentic sentient life piloting the same.
6. The Legal Residue of the Schumer Amendment Enacted vs. The Flame of its Spirit
On 7th December 2023, marking the 82nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Senate voted 82 to 15 to take up the final version of the NDAA 2024. While not completely sunk, it is submersed and contains a faint echo of the UAP-related provisions presented in the ambitious Schumer Amendment. With the Senate and House of Representatives having passed their final votes, all that remains is for the President himself to sign off.
So, what useful salvage is left strewn across the assault beachhead after the high tide and culmination of the disclosure process on the Hill?
First, Section 1687 refers to the “Limitation On Use Of Funds For Certain Unreported Programs”. The final wording is a thick, syrupy reduction of what was outlined in Part 3 and imported into the original Schumer Amendment. It broadly and simply states that “any activities involving UAP” protected under any form of special access or restricted access limitations are caught unless the Secretary of Defense has provided the details of the activity to the appropriate congressional committees and congressional leadership, including for any activities described in a report released by AARO. A basic provision is also made to the effect that independent research and development funding relating to UAP must not be allowed as “indirect expenses” for funding such programs that are undeclared and reported on. However, as mentioned above, the funding constraints contain inherent loopholes through the putative invisibility of the target programs and sophisticated indirect flows of funding that render them ineffective with respect to contractor R&D.
Second, Sections 1841-1843 serve to create a basic UAP Records Collection at the NARA without the independent Review Board of Nine and its staff, i.e., a now-extinct fire under the pan to enforce discovery of and curate records. While NARA’s archivist is charged with preserving and protect all such records, absent the Review Board, it is the originating government agencies and their heads who must “review, identify, and organize” each UAP record in its custody within 300 days of the NDAA 2024 passing. All such records must be publicly disclosed after an arduous 25 years unless (1) the President or his delegates (by virtue of President Obama’s Executive Order 13526) determines that a continued withholding is necessary to prevent harm to military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations, or (2) where applicable, the original classification authority determines that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that one of the listed national security interest, privacy and/or confidentiality grounds apply. In a Senate session on 13th December, Mr. Schumer rightly commented:
“It is really an outrage the House didn’t work with us on adopting our proposal for a review board, which of course, by definition here is bipartisan in the Senate. Now, it means that declassification of UAP records will be largely up to the same entities that have blocked, obfuscated their disclosure for decade.”
For example, the definition of “UAP” that remains is the more atrophied version from the NDAA 2022:
‘‘unidentified aerial phenomena’’ means— (A) airborne objects that are not immediately identifiable; (B) trans medium objects or devices; and (C) submerged objects or devices that are not immediately identifiable and that display behavior or performance characteristics suggesting that the objects or devices may be related to the objects or devices described in subparagraph (A) or (B).”
This definition conceivably captures airborne waste and unusual weather balloons that are not readily identifiable and risk polluting valuable data.
Third, Section 7341 provides that the annual summary unclassified and classified UAP reports will be released and submitted to Congress by AARO and its director, rather than the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence.
In the final analysis, we must ask:
Why was the majority of the Schumer Amendment provisions extensively stripped out if there was nothing to the underlying issues and mischief it sought to correct?
Did the sponsors of the bill always expect it to materially fail to reveal the true lay of the land?
Does the US have intelligence on a foreign adversary planning to reveal information about NHI that it has?
Was the initiative a deliberate ploy telegraphing to foreign adversaries that the US is in possession of advanced NHI technology or weaponry in view of international tensions with Russia and China?
Does the outcome not strongly suggest that a motivated minority of Congressional representatives and senators, some with financial connections to the aerospace industry, has successfully seen off a nascent democratization of technology of unknown origin in private contractor hands?
Was the political will to support and oppose said political minority absent due to concerns for more conventional and immediate election issues? Could the same be said for the President himself?
What can now be done given the hegemony of secrecy and status quo?
A pragmatic good start might be for altruistic forces within the DoD to maneuver for strong leadership at AARO. By that, the author means the appointment of a leader with a genuine intention to afford open, fair, and balanced information gathering and a will to disclose to Congress as much as is reasonably achievable balanced against the national security and public interests. Continued and increased US and EU communications with expert non-profit organizations, such as the Sol Foundation, should flourish on a political and academic level to aid governments. Increased government engagement with other “friendly nations” and opening bilateral and/or multilateral forums or communication channels that are more democratic could also be envisaged. The bitterest pill of all was perhaps losing the enhanced whistleblower provisions proposed by the Schumer Amendment. To overcome the same similar altruistic efforts must create the conditions for ring-fencing and continuously aiding whistleblower compliant testimony from within the intelligence and defense world according to the existing legal framework.
The spirit of humility that the 11th-century Viking King, Canute, apocryphally demonstrated on the shores of Southern England comes to mind. He placed his throne on the beach and waited for the incoming waves to show that he could not prevent the tide from soaking his feet and cloak as a means to quieten the flattery of his admirers. When the waves continued to drench Canute, he is said to have declared:
“Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but he whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”
Similarly, the strong undercurrents of effort and the advancing tide of UAP transparency inexorably flow into these unchartered waters of human history. While much emphasis is understandably placed on the political, legislative, and academic progress and pitfalls, it is opportune to take pause and humbly recognize that the observer, operative third party, subject and object is or are of a non-human intelligence. It would be remiss to not consider communication from one or more NHIs driving an attempted disclosure process. We do not understand the potential rules of engagement or invisible laws that may apply to human affairs or to NHI, in the singular, or as between multiple NHI.
We neither understand nor see clearly as the 15th-century European scholar and reformist, Erasmus, predicated:
In regione caecorum rex est luscus.
In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
J.P. Hague is a dual qualified lawyer who relocated from the United Kingdom to Mauritius a decade ago. Since that time, he has closely followed developments on and observed unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), including the recent landmark legislative efforts to bring about greater public transparency on the issue.