Imagine you were just elected President of the United States. During one of your first classified briefings, you learn that the US military has recovered advanced extraterrestrial technology. You are told we’ve made only modest headway in understanding how this technology works, where it is from, or why these intelligently controlled machines are here. What would you do in that circumstance?
As President, your top priority is to keep the American people safe from all threats, both foreign and domestic. Hundreds of millions of people, including tens of millions of children, place their faith in you. Are you going to hold a press conference revealing that aliens are visiting planet Earth, but we don’t know where they’re coming from, why they are here, or whether we can defend ourselves from them?
It is hard for me to imagine any of the politicians I’ve worked for over the years leaping at that opportunity. The sudden, unexpected confirmation of an ET presence on Earth would not only unsettle but inevitably terrify millions—if not billions—of people. And for what purpose? What chance would you have as President of moving forward on other vital issues on your agenda, given the tumult that would result? What reason is there to believe the net effect for society would be positive rather than negative?
These are questions that need to be addressed by those advocating the release of information confirming an extraterrestrial presence on Earth. Such information has the potential to be a genuine Pandora’s box, and it is, therefore, vital we think this through carefully before proceeding.
This is a pressing issue, as various committees and members of Congress are seeking to determine whether the US government has incontrovertible proof of an extraterrestrial presence on Earth. Such a revelation would undoubtedly be the most shocking, profound, and transformative discovery in human history. Yet, despite the gravity of the issue, Congress has been proceeding without holding any hearings or requesting any studies to assess the impact of this potential bombshell. It appears that our legislators are failing to heed the maxim, “Don’t ask the question if you aren’t prepared for the answer.”
Strangely, there is little discussion of this critical issue among proponents of disclosure in the UAP community. Perhaps advocates of disclosure simply assume that truth and transparency are always for the better. Although I applaud the sentiment, the issue is not so simple for government officials bearing the weighty responsibility of governing. I therefore thought I would offer some thoughts from the standpoint of a former national security official because national security concerns are inescapably central to this discussion.
The first question that arises is, “How can we make a fair determination about the potential risks and benefits of disclosure without access to all the facts?” Suppose the US government recovered extraterrestrial technology decades ago. In that case, there has inevitably been some progress in assessing it and, hopefully, some insights gleaned regarding the nature and intent of its designers. However, no credible individuals purporting to have access to such information have provided any details. One of the only things we can say with certainty is that unless ETs prove to be angelic, which is not what our military is reporting, disclosure would undeniably frighten, if not terrify, large segments of the population.
Moreover, what if disclosure precipitated a change in the behavior of an alien civilization, given that they no longer had an incentive to remain elusive and clandestine? What is the risk potential that disclosure might cause some governments to overreact, precipitating fearful and aggressive interactions? If these risks are substantial, does it still make sense to release such disruptive information?
When I first became publicly involved in the UAP topic, the alleged recovery of ET technology was not an issue. My immediate goal was to alert policymakers to a dangerous intelligence failure, namely, the fact of serious and recurring intrusions into restricted DoD airspace by strange, unidentified aircraft. It was shocking to learn our vaunted multi-billion-dollar intelligence system was paralyzed by ineffable stigma, as effectively as any electromagnetic warfare (EW) weapon, placing US personnel and the nation at risk. This situation reminded me of both Pearl Harbor, where vital warning information was not forwarded up the chain of command, as well as 9/11, when intelligence agencies failed to share vital information that could have saved the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. Having survived the attack on the Pentagon myself, this was not a purely theoretical consideration.
Admittedly, I was also hoping to generate enough Congressional pressure to compel the DoD and the Intelligence Community to use their vast capabilities to study UAP. Knowing our technical intelligence systems well, I was tantalized by the prospect of what we might learn if these sometimes mind-boggling capabilities were brought to bear on the UAP mystery. Therefore, it was also an opportunity to potentially solve this fascinating and profound mystery.
At the time, the ET issue was present but remained unspoken for good reason; if we had approached Congress with an explicit focus on aliens, we would have quickly been shown to the exit. Many legislators were privately curious about UAP, but we needed to focus on the national security angle to provide a politically viable justification for engaging on the UAP issue. Nevertheless, as time passed and new information became available, Congressional interest expanded to include credible allegations of recovered extraterrestrial materials.
I confess I was partly responsible for this change of emphasis because I brought physicist Eric Davis to Capitol Hill to meet with oversight committee staff in October of 2019. This was, to my knowledge, the first time a Congressional oversight committee had been provided credible information on the issue of allegedly recovered non-human technology from an individual with knowledge of such operations. Later, I played a role in helping bring other witnesses forward, including whistleblower David Grusch. In doing so, I was forced to wrestle with the same simple but critical question that guides everyone in the national security community: “What is in the nation’s best interest?”
Eventually, members of Congress began to realize that the alleged recovery of off-world materials was a serious issue. Consequently, they enacted a provision requiring the All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), which reports jointly to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, to investigate this sensational allegation. Congress understandably did so without deciding in advance whether to make the report’s findings public. Although it is true that some key members of Congress, such as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), have expressed support for releasing the facts, whatever they prove to be.
However, it is not clear how many of their colleagues agree. It is also conceivable their views might change if confronted by disturbing revelations in the event such allegations prove to be true. For example, Senator Gillibrand has young children, and it is conceivable that if sufficiently alarming information emerges, she might reconsider her admirable desire to share as much information as possible with the public.
At this point, it already seems clear that AARO will report that it found no credible evidence the US government has recovered alien technology or knows of any extraterrestrial activity. However, I don’t think this finding by AARO will satisfy key members of Congress or the public. This is entirely understandable because asking AARO to investigate this issue is roughly comparable to asking the Intelligence Community to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair. AARO has a clear conflict of interest in that it must protect this explosive information if directed to do so. Alternatively, AARO could also be denied access to the information. The only way for Congress to assure itself of the truth is to continue pressing ahead with its own investigation, as advocated by members of both parties in the House of Representatives.
In that regard, I want to challenge the recurring assertion that the UAP issue is primarily for scientists, not politicians or government officials. Although UAP deserves serious attention from the scientific community, as NASA itself recently acknowledged, national security considerations are inevitably paramount.
I say that partly because we are not dealing (at least not exclusively) with remote signals from deep space or an intangible interdimensional intelligence that seeks to subtly influence human affairs. For all we know, something along those lines could be happening, and it is a fascinating proposition, but what current intelligence collected by the US indicates is that our military is encountering intelligently controlled, solid objects invading restricted military airspace, sometimes even flying in formation, on an almost daily basis. Many of these objects are emitting radiation in the 1-3 and 8-12 gigahertz range. Multiple credible reports indicate that UAP has rendered segments of our nuclear deterrent inoperable; in other cases, they are jamming radars on fighter aircraft. We also have multiple cases of near-mid-air collisions and cases involving serious injuries to military and civilian personnel. Therefore, as much as we need and want scientific investigations, the government cannot be permitted to divest itself of the UAP issue.
Similarly, the government does not have the luxury of limiting itself to pristine scientific information. This is one of the areas in which I differ with Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, the current Director of AARO, who claims there is no “credible” evidence of UAP demonstrating capabilities or doing things that violate our understanding of science. To my mind, the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) aviators, radar operators, and technicians who encountered an anomalous craft during training exercises off the California coast in 2004 are eminently credible. The Intelligence Community prefers rigorous scientific information whenever possible. Still, it would be untenable—if not suicidal—for either the Intelligence or Law Enforcement communities to limit themselves to pristine, scientifically repeatable sensor data. We rarely have the luxury of having sensor information when facing the intentions of foreign leaders or the precise capabilities of adversary military forces. Hence, the Intelligence Community does its best with what it has in those circumstances, including reliance on human intelligence reporting.
Therefore, by its own standards, the Intelligence Community should consider the accounts of the Nimitz aviators and radar operators as highly credible evidence of intelligently controlled craft doing things we cannot emulate and simply don’t understand. For example, the “Tic Tac” UAP they encountered accelerated to supersonic speeds without producing a sonic boom; it overcame g-forces that would destroy anything built by man, and there was no evidence of the electrically charged plasma we would normally expect to see on manmade aircraft moving at hypersonic velocities. I realize the inherent limitations of human reporting. Still, I also see no reason to suddenly change the normal rules and standards the Intelligence Community relies on in cases that involve evaluating UAP.
I’m raising these issues to provide a reminder that the paramount question about UAP, both for government policymakers and the public, will undoubtedly be whether UAP poses an existential threat. I’m thrilled to be supporting investigations of UAP signatures, propulsion systems, metamaterials, and UAP effects on humans, but national security, rather than science, will be at the forefront in the minds of government officials assessing the potential costs and benefits of disclosure. In sum, we can’t dodge the national security issue when making the case for disclosure; we must address it head-on.
Admittedly, nothing as potentially ontologically shocking as UAP disclosure has probably ever occurred, certainly not in modern times. However, there are still some interesting historical precedents we can examine.
Consider the Sputnik issue that arose in 1957. Sputnik was merely a small satellite emitting tracking signals, not a weapons system. Yet the mere fact America was lagging behind the Soviet Union in space and missile technology immediately became a major political issue, reminiscent of the furor over the more recent Chinese spy balloon incident. It was not long before Congress and the White House responded, and the space race got underway. Thankfully, what began as a military competition with the Soviet Union eventually turned into a collaborative space exploration effort involving the Russians and many other nations. So, in that case, the initial fright and concern, which was a national security issue, ultimately led to major scientific and technological breakthroughs and laudable international cooperation. I would like to believe the UAP issue can follow that same path from national security to science.
Admittedly, other examples are tragic. When we look at the first contact between more technologically advanced civilizations and indigenous peoples, the consequences often proved catastrophic for the less technologically advanced. In part, this was due to the spread of lethal diseases for which indigenous peoples had no immunity. But it was much more than that; contact often proved psychologically and culturally devastating, as the leadership and cherished religious and cultural beliefs of many indigenous groups were eradicated without being replaced by a viable substitute. We all need psychological and cultural maps to navigate reality. For many indigenous people, those maps were destroyed but not replaced, leaving behind a devastating psychological and spiritual void that millions of people are still contending with as they seek to reconcile Western secular views with their traditional beliefs.
Note the difference between these two cases. In the case of Sputnik, we have an awareness of a potential threat; in the second instance, we have an actual invasion and occupation. So, a key question for us to ask ourselves (again, a national security issue) is whether disclosure might provoke hostilities. That seems highly unlikely; so, although the Sputnik case is far less shocking and provocative than disclosure would be, it may be a more appropriate model than the tragic cases involving European contact with pre-industrial indigenous societies.
I believe that a graduated process of disclosure would avert a crisis atmosphere while prompting new investments in technology, scientific research, and a rash of collaborative international meetings and initiatives. Processing this unsettling information would certainly take time, but danger and fear of the unknown have always been inherent in the human condition, and people would, as always, adapt. For example, few Americans are losing sleep over the fact they live in cities targeted by Chinese and Russian thermonuclear weapons. Similarly, if some UAP proves to be extraterrestrial, people would still get out of bed the next day, go through their morning wake-up rituals, and head to school or work.
Although it would be a much more disturbing provocation than Sputnik, I believe the inevitable ontological shock would eventually prove highly beneficial, stimulating immense creativity, investment, and research. Moreover, and most importantly, it could have a profound, positive, and desperately needed impact on mankind and international relations.
Earlier this year, I penned an article for Politico titled, “If the US Government has UFO Crash Materials It is Time to Reveal Them.” In the article, I made several points, including the following:
Democracy requires transparency.
The American people own any materials recovered by our government.
The public can handle disclosure.
The government cannot forever stifle the truth, so it is better to get ahead of it.
Secrecy stifles Science.
There is no evidence of an imminent threat.
If there is a threat, we need to know so we can prepare.
Finally, I argued that disclosure could transform international tensions, catalyzing desperately needed international collaboration. I’d like to expand on this last point as it is both the most important point and the least obvious.
In my view, both domestically and internationally, we are presently on an extremely dangerous trajectory that requires urgent intervention. Disclosure would undoubtedly alter the trajectory of our species, but almost certainly for the better.
It is obvious that our nation, our species, and the environment are in serious and growing jeopardy. If this were solely my view, it would be easy to dismiss, but unfortunately, that is not the case. I don’t have the time here to list all my concerns, nor all the ways our society is presently financing its own downfall through perverse incentives that have developed over many decades, nor is there space here to do justice to the growing dangers we face abroad. Hence, rather than attempt to make the case myself, I’ll offer the perspective of two renowned analysts of world affairs.
Ray Dalio is the ingenious billionaire who established the world’s largest hedge fund. Yuval Harari is a dazzling Cambridge-trained historian and author. Their perspectives are as different as their occupations, but their analyses are complimentary and equally sobering.
Mr. Dalio’s views are available to us through his fascinating book Principles for Dealing with a Changing World Order. His argument, supported by myriad graphs and piles of data, is that the evolution of human societies runs in discernable cycles. It appears he has handsomely profited from understanding these cycles. In short, when a nation or civilization becomes debt-ridden and over-extended, wealthy but complacent, with massive disparities in wealth, dangerous internal fractures and civil strife emerge.
Today, the US is more deeply indebted than at any time since WWII, and the debt is rapidly growing even as interest rates rise, making repayment of this mountain of debt far more difficult. When interest on debt crowds out productive investments, the economy suffers. Eventually, economic hardship and disputes over how to share the pain of deficit reductions occur, leading to polarization and instability.
When this instability and economic stagnation occur simultaneously with challenges from a rising foreign power, as is the case with China today, history shows that war and disaster for the declining power usually follow. Regrettably, military confrontation between the US and China is a real and growing risk, especially in the South China Sea and Taiwan. Dangerous encounters between US and allied nations and Chinese forces are occurring with disturbing and growing frequency. Meanwhile, President Xi is moving China in the direction of North Korea, a state where an ambitious and intolerant dictator with near godlike status imposes his views at every level of society from the classroom to the boardroom. A fanatically nationalistic 1.5-billion-person version of North Korea, replete with AI security systems controlling Orwellian surveillance capabilities, is a daunting prospect.
For all these reasons, I share Mr. Dalio’s concerns about the prospect of tectonic and possibly catastrophic change occurring in the years immediately ahead. As Dalio states:
“The most reliable signs of an escalation to civil war are 1) the rules being disregarded; 2) both sides emotionally attacking each other; 3) blood being spilled.”
It’s not hard to see the relevance of these factors given the riots and demonstrations of recent years, the assault on the nation’s Capital, and the incredible partisan hatred gripping the nation, making it impossible to pass desperately needed legislation. To my knowledge, the US has never before failed to pass a defense bill at a time when the US military is under fire and already stretched to its limits supporting friends and allies. This growing crisis of government legitimacy is toxic and only getting worse; meanwhile, there are no efforts in sight to correct the massive fiscal imbalances that are undermining our children’s future.
Mr. Dalio also observes that when change comes, it is generally swift, devastating, and unanticipated. This conservative businessman sees a shocking 30% risk of civil war in America with what he characterizes as the “next big risk point” occurring around the time of the next Presidential election.
Dr. Harari offers a very different perspective, one that focuses primarily on global existential challenges facing our species. He states:
“Each of these problems – nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruption – is enough to threaten the future of human civilization. But taken together, they add up to an unprecedented existential crisis, especially because they are likely to reinforce and compound one another.”
Harari later adds:
“If despite these common threats humans choose to privilege their particular national loyalties above everything else, the results may be far worse than in 1914 or 1939.”
Thankfully, there is a potential solution. As Dr. Harari further observes:
“A common enemy is the best catalyst for forging a coming identity…”
Suppose a common threat is the best recipe to achieve a desperately needed common bond. What could be more helpful or consistent with our long-term prosperity and survival than learning that one or more advanced civilizations are visiting our planet? It would be a shock, to be sure, and many would initially be frightened or even terrified—whether or not for good reason—but that fear would quickly subside if little change occurred in UAP activity. Regardless, we need a jolt to reframe international perspectives in order to manage issues such as AI, global warming, and WMD effectively.
Much as NASA recently demonstrated the ability to alter the trajectory of an asteroid, in the event we detect one on a collision course with Earth, we need a powerful ontological jolt to promote the collaboration required to manage these common global threats. This is why, in addition to democratic principles, I support UAP transparency and believe our nation and species would hugely benefit from an awareness that we are not alone.
And on the chance that a threat does exist, aren’t we better off knowing so we can take appropriate action? When has ignorance ever been a good national security strategy?
In conclusion, I’d like to cite a third figure quite different either from Mr. Dalio or Dr. Harari: a former US President who had an extraordinary personal UAP sighting. Whether Ronald Reagan was prescient or speaking from an awareness of secret government information remains to be seen, but his statement to the UN General Assembly in 1987 is most apt:
“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”
For all the reasons above, I hope our elected officials will seek and reveal the truth of what our government knows about UAP. We need and deserve the truth, however unsettling it may be, and the sooner we are made aware, the better.
Christopher Mellon spent nearly 20 years in the U.S. Intelligence Community, including serving as the Minority Staff Director of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. He actively participates in Harvard’s Galileo Project and, in his free time, works to raise awareness regarding the UAP issue and its implications for national security. Follow him online at his official website and on X: @ChrisKMellon.
A version of this essay was originally presented at The Sol Foundation’s first annual symposium, held at Stanford University November 17-18, 2023.