Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. Following a recent segment on 60 Minutes that focused on the U.S. Navy’s observations of unidentified aerial phenomena, this special edition of our newsletter will analyze recent media coverage of the topic, and look at former members of government who have commented on UFOs in the last few days.
With that all out of the way, let’s take a look at what former members of the United States government–and even one former commander in chief–have recently had to say about the ever-timely topic of UFOs.
Barack Obama: “There’s footage and records of objects in the skies”
On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama became the latest to join the ranks of former and present government officials who have acknowledged the U.S. government’s collection of information about unidentified aerial phenomena, better known as UFOs.
“When it comes to the aliens, the are some things I just can’t tell you on air,” Obama joked in his usual deadpan delivery; but then things got interesting.
“Look, the truth is that when I came into office, I asked. I was like, alright, is there the lab somewhere, where we’re keeping the alien specimens and spaceships? You know, they did a little bit of research and the answer was no,” Obama said as Watts and the audience laughed at what they perceived might be a joke.
“But what is true,” Obama continued, “and I’m actually being serious here, is that… there’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t exactly know what they are. We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory… they did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is.”
“But I have nothing to report to you today,” Obama concluded before joking that Watts might, in fact, be an alien himself.
This was not the first time that Obama has touched on the subject of UFOs and related topics. However, it is the first time the former President has acknowledged the existence of “footage and records” related to unidentified flying objects in the possession of the American military that can’t be easily identified. In fact, this is the first time any former U.S. President has explicitly acknowledged the existence of such records.
Of course, a number of past U.S. presidents—the majority of them, in fact—have at some time or another acknowledged the UFO issue in some capacity. However, Obama’s comments on the subject are the first explicit acknowledgement by a president of the acquisition of what he terms “footage and records” involving such phenomena which, in keeping with previous statements offered by the Pentagon, appears to remain unidentified.
Last Weekend’s Media Blitz with UFOs
Obama’s statements follow a surge of reporting in the American media in recent days involving the Pentagon’s dealings with unidentified aerial phenomena.
Last Friday, documentary filmmaker Jeremy Corbell posted a short video on his Instagram account which appears to convey U.S. Navy personnel tracking a slow moving, ellipsoid object as it passed over the ocean and eventually descended into it. According to Corbell, individuals familiar with the incident told him that the object was tracked from aboard the USS Omaha sometime in the summer of 2019. Although attempts were made to pursue and locate the object, it could not be found below or on the surface of the ocean immediately following its initial observation. Investigating the video ourselves, The Debrief was able to confirm with Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough that the footage in question is authentic, and had been originally obtained by U.S. Navy personnel.
These developments had merely been hors d’oeuvres in advance of a much-anticipated entrée to follow, which had been a segment airing on 60 Minutes Sunday night where former pilots and military personnel were interviewed about the Pentagon’s uneasy relationship with unidentified aerial phenomena. Among those appearing on camera were, notably, Lieutenant Commander Alex Dietrich, a F/A-18F Super Hornet pilot from the VFA-41 “Black Aces” of Lemoore, California. A veteran of both the Iraqi War and the war in Afghanistan, Dietrich had previously never appeared officially on camera discussing her experiences as part of a widely discussed 2004 incident involving Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 and the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Dietrich, along with fellow pilot Commander David Fravor, were training with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group at the time of the incident, when they were diverted to investigate an unidentified object near their vicinity. As the pilots approached the designated target location (each accompanied by their weapons officer), they observed a disturbance on the surface of the ocean below them, above which had been an object which has since been famously described as resembling a “tic tac.”
Although this marked Dietrich’s first “official” appearance on camera, her testimony was also previously featured on History’s Unidentified in segments where she appeared only in silhouette. Also among the History Channel alumni that were present for the 60 Minutes segment had been former Special Agent Luis Elizondo and Christopher Mellon, both of them past members of the To the Stars Academy founded by Tom DeLonge.
Clapper seems to regret that he “didn’t insist on more transparency” on UFOs
Saying it was “logical for the U.S. intelligence community to be addressing this,” Clapper also said he was unsure as to why there had been such official secrecy in relation to the subject in the past.
“It’s really important that whenever we witness such phenomena,” Clapper told CNN, “that it is recorded and documented for the future, when we may gather more information and have a better understanding of what’s transpiring.
“Could there be life out there?” Clapper asked. “Sure. As huge as the universe is, we really can’t reject that possibility.”
“So I think this is a good thing, the transparency. I expect [the UAP Task Force] report will be filled with ambiguity as well, and people depending on their leanings will extract what they want out of this report.”
When asked about the government’s past dismissal and secrecy toward the topic, Clapper said he was unsure of the reasons for this.
“I’m not sure why that is. The only reason for, to me, for classification would be if there is some sensitive method that data relating to so-called UFOs was collected. But other than that, I don’t know why we haven’t been more transparent about it in the past, and I’m part of that climate, I guess. In my former capacities I didn’t insist on more transparency with respect to this issue.”
Conclusion: The Big Picture
Within the last week, a veteran pilot and Lieutenant Commander, a former Director of National Intelligence, and a former U.S. President have all been added to the list of those who have weighed in on the reality of unidentified aerial phenomena.
Obviously, while significant, this is far from being “proof” in support of any of the enduring theories about UFOs that have persisted now for more than half a century; the most popular of which involves the theory that they may be piloted by extraterrestrial visitors from other worlds. But if not confirmation of the age old question—are we alone in the universe—then what is the actual significance of the recent attention this subject is receiving?
For anyone who has studied the history of the UFO subject–a history that sees a tremendous amount of support in the form of documentation collected by U.S. government agencies since the end of World War II that is now publicly available–one thing certainly should be clear. Whatever the provenance of this phenomena may actually be, it is something that our military here in the United States, as well as those of other countries around the world, have been aware of for many decades.
Despite that, there has never been a level of official acknowledgement of the issue comparable to what we have seen in recent days. This is significant because the shift appears to be one which conveys not only an enhanced level of awareness of the issue by those in government, but also accountability with relation to it. This appears to be particularly evident with James Clapper’s statements questioning as to “why we haven’t been more transparent about [UFOs] in the past,” going so far as to add that he himself has been “part of that climate,” and that in his tenure with government he “didn’t insist on more transparency with respect to this issue.”
Acknowledgement and increased transparency on an issue like UFOs is important in and of itself, although it has broader implications in terms of what it actually could mean for the future of discovery and innovation more broadly. In this regard, it is hard not to consider the work of philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, whose work emphasized the fact that progress in science isn’t a slow, continuous trickle. Rather, for progress to be made in science, history has shown that it requires a paradigm shift, in which failed attempts at reconciling phenomena in nature are finally recognized, and a new theory is proposed.
Perhaps the single most significant outcome of government acknowledgement of there being a reality to UFOs—whatever that may ultimately entail—would be that information it collects about these objects can be shared with the scientific community. If and when this occurs, perhaps the “culture of ridicule” that the subject has been subjected to in the past may finally be lifted, allowing for actual scientific progress toward understanding the mystery to begin.
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