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Congress Holds First UFO Hearing in Half a Century

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WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials testifying at a House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday showed a previously classified video of an unidentified aerial phenomena, a fleeting color video of a reflective spherical object speeding past a military fighter jet.

The split-second image, shot through the window of an FA-18 fighter jet, shows a spherical object in the space. The pilot also reported observing an object. The image, which stays unexplained, is an example of how difficult it’s to find out what a brief video clip may show.

Pentagon officials also played a video and displayed a picture shot through night vision lenses that showed glowing green triangles moving through the air. The primary video puzzled military officials. However the small triangles within the second recording, made years later, were determined to be drones.

“This time, other U.S. Navy assets also observed unmanned aerial systems nearby and we’re now reasonably confident that these triangles correlate the unmanned aerial systems within the air,” said Scott W. Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence.

The declassified videos were released as lawmakers pledged to bring transparency to an investigation of unexplained reports by miliary pilots and others which have long been shrouded in stigma, confusion and secrecy.

But Pentagon officials said they’d to watch out not to disclose the precise abilities of military cameras and other sensors.

“We are not looking for potential adversaries to know exactly what we’re capable of see or understand or how we come to the conclusion,” Mr. Bray said. “Due to this fact, disclosures have to be fastidiously considered on a case-by-case basis.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report last 12 months, largely compiled by the military, cataloging unexplained aerial phenomenon dating to 2004.

The intelligence community criticized the document since it did not draw conclusions or offer explanations for many of the events. Of the 143 episodes examined by the Pentagon, just one might be identified and categorized: “a big, deflating balloon.”

Mr. Bray’s remarks were aimed toward trying to clarify why it’s so difficult to discover the photographs within the fuzzy videos. But lawmakers insisted on Tuesday that the Pentagon had been too dismissive of explanations.

“It is advisable show us, Congress and the American public, whose imagination you may have captured, you might be willing to follow the facts where they lead,” said Representative André Carson, Democrat of Indiana and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee that’s holding the hearing.

“We fear sometimes that D.O.D. is targeted more on emphasizing what it will probably explain, not investigating what it will probably’t,” he said. “I’m on the lookout for you to guarantee us today that each one conclusions are on the table.”

Privately, many senior U.S. officials have been dismissive of theories suggesting that unknown objects captured in videos might be extraterrestrial aliens and demand there isn’t any evidence that such explanations are probable.

Mr. Bray tried to stamp out some speculation that the phenomena were extraterrestrial in origin.

“We’ve detected no eliminations inside the U.A.P. task force that’s, that may suggest it’s anything nonterrestrial in origin,” Mr. Bray said, referring to unidentified aerial phenomena.

Representative Rick Crawford, Republican of Arkansas, said he was more enthusiastic about discussions of Russian or Chinese hypersonic programs than unidentified phenomena. But he said that it was necessary to discover the photographs.

The federal government’s inability to discover objects in sensitive operating areas was “tantamount to intelligence failure that we actually wish to avoid,” Mr. Crawford said. “It’s not about finding alien spacecraft.”

Officials are also skeptical that the phenomena might be some unknown Chinese or Russian technology, but concede it might be a big concern in the event that they were. That possibility, lawmakers and officials have said, is why the phenomena should be examined more fastidiously.

“After we spot something we don’t understand or can’t discover in our airspace, it’s the job of those we entrust with our national security to analyze and report back,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday.

Unidentified aerial phenomena is the term that the federal government prefers over alien ship, or U.F.O.

Congress last held a public hearing on the problem many years ago, after Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s flawed effort to analyze reports of alien sightings, which inspired generations of television programs.

After the report last 12 months, intelligence officials pledged to renew their efforts. Prompted by Congress, the Pentagon overhauled its task force for looking into the unexplained events, calling it the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Carson criticized the Pentagon for failing to call a director to guide the brand new task force and pledged to bring “the organization out of the shadows.”

Military officers who were too embarrassed to report unexplained phenomena had impeded “good intelligence evaluation,” Mr. Carson said.

“Pilots avoided reporting or were laughed at once they did. D.O.D. officials relegated the problem to the back room or swept it under the rug entirely, afraid of a skeptical national security community,” he said. “Today, we all know higher. U.A.P.s are unexplained, it’s true. But they’re real. They should be investigated. And any threats they pose should be mitigated.”

Not all experts are convinced. Mick West, a science author who has focused on debunking conspiracy theories, said among the objects seen within the videos recorded by the military have plausible — and dry — explanations which can be way more likely than any form of extraworldly technology.

Some strange movement might be attributed to movement by the sensor, Mr. West said. Other videos showing fast movement might be an optical illusion, and others might be brought on by glare.

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