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 matters, in an effort to force the government to share everything it knows about unidentified phenomena.
The measure offers a chance to dismiss conspiracy theories surrounding UFO discussions and fears that the government is withholding critical information from the public.
The legislation, which Schumer will introduce as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, has bipartisan support, including that of Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, who backed legislation that forced the government to issue a series of reports of unidentified phenomena. Support in the House is also likely. Wednesday, the room 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 sightings mysterious 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 provide them to the review committee.
President Biden will appoint the nine-person review committee, subject to Senate approval. Senate staffers say the intent is to select a group of people who will push for disclosure while protecting methods of gathering sensitive information.
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 has been made public, and naval aviators have described difficult-to-explain events during training.
Some of the videos released by the Pentagon have been explained away 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 collected hundreds of reports of unexplained phenomena. Officials said most of the unexplained crashes are aerial junk, Chinese spy efforts or misdirected weather balloons. American officials have repeatedly said they have none of the videos or other material they have collected proof of alien visitation.
It’s hard to know how many unpublished documents exist in government archives. Intelligence agencies have repeatedly said they have released the material in their possession. Their freedom of information offices are constantly inundated with requests for UFO material, only to be told that the files have been released.
However, more recent work, particularly by the Pentagon, has not been made public, and the reticence of some government agencies to produce documents has frustrated both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Schumer staffers said.
For example, various Pentagon task forces have conducted extensive studies of videos taken by naval aviators and other military personnel that have remained secret. Some work on the videos has been released, including at a recent NASA meeting. In some cases, officials believe the revelations could reveal the capability of classified optics and sensors. But in cases where no formal conclusion has been reached, officials have been reluctant to share information about their deliberations or theories.
It is the reluctance to share whatever is known about the incidents that hasn’t been fully understood that has fueled endless speculation on social media, in television specials and in public debates.
The new legislation is modeled after the commission that oversaw the release of information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That legislation, passed in 1992, was flawed, and both the release and withholding of documents continued during the Biden administration.
Yet, the Kennedy assassination review committee it 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 that the commission has chosen to release based on national security concerns. But the provision would establish a timetable for the release of the documents and codify the presumption that the material must be public.
« You will now have a process by which we will declassify this material, » said Allison Biasotti, a spokeswoman for Schumer.
Government officials have repeatedly stated that they do not have the remains of a crashed alien spacecraft or any manufactured material 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 undisclosed materials to be released, but it also gives the federal government the power to claim any crashed spacecraft into private or corporate hands, however unlikely such things exist.
Mr. Biden, unlike former President Barack Obama, did not directly address the issue of unidentified phenomena. But Mr. Biden ordered two unknown objects and a Chinese spy balloon to be dropped from the sky. Later, the president said he would not apologize for shooting down the spy balloon and that the United States would continue to adjust its approach to handling unknown objects.
Karoun Demirjian contributed to the reporting from Washington.