A number of senators, including the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, received a highly classified briefing from the United States Navy Thursday on the subject of “unidentified flying objects,” according to a report from CNN.
The briefing stemmed from a news report that emerged earlier this month, suggesting that the U.S. Navy and other branches of the military have had a number of close encounters with “unidentified aircraft” that the military later labeled as “UFOs.” The briefing came at the request of “key oversight committees,” Politico reports.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) was among those selected to receive the classified briefing, though his spokesperson suggested that it wasn’t because of an interest in possible alien life, but rather a concern for the safety of military pilots in his constituency.
“If pilots at Oceana or elsewhere are reporting flight hazards that interfere with training or put them at risk, then Senator Warner wants answers. It doesn’t matter if it’s weather balloons, little green men, or something else entirely — we can’t ask our pilots to put their lives at risk unnecessarily,” his spokeswoman told CNN Thursday.
The Navy confirmed that it was speaking with select legislators about the issue, but focused the exchange on the Navy’s efforts to identify and ultimately classify the “unidentified aircraft” and “unidentified flying objects” their pilots encounter.
“Navy officials did indeed meet with interested congressional members and staffers on Wednesday to provide a classified brief on efforts to understand and identify these threats to the safety and security of our aviators,” a spokesman for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare told reporters. “Follow-up discussions with other interested staffers are scheduled for later today (Thursday, 20 June). Navy officials will continue to keep interested congressional members and staff informed. Given the classified nature of these discussions, we will not comment on the specific information provided in these Hill briefings.”
Interest in the U.S. military’s involvement with so-called “UFOs” piqued late in 2018, when a report in The New York Times revealed that the Pentagon had kept an “X-Files” office of sorts, designed to record and track military encounters with unidentified aircraft. The report was short on details of the encounters themselves, but did note that military pilots regularly reported interacting with odd aircraft and “unidentified flying objects,” including aircraft that seemed to move in ways that defied current technology.
In May, The New York Times published a second report, this time detailing the experiences of several Navy pilots who claimed to have encountered aircraft flying well above 30,000 feet, but with no visible exhaust or heat signature. The same report indicated that back in April, the Navy had retooled its reporting policies for pilot-UFO encounters.
In both reports, military officials cautioned that “UFO” does not necessarily mean “alien spacecraft.” More likely, pilots reporting “UFOs” have had encounters with experimental technology, classified programs, or foreign aircraft. The reporting system, officially put into place in April, is supposed to help streamline how these encounters get reported, not necessarily to keep track of whether members of the U.S. military are routinely encountering alien life.
But that hasn’t stopped people — even formerly high level defense officials — from speculating.
“We know that UFOs exist. This is no longer an issue,” Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence told Fox News in an interview. “The issue is why are they here? Where are they coming from and what is the technology behind these devices that we are observing?”
The Navy says it will continue to brief senators on the UFO program in order to help neutralize potential safety hazards to government employees.