A long-awaited US government report on UFOs has concluded that there is not enough evidence to prove the existence of alien life.
The report, submitted to Congress and released publicly on Friday, looked into 144 reported sightings of “unidentified aerial phenomenon,” or UAPs since 2004.
However, investigators said they didn’t find any extra-terrestrial links and that the data available wasn’t sufficient to come up with an explanation.
In all but one of the sightings investigated, there was too little information for investigators to even broadly characterise the nature of the incident, the report said.
There were 18 cases in which witnesses saw “unusual” patterns of movement or flight characteristics, the report said, adding that more analysis was needed to determine if those sightings represented “breakthrough” technology.
“UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to US national security,” the report said, adding that the phenomena “probably lack a single explanation”.
The report’s authors highlighted the need for better data collection about what’s increasingly seen by Democrats and Republicans as a national security concern.
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The subject of UFOs has in recent years drawn serious study from the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, with the prospect of an adversary spying with unknown technology alarming politicians in both parties.
Officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said there were “no clear indications” that the sightings in the report could be linked to alien life.
But one official refused to rule it out saying: “Of the 144 reports we are dealing with here, we have no clear indications that there is any non-terrestrial explanation for them – but we will go wherever the data takes us.”
There was also nothing to link the sightings to potentially unknown technology of an adversary like Russia or China.
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“It’s clear that we need to improve our capacity to further analyse remaining UAP observations, even as we accept that there are some limits to our capacity to characterise and understand some of the observations that we have,” one official said.
The report lists five potential categories of UAP, including the possibility of foreign adversaries flying unknown technology to events occurring naturally in the atmosphere.
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But only one was categorised as “airborne clutter” and believed to be a large, deflating balloon. The rest are uncategorised due to lack of information.
That includes three instances of potential sightings captured on videos that were declassified and released in recent years.
The Department of Defence will over the next three months develop a new strategy for collecting and tracking information on potential sightings. Part of the data collection effort is destigmatising UAPs and pushing pilots to report what they see, even when what they see is implausible.
“A big problem around UAPs has been the cultural stigma,” said Representative Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat and member of the House intelligence committee, in an interview last week. “It has largely been relegated to science fiction.”
Senator Marco Rubio, who as the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has long pushed for more disclosure about UAPs, called the report “an important first step in cataloguing these incidents, but it is just a first step.”
“The Defence Department and Intelligence Community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern,” Mr Rubio said in a statement.
It is not the first official government report on the subject. The US Air Force carried out a previous UFO investigation called Project Blue Book which ended in 1969.
It compiled a list of 12,618 sightings, 701 of which involved objects that officially remain “unidentified”.
In 1994, the Air Force announced that it had completed a study to locate records relating to the 1947 “Roswell incident” in New Mexico.
It said materials recovered near Roswell were consistent with a crashed balloon, the military’s long-standing explanation, and that no records indicated that there had been the recovery of alien bodies or extra-terrestrial materials.