Truth is out there: UFOs take center stage in Washington

Once ridiculed, those reporting UFO sightings are vindicated; US intelligence confirms 144 unexplained events over 17 years; With tech advancements, Washington admits: It's serious

Tzippy Shmilovitz|
On November 14, 2004, Lieutenant Alex Dietrich, then a young pilot who had just completed her training, boarded an F-18 jet and took off from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz for another routine training day off the coast of California.
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Shortly after being airborne, she spotted a slender, elongated object hovering above the water at an altitude of about 820 feet and traveling at approximately 370 mph. The jet's targeting system, designed to identify any object known to the U.S. military, couldn't provide a clear identification. The weapons systems operator in the jet's rear seat also observed the same object. The two young officers quickly began to radio in their observations.
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הטייסת אלכס דיטריך
הטייסת אלכס דיטריך
Alex Dietrich
(Photo: Family album)
Years later, Dietrich recounted that the object moved so quickly and erratically that they could not communicate what they were seeing fast enough. Although military pilots are skilled in identifying aircraft by their shapes, colors and unit insignia in a fraction of a second, Dietrich insists this wasn't any craft she could recognize. Additional jets were dispatched shortly after them. One of the pilots managed to capture the object on an infrared camera.
What Dietrich didn't know at the time was that unexplained objects had been spotted in that same airspace before. Gary Voorhis, a Petty Officer 3rd Class on the U.S.S. Princeton guided missile cruiser, a ship training with the Nimitz, began noticing anomalies on his radar screens four days prior to Dietrich's flight.
With six years of naval experience at the time, Voorhis was responsible for the combat systems. To his knowledge, what he witnessed was physically impossible - in seconds, the object plummeted to the water from an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18 kilometers), immediately hovered back up, and executed turns at illogical angles.
“Before it was reported even to the captain, those systems were triple checked,” Voorhis told National Geographic. “And then once it was taken up with the captain, they were triple checked again. Everything was working perfect, which made it even creepier.”
The strange objects reappeared for several days. Voorhis stood on the deck with binoculars and asked the radar operators to guide him. “I was able to see it on the horizon,” he recalls. “I got to see it during the night and during the day. And it definitely was a glowing object."
Despite the radar evidence and testimonies of other individuals on the Nimitz, when Dietrich and her flight partner returned to the base and reported what they had seen, they received little serious attention and many jokes.
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אילוס אילוסטרציה חייזר חייזרים עב"מ עב"מים
אילוס אילוסטרציה חייזר חייזרים עב"מ עב"מים
(Photo: Shutterstock)
The years passed, and Dietrich served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She returned to Washington, left the military, and nearly forgot about those encounters. However, the Pentagon didn't forget. Dietrich has since been regularly asked to brief members of Congress. They pose the same questions, she provides the same answers, but over the years, she has noticed a growing level of interest and an increased willingness to genuinely listen.
“We were ridiculed and mocked by so many, so now it feels nice to have people ask good questions and to have them really be interested in getting to the bottom of it,” Dietrich said. “Then, of course, there’s that underlying sense of urgency that we all have: Is this a threat to national security?”
What the young Dietrich witnessed in the skies almost 20 years ago initiated a series of events that shifted the conversation about unidentified flying object sightings. No longer just a punchline or a Hollywood fantasy, the U.S. recognizes the need to thoroughly examine the increasing number of pilot testimonials, detailing unclear, flickering, shimmering lights moving nearby.
But does the U.S. also recognize that these sightings shouldn't be confused with the aliens who descended from the spacecraft at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind? That's an entirely different question.

What happens in Nevada stays in Nevada

Last week, the House Oversight Committee held an unprecedented discussion on a topic that, just a few years ago, no one in Washington would have dared broach, certainly not if they valued their political career: Is the truth really out there?
An unprecedented report by a special task force of the Navy, released a year ago, documented 144 UFO sightings that occurred only between 2004 and 2021. The Pentagon doesn't exactly know what they are and there's no evidence to suggest they were sent by aliens planning a covert invasion. But when an official U.S. intelligence report categorizes them as "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" (UAP), it's a game changer.
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סקוט בריי מציג סרטון עב"מים בקונגרס
סקוט בריי מציג סרטון עב"מים בקונגרס
Congressional hearing on UFOs
(Photo: EPA)
The best evidence that Americans are now taking this seriously can be found in the attempt to rebrand the phenomenon. The term UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) is a bit too linked to E.T., so now it's being referred to as UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon).
Americans have always believed that we are not alone. It's a mix of skepticism ingrained in the American DNA, coupled with an affinity for conspiracy theories that swirls within that same DNA. The foundation for the alien mythos in the U.S. lies in Project Blue Book - a government program responsible for investigating UFO reports from 1948 to 1969. During that period, Air Force personnel examined no fewer than 12,618 UFO sightings and determined that 701 remained "unidentified."
According to Edward Ruppelt, head of Project Blue Book, the team found no physical evidence of extraterrestrial beings, yet the mythos was born nonetheless. Perhaps it was more logical to assume these were extraterrestrial visitors than to accept the possibility that heroic pilots, who had just recently defeated the Nazis, could be mistaken about what they saw.
Ultimately, the project concluded: "No UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security." The program also determined that the unidentified objects were neither advanced technology nor vehicles from beyond Earth. Project Blue Book was shuttered in 1969 due to its cost, but it left behind fertile ground upon which one of America's most spectacular subcultures grew.
If Project Blue Book is considered the soil, then Roswell, a small town in New Mexico, is undoubtedly its most splendid fruit. In 1947, without the internet or breaking news on television, a rumor spread by word of mouth that a flying object had landed at an airstrip in Roswell. The fact that it was a military airfield took the rumor mill to another level.
In March 1997, residents of Arizona, including the state's governor at the time, Fife Symington, claimed to have seen a large flying object in the skies near Phoenix. Ten years later, Symington told CNN, “I witnessed a massive delta-shaped, craft silently navigate over Squaw Peak, a mountain range in Phoenix, Arizona.
The U.S. government's initial official statement described it as a "flying disc"; a subsequent announcement clarified that it was, in fact, a weather balloon. Naturally, few were convinced, with witnesses swearing they saw soldiers retrieving not only the "flying disc" but also bodies—actual bodies!—of extraterrestrials.
A 1997 survey by Time magazine, marking the 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident, found that 80% of Americans believe the government is concealing information about the existence of extraterrestrial life forms. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe a UFO did indeed land in Roswell. Today, the town boasts the International UFO Museum, which many believers visit, purchasing tickets for seven dollars—perhaps to fund food for the alleged captive aliens.
The most ominous association with this mythology is undoubtedly that of Area 51 in Nevada, the enigmatic military facility where, according to legend, the U.S. government stores and hides alien bodies. John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, once recounted that his boss "asked for information about some of these things, especially what was happening in Area 51."
In 2013, the CIA declassified documents that officially acknowledged, for the first time, that Area 51 is indeed a secret military site located northwest of Las Vegas. However, if one were to believe the U.S. intelligence agency, which has previously toppled governments, then instead of flying saucers, the facility was used for the development of highly classified aerial reconnaissance programs, with the need for secrecy aimed at protecting information from the Soviet Union.
Either way, Area 51 features prominently in any Hollywood production dealing with humanity's fear of an alien invasion, a fear that is especially heightened now, with Will Smith out of commission and no one to lead the fight in Independence Day.
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וויל סמית' ב"יום השלישי"
וויל סמית' ב"יום השלישי"
Will Smith in Independence Day
(Photo: AFP)
There was also the case involving three Air Force personnel who reported that UFOs hovered around the base where they were stationed in Montana in 1967. Officer Robert Salas recounted that one of the base's guards informed him of a glowing red object, about 30 feet in diameter, above the facility's main gate.
The interest of aliens in nuclear weaponry is a central theme in UFO mythology. Robert Hastings, a renowned UFO researcher with a particularly vivid imagination, argues that "Earth is being visited by entities from another world, who are interested in the nuclear arms race that began at the end of World War II."
The most significant recent event was the Phoenix Lights incident in March 1997 when residents of Arizona, including the state's governor at the time, Fife Symington, claimed to have seen a large flying object in the skies near Phoenix.
Ten years later, Symington told CNN, “I witnessed a massive delta-shaped, craft silently navigate over Squaw Peak, a mountain range in Phoenix, Arizona. It was truly breathtaking. To my astonishment this apparition appeared; this dramatically large, very distinctive leading edge with some enormous lights was traveling through the Arizona sky.”
Symington, a former Air Force officer, said it didn't appear to be man-made and dismissed the Air Force's claim at the time that they were high-altitude flares.
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אזור 51 שטח צבאי סגור מדבר נבאדה ארה"ב חייזרים עב"מים
אזור 51 שטח צבאי סגור מדבר נבאדה ארה"ב חייזרים עב"מים
Area 51
(Photo: Shutterstock)
“I was never happy with the Air Force's silly explanation. There might very well have been military flares in the sky that evening, but what I and hundreds of others saw had nothing to do with that,” he said.
“We want the government to stop putting out stories that perpetuate the myth that all UFOs can be explained away in down-to-earth conventional terms. Investigations need to be re-opened, documents need to be unsealed and the idea of an open dialogue can no longer be shunned.”

What did Obama discover?

The open dialogue that has now emerged is a result of compelling testimonies from pilots who have seen unexplained phenomena in the skies and are careful not to drift into areas that would trivialize the entire subject.
Nick Pope spent the early 1990s investigating UFOs for the British Ministry of Defence. He recalls vividly how he was treated.
“I would walk down the corridor and people would whistle the theme music to either Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the Twilight Zone,” Pope told the Guardian. As his tenure drew to a close, the iconic whistle from The X-Files was added to the repertoire.
Over the nearly two decades since, attitudes toward UFOs have slowly shifted, especially in the U.S. Former President Barack Obama liked to joke that the most important thing he discovered in office was "the truth about the aliens we're hiding in Roswell."
However, in more serious interviews, he stated, "There are footage and records of objects in the skies that we don't precisely know what they are. We can't explain how they moved or their trajectory. They lacked a recognizable pattern, so I believe we should take seriously the effort to investigate and understand what they are."
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Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Obama
(Photo: AP)
A significant difference is that, unlike in the past, now pilot testimonies are backed by technology that simply didn't exist when the little green men allegedly landed in New Mexico. Ryan Graves, an Air Force pilot who testified before Congress last week, said he couldn't believe he was finally there, after sharing his experiences so many times only to be met with disbelief. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he sounded almost nonchalant. "I saw lights and such objects every day for at least two years," he dryly told the astonished interviewer.
Graves told the congressional committee that military pilots are not adequately trained on UAPs, which he believes leaves them unprepared to respond to such encounters. He noted that the stigma "silences" pilots who fear "professional repercussions," hindering serious investigations into these phenomena.
The Federal Aviation Administration lacks a mechanism that allows pilots to report these events. Those who do try to report are often directed to civilian organizations, which frequently dismiss them with familiar skepticism.
"It's a cycle that needs to be broken," Graves said, with nearly every response of his sounding like the most logical thing in the world, indeed raising the question of why he hadn't been taken seriously before.
Perhaps an answer to this question can be found in another witness at the congressional hearing — a former intelligence officer named David Grusch. He is also the most recognized name among those who expose the "government conspiracy surrounding contact with UFOs." Part of his testimony sounded like a compilation of the greatest hits of the mythology, including the existence of non-human biological material and the murders of individuals who tried to expose the truth.
Over recent years, Grusch has disseminated theories that, if even a small portion of them were true, would be the biggest revelation in history. However, when seated in front of a congressional committee under oath, he paused before each response.
In 2004, four military pilots observed a white object hovering beneath them over the Pacific Ocean with no thrusters or wings. The craft suddenly disappeared, only to reappear seconds later, this time 90 miles away
Now, he only "heard" from unnamed sources that the U.S. government has a secret program to reconstruct non-human spacecraft that have crashed on Earth, and he refrained from reiterating claims he made in media interviews about deceased aliens, Vatican interference and assassination plots.
Grusch did tell the panel that he is "absolutely certain" the government possesses UFOs and that the Pentagon has had a decades-long program for reverse engineering of alien technology. This program, he claims, is not under congressional oversight and is funded by diverting money from other projects.
"I have specific knowledge about this," he said, without being specific. He contended that he knows people who were harmed by UFOs and has spoken with those who discovered "non-human biological substances," but he cannot disclose details because the "information is too sensitive to share with the public."
A Pentagon spokesperson responded by saying that all of Grusch's claims about secret programs and reverse engineering are false. While one shouldn't automatically trust the Pentagon, those who take the UFO topic seriously were disappointed by the congressional hearing that veered into conspiracy theory territory.
Garet Graff, a historian working on a book examining the history of U.S.-UFO encounters, shared, "I believe there are genuine and legitimate questions, but this discussion didn’t address them. It's very telling that Dave Grusch is unwilling to stand by his most sensational (and bizarre) claims under oath."
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סרטוני עב"מים שהוצגו בשימוע של הקונגרס האמריקני
סרטוני עב"מים שהוצגו בשימוע של הקונגרס האמריקני
UFO video presented in Congress
In the end, the current facts are that military pilots are reporting UFO encounters at rates far exceeding unexplained cases. Even the pursuit of a Chinese reconnaissance balloon in February caused pilots to respond as if dealing with visitors from Mars, simply because they failed to identify it and struggled to describe its size, the material it was made of, and its movements.
What's certain is that there's not a single pilot who claims to have seen an alien spacecraft. According to Sean Kirkpatrick, the head of the Pentagon's UFO department, most of the reported objects turn out to be balloons, airborne debris, drones and animals. Very few of the reports are genuine mysteries, but that's enough to maintain the intrigue. Some are genuinely curious, some believe that many have already become detached from the mothership of reason, and, like many things in America, sometimes it's just a business model.
During a congressional hearing, David Fravor, a former Navy pilot, recounted that in 2004, he and three other military pilots observed a white object hovering beneath them over the Pacific Ocean. As he descended to inspect the object, the unidentified aircraft—which, according to Fravor, had neither thrusters nor wings—began to rise and approach him. The craft suddenly disappeared, only to reappear seconds later, this time 90 miles away.
"The technology we encountered there was far superior to anything we have," Fravor told the puzzled Congress members, "and we were helpless against it. Absolutely helpless."
Somewhere, in his basement office at the FBI, Fox Mulder sat in front of the TV and smiled.
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