The nine-page declassified report discussed 144 incidents of UAP sightings, only one of which was resolved. But many were left wanting more after its much-anticipated release, with the obvious complaint that the report did not include extraterrestrial activity.
Greg Eghigian, a history professor at Penn State University who is currently writing a book on the history of the UFO phenomenon, was left rather underwhelmed by Friday’s report.
“We are pretty much right where we started,” Eghigian tells Inverse. “There is a good deal of ambiguity here, leaving people in both the UFO believer and debunker camps feeling vindicated.”
Within this ambiguity, three questions stand out as unanswered:
- Are there aliens?
- How did the government actually investigate these incidents?
- Why did the government investigate this specific timeframe?
What’s new — On Friday, the U.S. government released a comprehensive report on sightings of UAPs.
The report is a result of the Intelligence Authorization Act, which was enacted in December 2020 to call for the release of an unclassified and all-sources report on UAPs.
Much of the buildup ahead of the report’s release came from so-called “alien” hype. The UFO community was buzzing with talk of how the government will soon confirm their suspicion that aliens have been visiting the Earth via highly advanced flying vehicles.
But alas, the report did not mention the possibility of the UAP incidents being possible extraterrestrial life.
Are there aliens? — UFO investigator and long-time skeptic Mick West notes that even though the report did not mention aliens, some UFO enthusiasts still considered this a win.
“I think the fact that they didn't mention it is actually significant, and it really is a serious consideration,” West tells Inverse. “These more exotic explanations really didn't have very much evidence to back them up, and they didn't mention aliens at all but people say that they didn't rule out aliens.”
The report did mention that 18 incidents displayed “unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics.” These UAPs either remained stationary in winds, moved against the wind, maneuvered their way abruptly, or moved at high speeds without enough propulsion, according to the report.
The report also introduced an “other” category for UAP incidents that simply could not be explained — or as the DNI report put it, ones that defied analysis “due to limited data or challenges to collection processing or analysis, we may require additional scientific knowledge to successfully collect on, analyze and characterize some of them.”
How did they investigate these incidents? — The report lists 144 incidents of UAP sightings, and the conclusions that the investigations panel reached after reviewing these incidents.
“We've really got no idea how much actual analysis they've done.”
But the report doesn’t include how the government reached those conclusions.
“It would have been great if they'd actually explained what they'd been doing to study these,” West says.
In one instance, one of the incidents was in fact identified as a large, deflating balloon. So while the case was closed, the report doesn’t detail how they were able to identify said mischievous balloon.
“They didn't say how they solved it or which case it was, and then they didn't give any details at all about the other cases or what they've actually done to look into them,” West adds. “We've really got no idea how much actual analysis they've done.”
Meanwhile, the majority of the remaining incidents were described to show conventional flight maneuvers, save for the 18 outliers. But some experts wonder if there is enough information to back that claim up.
“Most of the data so far are not deemed to be of a high quality, and there are lots of mundane explanations in play,” Eghigian says.
Why did they choose this timeframe? — The report focused on incidents that had occurred in the time period from the year 2004 till March 2021.
That timeline would include one of three videos that leaked in the year 2017, later acknowledged by the Department of Defense, which was originally captured by Navy pilots in the year 2004.
On the other hand, the timeline excluded some other major events that are considered significant in UFO lore, including the Phoenix Lights observed in March 1997, the Roswell incident of 1947, and sightings of bright, flashing lights in Reno, California in the 1950s.
The majority of the cases that were mentioned in the report took place primarily in the past two years when the government enforced new reporting guidelines for Navy pilots regarding these incidents.
“What they focused on here was reports by Navy pilots,” West says. “Obviously people have questions about Roswell, but I think that's really outside the scope of the report.”