By Ross Douthat
Last week on the Senate floor two senators rose to express disappointment with the House of Representatives. This was by itself routine enough, but the senators, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., weren’t complaining about Ukraine funding or border policy. They were complaining that the House was impeding transparency on UFOs.
The back story, for those who don’t follow every twist of what we’re now supposed to call the unidentified anomalous phenomenon (UAP) debate, is that the National Defense Authorization Act, on Schumer’s instigation, included provisions to establish a presidential commission with the power to declassify a broad swath of records related to UAPs, modeled on the panel that did similar work with President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
But this disclosure effort was watered down by some House Republicans, making it more of a collection effort by the National Archives, with a weaker mandate to declassify and release.
As ever with this issue, the Senate discussion of these developments veered from the banal to the superweird. One moment, Rounds was talking as if the whole legislative effort was just an attempt to “dispel myths and misinformation about UAPs” — sunlight as a disinfectant for conspiracy theories. The next, he was complaining that the House had stripped out a requirement that the government reclaim “any recovered UAP material or biological remains that may have been provided to private entities in the past and thereby hidden from Congress and the American people.” Which is an odd thing to emphasize if you don’t think there’s a possibility that, say, Lockheed Martin is keeping something strange inside its vaults.
Meanwhile in the background you have the continuing media tour — through Joe Rogan to Tucker Carlson and beyond — of David Grusch, a former Air Force intelligence officer whose dramatic-but-undocumented claims helped accelerate the current disclosure effort. And you also have the continuing intimations from other former officials, a mixture of hearsay and speculation offered on the record and wilder claims sourced anonymously.
My personal hope, as someone fascinated and frustrated by this business ever since the military first started acknowledging that its pilots have seen some weird things in the skies, is that we are nearing a point of real clarity — not necessarily about what UAPs are but about whether some faction in the government really knows much more about the mystery than what’s in the public record.
The probabilities of extraterrestrial life or nonhuman intelligence aside, the best reason to doubt such secret-keeping is that it would require too much of a government that has let so many major secrets slip over the last 75 years. The deep state let the Soviets steal atomic secrets and the mainstream press publish the Pentagon Papers; it had its Cold War laundry aired by the Church committee; it saw much of its war-on-terror architecture rapidly exposed. So it’s hard to see how it could have kept a lid on programs that study actual extraterrestrial or interdimensional visitors — especially over generations, and especially if we’re supposed to believe that private contractors are part of the cover-up as well.
The counterargument is that there are still things we know that we don’t know in the deep state vault (about, say, the Saudi connections to 9/11), so there might also be things we don’t know that we don’t know. Especially if you imagine a hypothetical UAP program that’s extremely small, walled off from the rest of the national security state, united by a belief that it’s protecting Americans from the cosmic shock of uncontrolled disclosure, and so deeply classified that its functionaries might fear being murdered if they leak.
But that’s what makes the current moment clarifying. We have, in Grusch, a credentialed whistleblower making public claims on a variety of platforms without being hustled away in a black helicopter. We have an important group of lawmakers expressing strong interest and frustration with obstruction. We have a network of mainstream-adjacent media outlets that are fascinated with the story, and establishment organs (including The New York Times) at least open to the conversation.
There is no better time, in other words, for anyone who has documentary proof to figure out how to be a hero of disclosure and democracy. If you have the goods and you want the public to know more, and if you think the Schumer push for transparency has been fatally wounded (as many UFO believers seem to think), then this is the hour to bring your secrets forward.
If no such revelations occur, it will strengthen my default belief that no multigenerational government cover-up was ever plausible.
Should shocking revelations come — well, honestly, I would still worry about deceptions and misdirection, since the disclosure of a cover-up would make paranoia much more rational.
But that’s no reason not to share the truth if you think you have possession of it — trusting that the American people have a high tolerance for weirdness, and that in the long run only truth will set us free.