This summer the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved the draft Fiscal Year 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act (FY 2023 IAA) for consideration by the full Senate. A companion provision was introduced with H.R.8367, the House version of the Intelligence Authorization Act. One of the most interesting provisions in the FY 2023 IAA is a referral to the United States Comptroller General to develop a History of the Intelligence Community’s (IC) involvement with UFOs, also known as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP). If adopted by the Congress, it will help pull back the curtain on what our government has been doing on the UFO issue. Under Section 705, the Comptroller General shall:
“(1) commence a review of the records and documents of the intelligence community, oral history interviews, open source analytic analysis, interviews of current and former government officials, classified and unclassified national archives, … and such other relevant historical sources as the Comptroller General considers appropriate;
(2) for the period beginning on January 1, 1947, and ending on the date on which the Comptroller General completes activities under this subsection, compile and itemize a complete historical record of the intelligence community’s involvement with unidentified aerospace-undersea phenomena, including successful or unsuccessful efforts to identify and track unidentified aerospace-undersea phenomena, and any intelligence community efforts to obfuscate, manipulate public opinion, hide, or otherwise provide unclassified or classified misinformation about unidentified aerospace-undersea phenomena or related activities, based on the review conducted under paragraph (1).” (emphasis added)
If enacted, Section 705 will provide Congress with a detailed report on the activities of the IC involving UAP. The study will cover IC activities from January 1, 1947, until the time the study is completed. It begins just before the start of the Flying Saucer Era (summer 1947). The Comptroller General will have access to classified and unclassified materials in the National Archive and still in the hands of the IC. The law mandates that the eighteen intelligence agencies must cooperate with the investigation. Once completed, the report to Congress will have classified and unclassified portions.
In addition to looking at “successful or unsuccessful efforts to identify and track” UAP, the report will discuss “efforts to obfuscate, manipulate public opinion, hide, or otherwise provide unclassified or classified misinformation….” It is, in part, a follow-up to findings in the June 2021 UAP Report to Congress (Preliminary Assessment). The Preliminary Assessment explained that one of the biggest impediments to the study of UAP was the “stigma” about the subject. It kept UAP reports from being filed due to the ridicule that witnesses face. The Comptroller study will look at how big a role that intelligence community had in contributing to the “stigma” that still limit the number of quality UAP reports.
Besides the manipulation of public opinion issue, Section 705 was included in the broader Intelligence Bill because of the current lack of cooperation that Congress is getting from the IC. Several Senators and House members have expressed frustration over the pace of Pentagon and IC implementation of the UAP program. Mysterious objects are shadowing our aircraft and performing seemingly impossible maneuvers that demonstrate the capability to harm our armed forces. Yet, the Pentagon and IC act as if they are unconcerned. To date, the UAP program has limited its review to incidents that happened in 2004 and thereafter. No attention is being paid to historic interactions with our military dating back to the 1940s. The IC/Pentagon approach is to ignore all but recent data. Over the years, military personnel have consistently stated that, after a UFO incident, non-military personnel take control of electronic data that have recorded these incidents. Their commanding officers have no choice but to comply. This data is likely held by the IC and would provide a treasure trove of information about this mystery. Hence, a historical analysis, including retrieval of electronic data, will help Congress better understand this concerning phenomenon.
The Comptroller General is the most independent government source available to Congress for conducting this investigation. The Comptroller General heads up the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has been conducting government investigations for over one hundred years. The current Comptroller General is Gene Dodaro, who has held the office since 2008, during four Presidential Administrations. According to its website, the GAO provides “timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can be used to improve government and save taxpayers billions of dollars.” A sampling of recent GAO reports shows the wide range of topics such as military training, public health preparedness, the national intelligence program issues, biological defense, space operations, and COVID-19 in nursing homes. They review an agency, program or a single issue. Except for restricted (classified) reports, their work product is freely available to the public.
Under Section 705, the Comptroller General has one year from the date that the FY 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act is signed into law to start its review, probably in late December 2022. Once commenced, the Report must be completed in 180 days. If approved, the Report will be due to Congress no later than June 2024.
One of the biggest problems that the GAO will face is the lack of documentation, especially with records from the Flying Saucer Era (1947-1952). At that time, the Central Intelligence Agency was the only intelligence agency. Much of its publicly known UAP activity started in 1952 after multiple UAP incursions over Washington, D.C. CIA records from this period labeled UAP as “the problem.”
In dealing with “the problem”, CIA records also indicated that paperwork was to be kept at a minimum. The responsibility was given to its Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), which around the same time was engaged in an illegal mind control program, code named MK Ultra. This program gave a variety of drugs, including LSD, to unsuspecting people, some of whom committed suicide as a consequence. The illegal program was discovered by a Senate oversight investigation in the 1970s. This investigation, commonly referred to as the Church Committee, found that a common element of these illegal programs was a conscious effort to keep paperwork to a minimum, to make it harder to establish a paper trail.
One key time period to review is 1952-1954, when the CIA was engaged in several illegal operations. One of these appears to be its UFO involvement, which, according to declassified records, engaged in improper domestic law enforcement activities. During this time, the CIA’s OSI convened a secret panel of military scientists (Robertson Panel) to study UFOs. However, the Robertson Panel determined that UFOs were not real but still posed a threat because they could be used as a psychological weapon by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Panel found that Americans who studied UFOs were a threat to the stability of our government. The Robertson Panel recommended that measures be taken to “debunk” domestic UFO organizations and involved people who could gain influence with the public if there were further mass UFO sightings. Specific UFO organizations should be “watched” to prevent them from having influence over the public. According to declassified records, after the Panel made its recommendations, an effort was made to prevent scientists from working with one UFO organization that studied sighting cases. Within a year, that organization disbanded and popular magazines such as Life and Look lost their best source of quality information about UFOs.
The task for the Comptroller General will be to find enough evidence of these activities to give us an accurate picture of CIA UFO policy. Today, the CIA has been uncooperative with current congressional UAP oversight. They did not assist in the development of the Preliminary Assessment that was requested by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Records of early CIA actions are supposed to be retained in the National Archives, assuming they weren’t destroyed or existed in the first place. Just finding relevant records will be a big ask.
This GAO review will be important for congressional efforts to understand UAP. If the behavior of recent UAP incursions has been going on since the 1940s, the source of UAP could not be a foreign adversary like Russia. According to the Preliminary Assessment, a majority of the incidents discussed were seen visually by highly trained pilots and captured on multiple sensors performing maneuvers far beyond our capabilities. If similar activities are documented in the mid-twentieth century, they could not be the result of a terrestrial source in the age of vacuum tubes and propellers. Of similar importance, did the IC conduct operations to hide the truth about UAP from the American people? The first modern intelligence agency was created with a strict prohibition against domestic spying. The Senate Bill is asking whether they violated this prohibition and tried to manipulate public opinion. Is the historic skeptical treatment of UFO witnesses, in part, created by the federal government itself? Hopefully, this GAO review will answer that question.