Nick Pope spent the early 1990s investigating UFOs for the UK Department of Defense. Sequestered in a rarely visited government office – the “metaphorical basement” – he well remembers how his field of work was viewed.
“I was walking down the hall and people were whistling the musical theme either for Close Encounters of the Third Kind or for Twilight Zone,” Pope told The Guardian.
Towards the end of his time at the Department of Defense, a new sci-fi show starring a pair of FBI alien hunters was also gaining popularity. “I also remember the melody for the X-Files theme being whistled,” he said.
Over the next nearly two decades, attitudes towards UFOs slowly changed, especially in America where the topic has moved from the margins to the mainstream, even former President Barack Obama has spoken out about their potential existence. .
Renamed by governments and enthusiasts as “UAP,” or unidentified aerial phenomena, 2021 arguably saw the first serious discussion of unknown flying objects. In June, the Pentagon is set to release a much-anticipated report on What It Knows About UAPs, and the excitement over the disclosure has been fueled by a multitude of witnesses who have come forward to share their experiences with the 60 Minutes news program in May.
Obama was among many public figures to add his thoughts on the NAPs and the Pentagon report this month.
“There are pictures and recordings of objects in the sky, which we don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory,” Obama said in an interview with CBS. “They didn’t have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think people always take it seriously to try to investigate and figure out what it is.
The sincerity of the discussion around PAU – “I want us to take it seriously and have a process to take it seriously,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio told 60 Minutes – is far from the taunts at which the Pope has been faced.
So what has changed in America?
“Over the past three years, this has been elevated above hearsay and turned into hard evidence,” said Pope, who is now based in Arizona. “Not just the testimony of military pilots who have been involved in encounters with these things, but the radar data and infrared camera videos that everyone has seen. “
In recent years, a series of government videos showing PANs have been released, including footage of a Navy F-18 fighter jet that showed an oblong object flying in the sky near San Diego in 2004.
In April, photos and videos taken by Navy personnel were leaked online, showing triangular-shaped objects buzzing in the sky, and in May, leaked military images showed an oval flying object near a Navy ship in San Diego – an apparent PSU hotspot.
Members of the Navy have seen UAPs so frequently that encounters have become commonplace, retired Navy pilot Ryan Graves told 60 Minutes.
“Every day,” Graves said. “Every day for at least a few years. “
For Ted Roe, who runs the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, a non-profit organization where pilots or others can report their experiences with UAPs, this was just confirmation of what he knew. already.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Roe said. “Somewhere in the world, every day, it’s happening – it’s happening regularly, daily. And from my private conversations with current and former military pilots, I feel like the reports I get – in regards to pilot reports – are clearly the tip of the iceberg. ”
But despite all the apparent relaxation of the taboo around UAPs, Roe says there is still a stigma.
“No one is willing to risk their career or their reputation on this subject, even now,” Roe said. “The pilots will not contact us until they retire. I would say it’s almost 50-50, the cases I get, which are newer, compared to the ones that happened years ago that they didn’t want to talk about because they would lose their status as theft, and because they were worried about their careers. “
The government – all governments – have already been reluctant to acknowledge that they are monitoring UAPs.
In 2007, the US Department of Defense launched an “Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program” to investigate UFOs. The effort was so secret that the public was not made aware of it until 10 years later, after an investigation by the New York Times.
However, as the leaked or officially released footage has spread, demands for transparency from the public and politicians have multiplied, prompting the CIA to release thousands of documents on NAPs in January 2021.
Rubio, the deputy chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was a particularly strong voice, and he was part of a group of elected officials who succeeded in inserting the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2021 into the signed $ 2.3 billion coronavirus relief spending bill promulgated by Donald Trump in December.
This act ordered government agencies to provide “detailed analysis of data and intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena” and “detailed description of an interagency process” for reporting UFOs. The report must be submitted by June 25.
“Men and women to whom we have entrusted the defense of our country report encounters with unidentified planes with superior capabilities,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times in mid-May.
“We cannot allow the stigma of UFOs to stop us from seriously investigating this. The next report is a step in this process, but it will not be the last. “
The recent flurry of videos and the imminent publication of the report have sparked excitement around unidentified flying objects that had not been seen in years. The Pope, however, warned that after years of stealth by intelligence agencies, people should not expect the government to release. all he knows these mysterious objects in the sky.
“The report must be unclassified, but it could have a classified annex, so there is a strong possibility that some heartbreaking facts are in that classified annex, rather than the unclassified report,” Pope said.
He added, “So people should be excited, but not too excited. They need to be pragmatic, and a little bit of expectation management might help.