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Marco Rubio wants you to know what the military knows about UFOs

The senator spoke on ’60 Minutes’ about the threat of unidentified aerial phenomena, and an upcoming non-classified Pentagon report.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on June 10, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on June 10, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. [ AL DRAGO | AP ]
Published May 18
Updated May 18

If Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has his way, the public will soon know more of what U.S. military intelligence already knows about UFOs.

The Pentagon and Director of National Intelligence are due to deliver by June 25 a non-classified report with a “detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data” collected by the Office of Naval Intelligence and the FBI.

Rubio was head of the Senate Intelligence Committee when he wrote a provision into the Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the report as part of the $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill that President Donald Trump signed into law in December.

Rubio appeared in a segment on CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday, in which several former U.S. Navy pilots recounted seeing strangely-shaped objects with no wings or exhaust, flying in ways that defy known technology.

Related: Val Demings to run against Rubio for Senate, Politico reports

“Men and women we have entrusted with the defense of our country are reporting encounters with unidentified aircraft with superior capabilities,” Rubio said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “We cannot allow the stigma of UFO’s to keep us from seriously investigating this. The forthcoming report is one step in that process, but it will not be the last.”

Former Navy pilot Lieutenant Ryan Graves, whose squadron captured an image of an object off the coast of Jacksonville in 2015, told 60 Minutes that pilots believe they’re either a classified U.S. technology, spy vehicles from another country, or something not from this planet.

In previous interviews, Rubio has said he is not focused on theories about extra-terrestrials, but he is concerned about the threat the objects pose to national security, especially if they represent a giant technological leap by a foreign adversary.

“Anything that enters an airspace that’s not supposed to be there is a threat,” he told 60 Minutes. And, he has said, “the public deserves to know as much as possible about it.” The provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act requires the non-classified report be made public.

The report, which will go to the Senate intelligence and armed services committees, must include data from the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force that was launched by the Department of Defense last August.

That task force is a successor to the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, launched at the behest of then Senator Harry Reid in 2007. The shadowy program was revealed in 2017 after Chris Mellon, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, leaked the declassified videos of UFOs to the New York Times.

UFO sightings have long been written off as weather balloons, drones or optical illusions, but firsthand accounts by former pilots, along with confirmation by the Pentagon that the videos are real, and yet unexplained, has brought more credible media coverage and attention to the phenomena in recent years than ever before.

“Imagine a technology that can do 6-to-700 g-forces, that can fly at 13,000 miles an hour, that can evade radar and that can fly through air and water and possibly space,” Luis “Lue” Elizondo, the former intelligence officer who ran the Pentagon program, told 60 Minutes while describing what the program studied. ”That’s precisely what we’re seeing.”

Rubio has said there is a “stigma” on Capitol Hill around the topic, but he wants to see it taken more seriously, with cooperation between the military and intelligence agencies and a better process for cataloging and analyzing the data.

“Maybe it has a very simple answer,” he told 60 Minutes. “Maybe it doesn’t.”

Rubio and Sen. Mark Warner, the current head of the Senate intelligence committee, are among the lawmakers who have received classified briefings on the phenomena.

A Rubio spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times that the senator does not believe the unidentified phenomena are “us,” as in classified American technology.

“If that was the case then we probably wouldn’t be talking about it in the way that we are now, since we’d know the answer to the question,” Rubio said in April, speaking to Mystery Wire, a Nexstar Media site dedicated to producing “journalistically vetted” stories on strange, unknown and unsettling subjects. “You certainly wouldn’t see this demand for more attention to be paid.”

Warner told Mystery Wire that unlike past eras, the military “has seen enough things where they’re actually now encouraging pilots to report it.” He said he agrees with Rubio in that, “on some level,” the non-classified report should be made public.

Seth Shostak has for two decades dedicated his career to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence as the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, which since 1984 has searched for signals from advanced civilizations far from Earth.

“We’re trying to find E.T. as well,” Shostak said, “we just don’t think that they’re here.”

Shostak is confident life exists elsewhere in the universe, and expects the evidence will come from one of three places: antennas picking up alien transmissions, exploration — such as the Curiosity rover on Mars finding remnants of extinct bacteria — or new and powerful telescopes, such as the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope, detecting oxygen, or other clues, on faraway planets.

He does not expect it to come in the form of UFOs or a government report.

“We’re not debating if the videos are real, it’s what do they actually show,” he said. “I think when the report comes out it will likely be that some of this we might understand, and some we don’t. ... I don’t think the government will say, yes, these are Klingons from a planet 17 light years away.”