Clarence Page

At last, in the swampy heat of late-summer Washington, Congress appears to have stumbled across an issue on which both of our contentious political parties find remarkable agreement: UFOs.

Or as the Defense Department prefers to call them these days, “UAPs,” or “unidentified anomalous phenomena.” It used to stand for “unidentified aerial phenomena,” but defense officials changed the term to include “submerged and trans-medium objects.” NASA and other agencies soon followed suit.

Just try to keep up. The clunky label is intended to identify anything that might be coming at us “in space, in the air, on land, in the sea or under the sea” that can’t be identified but might pose a threat to U.S. military operations and facilities, according to a DOD explainer.

As a lifelong science nerd and science fiction junkie, my love of flying saucer movies began with the likes of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a 1951 classic in which a wise alien named Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, visits Washington with his robot, Gort, to offer earthlings some help as they begin to stumble into the new scientific age of the 1950s. Unfortunately, fearful leaders give Klaatu the worst sort of welcome: They shoot him.

Fortunately, the atmosphere at the House Oversight Committee’s UAP meeting was much friendlier. A robust turnout of House members as diverse as New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the left and Florida’s Matt Gaetz on the right attended the hearings without serious altercations.

Star of the show was former U.S. intelligence official David Grusch, who under oath told the committee that the U.S. is concealing a long-standing program that retrieves and reverse-engineers unidentified flying objects to reconstruct the technology. Through a combination of military and tech-speak, he said “nonhuman” remains, which he described as “biological,” had been retrieved from spacecraft, but he noted that he has not personally seen a UAP.


Has our government possibly made contact with extraterrestrial life? Grusch evaded the question with only, “That’s something I can’t discuss in a public setting.”

Still, Grusch maintained that he was “absolutely” certain that the federal government is in possession of UAPs — sort of like federal authorities in the alien invasion film “Independence Day,” I imagine.

He based his certainty on interviews he had with some 40 witnesses in recent years, he said. However, he added, he was “denied access” to the alleged facility itself.

That’s too bad. Grusch makes a very sincere-sounding witness and, combined with the videos that have been shot of UFOs in various shapes, sizes and breathtaking maneuverability over the years, I’m not going to try to deny he saw something. But what? That’s enough to make my long-tenured baloney detector begin to go off until I get more supporting evidence.

When asked whether he had any personal knowledge of a U.S. official being injured while attempting to reverse-engineer a UAP, Grusch answered, “yes.” But when he was asked for further clarification, he said only: “You have to imagine, assessing an unknown unknown, there’s a lot of potentialities you can’t fully prepare for.”

Yeah. I hate it when that happens.


A similar sort of skepticism came from someone with a lot more expertise on science than I have: Jordan Bimm, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute on the Formation of Knowledge.

Bimm, in an interview with CBS Chicago after the hearing, quoted another famous U. of C. alum, Carl Sagan, who said: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Indeed, considering the nearest stars to Earth, Alpha Centauri A, B and C, are more than four light-years away, it would take more than four years traveling at the speed of light for a radio wave or a UFO to visit our planet. That’s a long trip.

But then maybe the UFO has a “warp drive” like the Starship Enterprise on “Star Trek,” which we would again have a very strong interest in learning more about, if our curiosity didn’t kill us first.

I like to stay more optimistic than that. It’s the American way.

Especially when, as the characters say on TV’s “The X Files”: “The truth is out there.”

E-mail Clarence Page at

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