A blueprint for accountability

An artifact from the Cold War now battles salt water and bird droppings outside city hall in downtown Miami Beach. Will we ever get the bigger picture about the choices we made in those bad old days?

It’s probably just a function of being subjected to the incessant real-time clatter of a democracy falling apart, but now I’m beginning to wonder if Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s game-changing addition to the National Defense Authorization Act might be too little too late. I’m not even thinking about the bill’s prospects for uniting Dems and Repubs behind a disclosure movement destined to become the defining issue of our age, although that possibility is real. I’m wondering if, after more than half a century of official disdain and neglect, the challenges facing America’s bid to take the global lead on the global mystery of UFOs aren’t already insurmountable.

The proposal – slipped into the NDAA without clamor or fanfare on November 4 – is stunning and revolutionary in scope. With the bill at large now on the Senate floor, Gillibrand’s language is enjoying critically important white-man sponsorship from Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).* Should this overdue blueprint for accountability, known now as SA4737, become law, look for our unelected, as-yet unnamed and, likely, corporate guardians of the status quo to make a run for the vomitoria. Their bete noire will be a legislative invention known as ASRO, the Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office. ASRO’s unprecedented authority is guaranteed to piss off more than a few turf-obsessed bureaucracy barons, military and civilian. It’s even looking like the squishy Air Force will have to strap on a happy face.

Based on recommendations from former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Chris Mellon, ASRO will instruct the Defense Department and the Office of National Intelligence to cat-herd federal assets into data-sharing mode on our UFO/UAP problem, which has exposed U.S. vulnerabilities for the world to see. In dusting the evidence for fingerprints, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department will be required to coordinate with the likes of the FAA, DHS, NASA, and NOAA.

The itemized categories of concern are vast. Whether the suspects under investigation are flashing shock ‘n’ awe over restricted airspace, or playing deep-water chicken with Ohio-class submarines, ASRO is committed – at least on paper – to getting a firm grip on the whole rainbow. Everything from propulsion studies to “adverse physiological effects” reported by eyewitnesses is on the table. My own personal favorite part of SA4737 comes from ASRO’s Intelligence Collection and Analysis Plan, tucked under subsection (1). Subsection (1) requires officials to not only “scientifically characterize unidentified aerial phenomena,” it also wants them to figure out the quote “intentions” of UAP/UFOs.

Is this where the clergy comes in? Or the geneticists?

There’s more: Unlike several UAP bills promoted in the House, Gillibrand’s proposal actually requires annual formal reports, classified and declassified. Plus semi-annual updates to Congress. Better yet, the bill would also establish an “Aerial and Transmedium Phenomena Committee.” This Committee would tap brainpower from civilian institutions like the National Academy of Sciences, which can now atone for the Blue Book whitewash it helped the USAF perpetrate in 1969. That’s when the NAS agreed with its military counterparts that “no high priority in UFO investigations is warranted by data of the past two decades.”

But the Gillibrand proposal would also enlist the expertise of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which called bullshit on the USAF’s decision to bail on UFO research for lack of compelling evidence. Declared the AIAA in 1971, shortly after the termination of Project Blue Book, “The controversy cannot be resolved without further study in a quantitative scientific manner and that it deserves the attention of the engineering and scientific community.”

I’m also partial toward the bill’s shoutout to the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, one of the most accessible and translucent nonprofit brokers in the game. Significantly, a welcome omission is any mention of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, whose omniscient doctrinaire scolds have dominated and retarded the UFO conversation in the mainstream media since 1976. Good riddance. No mention either of an operating budget, but if Capitol Hill bites, ASRO would be up and running no later than October 2022.

Clearly, SA4737 is positioned to be the year’s high-water mark for bipartisanship. Releasing the hounds on the scent of UFOs is absolutely consistent with the mythology of America’s birthright, an epic tale of underdogs, disenfranchised and marginalized, scaling the walls against unchecked privilege, the monopoly of power, taxation without representation. It could be the most sweeping anti-establishment campaign in history, prompting lawmakers to reach across the aisle to reinvent themselves as populist outsiders smashing the locks of “Elitists” in “The Government.” It will require a sobering reassessment of the Greatest Generation’s greatest legacy – the Cold War’s original conspiracy theory, sowing confusion well into two centuries. A political downside has yet to be calculated, but it’s early. The pushback will come from vested interests for whom exposure could spell existential peril. And that’s when we’ll find out if ASRO is real.

One thing ASRO will never accomplish, however, is the recovery of the years America lost in fantasyland, pretending what was happening wasn’t happening. And after so many decades of denial and obfuscation, the thoroughness of the Gillibrand proposal seems shaded with an undercurrent desperation; in fact, the New York senator admitted as much to Politico on Wednesday, describing our knowledge gap as “urgent.”

Last month, we got a glimpse of how urgent that gap might be from retired Defense Intelligence Agency officer James Lacatski. In Skinwalkers at the Pentagon: An Insiders’ Account of the Secret Government UFO Program, the co-author and former manager of the DoD’s Aerospace Weapon System Application Program referenced a Russian UFO research project from 1991, called Thread III.

Emerging just before the collapse of the USSR, its details reconstructed largely from documents procured by reporter and Skinwalkers co-author George Knapp, Thread III collected UFO evidence from at least 15 Soviet organizations. Although no conclusions were published, Lacatski writes, the program shared “identical objectives” with the so-called “UAP Task Force,” a Pentagon Cliff Notes crash course mandated last year by lawmakers to get Congress up to snuff on how weird things are upstairs. The Office of National Intelligence released a watered-down meh summary of the UAPTF’s classified briefings to Capitol Hill in June. Bottom line on Thread III, states Lacatski: “the Soviet Union/Russia was potentially ahead of the United States in its knowledge of UAPs as far back at 30 years ago.”

Speaking of rivals, what’s up with China? This summer, the South China Morning Post revealed how researchers with the People’s Liberation Army are developing artificial intelligence to get sharper profiles on its burgeoning UFO caseload. A UAP-watcher with the Liberation Times reported how, in 2018, China organized two “international UFO congress events,” one in Chongqin, the other in Moscow. But in the wake of COVID-19 and the trade war, the Chinese have since ghosted from the informal multinational UFO scene. Hm. Maybe they just got bored with it?

A Stone Age culture wouldn’t need to understand how a crashed airplane flies in order to appreciate the utility of its scrap metal. Or maybe, amid the smoke from the daily demolition of reality, now attempting to cast the star-spangled losers of the 1/6 insurrection as Bastille Day martyrs, maybe I’m just being paranoid. Because I wonder lately if the bewildering and untraceable directed-energy attacks known as the Havana Syndrome means we’re 30 years behind someone else’s learning curve.

But I would never suggest that. Because that’s crazy. This is America.

* Thanks for the updates, Doug Johnson