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Pentagon Announces UFO Task Force

The Pentagon today formally announced the establishment of an “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force”. Here’s their official news release:

https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2314065/establishment-of-unidentified-aerial-phenomena-task-force/

This move has been rumored for some time, and the task force was specifically mentioned in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 as existing within the Office of Naval Intelligence (see the previous blog entry), so there’s a debate to be had about how new this task force really is. There’s also a debate about the relationship between this unit and AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program), which is widely believed to have investigated UFOs, though the DOD has flip-flopped on this issue and is currently working on a statement clarifying the position on this.

There will be predictable controversy about the exact remit of the UAP Task Force, and use of the phrase “incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace” is doubtless designed to ‘spin’ the mission as being about people flying drones over military bases. But there’s no getting away from the fact that UAP is the term that the government, the military and the intelligence agencies use for what the media and the public commonly refer to as UFOs. It was a term we popularized in the Nineties at the UK Ministry of Defence, when I worked on this issue.

One of the task force’s first jobs may be to co-ordinate the response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request that the Director of National Intelligence submits a report on the phenomenon, consulting the Secretary of Defense and others. The Senate Armed Services Committee is also involved, and senators on both these committees have confirmed having received classified briefings on the issue.

I support this move and wish the task force every success with their mission. I know from personal experience how difficult such official research and investigation can be, given the skepticism of many people within the government when it comes to this phenomenon. But it’s important work and the DOD rightly categorize this as a defense and national security issue. Whether these mystery objects that have been penetrating restricted airspace and interacting with US military aircraft are from China, Russia, or somewhere else, we need to quickly ascertain the true origin, nature and intent of what we’re dealing with, and evaluate what threats or opportunities arise from the situation.

UAP Task Force

The Senate Intelligence Committee has called for a report on UFOs from the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and others as appropriate. Details were given in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, on pages 11 and 12, under the heading “Advanced Aerial Threats”:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CRPT-116srpt233/pdf/CRPT-116srpt233.pdf

The Act made reference to a hitherto unknown unit, referred to as the “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence”. This was picked up in a July 23 article in the New York Times, and a July 25 article in Popular Mechanics quoted from a DOD statement about this UAP Task Force:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/23/us/politics/pentagon-ufo-harry-reid-navy.html

https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a33413777/pentagon-ufo-program-materials-vehicles/

I have obtained the full, unexpurgated statement from the DOD’s Office of Public Affairs, and am publishing it below:

“As we have said previously, the Department of Defense and all of the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously, and examine each report. This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP) when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing. Thorough examinations of any incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace often involves assessments from across the department, and, as appropriate, consultation with other U.S. government departments and agencies. The safety of our personnel and the security of our operations is of paramount concern. To protect our people and maintain operations security, which includes not providing information that may be useful to our adversaries, DOD does not discuss publicly the details of either the observations or the examination of reported incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace, including those incursions initially designated as UAP. Regarding the task force mentioned in the article, I can say that the department is creating a task force to gain knowledge and insight into the nature and origins of UAPs, as well as their operations, capabilities, performance, and/or signatures. The mission of the task force will be to detect, analyze, catalog, consolidate, and exploit non-traditional aerospace vehicles/UAPs posing an operational threat to U.S. national security and avoid strategic surprise.”

I fully support the creation of this new task force, which should go some considerable way towards meeting the concerns expressed by the Senate Intelligence Committee (and the Senate Armed Services Committee). UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) was a term we popularized at the UK Ministry of Defence in the Nineties, as part of a ‘rebranding’ of the UFO phenomenon, attempting to ditch the pop culture baggage that attached to the term “UFO” and reframe the debate as the defense and national security issue that those of us studying the phenomenon knew it to be. Every government rightly wants to secure the territorial integrity of its airspace and ensure that all objects and phenomena in its airspace or in close proximity to its military assets are identified. This bold new initiative may be controversial, but it makes perfect sense in strategic terms, whatever the true nature of the phenomenon.

Coronavirus

As a frequent media commentator on conspiracy theories, Nick Pope has received numerous questions about the various Coronavirus-related conspiracy theories currently doing the rounds. While wishing to avoid giving the oxygen of publicity to most of this, Nick has compiled the following list of Coronavirus facts and issues that may actually offer some hope in the days ahead:

1. With testing, concern over false negatives has arisen, but the issue of false positives may also be an important factor.

2. It’s important to check which figures are listed as being “confirmed” as opposed to “confirmed and presumptive”. If someone tests positive for Covid-19, is asymptomatic or only has mild symptoms, but then dies of a heart attack (or anything else), many nations count this as a Coronavirus death. 

3. Different countries count their figures in different ways. This BBC Future article is informative, though even here they don’t really address relative population size, which is another factor in making more populous nations such as the US seem harder hit:

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200401-coronavirus-why-death-and-mortality-rates-differ

4. Initial estimates of US dead in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic were around 40,000. Once better data were available, the CDC revised the figure down to 12,000.

5. Finding more infections is – counter-intuitively – good news, because it suggests the CFR is much lower than initial estimates.

6. If there are more infections than people suspect, herd immunity may already be kicking in, which is why developing a reliable antibody test is so important.

7. When viruses mutate they can become more or less lethal, but increased virulence puts a downward pressure on the transmission rate, because sick hosts infect less people than healthy ones. Simply put, successful viruses don’t kill their hosts.

8. We’re constantly being told that Covid-19 isn’t the flu, and while that’s true, it’s important to at least be aware of the flu figures. In the US, the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 39 million illnesses, 410,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths from flu:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm

9. We need to consider ‘secondary deaths’, i.e. those people dying from heart attacks, cancer, strokes, etc. because either they’re too scared to go to the doctor or hospital, or because they can’t get into the system at all.

10. For the future, one way to free up capacity in the medical system is to cut back on elective surgeries.

11. While the science isn’t exact, many viruses break down in higher temperatures and a number of coronaviruses show marked winter seasonality.

12. While finding a vaccine would be a big step forward, it’s not a universal panacea. We have a flu vaccine, but in many previous years its effectiveness has been very low:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/past-seasons-estimates.html

13. Pushing the “everyone’s at risk” line ensures people are sufficiently fearful that they’ll abide by lockdowns, but while “everyone’s at risk” is technically a true statement, the degree of risk varies immensely, with a staggering proportion of the deaths involving people who are elderly and/or have pre-existing health conditions (often multiple ones) that have severely compromised their immune systems. Rather than the current ‘one size fits all’ strategy, resources should be concentrated on those who are genuinely at high risk, with longer voluntary self-isolation.

14. For the future, when the hysteria subsides and when people have more time to look at the actual data, and when they realize this virus has overwhelmingly killed people with pre-existing health conditions, people may change their behaviors. While many pre-existing health issues are just bad luck (in a genetic sense), others arise from lifestyle choices. Smoking, illegal drug-taking and obesity massively stack the odds against people who catch Covid-19. If people address such issues to stack the odds back in their favor, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved over the years to come.

15. Covid-19 has led to better cleaning of public areas and more public placement of hand sanitizer, frequent and thorough hand-washing, less touching of one’s face, and people learning to stay at home when they’re sick. If this becomes the norm, hundreds of thousands of flu deaths will be prevented over the next few years.