Top UFO researchers were banking on a Hillary Clinton presidential victory four years ago in the hopes that her administration would lift the dark veil of secrecy over military and federal government research into unidentified craft and otherworldly technology.
Instead, UFO activists find themselves over the moon with President Trump, whose unexpected decision last week to release stunning footage showing U.S. military close encounters with unexplained objects in the sky has created an unprecedented wave of momentum that could finally break an information dam that has held for decades.
The White House has been tight-lipped on the subject, other than Mr. Trump’s declaration of the Navy release to be a “hell of a video,” but the Pentagon has shifted the national debate by putting forward military UFO videos through official government channels. That decision, specialists say, should end once and for all any debate about the existence of unidentified objects in the sky and instead should fuel deeper questions about exactly what the government knows and what other UFO interactions may be buried deep within classified Pentagon and intelligence agency files.
The unorthodox Mr. Trump, they argue, could be perfectly positioned to take such an opportunity and run with it — but only if he is willing to dig deeper and commit the full weight of the federal government to finding answers.
“Do I want the president or a national leader to look at videos of something unknown in our own airspace and say, ‘That’s pretty interesting?’ No. I want the president to say, ‘This is a problem. This is something that should be investigated,’” said Mark Rodeghier, scientific director at the Center for UFO Studies, a leading research group. “Not because it’s aliens — though it might be — but because of what happened. Our pilots can’t run it down.”
Indeed, the three Navy videos officially released last week show military pilots tracking objects in the sky moving at incredibly fast speeds and, in at least one instance, flipping end over end while moving against the wind.
The startling footage presumably has been the subject of intensive military investigations, but Defense Department officials said last week only that the craft seen in the videos remain “unidentified.”
Presidents and UFOs
For researchers and enthusiasts, the public acknowledgement and disclosure of such footage may have seemed much less likely under a Trump presidency. Many in the community were optimistic in 2016 that Mrs. Clinton, if elected, would be the commander in chief who finally opens the government’s vault of UFO secrets.
There was ample reason for such optimism. For starters, Mrs. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, had an interest in UFOs during his time in office, though hopes that he would release troves of information to the public fizzled out.
The Clintons also share a deep connection with political consultant John Podesta, a noted UFO enthusiast who for decades has urged the government to be more forthcoming on the issue. Mr. Podesta served as Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff and chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s ill-fated 2016 campaign.
During her race against Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton vowed to “open the files as much as we can” and give the public more information.
“I want to see what the information shows,” she said in a 2016 radio interview. “There’s enough stories out there that I don’t think everybody is just sitting in their kitchen making them up.”
Other presidents also have had a keen interest in the topic. Former President Jimmy Carter said he saw a UFO in 1969 while serving as governor of Georgia.
His official report on the incident said that “the object hovered about 30 degrees above the horizon and moved in toward the Earth and away before disappearing into the distance.”
Like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Carter during his 1976 presidential campaign pledged to release additional information about UFOs to the public, though he ultimately did not follow through in the way researchers had hoped.
President Obama publicly showed little interest in the subject. In a 2015 interview with TV host Jimmy Kimmel, he mocked the notion of using his power as commander in chief to dig into information about UFOs and the infamous Area 51 government research facility.
“The aliens won’t let it happen,” Mr. Obama joked. “You’d reveal all their secrets. They exercise strict control over us.”
Researchers say the time is ripe for a radical shift in the government’s approach, and they are calling on the president to lead the charge.
“It is time to open the discussion as to who these beings are, where they are from and why they are here. Perhaps in doing so we will find out who we are, where we are from and why we are here,” said Jan Harzan, executive director of the Mutual UFO Network, a research and investigative group.
While past presidents have either not followed through on their plans to pry loose information or simply lost interest in the topic, there is hope that Mr. Trump could prove to be the exception. For starters, the president has shown an unprecedented willingness to buck the U.S. intelligence community and, given his combative style and common refrain that the “deep state” is harming the American public, would seem uniquely capable of going to the mat on the issue.
On other sensitive matters, Mr. Trump has demonstrated some desire to reveal long-held government secrets.
In 2017, the president boasted that he would finally release classified information about the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.
“Subject to the receipt of further information,” he tweeted in October 2017, “I will be allowing, as president, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”
Ultimately, however, Mr. Trump kept some of that information hidden. The president said he concluded that some documents represented a threat “of such gravity” to U.S. national security that any public disclosure benefit was outweighed.
Mr. Trump could encounter similar problems if he decides to delve deeper into government UFO data, analysts say. It would take direct presidential orders they say, for the Pentagon or any other arm of the federal government to even brief the president on every piece of UFO-related data hidden in classified files.
“If you’re Trump, on any topic, while in theory you can say, ‘I want to see the report,’ you know what happens when a president says that,” Mr. Rodeghier said. “There are all of those layers that go on.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether the president intends to push for more public disclosure on the issue.
Mr. Trump made his only public comments on UFOs last week in an interview with Reuters when he was asked about the Navy footage.
“I just wonder if it’s real,” he said. “That’s a hell of a video.”