Federal investigators publicly released a formerly classified report Friday detailing what U.S. intelligence agencies know -- and don’t know -- about a litany of encounters with unidentified flying objects.
Despite years of data and scores of encounters reported by pilots, the government still cannot explain the vast majority of mysterious aerial entities, as stated in the Director of National Intelligence's preliminary assessment.
A Pentagon task force compiled the report in response to a request by the Senate, which wanted investigators to “characterize the potential threat” posed by the subject. The objects could be a national security risk. But investigators blame a lack of “high-quality” reporting for their inability to draw firm conclusions.
“Limited data and inconsistency in reporting are key challenges,” the report said.
Intelligence experts reviewed 144 instances of “unidentified aerial phenomenon.” Only one of those cases had a definitive explanation.
“We have no clear indications that there is any non-terrestrial explanation for them — but we will go wherever the data takes us," a senior government rep told reporters Friday.
The official said the government believes the reported encounters were with tangible “physical objects” and not sensor malfunctions. Several pilots reported nearly colliding with the unidentified objects in 11 of the instances.
“We absolutely do believe what we're seeing are not simply sensor artifacts,” CNN quoted the official. “These are things that physically exist."
Some of the objects remained stationary in the air. Others maneuvered abruptly at high speeds with “no discernable means of propulsion.” In several instances, military aircraft picked up on radio frequencies with the objects in question.
Investigators admit there are likely multiple explanations for the encounters, but they do not go as far as to rule out the possibility of extraterrestrial meetings.
The lack of a clear explanation for any of the other 143 UFO reports will only further speculation.
"It has become increasingly clear that unidentified aerial phenomena are not a rare occurrence," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in a statement. "Our government needs a unified way to gather, analyze, and contextualize these reports."
The agencies committed to improving their data collection processes and updating lawmakers periodically with new information.