Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, is pushing legislation to create a commission with broad authority to declassify government documents on UFOs and extraterrestrial affairs, in an attempt to force the government to share everything it knows about unidentified phenomena.
The measure offers the potential to push back against the conspiracy theories that surround discussions of UFOs and fears that the government is hiding critical information from the public.
The legislation, which Mr. Schumer will introduce as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, has bipartisan support, including that of Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who championed legislation that would have forced the government to release a series of reports on unidentified phenomena. Support in the House is also likely. On Wednesday, the room included a a narrower measure in its version of the annual defense bill that would push the Pentagon to release documents about unidentified aerial phenomena.
(While the government has agreed not to call mysterious sightings UFOs, various branches and agencies disagree on whether to refer to aerial phenomena or anomalous phenomena.)
The Senate measure sets a 300-day deadline for government agencies to organize their records on unidentified phenomena and provide it to the audit committee.
President Biden would appoint the nine-person review board, subject to Senate approval. Senate staffers say the intent is to select a group of people who would push for disclosure while protecting sensitive collection methods.
Interest in UFOs has always been high, but it has grown even more since a collection of videos showing unidentified phenomena recorded by military sensors was released and naval aviators described difficult-to-explain events during training missions.
Some of the videos released by the Pentagon have been explained as optical illusions or drones, but others remain unexplained and the subject of much speculation. Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon and secret services collected hundreds of reports of unexplained phenomena. Officials said most of the unexplained incidents were aerial debris, Chinese espionage or errant weather balloons. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not have any of the videos or other material they have collected, it appears evidence of extraterrestrial visitation.
It is difficult to know how many unpublished documents exist in government archives. Intelligence agencies have said repeatedly that they have released the material they have. Their freedom of information offices are constantly flooded with requests for UFO material, only to be met with responses that the archives have been released.
However, more recent work, particularly from the Pentagon, has not been made public, and the reluctance of some government agencies to produce records has frustrated both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, Mr. Schumer’s aides said.
For example, various Pentagon task forces have conducted extensive studies of videos taken by Navy pilots and other military personnel that have remained secret. Some work on the videos has been published, including at a recent NASA meeting. In some cases, officials believe disclosures could reveal the capability of classified optics and sensors. But in cases in which no formal conclusion has been reached, officials have been reluctant to share information about their deliberations or theories.
It is the reluctance to share all that is known about the events that are not fully understood that has fueled endless speculation on social media, in television specials and public debates.
The new legislation is modeled after the commission that oversaw the release of information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That legislation, passed in 1992, was imperfect, and both the release and withholding of documents continued through the Biden administration.
However, the Kennedy attack review commission forced the release of thousands of pages of documents, and lawmakers believe the approach could work here.
Under Mr. Schumer’s legislation, the president could decide to delay material the commission chose to release based on national security concerns. But the measure would set a schedule for releasing documents and codify the presumption that the material should be public.
“You will now have a process by which we will declassify this material,” said Allison Biasotti, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schumer.
Government officials have repeatedly said they have no remains of a crashed alien spacecraft or any manufactured material of extraterrestrial origins.
Those claims have been challenged by some former officials who believe the government is not revealing everything it knows. The legislation would likely force more details of the government’s study of unknown materials to be released, but it also gives the federal government the power to claim any crashed spacecraft in private or corporate hands, however unlikely such things exist.
Mr. Biden, unlike former president Barack Obama, did not directly address the issue of unidentified phenomena. But Mr. Biden did order two unknown objects and a Chinese spy balloon to be shot down from the sky. Later, the president said he would not apologize for shooting down the spy balloon and that the United States would continue to adapt its approach to dealing with unidentified objects.
Karoun Demirjian contributed reporting from Washington.