The Senate in the coming days is expected to consider a bipartisan measure that would compel the US government to publicly release records relating to possible UFO sightings after decades of stonewalling.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, has teamed up with Senator Mike Rounds, a Republican, in leading an effort to force the disclosure of information relating to what the government officially calls "unidentified anomalous phenomena," or UAPs. Their 64-page proposal is modeled after a 1992 US law spelling out the handling of records related to the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy.
They plan to offer the measure as an amendment to sweeping legislation moving through Congress that would authorize US defense funding for the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1.
Schumer's backing likely will carry sway with many of his fellow Democrats. Rounds is a member of the Senate's Intelligence and Armed Services committees.
"For decades, many Americans have been fascinated by objects mysterious and unexplained, and it's long past time they get some answers," Schumer said in a statement on Friday, adding that the public "has a right to learn about technologies of unknown origins, non-human intelligence and unexplainable phenomena."
What does the amendment require?
The amendment would require the US National Archives and Records Administration to collect UAP records from all relevant government offices under "a presumption of immediate disclosure," and a review board would have to provide a rationale for keeping documents classified.
"Our goal is to assure credibility with regard to any investigation or record keeping of materials" associated with UAPs, Rounds said.
Under the measure, records must be publicly disclosed in full no later than 25 years after the law is enacted unless the US president certifies that continued postponement is necessary because of a direct harm to national security.
It also establishes that the federal government would have "eminent domain" over any recovered technologies of unknown origin and any biological evidence of "non-human intelligence" that may be controlled by private individuals or entities.
Schumer is taking up a cause first advanced by the late Democratic Senator Harry Reid, who served as Senate majority leader from 2007 until 2015.
The US government in the past was openly dismissive of UFO sightings that for decades have sparked the popular imagination, but in recent years has been much more open about the subject. It issued a watershed unclassified report in 2021 cataloging observations - mostly from US Navy personnel - dating back to 2004.
The Pentagon has investigated numerous unexplained sightings reported by military aviators and NASA formed a special panel to look into UAPs. The NASA panel in May said its study is hindered by a lack of high-quality data, as well as the stigma surrounding the whole issue of unidentified objects in the skies, which often end up being balloons and debris or related to atmospheric causes.