SEVENTH DISTRICT Rep. André Carson makes history this week when, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and counter proliferation, he presides over only the second public hearing in U.S. history about the origins and nature of Unidentified Flying Objects—or, as they’re referred to in government circles these days, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs. Part of the reason for the renewed interest is recent video footage of Tic Tac–shaped objects playing high-speed games of chicken with U.S. Navy fighter jets. Carson, who’s been interested in UFOs/UAPs since childhood, has quite a few questions he’d like answered. And so do we.
What do you hope the hearing accomplishes?
This is something I’ve been working towards for a long time, and something many other people have wanted as well. For a very long time, this subject was relegated to science fiction. But I believe UAPs present a very real risk and the Intelligence Committee has a responsibility to investigate it. As chairman of the C3 committee (counterintelligence, counter proliferation, and counterterrorism), I think conducting this hearing will give us a chance to share some information with the public.
What got you interested in the topic?
I’ve always been fascinated by it. When I was 16, Time-Life Books had a series called “Mysteries of the Unknown.” I couldn’t afford the whole series, but the first book was free. So I ordered it, and the first book was about UFOs. From there, I tried to learn more. And of course I was an ’80s baby and watched a lot of science-fiction movies. But coming from a military family, I know there have been questions about this from activists throughout the years. I want to be able to present an open hearing—the first one in 50 years, since Project Blue Book. But not in a way that gives our enemies any clues or cues into what we’re doing personally as a country.
How would our enemies glean anything useful from this?
I think that UAPs have captured the imagination and the interest of the American public. They expect and deserve to know that the government and the intel community are seriously evaluating and responding to these potential security risks. Especially those we don’t fully understand. And there are about 2 to maybe 6 percent of these sighting that cannot be explained. They aren’t drones or aircraft or balloons or weather phenomena. That percentage of unexplained sightings must be addressed publicly.
So probably less talk about cattle mutilations and possible abductions, and more about recent encounters between UAPs and, say, U.S. fighter jets?
After the public hearing, we will follow up a few hours later with a secret hearing. But from what I’m understanding, a lot of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle want to raise points about reports they’ve heard from their own constituents. So we could go anywhere. I want us to go different places in our allotted timeframe, while also retaining the credibility of the subcommittee.
Twenty or 30 years ago, chairing a hearing like this might have been more problematic, because whoever got the job would be afraid he or she would be laughed at. Has that thinking changed?
Yes, and I think in a positive way. We have people in the media and in the state who are willing to report these things. There’s been a stigma attached to it, but we’re talking about witnesses who are commercial and military pilots. Folks in the military and law enforcement who have been ridiculed and prevented from advancing in organizations because of what they’ve reported.
Popular opinion says that UAPs could be anything from secret aircraft operated by the U.S. or an adversary, all the way to extraterrestrials. What’s your view?
Look, I don’t think we’re alone in the universe. The laws of probability suggest we aren’t, but we just don’t know. It’s worth noting that the majority of these sightings happen around military installations. Many of us have seen YouTube videos, and obviously many of those are not credible. But there are others that seem far more credible, with real audio attached to them. What might we be looking at? These are questions we want to ask, and as chair of the committee, I’m going to give my colleagues the ability and opportunity to ask them.
Have you ever seen a possible UAP?
I’ve seen things in the sky on a couple of occasions, but it could be explained as a shooting star or even an aircraft traveling at high speed. However, I’m open to the idea that it might, in some cases, be something else.
Your committee already had a secret meeting last year on this topic. Can we assume, because of this public meeting and the secret one that will follow it, that you didn’t get all the information you hoped for that first time?
Is the interest in UAPs bipartisan?
There’s been so much interest among both Republicans and Democrats that I think this hearing will be bipartisan. That doesn’t mean that when the cameras come out, there might not be some pageantry or posturing. But that comes with the territory. What I’ve found is that Republicans have a genuine interest in this, and they’re asking the tough questions just like we are. I hope to have the spirit of bipartisanship, at least for an hour or two while this hearing takes place. They have questions too, so here we are.