White House on unidentified objects: ‘No indication of aliens’
The White House’s head-on approach to the aliens question comes after Gen. Glen VanHerck declined to rule out aliens or extraterrestrial involvement on Sunday.
At least once or twice this weekend, the thought crossed everyone’s mind: Could it be aliens?
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday wasted no time squashing that question after U.S. forces shot down three unidentified objects over the weekend.
“I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no — again no indication — of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” Jean-Pierre said from the White House podium. “I wanted to make sure that the American people knew that, all of you knew that and it was important for us to say that from here because we’ve been hearing a lot about it.”
The U.S. military downed an unidentified flying object above Lake Huron on Sunday, the fourth targeted by American forces in roughly a week. Defense officials on Sunday night declined to identify what the three objects shot down over the weekend might be, spurring questions about the potential threats of the objects and why there’s been a string of detections since the Chinese spy balloon.
The White House’s head-on approach to the alien question comes after Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, declined to rule out aliens or extraterrestrial involvement on Sunday. A Defense Department official, following the general’s remarks Sunday night, said there is “no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.”
“I love E.T. the movie, but I’m just going to leave it there,” Jean-Pierre quipped.
“The truth is out there, Karine,” a reporter in the back of the room shot back.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby took the podium next, thanking Jean-Pierre for clearing the air and making his “job easy.”
Kirby offered more detail about the three objects on Monday, telling reporters they were unmanned and that no threats or communication signals were detected. President Joe Biden has been updated on the recent operations, he said, noting the objects were downed due to air traffic risks, not surveillance threats.
“We have no specific reason to suspect that they were conducting surveillance of any kind,” he said, while adding that it couldn’t be ruled out.
Kirby said one of the reasons he believes the U.S. is identifying more of these objects is because “we are now looking for them,” noting that U.S. radar systems have been adjusted to better monitor for smaller, slower-moving objects.
“It’s difficult for me to say exactly what you can expect going forward. One of the reason that we think we’re seeing more is because we’re looking for more. As you heard General VanHerck mention last night, they have modified the filters and the gains — as we call it — of the radar capabilities to look more discreetly at high altitude, small radar cross section, and low speed objects,” Kirby said.
“I don’t think the American people need to worry about aliens with respect to these craft,” he said.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, in an appearance before the Brookings Institution on Monday, said the Chinese spy balloon was a wake-up call for the military.
“It was something that got all of our attention,” he said, referring to the spy balloon. Since then, the military is scrutinizing the air space and “adjusting … the radar sensitivities, which means we’re seeing more things than we would normally see.”
“But we don’t fully appreciate and understand what we’re seeing,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Congress would be getting a classified briefing about the objects in the coming days.
“I can assure the American people of this: If any of these objects present any danger to the American people or American interest, they will be dealt with appropriately as the last ones have been,” Schumer said on ABC’s The View. “I fully support the Senate, bipartisan, investigating why we didn’t know sooner. It’s a good question that we need an answer to.”
The chamber will hold an all-senators classified briefing Tuesday at 10 a.m. on the unidentified objects that were shot down over the weekend, according to a Schumer spokesperson.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, is also forming an interagency group focused on addressing the problem of unidentified aerial objects in U.S. airspace and seeing what improvements need to be made, Kirby announced on Monday.
“The president, through his national security adviser, has today directed an interagency team to study the broader policy implications for detection, analysis, and disposition of unidentified aerial objects that pose either safety or security risks,” he said. “Every element of the government will redouble their efforts to understand and mitigate these events.”
When asked whether daily shootdowns of flying objects would become the norm, Kirby declined to speculate.
“I think we can all get our heads around the fact that there are sometimes things floating at high altitudes for various purposes — as I said, scientific research, weather, weather balloons, all manner of innocuous craft can be aloft at high altitudes,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s necessarily unusual here. It’s difficult for me to say exactly what you can expect going forward.”
Lee Hudson, Marianne LeVine and Lara Seligman contributed to this report.