UFOs: Close Encounters of the National Security Kind

Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are real. And the truth about them is often hidden from the public, for reasons related to national security. That secrecy has fed conspiracy theories about the possibility of alien life on Earth, creating a stigma around the legitimate scientific search for life on other planets. Why are UFOs considered a defense concern? And does a defense framing of UFOs inhibit scientific research?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Philippe Ailleris
    Copernicus Programme Project Controller, European Space Agency
  • Shane Harris
    Intelligence Correspondent, Washington Post
  • Kai-Uwe Schrogl
    President, International Institute of Space Law

Show Notes

Even though unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs) are often conflated with the search for extraterrestrial life, they often have more to do with national security than with scientific advancement. And while extraterrestrial life may indeed be real in the form of microbes on far-away planets, the shroud of secrecy surrounding UAPs—which exists for national security reasons—has fed decades of conspiracy theories and spurred hundreds of movies and television shows about little green men arriving on Earth. Recent Congressional hearings on UAP sightings, and the release of an unclassified NASA investigation into them, have once again brought UAPs back to the fore.


The truth about alien life is out there—is the United States’ defense-led focus on UAPs getting in the way of finding it?



From CFR


Andrew Chatzky, Steven J. Markovich, and Anshu Siripurapu, “Space Exploration and U.S. Competitiveness


David Zikusoka, “Spying From Space: How a Surge in Satellites Will Revolutionize Intelligence,” Foreign Affairs


Roy C. Pettis Jr., “Webb Is a Reminder of America’s Technical Prowess in Future Global Competition and Cooperation


From Our Guests


Philippe Ailerris, “UFOs and Exogenous Intelligence Encounters,” European Space Policy Institute [PDF]


Shane Harris, “No Evidence That UFOs Have Extraterrestrial Origins, NASA Finds,” Washington Post


Shane Harris, “NASA Team Studying UFO Mysteries Says Experts Need Better Data,” Washington Post


Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Handbook of Space Security: Policies, Applications and Programs

Read More


NASA Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Independent Study,” NASA


Garrett M. Graff, “We Have a UFO Problem. What We Don’t Have (Yet) Is a Serious Answer,” Politico


Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal, and Leslie Kean, “Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious UFO Program,” The New York Times


Watch and Listen


Congress UFO Hearing: Experts Say UAPs Pose Potential National Security Threat,” WSJ News

Pentagon Officially Releases 'UFO' Videos,” Guardian News

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