Jul 28, 2023 - News

The Florida lawmakers behind the push for UFO transparency

Illustration of a hand holding a magnifying glass that is stylized as a UFO with it's beam lit up.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Floridian members of Congress, including a representative from Tampa Bay, are at the forefront of the ongoing congressional inquiry into unidentified flying objects.

Driving the news: Members of the House Oversight Committee heard Wednesday from a former military intelligence officer and two pilots who said they had encounters with unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), the government name for UFOs.

Why it matters: Questions have swirled for years around how much the federal government knows about UAPs and whether they pose a threat to national security, prompting a rare show of bipartisanship as members of the House and Senate press for more information.

What they're saying: Polls show that a majority of Americans believe government officials know more than what they've revealed to the public, Florida Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna emphasized during Wednesday's hearing.

  • "It is unacceptable to continue to gaslight Americans into thinking this is not happening," she said.

State of play: Luna, whose district covers most of Pinellas County, was joined by Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from South Florida, and lawmakers from Missouri and Tennessee in a news conference last week to call for greater transparency.

  • Adding to the Sunshine State's involvement is Panhandle Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who said Wednesday he's seeking more information about a UAP sighting by U.S. Air Force pilots stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Okaloosa County. Gaetz said his office was contacted about the sighting a few months ago.
  • And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is among a bipartisan group of senators supporting legislation to declassify documents about UAPs.

Zoom in: Luna's interest in UAPs arose from her own brush with one, she told Axios in an interview Thursday.

  • Around 2018, when she was working in airfield management at the Oregon Air National Guard in Portland, pilots were sent out to investigate an air-space violation, Luna said.
  • When they returned, they were tightlipped about what happened. Eventually, she said, one of the pilots told her it was a UAP.

Zoom out: At Wednesday's hearing, retired U.S. Navy commander David Fravor told House members about an encounter with a UAP during a training mission in the early 2000s, Axios' April Rubin reports.

  • He compared the object to a Tic Tac and said it caused white water in the ocean on a day with clear weather. "As we pulled nose onto the object within about a half a mile of it, it rapidly accelerated in front of us and disappeared," he said.
  • Another witness, former intelligence official David Grusch, told members the government is in possession of "non-human" "biologics" from a crashed UAP.

The hearing showed that "we clearly have a national security issue and a transparency issue," Luna told Axios. "We need to get to the bottom of it."

  • President Joe Biden hasn't directly addressed the issue, and government officials have repeatedly denied having the remains of a crashed alien spacecraft, according to the New York Times.

What's next: Members of Congress are planning to find more witnesses and follow up on questions that Grusch said he couldn't address because the answers contain classified information, Luna said.


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