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After congressional hearing, UFO/UAP questions remain: Are they from Nevada? Or somewhere else?

Extraterrestrial highway

Before we get into the show: Like all of you, everyone here is in shock about the shooting in Texas.

For many thousands of people who survived the Las Vegas Strip shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, this only adds to the emotional toll from that awful night when 60 people died and more than 800 were injured.

After today’s State of Nevada program, NPR’s Here and Now will go into a lot more detail about the Texas shooting. State of Nevada also plans to more coverage in the coming days, looking at Nevada laws and safety in our schools.

The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center is available to offer support to 1 October survivors and others affected by the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The VSRC website is Their phone number is 702-455-2433.

Today, we’re talking about congressional hearings last week that have more to do with Nevada than a lot of people realize.

Members of Congress held a hearing about our military pilots reporting and recording unidentified aerial phenomena. UAPs they call them. They used to be called UFOs, or unidentified flying objects.

And they weren’t laughing, poking at each other or making fun.

They talked instead about national security, and the potential threat that these craft pose to the country.

The usual questions came up. What are they? Where are they from? Are they Russian? Chinese? Or they ours? Are they being built or researched in Nevada, in the desert north of Las Vegas at Area 51 and the adjoining site, S-4?

And are we, is this country or the world, ready to hear the story of what’s really going on? For that matter, do people in the upper echelons of government know what’s going on?

This was the first hearing on UAPs in 54 years.

Reporter George Knapp said it’s largely due to a New York Times report in 2017 about a program called TIP – the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, but he said it was actually called something else, and was “probably the largest government-funded UFO program in history.”

That story, he said, started a series of closed-door classified briefings by members in Congress in January 2018. The first hearing was in 1966 and the last one was in 1968. A year later, Project Blue Book was canceled. “‘Nothing to see here, folks, we can’t find any national security implications. There’s no scientific value to study this further, we’re gonna get rid of it,’” Knapp said.

But the research did continue. 

At last week’s hearing, Knapp said he was impressed questions were asked that couldn’t be answered. The answers they did provide, he said, “were unsatisfactory.”

The biggest questions were surrounding the origins of the technology and if it was a threat.

“Whoever gets this technology and could duplicate it, they win. That’s it,” Knapp said.

“Probably 90% of UFO sightings are easily explainable,” but the remaining, “is not easily explained. And that's really been the focus of the secret government studies that we'll get into these guys in Congress … they know damn good these are not ours.”

The program revealed by the New York Times uncovered a database with 200,000 UFO cases.

Sean Cahill, a former Navy Chief Master-at-Arms, said he was “surprised both by what I heard and what I didn’t hear … it’s a really good place to begin separating the minutia from this and start getting our legislators to ask different, more pointed and direct questions.”

Knapp said he believes those “goodies,” as he put it, were once at Area 51 in Nevada, but no longer are housed there due to public scrutiny. “I think they’ve probably moved, assuming that they have them at all.”

Cahill was aboard the U.S.S. Princeton during the now-declassified ‘Tic Tac’ incident in 2004. 

At the time, he wasn’t a believer “per se.” For years, he told himself it must have been a program of the Navy. 

When it came out, “This was real. I had friends calling me going, ‘Wow, this is the thing you told us about in ‘04.’ I kind of had to come back to it … I realized this was worth my time.”

The late Nevada Sen. Harry Reid discussed UFOs often, but never called them otherworldly. 

Knapp said the reason for that is behind the change from UFO to UAP. 

“When you use [UFO], those letters, the assumption being that it's flying saucers from outer space, aliens from other planets,” he said. “In fact, as we don't know, I'm not sure anyone knows where they're from, why they're here. All the big questions we answer, but we can say that they're not ours.”

Stefanie Black on Twitter asked how Knapp or Cahill think we can create less fear in our society surrounding these phenomena, and Cahill said it’s about ridding the stigma.

“Inherently, the unknown brings fear to most folks. At the risk of offending a number of people who consider themselves experiencers, in general, the populace is not experiencing negative effects of this phenomenon to my knowledge. So it being an existential threat, something that keeps you up at night, something that truly worries you, I don't think you should worry about it any more than lightning, frankly, but that said, as we become more educated to anything that inspires fear in people or the unknown, you learn about it,” he said.

If someone speaks up, he said they need to not be seen as mentally ill. 

“Now does that stuff that would be more off the wall for some folks, does that belong in the hearings? I don't think it goes immediately, that needs to proceed at the proper pace,” Cahill said.

For more information on Knapp's book, released last year, click here.

George Knapp, I-Team reporter, KLAS;  Sean Cahill, retired chief master-at-arms, Navy

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.