Unfortunately for the dedicated alien conspiracy theorists among us, the time is apparently not yet nigh to don your tinfoil hats. The Biden Administration has declared that the recent instances of unidentified aerial objects being shot down over U.S. and Canadian territory are not related to extra-terrestrial life.
“I know there’ve been questions and concerns about this, but there is no—again no—indication of aliens or extra-terrestrial activity with these recent take downs,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a Monday afternoon press briefing. “Again there is no indication of aliens,” she emphasized for a third time, adding “We wanted to make sure that the American people knew that.”
“Would you tell us if there were?,” one journalist in the crowd of reporters shouted back. In response, Jean-Pierre chuckled and made a brief joke about the movie ET.
As recently as Sunday night, Pentagon officials had indicated that they weren’t ruling anything out yet—meaning aliens were still technically on the table. But the White House’s announcement seemingly squashes that pipe dream.
Wait, what’s going on?
Over the past three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) the U.S. Military has shot down, or aided in Canadian operations to shoot down, three different, as-of-yet unidentified aerial objects. According to White House officials, all of those objects were aimlessly drifting without propulsion in the atmosphere between about 20,000 and 40,000 feet, and thus posed a risk to commercial aircraft.
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The three, back-to-back-to-back take downs followed the earlier down-age of the 200-foot tall craft that U.S. officials are calling a Chinese surveillance or spy balloon. However, none of the subsequent aircraft targeted in recent days have been linked to China, or any particular owner—state, corporate, or otherwise. Further, officials haven’t determined any purpose, surveillance or otherwise, of any of the three most recent objects taken down, John Kirby, the Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, said in the Monday briefing.
“We need to separate the Chinese spy balloon…from these other three instances,” Kirby said.
Why is the U.S. suddenly shooting down these all of these objects now?
Following the Chinese balloon incident, the military adjusted its radar capabilities to better pick up on slow moving, high-altitude objects, Kirby said. The White House is attributing the recent, high number of unidentified aerial objects being seen and shot down, in part, to this change.
There have long been lots of different things floating in the atmosphere at high altitudes, the National Security Council spokesman noted. The skies contain objects deployed for “scientific research, weather balloons, and all manner of innocuous craft,” Kirby said. “One of the reasons that we think we’re seeing more [now], is that we’re looking for more.”
When it comes to deciding if/when/how to take floating objects down, Kirby added that the White House has been using a previously established protocol to assess whether or not the objects pose a “kinetic threat” to people on land, are transmitting data, are being propelled or moving, or are manned. In all three of the most recent cases, Kirby said U.S. officials determined the answer to those questions was “no.”
However, he reiterated multiple times that, because of their altitude and lack of directional movement, the objects could’ve posed a risk to commercial flight. He also added that, though there was no apparent evidence of it, U.S. officials were unable to entirely rule out surveillance capabilities from any of these three objects—further incentivizing the take-downs.
President Biden faced extensive flack over his “delayed” response to the suspected Chinese balloon from Republican legislators. Though, the White House has denied that conservative push back was a factor in forming the new, seemingly more aggressive tack on aerial objects.
What happens next?
Operations to retrieve and analyze all three of the now-destroyed objects, along with the remainder of the Chinese balloon, is underway. Though Kirby noted this could take awhile as all three of the most recent objects landed in remote, hard to reach areas (ex: the bottom of Lake Huron, the Canadian wilderness, over Alaskan sea ice).
Kirby indicated that the U.S. will continue to monitor for additional objects, but noted that there were none being tracked at the time of the news conference on Monday afternoon.
Separately from these three unidentified objects though, the ongoing debacle with the Chinese balloon raises separate concerns. Multiple journalists at the press briefing asked about the state of U.S./China relations in the aftermath of the balloon incident.
In response to those inquiries, the National Security Council spokesman outlined that the U.S. was maintaining its embassy in China and still has ongoing contact with officials, but that there are no immediate plans for President Biden to speak directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “People shouldn’t take away from this that all communication has been severed,” said Kirby. But, this “has certainly not helped us move forward [with China] in the way we wanted to move,” he added.
Chinese officials initially denied that the balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina more than a week ago was for spying or surveillance, and called it a weather balloon. However, more recently the Chinese government has shifted messaging and accused the U.S. of also sending surveillance balloons into their airspace. Asked about these accusations, Kirby said the U.S. “has no craft over Chinese airspace.” A journalist asked if that statement included contested or Chinese-claimed territories like Taiwan and parts of the South China Sea, and the Kirby declined to add more detail.
“I don’t think the American people need to worry about aliens with these craft. Period. I don’t think there’s any more that needs to be said there,” Kirby stated. But we might just need to worry about terrestrial conflict.