Frustration on Capitol Hill is mounting after a string of aerial objects were shot down over U.S. and Canadian airspace in the last few days, raising a long list of questions that lawmakers say President Biden should publicly address.
Three unidentified flying objects (UFOs) have been shot down over North America since Friday, and the Pentagon has provided little information on what the objects were or where they came from.
“The president owes the American people an explanation, direct and on camera, of what we know about these ‘objects’ and what steps he’s taking to protect America’s sovereign airspace,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a Monday statement.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, also joined in the calls for President Biden to address the nation, noting the unprecedented nature of the military shooting down aircraft in U.S. airspace.
“NORAD’s been around almost 65 years,” he said of the command in charge of patrolling U.S. and Canadian airspace. “We’ve never shot anything down, and in eight days we’ve shot down four things. That’s a pretty big deal. It doesn’t happen every day.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rubio added in a tweet: “Americans need to hear directly about this from their President today.”
The White House wouldn’t commit to a public address from Biden during a briefing on Monday afternoon.
“We have been, I think, as transparent as we can be,” The White House’s national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “I won’t speak for the President’s personal speaking schedule. But, I mean, he has been deeply engaged in every one of these decisions.
White House’s national security spokesman John Kirby (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kirby added that Biden is “directing his team to make sure we are properly consulting and briefing not just members of Congress, but state leaders as well.”
In a vacuum of information about the objects, the White House said Monday there is no evidence of “aliens or extraterrestrial activity” with the incidents.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said people were “scared” and “believing crazy things being said on the internet.”
“There is a lack of transparency from the Biden admin and simple explanations are owed to the people,” Greene wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The first UFO was shot down on Friday afternoon over Alaska, the second was taken out on Saturday over the Yukon in northwest Canada and the third over Lake Huron in Michigan on Sunday.
All three incidents came about a week after a Chinese spy balloon capable of collecting communications intelligence was shot down off the coast of South Carolina after passing over much of the nation.
While the calls for answers are mostly from Republicans, Democrats from states that experienced a UFO incursion are joining in on the frustration.
Michigan lawmakers Sen. Gary Peters (D) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D) echoed requests for more information, as did Sen. Jon Tester from Montana, where the Chinese balloon had lingered earlier this month.
Sen. Gary Peters (D) (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Asked if Biden should speak out about the aerial objects, Tester said Monday, “That’s up to him.” He added that he still hoped to glean more information on “what they know, when they knew it, and what the plan is,” through hearings of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which he chairs.
Sen. Jon Tester from Montana (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)
A number of Democratic senators said they remain unsatisfied by the answers coming from the administration so far, but were hopeful that a briefing of all senators on Monday might shed more light on the situation.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he’s “not satisfied yet” with information provided by administration, while Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) added: “They’ve been doing a good job so far, but I do have a lot of questions.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. (AP Photo/John C. Clark, File)
The remarkable series of UFO shoot-downs has befuddled Americans, who are wondering why the U.S. is suddenly recognizing and shooting down a flurry of these objects.
Melissa Dalton, the assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, told reporters on Sunday the military has “been more closely scrutinizing our air space at these altitudes” with enhanced radar.
That “may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we’ve detected over the past week,” Dalton said.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said in a Monday statement if it was true the U.S. has just now opened up its radar technologies to detect UFOs, that would amount to “staggering intelligence failures.”
“How long have these objects operated in our airspace with impunity?” Gallagher asked, demanding “answers” from Biden.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
“There are times to err on the side of secrecy in national security operations. But when our fighter pilots are shooting down presumably hostile aerial objects all across America, it’s long past time for transparency.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised similar questions while speaking on the floor on Monday.
“What in the world is going on? Has the Biden administration just dialed the sensitivity of our radars all the way up? If so, what are the objects that we are just now noticing for the very first time?” McConnell asked. “Are they benign science projects and wayward weather balloons, or something more nefarious that we’ve somehow been missing all this time?”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on a trip to Belgium that the objects did not pose a military threat.
“They do, however, present a risk to civil aviation and potentially an intelligence collection threat, and we’ll get to the bottom of it,” he added.
United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
Canadian and U.S. crews are in the midst of recovering the downed UFOs for closer inspection. The Biden administration on Monday also announced an interagency task force to investigate the UFOs.
There are no known links of the UFOs to China or any other country or entity.
There have been some indications that some of the objects shot down were balloons, however that has not been confirmed by the Pentagon or White House.
CNN reported Monday on a Pentagon memo that the object shot down over Canada on Saturday appeared to be a “small, metallic balloon with a tethered payload below it.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested in a Sunday interview with ABC’s “This Week” the two UFOs shot down on Friday and Saturday were balloons.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
But the Pentagon has said those objects were much smaller than the Chinese spy balloon, which weighed about 2,000 pounds. And the Lake Huron object was an octagonal shape.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon expressed high confidence in identifying the Chinese spy balloon, which Beijing admitted was theirs but has referred to as a weather balloon.
Also in contrast to the UFOs, the Chinese spy balloon was tracked for days before the U.S. decided to take it down.
A balloon floats over Columbia, Mo., on Feb. 3, 2023. (Anna Griffin/Missourian via AP, File)
Unlike the Chinese spy balloon, which was hovering about 60,000 feet in the air, the UFOs were flying at about 40,000 feet or below and posed a threat to civilian airspace, according to the Pentagon, leading to a swift decision each time to take them out.
Emily Brooks and Al Weaver contributed.