(WASHINGTON) — UFOs aren’t often discussed in Washington, D.C., and former members of Congress don’t often hold hearings.
But that’s what’s happening this week at the National Press Club, where the UFO advocacy group Paradigm Research has paid $20,000 each to former Sen. Mike Gravel and former Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, Merrill Cook, Lynn Woolsey, Carolyn Kilpatrick, and Darlene Hooley, all Democrats, to stage a five-day “hearing” modeled after congressional proceedings to examine evidence of UFO sightings and the possibility of advanced extraterrestrial life.
The program has an eye toward government disclosure of whatever the military and intelligence communities may know about the subject.
On Wednesday, UFO experts said they were certain of a government cover-up.
The former lawmakers heard from Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center, who recounted eyewitness reports of unidentified flying objects, hovering motionless and able to change direction more quickly than earthly technologies would seem to allow.
Lawmakers appeared partially swayed, but not sold on the idea that extraterrestrial beings have used advanced technology to visit Earth and lift animals from fields with beams — and that multiple world governments have been silent.
“I’d have to be pretty arrogant to think that, out there in this huge universe, there isn’t some civilization more advanced than ours,” Bartlett said.
“Isn’t it a leap to say, ‘UFOs exist,’ and then say it’s E.T.?” asked Cook. “Is it the only explanation?”
Woolsey told ABC News she agreed to appear on the panel because she’s interested in government transparency.
Gravel, the former Democratic Alaska senator who ran for president in 2008, told ABC News he doesn’t believe UFO sightings necessarily mean extraterrestrial life exists.
“We don’t know, but the reason we conclude it’s extraterrestrial is because there’s no explanation of the phenomenon of all these sightings,” Gravel said. He bemoaned “the American government keeping this information from the American public and the people of the world. … There’s no question that there’s something going on that’s not explainable.”
At one point during the “hearing,” Kilpatrick appeared to buy into theories of extraterrestrial life.
“What you all have unveiled is there’s something out there, we’re not alone,” Kilpatrick said.
The Wednesday morning session, attended by 55 or 60 in a dim auditorium at the Press Club, will be featured in an upcoming documentary being produced by Paradigm, the same group that arranged the event.
According to organizer Stephen Bassett, who founded Paradigm in 1996 as a political-advocacy and lobbying group to pressure the government to release information on UFOs, the whole event will wind up costing $600,000. Funding was supplied by a wealthy Canadian donor named Thomas Clearwater, Bassett told ABC News.
“Congress is out of the game. Let me tell you, the president is out of the game,” Bassett told ABC News. “It is run within the military-intelligence community.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jackson Adams, Teton Valley News
AJ Willingham, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN