Nevertheless, a few months later, in June, UFOs climbed higher up the executive chain. George Stephanopoulos asked Donald Trump about the Navy’s reported UFO incidents. Trump said he’d been briefed, yeah, sure. “People are saying they’re seeing UFOs,” he said. “Do I believe it? Not particularly.”

The president, though, wasn’t the only one to get a briefing. That same month, senators gathered in a “that’s classified” way to learn about military UFO encounters. Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Day said the meeting centered “on efforts to understand and identify these threats to the safety and security of our aviators.” Later, Sen. Mark Walker accused the Navy of withholding UFO info, saying, “There is frustration with the lack of answers to specific questions about the threat that superior aircraft flying in United States airspace may pose.”

These responses—about “de-confliction,” pilot safety, and threats—all share the subtext that UFOs represent a national security menace. As the year went on, the military showed the thread of threat held not just for spaceships but also for the earthlings who are into them. In June, a goateed college student created a satirical Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.”