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Washington • UFOs may exist, but former Utah Rep. Merrill Cook isn't sure E.T. is piloting them.
After five days of testimony about flying saucers, unexplained glowing objects and first-hand accounts of encounters of the extraterrestrial kind, the former two-term congressman says he still isn't convinced aliens are among us.
One-time aviation officials, pilots, military brass and scientists took oaths to tell the truth before describing their own brushes with objects not of this world. Cook, who was paid $20,000 to participate in the Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, listened intently and gently reminded the witnesses of their time limits.
"I do not believe there has been any strong, credible evidence of [alien visits] at this point but I do think there has been some credible evidence of things that are unidentified that had been flying about," Cook said Friday.
"To say that that's an extraterrestrial source may be a stretch I think it is a stretch at this point," he added.
The weeklong event was set up to mirror a real congressional hearing, complete with a witness table, seats for journalists and audience members and even walled-off boxes in the back of the room for translators.
The parade of witnesses were somber and sincere, while at one point some audience members sported headbands with large gems purporting to be a "third eye." Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan even dropped by at one point.
On Friday, one of the speakers included a presentation about a "mother ship" he had seen.
Organizers hope that the conference, which is being filmed for a documentary, will draw attention to the incidents they say involve evidence of life beyond Earth and rally the public to demand the truth from their governments.
The White House, actually, has already responded to conspiracy theories about alien cover-ups.
"The government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race," the White House said in 2011 in response to two petitions signed by nearly 20,000 people. "In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."
Don't tell that to the crowd holding court in the press club's ballroom.
"It was completely untrue," says Stephen Bassett, executive director of the Paradigm Research Group. "I wonder sometimes if it wasn't deliberate because it's so easily attackable it's like a gift."
Stack all the testimony, records and pictures of alien existence against that one statement, Bassett said, and you'll see which is likely more true. Still, Bassett believes the hearings this week brought much-needed attention to the "truth embargo" and believes that full disclosure from the government could come this summer.
"What we want is for the president of the United States to come forward and acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence," he said.
Tough challenge, especially given that even those former members of Congress who were paid to sit through 40 hours of probing testimony were still unsure there's evidence of international travelers popping by for a visit.
"I certainly do not think it's ridiculous. I wouldn't have got myself involved in something ridiculous," says Cook, who served from 1997 to 2001. "But I would have to say ... if these people can bring forth evidence that at least the unidentified aspects are acknowledged by governments ... that knowledge might cause people to wonder what is the source."