The non-explanation, combined with the virtual silence of the national media for most of Tuesday, suggests that the incident is far more serious than its treatment by both the government and the media would suggest.
On Monday at 5:30 p.m. local time, a Los Angeles news helicopter crew filmed what appeared to be a large missile rising into the sky, with a billowing vapor trail in its wake. (See video)
More than 24 hours later, no explanation had been given by any government agency, civilian or military.
The media on Tuesday cited unnamed Pentagon sources as saying they had "no clue" about the "bizarre" and "unexplained" sighting. A Navy spokesman had earlier ruled out that his branch of the military had any role in the object videotaped, and a local Air Force base said it had not launched any missiles since November 5, when a rocket carried an Italian satellite into space.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) claimed they had detected no missile or any other large and fast-moving object in the area.
There was no comment from the White House. The unexplained event came with President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates all out of the country.
Even as it denied having any information on the unidentified object, the military asserted that it posed no threat to the US population. NORAD issued a joint statement with the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) confirming that the "contrail" -- the object's vapor trail -- was not the result of a foreign military having launched a missile. "We can confirm that there is no threat to our nation, and from all indications this was not a launch by a foreign military," the statement said.
No explanation was given as to how the military could assert something was not a threat while claiming it had no idea what it was.