US conducted ‘multi-decade’ secret UFO program, ex-intelligence official says

The US government conducted a “multi-decade” program which collected, and attempted to reverse-engineer, crashed UFOs, a former American intelligence official told a remarkable congressional hearing on Wednesday.

David Grusch, who led analysis of unexplained anomalous phenomena (UAP) within a US Department of Defense agency until 2023, told the House oversight committee in Washington that “non-human” beings had been found, as the issue of alien life received its highest profile airing to date.

Related: UFO congressional hearing: what to know and how we got here

The hearing was prompted by claims from Grusch in June that the government was secretly harboring alien space craft. On Wednesday, Grusch repeated some of those claims – although not all – under oath.

“I was informed, in the course of my official duties, of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse-engineering program, to which I was denied access,” Grusch told the committee.

The hearing attracted intense global interest, and provided speculation and claims that the US is hiding evidence of alien life and technology – mixed with large doses of skepticism.

Grusch filed a whistleblower complaint in 2022. He said that in his role in the government he had been charged with investigating what military, defense and other agencies knew about aliens and alien craft, but alleged he had been prevented from accessing secret government UFO programs.

Speaking on Wednesday, Grusch said he has faced “very brutal” retaliation as a result of his allegations.

“It hurt me both professionally and personally,” Grusch said.

Under questioning, Grusch confirmed that he had knowledge of “people who have been harmed or injured” in the course of government efforts to conceal UFO information.

Asked by an oversight committee member if he had “feared for his life”, Grusch replied: “Yes definitely.”

Grusch added: “I am hopeful that my actions will ultimately lead to a positive outcome of increased transparency.”

Grusch’s allegation, aired in interviews with the Debrief and NewsNation, that the federal government was hiding this evidence of alien craft from Congress sparked a firestorm in June, prompting the Republican-led oversight committee to launch an immediate investigation.

Since then, the intrigue around what evidence the government has, or doesn’t have, around UFOs has only intensified.

Tim Burchett, a Republican congressman from Tennessee who is co-leading the UFO investigation, has claimed in recent weeks that the US had evidence of technology that “defies all of our laws of physics”, and that alien craft possess technology that could “turn us into a charcoal briquette”.

On Wednesday, however, Burchett sought to downplay, somewhat, what people would hear.

“We’re not bringing little green men or flying saucers into the hearing. Sorry to disappoint about half y’all. We’re just going to get to the facts,” Burchett said.

That announcement drew a chuckle, but Burchett became more serious as he accused government agencies of a lack of cooperation with the oversight committee investigation.

“It’s been so difficult to get here today. In the Baptist church we say that the devil is in our way, and the devil has been in our way for this thing. We’ve run into roadblocks from members, the intelligence community, [and] the Pentagon.

While there were no little green men in the hearing, Grusch did claim that the US has recovered alien beings.

After Grusch had reiterated his position that the government had possession of crashed extraterrestrial vehicles, he was asked if “we have the bodies of the pilots who piloted this craft?”

“As I’ve stated publicly already in my NewsNation interview, biologics came with some of these recoveries,” Grusch said.

These biologics, Grusch said, were: “Non-human, and that was the assessment of people with direct knowledge on the program I talked to, that are currently still on the program.”

Tim Burchett, centre, who is co-leading the UFO investigation.

Tim Burchett, centre, who is co-leading the UFO investigation. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

He said the government had likely had knowledge of “non-human” activity since the 1930s. At times, however, appeared Grusch was less forthcoming under oath than he had been in media interviews.

In the interview with NewsNation in June, Grusch claimed the government had “very large, like a football-field kind of size” alien craft, while he told Le Parisien, a French newspaper, that the US had possession of a “bell-like craft” which Benito Mussolini’s government had recovered in northern Italy in 1933.

On Wednesday, Grusch seemed unwilling to go into details on those claims, citing issues of security. Grusch told the hearing he was prepared to elaborate in private, but his reticence prompted speculation from doubters.

Garrett Graff, a journalist and historian who is writing a book on the government’s hunt for UFOs, tweeted: “Very interesting to me that Dave Grusch is unwilling to state and repeat under oath at the #UFOHearings the most explosive (and outlandish) of his claims from his NewsNation interview. He seems to be very carefully dancing around repeating them.”

The run-up to the hearing had been marked by accusations from Burchett and his co-investigator, Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican congresswoman from Florida, that they had been “stonewalled” by federal officials.

Yet after the hearing, Burchett, who has previously claimed alien craft possess technology that could “turn us into a charcoal briquette”, and alleged that the US has been hiding evidence of UFOs since 1947, seemed fairly satisfied.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said he had found Grusch’s claims about the recovery of “non-human” bodies to be credible.

“I don’t want to oversimplify it, but how are you going to fly one [spaceship]? You got to have somebody in it. That seems to be pretty simple,” Burchett said.

Asked what he had learned about alien craft in the course of his investigation, Burchett said: “I believe they exist. I knew that before I came in here. I didn’t learn a lot because I knew the answers already, but I was glad they put it in the record.”

The Pentagon has denied Grusch’s claims of a coverup. In a statement, defense department spokeswoman Sue Gough said investigators have not discovered “any verifiable information to substantiate claims that any programs regarding the possession or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials have existed in the past or exist currently”.

Other witnesses at the hearing were David Fravor, a former navy commander who on Wednesday recalled seeing a strange object in the sky while on a training mission in 2004, and Ryan Graves, a retired navy pilot who has claimed that he saw unidentified aerial phenomena off the Atlantic coast “every day for at least a couple years”.

Graves, who has since founded Americans for Safe Aerospace, a UAP non-profit, Graves said he was appearing “to voice the concerns of more than 30 commercial aircrews and military veterans who have confided their similar encounters with me”.

Asked if there were similarities between his sightings and others that have been reported, he said many of the UFOs reported were “dark grey or black cubes inside of clear sphere” where “the apex or tips of the cube were touching the inside of the sphere”.

For all the excitement and inevitable media speculation, some have cautioned against reading too much into what we might hear.

Grusch has not seen the alleged alien craft himself – he says his claims are based on “extensive interviews with high-level intelligence officials” – and skeptics have noted that accusations that the government is hiding information on UFOs are nothing new.

“The story aligns with a lot of similar stories that have played out, going back to the 1980s and 1970s, that together allege that the US government has kept an incredible secret, the literal most extraordinary secret that mankind could have, for not just weeks or months, but years and decades, with no meaningful leak or documentary evidence to ever come forward,” Graff previously told the Guardian.

“I think when you look at the government’s ability to keep secret other really important secrets, there’s a lot of reason to doubt the capability of the government to do that.”

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