Aliens and UFOs were the topic du jour in Washington DC as the House Subcommittee on National Defense met to hear testimony from three men — two Navy pilots and one former intelligence officer — who are warning that the skies may not be as safe as Americans previously thought.
While the hearing was not specifically probing whether or not aliens have visited Earth — instead being ostensibly focused on the alleged prevalence of unidentified aerial objects over US skies — the discussion of extraterrestrials and "non-human biologics" no less permeated the discussion.
The three men who sat before the subcommittee were David Grusch, a former intelligence officer in the Air Force and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; former Navy pilot Ryan Graves, who claims to have encountered UAPs during missions; and David Fravor, another Navy pilot, who recorded the infamous "Tic Tac" UAP video in 2004.
The witnesses agreed that the US is lacking in a proper reporting system for UAP sightings, with Mr Graves noting that both military and commercial pilots who claim to have encountered the craft feel as though they cannot report the sightings without suffering stigma and potential career retaliation.
Mr Graves was most concerned with the dearth of reporting options for pilots who encounter the supposed craft. He had his own experience in 2014, when a squadron under his command encountered "dark grey or black cubes ... inside of a clear sphere, where the apex or tips of the cubs were touching the inside of that sphere" approximately 10 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.
He said his pilots described the craft performing impossible aerial maneuvers that he said would kill a human and were far beyond the capability of any known technology.
Mr Graves further stated that such encounters were "not rare, or isolated" and that there was no official means of reporting such encounters.
"If everyone could see the sensor and video data I witnessed, our national conversation would change," Mr Graves said in his opening statement. "I urge us to put aside stigma and address the security and safety issue this topic represents. If UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem. If it is something else, it is an issue for science. In either case, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety. The American people deserve to know what is happening in our skies. It is long overdue."
Mr Fravor offered an account of his 2004 incident off the coast of San Diego, during which he said he encountered a "smooth" white object he likened to a tic tac mint or a propane tank. He said he spotted it hovering over the water before it rapidly ascended, accelerated, and disappeared. He noted that there was white water beneath the craft — suggesting something may have been under the water — and that the white water was gone after it disappeared.
"I think what we experienced was, like I said, well beyond the material science and the capabilities that we had at the time, that we have currently or that we're going to have in the next 10 to 20 years," Mr Fravor said.
The "Tic Tac video" was featured in a 2017 New York Times article discussing UAPs written by the same individuals who first reported on Mr Grusch's whistleblower claims.
Both pilots agreed that the UAPs they encountered represented national security threats to the United States.
Mr Grusch, who spent 14 years working as an intelligence officer, offered the most fantastic of the claims during the hearing, but provided the least evidence of any of the witnesses.
He said he decided to blow the whistle on the US government after learning from another individual that the US has retrieved wreckage from UAPs and is currently reverse-engineering the technology.
“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,” he said.
He further claimed that a UAP the size of a football field has been concealed somewhere, and that "non-human biologics" were found piloting some of the crashed UAPs.
Mr Grusch has made clear that he was not a personal witness to any of what he claims, but is repeating what he was told by individuals he deems as credible.
The Pentagon has denied his claims of a coverup. Sue Gough, a Defense Department spokesperson, said investigators have not found “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.” The statement did not address the recovery of craft not suspected of being extraterrestrial in nature.
During the hearing, Congressman Tim Burchett asked Mr Grusch if he was aware of anyone who had been harmed in the interest of the US government maintaining secrecy about the alleged crashed UAPs.
"Do you have any personal knowledge of people who have been harmed or injured in efforts to cover-up or conceal these extra-terrestrial technologies," he asked.
“Yes. Personally,” he replied.
Mr Burchett then asked, "has anyone been murdered?"
Mr Grusch hesitated for a moment. "I have to be careful asking [sic] that question," he said, citing a current investigation into whether or not he was the subject of retaliatory action for whistleblowing. "I directed people with that knowledge to the appropriate authorities."
He further went on to claim that he was aware of planned retaliation efforts against him by his former superiors in the US government, and that he was aware of unsanctioned "IRAD" programs in which government contractors were overcharging American government buyers and using the excess profit to funnel into DOD research programs.
Lines for the hearing stretched far down the hall, with UFO enthusiasts mixing alongisde the media in hopes of witnessing "disclosure" — the long-awaited acknowledgment by the US government that we are not alone in the universe.
However, they were left with only a tease of information; each time Mr Grusch was asked to provide specific information — details about the IRAD programs, the locations of supposed crashed UAPs, specifics about the "non-human" entities allegedly found with the wreckage — he assured the Congressional leaders that he knew the answers, but could not provide them publicly. He said he could provide specific information only in a closed session or in a secure environment, citing confidentiality concerns.
The bipartisan subcommittee expressed appreciation for the witnesses' testimonies and broadly operated from the position that the government was withholding information concerning the true nature of UAPs — whether they are controlled by foreign adversaries, aliens, or something else entirely — and several members assured the witnesses they would be protected for possible retaliation.
While Mr Graves and Mr Fravor said they did not experience blowback for their reports, Mr Grusch claimed he had, prompting Congressman Jamie Raskin to ask for details about his experiences.
He said he was aware of "active planned reprisal" coming from "leadership at my previous organisation," and said he referred to the retaliation as "administrative terrorism."
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez centred her questioning on Mr Grusch's claims concerning independent research and development — IRAD — programs funneling money from American government buyers into "unsanctioned" DOD programs.
Earlier in his testimony, Mr Grusch told Congressman Jared Moskowitz he was aware of IRADs funding "unsanctioned" development of "advanced technology."
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said she had seen IRAD programs and regulations requiring agencies initiating research to notify oversight bodies abused, and asked "if you were me, where would you look" to find evidence for the claims that government contract money was being siphoned to unrelated research and development.
Mr Grush said he would be happy to provide the details "in a closed environment" and said he could tell her "specifically."
Congresswoman Nancy Mace zeroed in on what many of the attendees were likely hoping to hear addressed; the existence of aliens.
“Do you believe our government has made contact with intelligence extraterrestrials,” she asked.
Mr Grusch said it was “something I can’t discuss in a public setting,” resulting in a curious eyebrow raise from longtime UFO researcher, reporter, and occasional Coast to Coast AM guest host George Knapp, who was seated behind Mr Grusch.
Ms Mace continued, asking “if you believe we have crashed craft ... do we have the bodies of the pilots who piloted [these] craft?”
“As I’ve stated publicly already in my News Nation interview, biologics came with some of these recoveries, yeah.”
She then asked if they were “human or non-human biologics?”
“Non-human, and that was the assessment of people with direct knowledge on the program I talked to, [who] are still on the program,” he said.
Ms Mace then asked if any evidence — photo, video, eyewitnesses — of such creatures existed.
“The specific documentation I would have to talk to you in a SCIF about,” he replied.
Congressman Glenn Grothman, who chaired the subcommittee, said he anticipated legislation would come out of continued, closed-door discussions with the witnesses.
"Several of us are going to look forward to getting some answers in a more confidential setting," he said. "I assume some legislation will come out of this."