July 27, 2023 By James McCarten, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Age-old political concerns — national security, public safety, government oversight and the sanctity of taxpayer dollars — emerged Wednesday alongside the unlikeliest of bedfellows: the enduring mythology of UFOs.
Rechristened as unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, the unsolved mysteries of the skies have undergone a dramatic image overhaul in recent years, thanks to ever-more credible tales of close encounters and diminished public trust in government.
Gone are dismissive references to flying saucers and “little green men,” replaced by a much more modern and pervasive conspiracy theory reflective of 21st-century U.S. politics: your government is lying to you.
That message came through loud and clear Wednesday as a trio of former military and intelligence officials urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill to get serious about exposing UAPs and top-secret government efforts to investigate them.
“We need to tell the folks at the Pentagon they work for us, dadgum it, we don’t work for them,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
“This is an issue of government transparency. We can’t trust a government that does not trust its people.”
Wednesday’s star witness was David Grusch, a former air force major and intelligence officer armed with classified details of what he calls covert government efforts to retrieve and reverse engineer vehicles of “non-human origin.”
Grusch, formerly of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, told the online aerospace outlet The Debrief last month that he’d seen evidence of those decades-long efforts yielding “intact and partially intact vehicles.”
The Pentagon has denied knowledge of any such program.
Grusch said since going public, he has been targeted for “very brutal” professional reprisals, although he refused to elaborate because of what he said was an ongoing whistleblower investigation.
He said he has personal knowledge of others being harmed or injured as part of an effort to suppress details about the research, and was coy when Burchett asked him point-blank if anyone had ever been killed.
“I have to be careful in (answering) that question,” he said. “I directed people with that knowledge to the appropriate authorities.”
Grusch was flanked at the witness table by two other former military men throughout the two-hour hearing, both with first-hand stories to tell about their own encounters with unexplained, physics-defying objects.
David Fravor, a retired former U.S. Navy commander, described a strike fighter training mission in which he and his fellow pilots were tasked with investigating an anomaly off the California coast in 2004.
“All four of us … looked down and saw a small, white ‘Tic Tac’ object with a longitudinal axis pointing north-south and moving very abruptly over the water, like a ping-pong ball,” Fravor told the committee.
He later likened it to a “giant flying propane tank.”
“The Tic Tac object we engaged in 2004 was far superior to anything that we had (at the) time, have today or are looking to develop in the next 10 years.”
Ryan Graves, executive director of Americans for Safe Aerospace, was an F-18 fighter pilot who encountered UAP during a training mission off the coast of Virginia in 2014.
The object — “a dark grey cube inside of a clear sphere,” he said — had no visible means of propulsion, and yet was able to accelerate at Mach 1 speeds and hold its position in the air, even in high winds.
“I am a formally trained engineer, and I have no explanation for this,” he said.
Since founding the organization, it now has 5,000 members, Graves added — many of whom are only willing to tell their stories under condition of anonymity, fearing the stigma and reprisals that tend to accompany such reports.
He said it’s vital that the subject of UAP become a mainstream topic to ease the stigma and allow more people — the vast majority of them commercial pilots, he said — to come forward and add to the discussion.
“Stigma surrounding UAP should not undermine the seriousness of this domain awareness gap,” Graves said.
“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, it is a concern for safety of flight.”
All three witnesses called on Congress to establish a reporting system to create a database, correlate multiple sightings of the same object and learn more about what’s really going in, Fravor said.
“It’s a travesty that we don’t have a system to correlate this and actually investigate,” he said. “I think you need to develop something that allows you a central point to collect the data in order to investigate.”
A handful of Republican committee members seized on the chance to attack President Joe Biden over his handling of the Chinese spy balloon that drifted over Canada and the continental U.S. earlier this year.
But no one in the hearing, Republican or Democrat, tried to challenge the witnesses or cross-examine their testimony, a remarkable display considering both the subject matter and the political climate.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) both appeared focused on how to ensure eyewitnesses would be able to come forward without facing personal or professional consequences.
“There would be bipartisan rejection of any attempt to vilify, demonize or engage in other reprisals against our witnesses and people who are telling the truth from their perspective,” Raskin said.