Claims the US government has secretly retrieved crashed alien spacecraft and their non-human occupants are hardly new. They are firmly entrenched in post-war American UFO lore and conspiracy theory, inspiring the most famous narrative in ufology: the “Roswell incident”.

Now, however, journalists Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal have injected fresh vigour into these ageing claims – apparently with the Pentagon’s approval.

In an article for science and technology news site The Debrief, they report the US government, its allies, and defence contractors have retrieved multiple craft of non-human origin, along with the occupants’ bodies.

Additionally, they report this information has been illegally withheld from US Congress, the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office established by the US Department of Defense in 2022 to look into UFOs, and the public.

What are the claims

The primary source for the new claims is former US intelligence official David Grusch.

Grusch’s credentials, verified by Kean and Blumenthal, are impressive. He is a veteran of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. He represented both organisations on the US government’s task force studying unidentified aerial phenomena (the official term for UFOs).

Grusch says the retrieved materials are:

“of exotic origin (non-human intelligence, whether extraterrestrial or unknown origin) based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures”.

Grusch’s claims are supported by Jonathan Grey, who works for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, where he focuses on analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena. Grey told Kean and Blumenthal: “The non-human intelligence phenomenon is real. We are not alone […] Retrievals of this kind are not limited to the United States.”

Unidentified aerial phenomena, such as this video taken by a US Navy pilot released in 2020, have been a source of renewed interest in recent years. Credit: US Navy, Wikimedia Commons.

How credible are the claims?

Kean and Blumenthal are credible and accomplished reporters on UFOs.

In 2017, writing with Helene Cooper for the The New York Times, they revealed a secret $22 million Pentagon UFO research programme. That article did much to initiate a wider rethinking about UFOs, avoiding stereotypes, stigma and sensationalism.

Most of the subsequent “UFO turn” in US defence policy and public discourse has focused on images and eyewitness testimony of anomalous airborne objects. Now, Kean and Blumenthal may have brought anomalous objects themselves – and even their supposed non-human occupants – into the conversation.

Shortly after the Debrief article, Australian journalist Ross Coulthart’s interview with Grusch appeared on US news network News Nation. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Christopher Mellon, has also published an article in Politico calling for greater transparency.

This looks a lot like an orchestrated effort to convince the public (and US Congress) something much more substantial than “things in the sky we can’t explain” is going on.


Approved by the Pentagon

Grusch seems to have followed Pentagon protocol in publishing his information. Kean and Blumenthal write Grusch:

“provided the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review at the Department of Defense with the information he intended to disclose to us. His on-the-record statements were all ‘cleared for open publication’ on April 4 and 6, 2023, in documents provided to us.”

What does that mean? A Prepublication and Security Review is how the Pentagon confirms information proposed for public release is reviewed to ensure compliance with established national and Department of Defense policies, and to determine it: “contains no classified, controlled unclassified, export-controlled, or operational security related information”.

If Grusch’s information is true, it is surely both “classified” and “operational security related”. So why would the Pentagon approve its publication?

If Grusch’s information is false, it would probably not qualify as classified or operational security related. But this raises another question: why would the Pentagon approve the publication of an unfounded conspiracy theory about itself?

Doing so would likely mislead the public, journalists, and Congress. It would also undermine the Pentagon’s own attempt to understand the unidentified aerial phenomena problem: the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

An official denial

Indeed, the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office told News Nation it:

“has 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”.

Grusch has an explanation for this apparent ignorance. When it comes to unidentified aerial phenomena investigations, he says, the US government’s left hand doesn’t know what its right is doing, with: “multiple agencies nesting [unidentified aerial phenomena] activities in conventional secret access programs without appropriate reporting to various oversight authorities”.

Timothy Good’s classic 1987 exploration of UFO investigations, Above Top Secret, described similar bureaucracy.

Nested activities

The notion of “nested” unidentified aerial phenomena activities, segregating knowledge within vast bureaucracies, is partly what makes Grusch’s claims both intriguing and (for now) unverifiable.

If this is the case, organisations focusing on unidentified aerial phenomena, such as the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, may operate in earnest and report transparently on the best information they have. Yet they may also be deprived of information essential to their activities.

This would make them little more than PR fronts, designed to create the impression of meaningful action.

In the absence of direct experience of unidentified aerial phenomena, most of us rely on information about them to form our beliefs. Scrutinising how this information is produced and distributed is essential.

US government activity in this area will continue. Congressman James Comer, chair of the House Oversight Committee, has said he will hold a hearing on UFOs in response to Grusch’s allegations.

Adam Dodd is Tutor, School of Communication and the Arts, The University of Queensland.

This article was first published on The Conversation.