A former intelligence officer-turned-whistleblower told Congress Wednesday that top government officials have hidden a top-secret program to find and study alien UFOs — and that he fears for his life for choosing to speak out.

“I’ve suffered retaliation for my decision, but I am hopeful that my actions will ultimately lead to a positive outcome of increased transparency,” Air Force Maj. David Grusch told the House Oversight Committee Wednesday.

Grusch claimed that a highly secret program exists to retrieve and reverse-engineer extraterrestrial unidentified flying objects — and that Congress has never been briefed on its operations, or even knew of its existence. The former officer was working at the satellite-focused National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, on a task force created in 2019 to study unmanned aerial phenomenon or UAPs.

“I’m speaking to the facts as I’ve been told them,” Grusch said. “I was informed in the course of my officials duties of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse engineering program, to which I was denied access.”

The retired airman’s testimony in front of Congress will likely to inflame suspicion among the growing proportion of Americans who have little trust in government, especially when fascination with extraterrestrial objects is on the rise. In a 2021 Gallup poll, more than 40% of respondents blamed alien spacecraft for at least some of the unidentified incidents in recent years.

The Pentagon’s head of UFO research and analysis has previously denied the existence of an alien exploitation program. Sean Kirkpatrick, who leads the Pentagon All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, told senators in April that there was “no credible evidence” that any objects being examined by his office were of extraterrestrial origin.

The Pentagon did not respond to request for comment about Grusch’s alleged conversations with Kirkpatrick, but a Pentagon spokesperson denied claims about a retrieval and reverse engineering program.

“To date, [the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office] 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,” spokesperson Sue Gough said.

Lawmakers, however, took his allegations about fears for his life seriously.

“He’s coming forward, in fear of his life,” said Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., said. “If they were really not scared about this information coming out, why would someone be intimidated like that?”

“There would be bipartisan rejection of any attempt to vilify, demonize or engage in other reprisals against our witnesses and people who were telling the truth from their perspective,” added Rep. Jaime Raskin, D-Md.

Two other former Navy pilots also testified Wednesday about their own interactions with unidentified phenomena while operating U.S. military aircraft. Retired Cdr. David Fravor, formerly head of “The Black Aces” squadron, and former Lt. Ryan Graves told lawmakers of their own experiences with unidentified objects on their routine flying missions.

Fravor had experienced the famous incident in 2004 of a tic tac-shaped object that moved at incredible speeds and directions. Graves, who now heads the Americans for Safe Aerospace, talked about how a “black cube in a clear sphere” had flown between two F-18′s on a routine mission off the coast of Virginia. He also described other spherical shapes that traveled at Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound, while on routine flights.

“Parts of our government are more aware about UAP than they let on,” Graves said. “Excessive classification processes keep crucial information hidden.”

Zamone “Z” Perez is a reporter at Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.

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