UFOs, Aliens, and the Deep State

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In a recent exclusive interview with NewsNation, David Grusch, a former United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office employee, has made some startling claims. He alleges that the United States and some other countries possess intact and partially intact vehicles of non-human origin.

Grusch accuses the US intelligence community of illegally withholding information from Congress and the public about secret government programmes to retrieve and reverse-engineer these vehicles.

According to Grusch, the United States has been embroiled in an undisclosed cold war with adversary nations for eight decades to secure asymmetric national defence advantages by exploiting the technology of the recovered conveyances, which he claims sometimes contain dead pilots.

If true, his revelations will have seismic implications for humanity’s future. They will revolutionise our understanding of life in the universe. On a negative note, they may also permanently erode trust in public institutions. But given that he is not the first whistleblower to claim humanity’s encounter with non-human intelligent life forms, how seriously should we consider Grusch’s allegations?


UFO whistleblowers and their media enablers

The most prominent example of past UFO whistleblowers is Bob Lazar. Back in 1989, Lazar claimed to have worked as a physicist and engineer in the S-4 section of Area 51, a highly secretive US Air Force facility in Nevada.

Lazar supposedly worked on reverse-engineering an alien material called “element 115” that powers extraterrestrial spacecraft. He also claims to have witnessed nine flying discs of extraterrestrial origin stowed in a hangar.

Lazar is not, however, what he insists he is. His academic credentials from MIT and Caltech could not be verified as authentic. There is no record of him ever being employed as a physicist. He was convicted twice for criminal activities. In 2017, the FBI and local police raided his business. Lazar described the raid as an attempt to recover samples of “element 115” that he had stolen from a government lab.

A freedom of information request, however, produced records which show that the raid was part of a murder investigation. The investigators wanted to ascertain whether the company owned by Lazar sold thallium to a Michigan murder suspect.

Unlike Lazar, David Grusch doesn’t have a chequered past. His academic and professional background checks out. Journalists who first broke his story claim that anonymous sources within the US intelligence establishment vouch for Grusch. A recently retired colonel has backed him publicly.

Grusch also followed the official protocol for whistleblowers. He filed a whistleblower complaint with the relevant authorities and received clearance for the NewsNation interview. By all appearances, Grusch seems to fit the bill for a credible whistleblower.

Still, his account is undermined by the fact that he has not produced any evidence supporting his allegations. Unlike Lazer, Grusch does not claim he ever experienced first-hand encounters with alien technology. Instead, Grusch collected testimonies from current and former intelligence officers who he says have confided in him and supplied him with documents concerning the existence of these secretive programmes. He has yet to make these testimonies and documents public.

His supporters point out that Grusch is not at liberty to disclose classified documents, and following proper protocol, he handed them over to Congress, the IC and DOD inspector generals. They also argue that Grusch has taken significant personal risks by testifying, as he could face prosecution if it is later found out that he is lying.

Grusch’s professional background compels us to give his allegations our utmost consideration. Yet, when judged by the standards of scientific rigour, the inner inconsistencies of his account do not allow it to pass muster.

As some critics have pointed out, crash landing is a common trope in science-fiction literature and movies. In reality, however, there is no reason to believe that extraterrestrials capable of intergalactic travel haven’t yet perfected the art of landing. It is difficult to fathom how despite developing such advanced technology, they still require pilots to fly these machines, who seem pretty incompetent at their job. It’s as if they never bothered to develop drone technology.

Grusch wants us to believe that the United States and its adversaries like China and Russia have successfully kept their cold war vis-à-vis deciphering alien technology secret for over eighty years. This suggests that quite a few people worldwide are engaged in retrieving and back-engineering alien technology. Additionally, there will be others tasked with making sure that this knowledge remains secret.

Research findings, however, tell us that the greater the number of individuals involved in a conspiracy, the sooner the public becomes aware of it. If governments are running these covert programmes for such an extended period, more whistleblowers should have already come forward and that too with hard, tangible, and verifiable evidence.

When Edward Snowden first blew the whistle on the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, he backed up his claim with solid evidence. Despite the fanfare, their inability to produce compelling evidence means that none of these self-proclaimed UFO whistleblowers is remotely comparable to Snowden.

The question then becomes: why do journalists keep covering their stories? The simple answer is that there is a ready supply of journalists who are UFO enthusiasts themselves and more than willing to lend their sympathetic ears to people with stories about UFOs.

Looking into the backgrounds of Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal — journalists who broke the Grusch story — we find that both have published works on alien encounters. Indeed, Kean’s journalistic career revolves around this topic. For example, her book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record is based on interviews with dozens of officials and eyewitnesses about UFO encounters.

Similarly, Blumenthal’s book The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack tells stories of people reporting abduction by aliens.

The Grusch story first appeared in The Debrief, a little-known science and technology news site with a penchant for churning out articles on unexplained phenomena. Kean and Blumenthal initially pitched their story to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Politico. But none of these mainstream news outlets agreed to run it without corroborating evidence.

Ross Coulthart, an Australian investigative journalist, who interviewed Grusch for NewsNation, maintained a sceptical attitude throughout the segment. Yet he also has a history of chasing after UFO-sighting stories. Coulthart’s latest book is on UFO encounters called In Plain Sight: An Investigation Into UFOs and Impossible Science.

In a nutshell, none of the journalists who interviewed Grusch required much convincing from him since they have long suspected governments of running these programmes.

Believers in UFO contact, à la believers in the afterlife, rely upon testimonies to reinvigorate their faith. If Grusch and Lazar are the messiahs of this movement, journalists like Kean and Blumenthal are its high priests spreading their gospel. Ultimately, the UFO Contact Movement, like any faith system, relies on testimonies, not verifiable evidence.

The UFO Crowd and its endless war against the Deep State

A 2015 YouGov poll found that more than half of Americans believe in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. The recent hullabaloo surrounding UFO sightings suggests their numbers have probably increased. But when we have bona fide scientists investigating extraterrestrial life, what distinguishes them from those who believe we are not alone, especially those who have turned this belief into a monomania?

The answer lies in the fact that there is a vast gulf between the investigative methods scientists deploy in their hunt for alien life and those used by run-of-the-mill UFO hunters.

Astronomers, for instance, are on the lookout for and have already discovered several exoplanets in the habitable zone. Scientists at the non-profit SETI Institute use radio telescopes to capture potential radio signals from distant alien civilisations. They collaborate with other scientists from different government branches and recruit volunteers from the general public through the SETI@home initiative. The public is regularly updated on the most recent findings. Nobody has accused them of running any shadowy operations behind closed doors.

That’s because average UFO sleuths are not particularly keen on discovering whether there is microbial life in the sea of liquid water beneath the icy crust of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s many moons. They show scant interest in scientists’ attempts to establish contact with distant alien civilisations.

Instead, they seem preoccupied with aliens that they believe not only visit our planet regularly but also leave us souvenirs in the form of advanced technology that has fallen into the hands of governments, particularly the US government. Indeed, it may not be an exaggeration to suggest that not even these alien visitors but the technology they supposedly leave on Earth and the potential military misuse of it is what fascinates believers in UFO contact and inspires them to spin conspiracy theories.

In light of this background, it makes sense that David Grusch is fixated on governments secretly reverse-engineering alien technology for military purposes while showing little interest in dead alien pilots. But surely, the discovery of extraterrestrial life forms is more remarkable than that of alien vehicles. Grusch unexpectedly made his revelation about dead aliens in his interview with NewsNation and only after he was explicitly asked about it. Even the journalists who first broke his story on The Debrief were unaware of this crucial information.

In the end, his story, like any other UFO conspiracy theories, is more about government coverups and conspiracies and less about the existence of aliens. No wonder the prime targets of UFO conspiracy theorists are the highly restrictive US military research facilities.

As it continues to thrive and attract more members despite the dearth of any credible evidence of alien contact, what explains the resilience and longevity of the UFO Contact Movement? One explanation could be that, like a religious movement, it thrives on belief, not knowledge.

Knowledge is straightforward; you either have access to it, or you don’t. Belief, on the other hand, occupies that liminal space between certainty and uncertainty. Unlike knowledge, belief withers away without replenishment.

Believers in an afterlife, for instance, have no evidence that it exists. They’re hardly ever desperate enough to cut their life short and find out for themselves. Instead, they rely upon testimonies from others — often religious figures and their disciples — who reinforce their belief by vouching for its existence.

After the airing of the Grush interview, the UFO crowd has taken to social media platforms in strength to celebrate vindication. Grusch’s impeccable background is evidence enough for them to deem his claims credible. Who needs verifiable evidence when the person who asserts to be in possession of it sounds credible enough and is trusted by his peers?

Believers in UFO contact, à la believers in the afterlife, rely upon testimonies to reinvigorate their faith. If Grusch and Lazar are the messiahs of this movement, journalists like Kean and Blumenthal are its high priests spreading their gospel. Ultimately, the UFO Contact Movement, like any faith system, relies on testimonies, not verifiable evidence.

Most religions tell us the story of an eternal struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Believers in UFO contact find themselves in an interminable conflict with the forces of the so-called Deep State. They accuse this shadowy entity of hiding the truth about UFOs, and a sense of betrayal and humiliation pervades the invectives they often level against it.

After the Lazar story ended in ignominy, they have long been waiting for someone appropriately placed within the Deep State to confirm their long-held suspicions. Thus, when Grusch comes forward and the high dudgeon with which he enumerates his allegations in the NewsNation interview, he immediately establishes a rapport with this community.

Like many religious people, these soi-disant truth seekers are also plagued by an eschatological dread, as they constantly worry about the ramifications of the potential weaponisation of non-human technology for humanity.

Conspiracy theories about the US government running programmes to reverse extraterrestrial technology to develop mind-controlling devices and chemicals have found their way from fringe internet forums to the corridors of power in Washington. Consequently, there is a recent proliferation in Congressional interest in investigating the existence of UFO exploitation programmes.

To be sure, not all lawmakers subscribe to these outré ideas. Most of them view unidentified anomalous phenomena as a potential security threat. Without substantial evidence, however, gauging the threat’s full extent remains unfeasible. Relying on whistleblower testimonies not backed by evidence will only lead us to misguided conclusions.

What should we then make of Grush’s allegations? Is he a charlatan like Lazar, peddling a tall tale to gain publicity? Not necessarily. Grusch may be telling the truth in the sense that he is repeating in good faith what others have told him.

These anonymous sources who confided in Grusch may also be telling the truth — albeit subjective — because they sincerely believe the technology they encounter or work on has not originated on this planet. Scientists who work on perfecting human-developed advanced technologies but did not play any part in developing them may harbour suspicions of their true origins and eventually come to the conclusion that they are extraterrestrial.

This scenario is not as implausible as it initially sounds. In American Cosmic, Diana Pasulka, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, relates her fascinating encounters with scientists who earnestly believe they have come across objects of extraterrestrial origin on this planet and are privately carrying out research to unravel the mysteries hidden in these curios.

 A further distinction is thus warranted between scientists searching for alien life in distant worlds and scientists attempting to decipher objects they believe are created by non-human intelligence. Needless to say, the UFO crowd primarily relies on the latter group’s testimonies.

We can expect further developments in the Grusch saga after Congress holds its planned hearings on Grusch’s allegations. But the fate of the UFO Contact Movement doesn’t depend on the veracity of Grusch’s claims. For it was never based on a quest for the truth about aliens. It has always been a strange concoction of a fascination with dystopian technologies and an atavistic fear of government control.

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