Before we get into this one, let's just say that we're deeply skeptical.

But there's no getting around the key claims of this story: an Air Force veteran and former member of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency named David Grusch has come forward, alleging in a series of interviews that the US government has secretly recovered alien spacecraft — and even dead "pilots" inside them — for decades as part of a top-secret UFO retrieval program.

Let's pause for a moment to point out that this is all unbelievably far-fetched. Even supposing that the government could successfully keep such an explosive secret for such a long time, the broader premise just doesn't make much sense. If aliens had the incredibly advanced technology to visit Earth, presumably from another star system, wouldn't they have the tech for the ships to be piloted autonomously, rather than wasting untold decades in transit? And why would they fly these incredibly advanced vessels to Earth, only to crash them? Are they interstellar drunk drivers?

At the very least, though, the whole thing is a fascinating dustup with the potential for a glimpse into secretive parts of the government. Grusch filed a whistleblower complaint, The Debrief reports, stating that he already gave classified "proof" to Congress that the government has been excluding Grusch and the rest of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force from accessing its program about the retrieval of non-human craft.

Grusch told the Debrief that the retrieved objects 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."

He added that the recovered material "includes intact and partially intact vehicles," adding that "these are retrieving non-human origin technical vehicles, call it spacecraft if you will, non-human exotic origin vehicles that have either landed or crashed."

"We’re definitely not alone," Grusch later told NewsNation the evening after the Debrief story was published. "The data points, quite empirically that we’re not alone."

In short, it sounds like we're talking about a full-blown UFO conspiracy theory that not only suggests we've been visited by numerous aliens, but that the government has actively been trying to cover up the evidence for decades.

Adding to the drama, the Air Force veteran went as far as to claim that the government managed to recover dead aliens inside the crash-landed spacecraft.

"Well, naturally, when you recover something that’s either landed or crashed," he told NewsNation. "Sometimes you encounter dead pilots and believe it or not, as fantastical as that sounds, it’s true."

And why's he coming forward now? To prepare the public for an "unexpected, non-human intelligence contact scenario," he told the Debrief. Grusch also said that "this is a global phenomenon, and yet a global solution continues to elude us." (Skeptics, of course, will point out that if multiple governments are in on the supposed coverup, it seems even more implausible that they could have managed to suppress evidence for all these years.)

That said, there are reasons why it's hard to outright dismiss the story. For instance, Grusch's account was corroborated by Christopher Mellon, who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and worked with Congress on UAP reports.

Mellon told the Debrief that a "number of well-placed current and former officials have shared detailed information with me regarding this alleged program, including insights into the history, governing documents and the location where a craft was allegedly abandoned and recovered."

According to the report, Grusch, who left the government earlier this year, "remains well-supported within intelligence circles, and numerous sources have vouched for his credibility."

Another detail that bolsters the Debrief's report is that it was authored by investigative journalists Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal. Neither are cranks; both authored a front-page New York Times article in 2017 that first uncovered a "shadowy" Defense Department UFO program that had been operating for years (of course, doubters could flip that data point around as well — for whatever reason, this latest story didn't end up in the NYT.)

That 2017 report was accompanied by several grainy black-and-white videos that show encounters between Navy fighter pilots and erratically-moving objects.

Since then, though, officials have come forward to throw cold water on circulating theories that suggest these crafts are able to defy the laws of physics.

Nonetheless, the Pentagon has actively worked on collecting data on unusual sightings and other UAPs, and the Navy has established new guidelines on how its pilots should report encounters with "unidentified aircraft." Even NASA administrator Bill Nelson has said that the space agency has begun investigating UFO sightings.

On a certain level, it's tantalizing to imagine that the US government has been covering up the existence of recovered alien spacecraft. Compared to the grim realities of climate change and AI-driven job loss, it feels like a peek at a fun, hopeful future in which we could reverse-engineer alien tech and explore the stars ourselves. What if we already made contact decades ago? What if we're not actually alone in the universe?

We remain extremely skeptical, but you have to admit that the concept is the stuff of golden age sci-fi — or at the very least, "The X-Files."

More on UFOs: Military Says the UFOs They Shot Down Aren't Aliens

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