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  • Luis Cayetano

On David Grusch's "whistleblowing" and other apparent (but not quite) nothing burgers

Updated: Sep 16

If you've been listening to anything at all going on in the UFO circuit as of late, you'll have heard about former intelligence officer David Grusch's claims regarding recovered otherworldly technology. He is being trumpeted as a ground-breaking "whistleblower" by many commentators, including journalist and UFO advocate Ross Coulthart. A friend and collaborator of prominent skeptic Michael Shermer, Michael Shellenberger, has also been promoting Grusch's narrative (Shermer remains skeptical) and claims that some of Grusch's sources have reached out to him and told him the same thing they've told to Grusch (Shellenberger also leans into the obligatory "they seem perfectly sincere" routine, which still offers no escape clause from recognizing the myriad ways that sincere people can still be dead wrong. Shermer, of course, has insight into such dynamics, having written extensively about psychology and the cognitive biases and quirks that can lead us astray). Congressional UFO hearings are also adjacent to the Grusch news, congealing into a broader paradigm in the current news cycle that something wonderful and epochal is in the air. UFO promoter and Bob Lazar associate Jeremy Corbell has also gotten in on the action, being interviewed by various media outlets as an authority.

It's important to remember that, despite the brouhaha, Grusch has not himself claimed to have touched or worked with any recovered alien tech. He is merely conveying the stories of those who have claimed such things, and those sources remain anonymous - at least, that is, to the broader public; the Intelligence Community's Inspector General Thomas A. Monheim and certain privileged members of Congress and their staffers reportedly know their identities. Where have we seen UFO whistleblowing through an intermediary before? Robert Sheaffer writes on his Bad UFOs blog that UFO researcher Leonard Springfield (1920-1994) was purportedly contacted by at least 24 and possibly as many as 37 (if Jacques Vallee's correspondence with Stringfield can be credited) separate whistleblowers. Stringfield wrote various publications detailing a supposed recovery effort by the government and was instrumental in the recovery trope gaining prominence within ufology. Researcher Ray Fowler, featuring in a 1980 episode of "In search of...", convinced his source "Fritz" (who turned out to be Arthur Stansel, who worked with Eric Wang - whose name has also surfaced in ufology, specifically in relation to the 1953 Kingman case in Arizona that the In Search Of episode alludes to - doing structural engineering-related nuclear testing) to talk about his supposed experiences regarding a crashed saucer.

Fritz's story presages Bob Lazar's in several ways. Of course, there is Lazar himself as "whistleblower" and his associate and promoter George Knapp, who has been in the thick of the UFO circuit/circus for decades. Many people are under the misapprehension that Lazar's story has been "vindicated" by Grusch's "revelations". It's a shame then that no actual revelations are demonstrably at hand, only more stories that by all appearances recycle tropes from previous stories, some of them decades old. Grusch has now touted the free energy connection, an old hand in the UFO mythology. Ufologist, alien spiritualist and energy fake news peddler Steven Greer has thrown his "weight" behind Grusch, though the latter has kindly asked that the former not make unsolicited claims that they work together - though whether this ultimately matters is perhaps immaterial given that the source for Grusch's free energy claims are, if not ultimately Greer himself, then sources that Greer has used or been linked with. Even a dubious story about the government of Bennito Mussolini recovering a crashed craft in Magenta, Italy, has been reprised in the Grusch saga, drawing in a connection with Lue Elizondo, who had already promoted that story.

Here we see the stories and personalities becoming entangled in fascinating ways. Eric Wang, who I mentioned earlier in connection with the Kingman case, is reputed by the originator of a souped-up version of the aforementioned Magenta story, Willam P. Brophy, to have told his father, USAF officer William J. Murphy about this. Brophy Jr told this yarn (involving not only a crash but also the recovery of the bodies of Nordic aliens, a link to the Nazi "Glocke", the capturing of Magenta craft by American forces during WW2, and its dispatch to the United States for further study) in 2009-2010 to Italian ufologist Roberto Pinotti, head of the Centro Ufologico Nazionale (CUN), with this version of the story making its way into the 3rd edition of Pinotti's book, Mussolini e gli UFO. The story was subsequently picked up by Lue Elizondo (who personally met Pinotti in Italy and has promoted this updated narrative). Grusch, mostly likely, received the story from Elizondo (unless Grusch was reading an obscure book in Italian) since he also conveys the more extravagant claims that originate with Brophy Jr. The first edition of Pinotti's book, printed in 2001, only made reference to a landing of an unknown craft; but as is so often the case in ufology, people uninvolved any event, whether real or imagined, inject some more spice into the stream. None of the editions of the book were ever published in English, though some pages have been translated. Some such pages are shown below, courtesy of researcher Jeff Knox. Ufologist Alfredo Lissoni had brought the original story about a landing of an unknown craft in 1933 Italy to a wider audience in 2001 in an article for Flying Saucer Review. This is most likely the source from which Brophy Jr would be inspired to add his own embellishments. Significantly, Brophy Jr had a history of spinning yarns, having written three letters to Flying Saucer Review in 2003 relating to purported UFO crashes in Mexico and the United States and his father's supposed role in the recovery efforts. He has also been involved in the Baca-Padilla story pushed by Jacques Vallee and Paola Harris in their book Trinity: The Best Kept Secret. See this article by Douglas Dean Johnson on the evolving nature of Brophy Jr's UFO capers.

Here are excerpts from the 3rd edition of Pinotti's book (please see this thread by Jeff Knox on Twitter relating to Brophy Jr's embellishments and from which the following screenshots are taken. Note that Jeff says in the thread, "This book came out in 2001." In a follow-up message in the same thread, he clarifies that the excerpt is from the 3rd edition, which is not from 2001). This is the first page of Chapter 1:

Here is the English translation by Knox. Note the reference to the Nazis, to Aryan supermen and to a shadowy - and fictitious - group called RS/33, the Italian version of the equally fictitious MJ-12.

Here are additional English translations from the 3rd addition, again courtesy of Knox. Note the reference to Eric Wang and to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, a military site that has become a staple of UFO lore, and to the transport of the recovered craft by American forces to the US:

Here is a reference to the Nazi "Bell" ("Glocke"):

(On John Greenewald Jr's The Black Vault website, there is a long excerpt from Pinotti's "UFOs in Italy - Volume II", printed in 2020, regarding the 1933 case. It alludes to a landing and "maybe" of a crash but does not include any of Brophy Jr's other embellishments. Since this volume lacks most of these elements and is printed in English, this strengthens the case for Elizondo being Grusch's source pertaining to Magenta case)

Here is an excerpt from Grusch's interview with a French media outlet La Perisien (the article is behind a paywall and is in French, but an English translation is available from me on request). The following excerpt was posted by Steven Greenstreet on Twitter):

(Greenstreet also noted in this thread that "Grusch went 0 to Nazi UFOs quite fast.")

Please note that the reason Grusch was "authorized" to talk about it by DOPSR, which is responsible for preventing the deliberate or inadvertent publication of sensitive information by members and former members of the military and IC in any stories these men and women may tell in public, is that it isn't sensitive information. It's a story cooked up (in its modified incarnation) by Brophy Jr (and already dubious before his exertions). DOPSR's screening does not prevent the publication of personal opinions and stories having no basis in reality. See more on the DOPSR aspect in this video by John Greenewald and why this defense office giving Grusch the all-clear for certain of his claims, such as the aforementioned, is not an endorsement of the veracity of those claims (the same pertains to Skinwalkers at the Pentagon by Lacatski, Kelleher and Knapp: that their book was cleared for release is not an endorsement of its claims, only a statement that no sensitive information was included among its contents).

As for Wang and Stansel, they really were at Wright and were indeed involved in sensitive national security-related research (see this document and following excerpt pertaining to the 1953 Upshot-Knothole nuclear test series at the Nevada Test Site). Of course, neither Wang nor Brophy Sr are alive to defend themselves from the claims of unhinged UFO enthusiasts, who seek to mix verified facts with complete fantasies, perhaps in the hope that no one will know the difference or that the weight of one will contribute to that of the other by virtue of proximity.

I don't personally get the impression that Grusch is involved in any shady business (after all, he "seems sincere", to paraphrase Shellenberger). That, of course, doesn't mean that we need credit any of the stories he's conveying. We should also question why, if the stories are not true, they're being funneled to Grusch in the first place. Is this part of a psychological operation? A counter-intelligence effort using UFOs as a cover? A grift? Or a bizarre mix of these? Is this really a giant cosplay? A straight up hoax? A prank for the hell of it? Who's to say? In one sense it doesn't matter, given that there are no aliens littering the Earth with their technology, but of course the reasons why these stories are being amplified and why they find traction among intrigued audiences is most surely of social and political significance.

I'd like to offer another possibility to the above litany. Could the people feeding Grusch their stories have heard enough UFO yarns to cause them to get the impression that something they'd genuinely caught sight of or worked on could be related to such stories? I'll call it the "periphery hypothesis": when people with technical or intelligence credentials hear just enough while being denied key details, leading them to think that something must be going on whose nature defies everyday explanation. These people, working in an environment of secrecy and censorship, hear rumors of what might be, assimilate these with tropes from ufology that are already doing the rounds, and then these same individuals themselves start feeding ideas and embellishments into the circuit - ideas and embellishments that eventually come full circle and reach back to the self-same people as "confirmation", told to them now by "independent parties".

A correspondent and reader suggested that a previously used term, "classified gossip", could also nicely supplement '"periphery hypothesis" and capture the spirit of what could be going in. He referred me to a declassified CIA document (though this document does not seem to relate to UFOs as such):

From a declassified but partly redacted CIA document.

It's easy to see that the wildest speculations can seem to take on a sort of objective reality of their own when they are being conveyed by people drinking from the same fountain and the fountain is obscured from view. I would argue that most of ufology, at least if we understand that term to mean the subculture around UFO belief and alien visitation/abduction/tech recovery tropes, works along these lines, with circuits of feedback amplifying narratives and stories, but it is perhaps the case that such stories might find especial resonance in the intelligence community. If so, this may speak to the need for reform in the American intelligence apparatus, as Jason Colavito and Jack Brewer, among others, have intimated. An affirmative answer to the question, "Does the IC environment produce people who become receptive to the UFO message?" is not mutually exclusive to an affirmative answer to the reciprocal question, "Do people who are receptive to the UFO message find the IC environment appealing?" I would suspect that some of these people reach for the UFO out of frustration, though, and if they are attracted to the "IC environment" it is not in this regard, which they naturally find stymying and suffocating.

My other sense is that all this UFO enthusiasm has something to do with the war in Ukraine, with the space visitors manifesting as a kind of collective expression of social anxiety erupting into the open. David J. Halperin has suggested (or at least I thought he'd suggested; this could well be a false memory of mine since I can't track this down) something along these lines, comparing the Russian invasion to the Deros of the Richard Shaver mysteries. I see it also, possibly - and related to the Russian invasion - as the expression of a tension and anxiety surrounding the failings of neoliberalism and the onslaught of "traditionalist" currents who are offering themselves as the alternative to the sterile, soulless market fundamentalism that is leading to a type of meaning dystrophy and also tangible set of harms that "establishment" politicians seem unable to offer convincing solutions to.

In this vein, is this why Grusch's sources have cozied up to Mr. Shellenberger? Like Shermer, he is of the "anti-woke" crowd, which position themselves as a type of "rebellion" against the excesses and perceived evils of political correctness/wokeness/feminism/progressivism. Might these sources sense in Shellenberger (and, it should be mentioned, perhaps also Sam Harris, who also has inclinations against "wokeness" and who was touted a while back as a possible candidate for receiving revelatory facts pertaining to the government's knowledge about UAP) a heterodox challenge to the established order, someone who can carry the torch and act as a redundant safeguard for Grusch?

Taken together, I see the UFO genre, superimposed against the political and cultural backdrop, as both warning and danger. Society may use the UFO as a symbol or outlet for questions that it has a difficult time acknowledging or formulating, possibly utilizing it as a kind of pressure valve or as a means to help negotiate new social configurations, but UFOs can also be an amplifier for anti-scientific Forteana, esotericism and extremism that accrue when cultural flux and distrust of authority becomes pathological. For such reasons should we keep an eye on the saucers: not because they are piloted by people from other worlds, but because they are in a very real sense piloted by us, and we don't quite know just why, and finding out why could well matter for navigating the bumpy times ahead.

I would like to thank Jeff Knox for valuable assistance in collating information about the Magenta case and in clarifying its evolution.

For more information on the Grusch saga, see these articles by Art Levine:

A recent video of mine talking about various problematic aspects of the Grusch story:

Summary of information in this video:

-- The impetus for the hearings ultimately had its origin in the erroneous 2017 New York Times article by Leslie Kean, which was cited and recommended by one of the credulous committee members

-- Another adjacent ET-themed story, that of the 1947 Roswell crash (almost certainly actually a Mogul spy balloon), was approvingly cited by another committee member, again demonstrating the lack of discernment by people who are supposed to be approaching Grusch's extremely serious allegations with a view to seriously scrutinizing them instead of showering them with fawning acceptance

-- The opening statements in the hearings by former Navy pilots Graves and Fravor did not affirm Grusch's claims of captured ET technology, and those statements themselves have problems

-- Grusch has long mingled with and no doubt absorbed, through cultural osmosis, if not outright concerted and deliberate influence, ET crash tropes and paranormal themes from the likes of the core group of motley UFO celebrities George Knapp, Travis Taylor, Jeremy Corbell and Lue Elizondo, and indeed his very boss Jay Stratton while at UAPTF. Some of these people are closely linked to Skinwalker Ranch paranormalism

-- Grusch is now also being promoted by Australian investigative journalist and UFO advocate Ross Coulthart, whose own relationship to accurate reporting of "the phenomenon" has been sketchy at best

-- Grusch repeatedly declined to answer questions on the basis of classification of sensitive information. Since DOPSR has already given him the all-clear to talk about alien technology and crash retrievals, one wonders what exactly he is "whistleblowing" since his current "revelations" are virtual carbon copies of pre-existing cover-up tropes

-- The DOPSR all-clear is not an endorsement of his claims; it just means that no sensitive information was leaked in his testimony (and presumably media interviews, which have all been with foreign news agencies)

-- Grusch appears to be autistic, a cognitive state that a scientific study has suggested makes people less able to determine if others are lying to him/her - in other words, they are more open to manipulation (David M. Williams, Toby Nicholson, Catherine Grainger, Sophie E. Lind, Peter Carruthers. Can you spot a liar? Deception, mindreading, and the case of autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/aur.1962). This is extremely pertinent in considering whether Grusch's sources are themselves reliable and once again whether his own powers of discernment are up to par when assessing extraordinary claims conveyed to him by supposedly trustworthy people

-- Grusch's struggles with PTSD (itself a mental disorder/illness; Grusch was apparently unaware of this when asked by Coulthart whether he had any history of mental illness), incurred from his time in Afghanistan, culminating in a mental episode in which he asked his wife to "end" him and a judge ordering him to spend days at a mental health ward at a hospital, attracts questions about why he was allowed to keep his security clearance (given concerns that superiors would have such as the potential for entrusted intelligence to be compromised, for him to be able to carry on his duties responsibly, etc, especially with alcohol in the equation) and who was instrumental in reaching that decision. If Stratton was party to that decision, this is especially important, given the Stratton has been described as a "nut job" by a former colleague for his steadfast beliefs in Skinwalker poltergeists. This could speak to institutional disfunction with the American intelligence apparatus.

-- Grusch claims in his CV that the Sol Foundation, which is linked to Garry Nolan and Christopher Mellon, is "The premier center for research in the natural and social sciences, engineering, and the humanities", a rather bald claim for this obscure organization. This might also speak to Grusch's lack of discernment in the face of extraordinary claims, perhaps especially those conveyed to him by people trying to win his confidence

-- If Grusch's autism and PTSD were known to the aforementioned UFO diehards, this suggests a campaign or at least tacit collective agreement to exploit a man with mental health issues for the sake of pushing an agenda

-- Of course, right on cue, only third-hand accounts and no verified documents, let alone ET spacecraft or bodies provided for scientific scrutiny, have been presented by Grusch or his sources - the latter being the very items that would definitely resolve the debate in their favor but which are exactly the items that we never get in such "revelations"

-- The hearings are occurring against a cultural and social backdrop of increasing attacks on consensus reality and a general distrust of the government, along with increased susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking

-- Grusch's testimony has drawn fire from the head of AARO, Sean Kirkpatrick, who described it as "insulting"

-- The Pentagon, for its part, has denied possession or retrieval of any extraterrestrial artefacts - a denial that many will take simply as further confirmation of a cover-up, but which is of course also consistent with the DoD not actually having these objects

-- Grusch has pushed the fake Magenta story, which he probably learned from Lue Elizondo

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