Even by the extraordinary standards of contemporary political theater, Wednesday’s House Oversight subcommittee hearing on U.F.O.s stood out.
There, in a somber chamber of the Rayburn House Office Building, a former national intelligence official told elected representatives that the U.S. government is sheltering alien spacecraft.
And a succession of lawmakers rebuked what they characterized as decades of unnecessary secrecy in government programs that studied unexplained phenomena. Representative Tim Burchett, Republican of Tennessee, lamented a “cover-up” that he said stretched far beyond partisan politics.
“The devil’s been in our way,” Mr. Burchett said, as he listed government entities, including the intelligence community and the Pentagon, that he said had prevented Congress from obtaining government reports about U.F.O.s.
“The U.F.O. is emerging as a major topic of global importance,” he said. “I met a fellow who came in here all the way from Denmark to be here for this meeting. So this is huge.”
It is not clear, however, that the hearing provided the gentleman from Denmark much more than what has already been reported.
At one point, two former Navy fighter pilots, David Fravor and Ryan Graves, described encounters with unknown objects — a decade and a continent apart — that they said accelerated like nothing either had seen before. The men first described the incidents to The New York Times in 2017 and 2018 in stories that prompted calls from lawmakers for more government transparency.
Neither of the pilots speculated about the provenance of what they saw. The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzes radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers.
Some of the objects in videos released by the Pentagon have been explained as optical illusions or drones, but others remain unexplained.
Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies have gathered hundreds of reports of unexplained phenomena. Officials have said that most of the incidents involved airborne trash, Chinese spying efforts or weather balloons, and that none of the videos or other material collected provides evidence of alien visitation.
Enter David Grusch, a former intelligence official who worked with the Pentagon’s task force looking into unidentified aerial phenomena, which is how the government often refers to U.F.O.s. Mr. Grusch, in sworn testimony to the committee, said that longstanding covert programs within the U.S. government possess materials of nonhuman origin that were taken from crash sites.
“I was informed in the course of my official duties of a multidecade U.A.P. crash retrieval and reverse engineering program to which I was denied access,” Mr. Grusch said, using an abbreviation for unidentified aerial phenomena.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Susan Gough, said in a statement that the Defense Department does not have 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.”
During the hearing, Mr. Burchett, who is one of the leaders of the House effort to find out more about the government U.F.O. programs, asked Mr. Grusch if he had “personal knowledge of people who’ve been harmed or injured in efforts to cover up or conceal these extraterrestrial technology.”
Mr. Grusch replied in the affirmative.
But when pressed by Mr. Burchett about whether people have been murdered as part of a government effort to hide U.F.O.s, he said he could not talk about it in a public session.
Most of the lawmakers in Wednesday’s hearing called for more government transparency. But there was also some skepticism. Representative Eric Burlison, Republican of Missouri, said “the concept that an alien species is technologically advanced enough to travel billions of light years and gets here, and is somehow incompetent enough to not survive Earth, and crashes, is something I find a little far-fetched.”