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Legal Aliens

Perhaps the strangest thing of all is our military-industrial complex.

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(Swill Klitch/Shutterstock)
HORATIO: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. 
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I don’t think I believe in aliens, though sometimes I want to. The Fermi Paradox dissolves away when you reconsider just how uncertain we are about the conditions for intelligent life and their prevalence. It is not, in fact, highly probable that life has emerged and evolved to the point of intergalactic space travel many many times, all over the universe. The math doesn’t add up to anything a normal person would call likely. Thus there is little mystery in not meeting E.T. around the corner.


What I know I do believe is that many people far more important and powerful than me believe that intelligent life from other planets regularly visits the humble earth. Even more numerous than these are the Fox Mulders of the world, who, in unknowing hopes of Anselm’s credo ut intelligam, want to believe. Behind all of that is a military-industrial complex built by total and cold war into the frame of American life—so all encompassing as to be still more unseen than seen, despite all its obvious visibility.

There is not inconsiderable appetite, then, for reports that the government’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena programs—like the Sen. Harry Reid–sponsored Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program that was revealed in 2017—do in fact find extraterrestrial crafts and pilots sometimes. Thus the excitement Monday when the reporting team behind that New York Times disclosure dropped a piece at the Debrief detailing a whistleblower’s claims that factions within the defense and intelligence apparatus are hiding covert operations and evidence of actual aliens from Congress, presidents, and the public behind the known UFO programs. The allegations are perfect for our moment: procedurally correct and totally non-dispositive.

If you are already inclined to faith in aliens, the Debrief report must make for thrilling reading. David Charles Grusch has a sterling resume—combat officer in Afghanistan, stints at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, representative to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (now the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office) for both—which the reporters assure us has been confirmed. As a whistleblower, Grusch has reportedly done it by the book, giving Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General the classified information he says show that covert programs are being kept from appropriate oversight. He has reportedly filed a complaint alleging illegal retaliation for his confidential disclosures, and left the government in April to raise awareness of these betrayals of the public trust.

The issue is that Grusch hasn’t actually seen the aliens or the exotic craft or extraterrestrial material, not even pictures, as he admitted in a follow-up NewsNation interview. And none of the corroborating sources in the Debrief’s report ever quite say they have seen them either. What they do say, a lot, is that they all have very impressive resumes, the kind that might know about the extra covert UAP programs and any secret cold war for the recovery of non-human technologies and remains. The fundamental allegation, then, is only that such off-the-books operations exist and should be supervised by proper authorities; they just happen to be related to the sexy topic of aliens, and the people involved say they believe the aliens are real.

If you wanted to run a psychological operation to firm up belief in intelligent extraterrestrial life—whether to cover for something else or to keep certain monies flowing or what have you—then convincing officials with sterling credentials who already work on the unexplained anomalies question that a secret inner ring exists and finds dead grays in their saucers would be a pretty good way to do it. And until these former officials, named and unnamed, start saying they have put their hand into an alien side, we need not decide whether they are lying. It can be true that Grusch and his colleagues and the reporters all believe these programs have found material evidence for exotic intelligence, and they can even have seen pictures of what they believe is the evidence, without those allegations being true. The human heart is easily deceived, the brain even more so.

I believe in inhuman intelligences not of this world, yet who act in the affairs of men. We call them angels and demons; they are intellectual beings whose relationship to space-time is not our mortal own. I am, with the prince of Denmark, sure that vast lacunae still exist in our knowledge, that there are features of the cosmos mankind this side of modernity is blind to. There might even be intelligent physical life, aliens of a kind, elsewhere in the span of God’s hand. But with C.S. Lewis I believe that, on this planet at least, with the unveiling of Providence in history even the gods have been forced to pick sides.

I think the usual framing of alien encounters is almost a silly one, and that they are better explained by some combination of black-book operations of the military-industrial complex and spiritual warfare. As one student of esoterica asked in a thread on Twitter, why would the natives of other galaxies sport with human beings and yet fail to collect their casualties? And it is almost silly and more than a little suggestive that the response to alleged evidence of alien encounters is, as it is in the Debrief report—“This is a global phenomenon, and yet a global solution continues to elude us”—almost always some variation on liberal internationalist talking points and a call for more bureaucratic control. If nuclear war and climate change won’t do it, maybe cosmic invasion will.