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Witness Tells Congress ‘Nonhuman Biologics’ Were Found at Alleged UFO Crash Sites

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A former intelligence official claimed the U.S. government has been covering up a longstanding defense program that collects and reverse engineers unidentified flying objects (UFOs), and has found "nonhuman biologics" at alleged UFO crash sites.

The highly anticipated testimony from David Grusch, a former member of a U.S. Air Force panel on unidentified anomalous phenomena—also known as unidentified aerial phenomena—(UAP), was part of an effort by Congress to pressure intelligence agencies for more transparency into the existence of UFOs, a subject of heightened scrutiny following an increase in reported sightings by military personnel and pilots in recent years. Although extraterrestrial life has long been shrouded in stigma, confusion, and secrecy, lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum have been rallying around the push for more research on the topic as a national security matter.

“UAPs, whatever they may be, may pose a serious threat to our military and our civilian aircraft, and that must be understood,” Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California said. “We should encourage more reporting, not less on UAPs. The more we understand, the safer we will be.”

Testifying under oath at a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Grusch told lawmakers he believes the U.S. government is in possession of UAPs based on his interviews with 40 witnesses over four years, claiming that he was informed of "a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse-engineering program" during the course of his work examining classified programs. He said he was denied access to those programs when he requested it, and accused the military of misappropriating funds to shield these operations from congressional oversight.

The Pentagon denies Grusch’s claims about a UAP crash-retrieval and reverse-engineering program. "To date, the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) has not discovered 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," Sue Gough, a Pentagon spokesperson, tells TIME in a statement. "The Department is fully committed to openness and accountability to the American people, which it must balance with its obligation to protect sensitive information, sources, and methods," the statement continued in part. "DoD is also committed to timely and thorough reporting to Congress."

During his testimony, Grusch added that he knows of “multiple colleagues” who were physically injured by UAP activity and by people within the U.S. government, but declined to share more details. He also said that “nonhuman biologics” were found at alleged UAP crash sites when asked about the pilots of the craft.

Read More: Not Everything is a Spy Balloon or UFO. Here's What Else Is Flying in Our Skies

No government officials testified at Wednesday’s hearing, though Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of the Pentagon’s office focusing on UAPs, told a Senate subcommittee in April that the U.S. government was tracking 650 potential cases of unidentified aerial phenomena, playing video from two of the episodes. During that public testimony, Kirkpatrick emphasized there was no evidence of extraterrestrial life and that his office found “no credible evidence” of objects that defy the known laws of physics.

The House Oversight subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs heard additional witness testimony Wednesday from former U.S. Navy fighter pilots Ryan Graves and retired Commander David Fravor, who both claimed they had encountered aircraft of a nonhuman origin. “These sightings are not rare or isolated,” said Graves, who served in the Navy for over a decade. “Military aircrews and commercial pilots, trained observers whose lives depend on accurate identification, are frequently witnessing these phenomena.”

Graves told lawmakers that his aircrew encountered UAP during a training exercise off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va, when their lead jet came within 50 feet of what he described as a “dark gray or black cube inside of a clear sphere.” He estimated it to be five to 15 feet in diameter, motionless against the wind, fixed directly at the entry point. The mission was immediately terminated, and his squadron submitted a safety report that he claims received no official acknowledgement of the incident.

While the hearing marked a significant moment in shining light on unexplained objects in the sky, it was short on providing answers. National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby admitted last week that UFOs have been causing problems for the U.S. Air Force, particularly for pilot training exercises. “When pilots are out trying to do training in the air and they see these things, they’re not sure what they are and it can have an impact on their ability to perfect their skills. So it already had an impact here,” Kirby said at a White House press briefing. “We want to get to the bottom of it. We want to understand it better.”

There’s growing, bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill for reform. Provisions in the Senate’s version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act would require federal agencies to hand over records related to UAP to a panel with the power to declassify them.

“If UAP are foreign drones, it is an urgent national security problem,” Graves said. “If it is something else, it is an issue for science. In either case, unidentified objects are a concern for flight safety.”

The federal government has recorded 510 UFO sightings since 2004, according to an unclassified report Office of the Director of National Intelligence released in January.

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Write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com