Sean Kirkpatrick
© CopyrightSean Kirkpatrick, ex-Director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), which the Department of Defense has tasked with studying UFOs
"As an intelligence officer, I would expect all of you to expect me to lie to you." So the former director of the Pentagon's UFO analysis office quipped to an audience in 2022.

Since his retirement in December, Sean Kirkpatrick has been on a media tour unusual for former intelligence officials.

Kirkpatrick now indirectly accuses top members of Congress of holding a "religious belief" in UFOs "that transcends critical thinking and rational thought." In his most pointed commentary, he has also fired back at whistleblowers alleging the existence of surreptitious government UFO retrieval and reverse engineering efforts.

According to Kirkpatrick, "none of [the UFO whistleblowers] have any firsthand evidence or knowledge. They're all relaying stories that they've heard from other people."

At least three sources contradict Kirkpatrick's statement.

First, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said that multiple whistleblowers with "firsthand knowledge or firsthand claims" of UFO retrieval and reverse engineering activities have spoken to Congress.

Rubio also stated that the whistleblowers are "saying to us what you've seen out there in the public record...about legacy [UFO] programs...Most of [the UFO whistleblowers] have held very high clearances and high positions within our government. So, you do ask yourself: 'What incentive would so many people with that kind of qualification - these are serious people - have to come forward and make something up?'"

Congress, it appears, referred at least some of these individuals to Kirkpatrick. According to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and chairs a key China-focused committee, new protections enacted by Congress resulted in "all sorts of [UFO whistleblowers] coming out of the woodwork."

In contrast to Kirkpatrick's denial that individuals have "firsthand" knowledge, Gallagher stated that witnesses are telling congressional investigators that "they've been part of this or that [UFO] program," resulting in "a variety of pretty intense conversations."

Without naming him directly, Kirkpatrick saved his sharpest criticisms for UFO whistleblowerDavid Grusch.

Grusch, in further contradiction of Kirkpatrick's claims that no whistleblowers have "firsthand" knowledge of illicit UFO retrieval and reverse engineering activities, had testified under oath that he "had the people with the firsthand knowledge provide a protected disclosure to the [intelligence community] inspector general."

Grusch's statement, along with his claim of interviewing "over 40 people over four years" in an investigation of alleged UFO retrieval and reverse engineering efforts, could easily be disproven if false. Had Grusch lied to Congress, he would almost surely be facing legal penalties.

Grusch's inquiry, it seems, was far more thorough than Kirkpatrick's. As Kirkpatrick described in his own words, the extent of his investigation of whistleblower claims amounted to asking the government's secret-keepers if a certain illegal program existed. Kirkpatrick's approach, as astute observers have noted, is roughly akin to asking a mob boss if he is engaging in illegal activity, and subsequently being satisfied with a "no."

But the honor system is never a viable method of investigating allegations of illegality. Moreover, Kirkpatrick claims that "a small group of interconnected believers" has hoodwinked Congress and the media into believing remarkable fantasies.

Kirkpatrick's account is disputed by a credible source. In July, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced extraordinary bipartisan legislation alleging that surreptitious government "legacy programs" are attempting to reverse-engineer exotic UFOs of "non-human" origin.

In stark contrast to Kirkpatrick's claim that a "small group" is driving recent UFO-related developments, Schumer stated that a "vast web" of UFO whistleblowers and witnesses informed the eyebrow-raising legislation. Moreover, in remarkable comments on the Senate floor, Schumer cited "multiple credible sources" to allege that elements of the U.S. government have illegally withheld UFO-related information from Congress.

Far from holding an irrational "religious belief" in UFOs, as Kirkpatrick seems to suggest, key members of Congress are dead-set on forcing government transparency on a decades-long mystery. They should be commended and encouraged, not mocked as "true believers."

At the same time, Christopher Mellon, the Department of Defense's former top civilian intelligence official, and Luis Elizondo, the former head of a previous government UFO analysis effort, have both strongly rebuked Kirkpatrick's comments on whistleblowers.

Kirkpatrick also appears to be muddying the waters on some of the most widely publicized UFO incidents. For example, in 2004, four naval aviators observed a "Tic Tac" shaped object, which was tracked on two independent radar systems, execute seemingly physics-defying maneuvers. To this day, the perplexing incident remains officially "unresolved."

Now Kirkpatrick appears to be injecting confusion about this well-known incident. According to Kirkpatrick, "there's this company in Florida, they make these backyard lighting balloons...Some of them are 'Tic Tac' shaped....When we talked to the company, they're like, 'Yeah, we lose them. And we sometimes find them again, but generally not.'"

After calling the company, I found Kirkpatrick's statement to be implausible. The prospect of such high-end commercial lighting products becoming untethered and simply floating away is remote, if not unheard of. Matt Ford, an Emmy-winning lighting designer who hosts "The Good Trouble Show," agreed, telling me, "As someone who has used [these products] for years, they never get away."

At the same time, U.S. naval aviators have observed strange, semi-translucent spherical objects with cube-like structures inside of them since at least 2014, when two Navy fighter jets nearly collided with such a craft.

As Kirkpatrick puts it, "There's a large number of people, pilots, who... have said, 'Hey, I saw this giant sphere. It had a cube in it.'" But according to Kirkpatrick, "The next generation of drones that are being built are spherical." He is suggesting that such objects account for the military's frequent cube-in-a-sphere sightings.

As evidence, Kirkpatrick points to a 2022 paper. But even the most die-hard, unshakeable UFO skeptic will have trouble believing that the technology cited by Kirkpatrick, let alone spherical objects seemingly capable of remaining stationary against hurricane-force winds, could account for any UFO sightings a decade ago. It is equally implausible, for example, that this would account for a cube-in-a-sphere drone hovering in the vicinity of particularly sensitive military sites in 1960.

For someone who hammers relentlessly on the importance of evidence, Kirkpatrick provides none that could plausibly explain the most perplexing recent UFO incidents.

Thus, a key question emerges: Why would a former Pentagon official continue a long tradition of obfuscation and distortion about the enduring mystery of UFOs?
Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense.