UFO Whistleblower Kept Security Clearance After Psychiatric Detention

The star witness of Congress’s UFO hearings, David Grusch, retained his clearance despite alleged substance abuse issues, FOIA documents reveal.

UNITED STATES - JULY 26: David Grusch, former National Reconnaissance Office representative on the Defense Department's Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, testifies during the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs hearing titled "Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency," in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
David Grusch, former National Reconnaissance Office representative on the Defense Department’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, testifies during the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on National Security on July 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

“Non-human” biological material recovered from purported UFO crash sites. A decadeslong secret program to reverse-engineer extraterrestrial aircraft. A government cover-up employing “administrative terrorism” to silence truth-tellers.

These are some of the extraordinary claims made to Congress by Maj. David Grusch, a 36-year-old retired Air Force intelligence officer who also served as an adviser to the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena task force. Last month, the House Oversight Committee opened an investigation after Grusch claimed he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on the U.S. government’s alleged UAP recovery program.

Security clearances of the sort Grusch has held are subject to strict requirements, including regarding psychological episodes and substance issues. Grusch has used his high-level clearance to shore up his credibility, telling the committee: “I was cleared to literally all relevant compartments and in a position of extreme trust in both my military and civilian capacities.”

But police records obtained by The Intercept under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act reveal that on October 1, 2018, Grusch was committed to a mental health facility based in part on a report that he “made a suicidal statement” after Grusch’s wife told him he was an alcoholic and suggested that he get help.

“Husband asked [complainant] to kill him,” a police incident report produced by the Loudoun County sheriff states. “He is very angry guns are locked up.”

Grusch did not respond to a request for comment emailed via his lawyer or to a voicemail left on his phone. But on Tuesday evening, Ross Coulthart, an Australian independent journalist who covers UFOs and has interviewed Grusch, posted a statement attributed to Grusch on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“It has come to my attention that The Intercept intends to publish an article about two incidents in 2014 and 2018 that highlights previous personal struggles I had with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Grief and Depression,” the statement reads. “As I stated under oath in my congressional testimony, over 40 credentialed intelligence and military personnel provided myself and my colleagues the information I transmitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) and I took the leadership role to represent the concerns of these distinguished and patriotic individuals.”

Grusch’s wife, Jessica Grusch, did not respond to several requests for comment.

A former colleague of Grusch’s expressed shock that he retained his clearance after the 2014 incident, which was also documented in public records obtained by The Intercept.

“I think it’s like any insular group: Once you’re in, they generally protect their own,” said the former colleague, who asked not to be named because they feared professional reprisals.

The former colleague said that the 2014 incident was known to Grusch’s superiors, a claim that Coulthart appeared to confirm in an interview on NewsNation, a subscription television network owned by Nexstar Media.

“The intelligence community and the Defense Department clearly accepted there was no issue because he was allowed to keep his security clearance,” Coulthart told Chris Cuomo Tuesday night.

“Waiting for You to Kill Me”

On the evening of October 1, 2018, Grusch’s wife contacted the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to report that Grusch “was drunk” and suicidal, according to the incident report.

“She told him that he was an alcoholic and that he needed to get help,” according to a narrative account from the sheriff’s office. “He replied, ‘I’ve just been waiting for you to kill me.’”

Though the names are redacted, the documents describe a husband and wife at a home that Grusch and his wife owned at the time, according to Loudoun County records. The property has since been sold. The incident report also describes the subject as “Air International Guard” and previously Active Duty Air Force; Grusch served in the Air Force and the Air National Guard.

The man “could be violent, very strong,” the report notes, adding that he might be suffering from PTSD. “Sometimes makes these threats when drunk,” the report continues. “Has never harmed himself.”

The narrative case report describes law enforcement officers detaining Grusch under an emergency custody order and taking him to a local emergency room, where a mental health specialist decided to ask a magistrate to issue a temporary detention order. Based on the order, an officer transferred Grusch to Loudoun Adult Medical Psychiatric Services, an inpatient program in the Inova Loudoun Cornwall Medical Campus in Leesburg.

A separate police report dated October 13, 2014, describes a similar incident: a 27-year-old male “threatening suicide” at a property that county records show was owned at the time by Grusch and his ex-wife, Kendall McMurray. That property has since been sold. The report notes that “he is violent” and “has access to a weapon.”

McMurray did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

UNITED STATES - JULY 26: Reps. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., and Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., attend the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs hearing titled "Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency," in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Reps. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., and Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., attend the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs hearing titled “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency,” in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2023.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Public Law Enforcement Records

Two Republican members of the House Oversight Committee, Reps. Anna Paulina Luna and Tim Burchett, were tasked with organizing the July 26 hearing after Grusch’s whistleblower claims became public. Not all House Republicans are supportive of the effort. Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has taken a dim view of Grusch’s claims.

“Every decade there’s been individuals who’ve said the United States has such pieces of unidentified flying objects that are from outer space,” Turner said. “There’s no evidence of this and certainly it would be quite a conspiracy for this to be maintained, especially at this level.”

Grusch emerged as the hearing’s star witness, but his evidence was largely secondhand: When asked, Grusch said he hasn’t seen any of the recovered alien vehicles or bodies himself. While two former Navy fighter pilots alleged unidentified aerial phenomena, neither said anything about their provenance. Grusch was alone among the witnesses in attributing them to extraterrestrials.

“My testimony is based on information I have been given by individuals with a longstanding track record of legitimacy,” Grusch said in his opening statement.

Shortly after The Intercept reached out to Grusch for comment for this story, Coulthart went on Cuomo’s show and said that The Intercept was planning to publish “confidential medical records” about Grusch that had been leaked by the intelligence community. Coulthart, an ardent defender of Grusch, told NewsNation that “Grusch believes the government may now be behind an effort to release his medical records in an effort to smear his credibility.”

“This is a document that would be, if the media had done the right thing, it would be in his police department file, in the file in the county sheriff’s office,” Coulthart said in his interview with Cuomo. “But Dave has checked today, because he assumed that the journalist had done his homework and just asked the local sheriff for the files. The sheriff has confirmed it did not come from him. The only other place that had this information is the intelligence community, Dave’s personal files inside the intelligence community, where quite properly, when anybody is security assist, things like this have to be looked at, and somebody inside the intelligence community leaked it.”

Coulthart went on to compare the purported leak to Richard Nixon’s attempts to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who shared the Pentagon Papers with the New York Times.

“I think there should be an inquiry into the circumstances of how sensitive records pertaining to a decorated combat veteran’s file found their way to a journalist not through the proper channels,” Coulthart said. “This could’ve been requested under FOI, as is normal, but the county sheriff has confirmed that did not happen.”

In an interview Wednesday morning, Burchett repeated the false claim that Grusch’s medical records had been leaked, going as far as to say that “someone needs to lose their job.”

The records were not confidential, medical, or leaked. They are publicly available law enforcement records obtained under a routine Virginia FOIA request to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and provided by the office’s FOIA coordinator. Copies of The Intercept’s correspondence with the sheriff’s office are being published with this story.

In a clip from a previous interview with Coulthart that was included in Tuesday’s Cuomo segment, Grusch suggested that his struggle with PTSD was behind him.

“I served in Afghanistan and I had a friend that committed suicide after I got back,” Grusch told Coulthart. “I dealt with that for a couple years and I’m proud as a veteran not to become a statistic. Totally took care of that issue in my life and it doesn’t affect me anymore.”

Echoes of Roswell

Coulthart’s comments would not be the first instance of misinformed media coverage of Grusch’s case. The law firm representing Grusch, Compass Rose Legal Group, issued a statement in June warning of “misstatements” in media reporting about the nature of their representation of Grusch, which they stressed was “narrowly scoped.”

The whistleblower disclosure did not speak to the specifics of the alleged classified information that Mr. Grusch has now publicly characterized, and the substance of that information has always been outside of the scope of Compass Rose’s representation,” the statement says. “Compass Rose took no position and takes no position on the contents of the withheld information.”

Grusch’s ability to keep his security clearance appears to contrast with the government’s treatment of other employees. Shortly after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, for example, dozens of White House staffers were reportedly denied clearances for past marijuana use — including in states where it was legal.

In June, technology website The Debrief first reported on Grusch’s whistleblower disclosure, casting him as a “decorated former combat officer” — a phrase echoed repeatedly by Coulthart.

“I’d like to point out that finding a decorated veteran who believes all sorts of insane conspiracy theories is not remarkable,” cracked Jack Murphy, a former Army Ranger turned journalist. “I know many, and some would love it if I wrote stories about George Soros, JFK, etc.”

The Debrief article was co-authored by Leslie Kean, whose 2017 New York Times article helped drive much of the current wave of interest in UAPs. 

The Defense Department has flatly denied possessing “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,” Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough has said.

“The recent UFO hearing is an embarrassment to everyone involved,” Steven Aftergood, a longtime critic of government secrecy and former director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told The Intercept. “It’s a symptom of the broader degradation of congressional discourse: by providing a forum for preposterous claims and failing to challenge them, the House committee makes legitimate oversight more difficult.”

During the committee hearing, Luna referenced the 1947 discovery of mysterious aerial debris in the desert in Roswell, New Mexico, as evidence of long-standing contact with UFOs. Jesse A. Marcel, a military intelligence officer — and, like Grusch, an Air Force major at the time — said that the debris was extraterrestrial in nature, but it later became clear that it was actually the remains of a weather balloon designed to detect atmospheric conditions indicative of Russian nuclear testing.

For many years, the Pentagon refused to explain the weather balloon’s true purpose due to its highly classified nature as part of Project Mogul, a top-secret Air Force program designed to detect Soviet bomb tests. Many took the secrecy, which was indeed excessive, to mean that the government must be covering up the existence of extraterrestrial aircraft.

Aftergood said the misconception at the heart of the recent House hearing is similar to the legends that grew out of the events in Roswell: “The embarrassment of the House hearings stems not so much from the issue itself but from the failure to distinguish what is real from what is fantasy.”

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