Garrett M. Graff is a veteran reporter on the U.S. military and security apparatus: His books include 2011’s “The Threat Matrix” (on the FBI and the war on terror) and 2017’s “Raven Rock” (on government doomsday scenarios). His new book, “UFO,” steps into murkier territory. Since the dawn of the Cold War, he finds, the government has gathered information on inexplicable airborne incidents and strategically withheld details from the public. One CIA document from the early ‘50s noted that the Air Force was keeping an eye on UFO enthusiasts such as California’s Flying Saucer Committee “because of its power to touch off mass hysteria and panic.”

Since 2017, as the government has been more public about the phenomenon, the conversation has sobered up somewhat. But any discussion about UFOs still involves engaging with matters of paranoia and wild imaginings. In this conversation, edited for space and clarity, Graff spoke to The Times from his home in Burlington, Vt., about the book’s inspirations, how UFO conspiracism intersects with Jan. 6 and why the “giggle factor” still stands in the way of knowing what truth is out there.

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