There aren’t many secrets that John Brennan doesn’t know. He spent 25 years in the CIA, became the White House homeland-security adviser, and then returned to the CIA as its director. If a question interested him, he could’ve commanded legions of analysts, officers, surveillance networks, and tools to find the answer. Yet in a December 2020 interview with the economist Tyler Cowen, Brennan admitted, somewhat tortuously, that he was flummoxed by the wave of recent reporting about UFOs: “Some of the phenomena we’re going to be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.”

That roundabout and convoluted comment piqued my interest. Anything that puzzled Brennan was worth looking into. For the next two years, I dove into the history of the U.S. government’s involvement in UFOs as part of writing my new book, and along the way I’ve become convinced that a cover-up is real—it’s just not the one that you think. Plenty of revelations, declassified documents, and public reports suggest active, ongoing deception. Even today, the government is surely hiding information about its knowledge and working theories about what exists in the skies above.

But the cover-up that I believe exists is far more mundane than concealing intelligence that would forever alter our understanding of ourselves and our universe. There are some basic, obvious reasons why the government is withholding knowledge about what are now called “unidentified anomalous phenomena,” or UAPs. Some public UAP reports are likely the government’s secret projects, technologies, or operations. According to the CIA, test and development flights of the U-2 and the Oxcart spy planes “accounted for more than one-half of all UFO reports during the late 1950s.” The military has more secret test flights, development projects, and special craft than most people realize. (The Pentagon’s new next-generation B-21 stealth bomber just had its first test flight this month.)

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