fact check

Fact Check Q & A with Debrief Co-founder and Investigator Tim McMillan: Part 2

Prior to launching a recent story on alleged U.S. government crash retrieval efforts by Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean, Christopher Plain sat down with Debrief Co-founder and investigative reporter Tim McMillan to learn about all of the fact-checking and background research that was done by The Debrief’s investigative team beforehand. The following is Part 2 of a 3-part transcript of that call, which has been edited for overall readability. Read part 1 here.


Christopher Plain: Tim, “Certain information which Grusch obtained in his investigation could not be put before Congressional staffers because they did not have the necessary clearances or the appropriate investigative authority.” So [can you] explain to me what that means?

Tim McMillan: Well, it’s difficult to understand specifically because obviously, I don’t have…those staffers didn’t have the clearance. I sure don’t. And so we’re talking about highly sensitive, classified information. But there is…it just depends. You can have a top-secret clearance or a top-secret, special access, sensitive, compartmented SEI clearance, and that doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to everything that’s top secret or SCI. It gets compartmentalized after that. So it gets in these little bands, and you’ve got to be read into these. There’s no telling how many different little compartments there are throughout the government. And so if you’re not read into those compartments, you don’t have access to that information. So even if you’ve got a top-secret clearance, what Grusch is asserting is that some of the information that he had extended beyond the clearances of some of the congressional staffers that would have been hearing this information.

CP: Gotcha.

TM: So, you very well could be talking about (what are) called Unacknowledged Special Access Programs, or USAPs. And these can be narrowed in scope to where the level of people who have authorized access can be narrowed down as small as the President, the Secretary of Defense, and whoever’s working on it. And normal, even congressional oversight committee members would not have access. That gets put to…it’s called the Gang of Eight. And so the eight, eight highest ranking oversight members in the Congress would have access to that. And so that’s what he’s kind of referring to there is we’re talking about stuff that is at the highest levels of security clearance for the government.

CP: So would this mean, if he was in talking to, say, for example, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and she herself has not been read into some of these things, that there would be information that he had that he can’t present to her.

TM: Well….correct. And there’s enough…there’s another wrinkle to this. I don’t know how much you want to dive into this. But I’m happy to…

CP: I think this is the point of what we’re trying to do here. So yeah, please.

TM: Okay. There’s a big wrinkle here as well. And that wrinkle pertains to just bureaucratic procedure. And it is that Grusch filed a whistleblower complaint with the Inspector General’s office. And now, by policy and procedure, when you file a whistleblowers complaint, Congress, congressional staff, anybody in the legislative branch is now totally off-limits from that whistleblower. They are not…one of the quotes that I was given was, “We’re basically told don’t go within a mile of where this person might be.” They’re not supposed to go near the whistleblower. They’re not supposed to intervene in their case. They’re not supposed to dig into the facts of it. And that that’s not just for UAP-related things, that’s throughout government-wide. So any kind of whistleblower complaint…theoretically, it’s supposed to limit political influence.

CP: Got it.

TM: What that means is that a lot of the information that once the whistleblower complaint was filed, the only people from the legislative branch who can interview someone, and they can hear all the facts are the general counsel for the Intelligence Committee. And so, a lot of the very specific information was actually given through depositions to the General Counsel of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee and not to congressional members or staffers directly.

CP: You mentioned the Inspector General’s complaint. I know we’ll get a little more detail on that later. But towards that end, they write in the article here, “Although locations, program names, and other specific data remain classified, the Inspector General and intelligence committee staff were provided with these details. Several current members of the program spoke to the Inspector General’s office and corroborated the information Grusch had provided for the classified complaint.” Am I reading that correctly? That means people, “several current members of the program?” Meaning people that are directly involved with the supposed, alleged crash retrieval program spoke to the IGs office and corroborated his information?

TM: That’s correct. And that was another detail that was independently corroborated through individuals who would have been part of that process of the depositions and kind of interviewed in Congress and with the Inspector General’s office. There’s very tight-lipped information. But I was told, and it was corroborated, that additional eyewitnesses provided information in support, corroborating Grusch’s claims to General Counsel and to the Inspector General.

CP: Wow. That’s, that seems really important because, in many ways, a critic of this story might say much of this Grucsh’s testimony is hearsay or secondhand or things he’s heard or been told. But here, we’re reading that current members of the program spoke to the IGs office and corroborated the information Grusch had provided for the classified complaint. That seems critical.

TM: I agree. And I think, I mean, obviously, that’s something that is very, very sensitive information, very sensitively guarded, both the nature of it, obviously, and the fact that it is part of a whistleblower IG complaint. So that’s already going to be very sensitive information. So we’re kind of doubling up the sensitive nature of it. And so when it comes to program names, dates, that kind of stuff, that or even witnesses that would’ve spoken on his behalf, I have no clue. But I do know that I was told that that was accurate, that other individuals had testified in formal settings on behalf of what he was saying and substantiating it.

CP: That’s crazy.

TM: Yeah. (laughs) I agree.

CP: Okay, next one. It says, “In a 2022 performance evaluation, Laura A. Potter, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters, Department of the Army, described Nell, we’re now talking about Kevin Nell, one of the supporting witnesses, as “an officer with the strongest possible moral compass.” Is that a performance evaluation provided by Nell to Leslie and Ralph?

TM: Yes, and I mean, that characterization of Nell was shared among the multiple independent sources that I spoke to who knew him personally and professionally.

CP: Great. Great. That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear. All right, next fact here. “Grusch is represented by Charles McCullough III, senior partner of the Compass Rose Legal Group in Washington and the original Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2011. At that time, McCullough reported directly to the then-Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, and oversaw intelligence officers responsible for audits, inspections, and investigations.” Obviously, those are all public pieces of information. But are those things that you guys took the time to confirm?

TM: In this case, if you want to piece an answer out of this, I’ll just say that I think that that was one of the highlights from where you saw this is legal representation… it’s somebody who’s very experienced in this arena and a very serious individual. All of this points to being a very serious matter and not some silly and some kind of goofy thing, even though people might have this idea of crashed UFOs and green men in their minds. The real facts of the case are being taken and treated very seriously.

CP: I’ll probably use a piece of that answer because I think it’s important to just show that we can, you know, that this is a legit guy.

TM: I’m dancing around cause I don’t want to say anything bad about anybody. But you know, this isn’t…

CP: It’s not Jackie Childs from Seinfeld.

TM: Right. It’s not somebody that has been involved in UAP. It’s not a UFO attorney, air quotes. Got it? This is a serious, serious attorney.

CP: Not somebody I call if I’ve injured my neck.

TM: No. No. (They’re) exactly who you would want if you were filing this kind of complaint.

CP: Gotcha. Perfect. Next fact. “In May 2022, McCullough filed a Disclosure of Urgent Concerns(s); Complaint of Reprisal on behalf of Grusch with the Intelligence Community Inspector General about credible, detailed information that Grusch had gathered beginning in 2019 while working for the UAP Task Force.” Did anyone see that complaint?

TM: Yeah, and that’s from Ralph and Leslie. And then they would have verified that through Micah and that’s also something that Ralph and Leslie were able to verify.

CP: It does say an unclassified version of the complaint in the next sentence.

TM: Yep

CP: So it’s something that they were able to see Gotcha. Okay. Yep.

TM: Yeah, that’s the complaint filed by his attorney. That comes from his attorney’s office.

CP: Next fact. “The Inspector General found his complaint “credible and urgent” in July 2022. According to Grusch, a summary was immediately submitted to the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.“ Is that, is that something that…like Avril Haines, isn’t going to confirm that to you, obviously. So, how is that a fact that can be verified?

TM: Sure. And you’re right. I can’t tell you exactly what the Inspector General’s official response was there, although Ralph and Leslie quoted “credible and urgent,” so they were able to verify that piece of documentation.

CP: Gotcha.

TM: However, I will say that through secondary independent sources, the actions that were taken subsequently with Grusch were consistent with that. Things definitely did move forward. Depositions definitely did occur. That kind of stuff did happen.

CP: It says, “A whistleblower reprisal investigation was launched, and Grusch began his communication with the staff of the Congressional intelligence committees in private closed-door sessions.” Is that whistleblower reprisal investigation still ongoing?

TM: Yes, it’s still ongoing. When we’re talking about the staff of the congressional intelligence committees, we’re talking about the general counsel. We’re talking about the legal representation from those committees. Because again, it’s very…congressional staffers and lawmakers themselves couldn’t necessarily sit in and interview Grusch. But the legal counsel, the attorneys for those committees, could. Does that mean the lawmakers didn’t hear directly what was said? One important factor here is that what that does mean is that these were these claims, and everything was brought forth in a legal setting under oath, in a deposition, that kind of formal setting. So even though, you know, nine times out of 10, Congress, when they speak with somebody, is not going to request them to be under oath. During public hearings…watch on C-span any day of the week. You don’t see people swear in. But in these cases, someone would absolutely swear in. And so there is this added legal cover here that substantiates the seriousness of this information. If, indeed, this information is not accurate, if Grusch is not being truthful here, there are legal consequences.

CP: Fantastic.

TM: Yeah, that’s more important to me. I mean, in my opinion, that’s more important to me than just testifying to Congress. They are oftentimes…unless you’re sworn under oath, there’s not really any consequences if you come into the Congress and tell them a tall tale. But if you’re sworn in in front of attorneys, in a deposition or legal setting, there are consequences. So it does make it more significant, more serious, in my opinion.

CP: As a follow-up to that, are there consequences if he falsified the information he provided in his Inspector General complaint?

TM: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, obviously, the classified complaint is classified, and we haven’t seen that. But as a formality with any type of IG complaint, a person will be asked to not only provide their written affidavit complaint, so what came from the attorney, but they’ll also be asked to fill out a handwritten, “red tape” type procedure. And we do sign that form where it very clearly marked that you’re stating everything that you’re saying to be true. And if it’s not, or you’re intentionally lying, there are legal consequences. You’re lying to the federal government. And so, it’s as significant if not more than, say, filing a false police report, something like that. There are legal consequences for lying.

CP: So between his private closed-door sessions with congressional intelligence committees, which you just addressed, which involve legal jeopardy if he’s falsifying claims there, there’s also legal jeopardy if he’s falsifying claims to the IG. So if he is falsifying all of this, he’s set himself up for some serious pain from multiple locations.

TM: Sure, yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you look at just what’s known in terms of the amount of time and effort that’s been put in from attorneys in Congress, so General Counsel, in the Senate committees and the time and effort that’s been put in by the Inspector General, we’re talking about a lot of man hours, a lot of effort. And they’re obviously very serious allegations. And they seem crazy, don’t get me wrong. But they’re very serious allegations. So yeah, obviously, you just wasted everybody’s time lying about this. I think that would come down to the Department of Justice. If they wanted to file charges. But I certainly (guess) it would happen.

CP: Gotcha.

TM: If for no other reason than to dissuade anyone else from doing it.

CP: Here’s the next fact. This is a quote from Grey. “A vast array of our most sophisticated sensors, including space-based platforms, have been utilized by different agencies, typically in triplicate, to observe and accurately identify the out-of-this-world nature, performance, and design of these anomalous machines, which are then determined not to be of earthly origin.” I know that’s a claim, and it’s nothing we can specifically fact-check. I just want to make sure I’m understanding that when he says “have been used by different agencies, typically in triplicate,” what is “in triplicate” mean?

TM: What we’re talking about here is that it comes as no surprise the U.S.’s technical collection capabilities are unparalleled. The United States has a vast network and ability to collect intelligence data. And, so, it honestly really then should come to no surprise to anybody that if you’ve got things like UAPs traveling around floating around the world, you will be able to use the same sensors and devices to gather data on it and verify it. And so, when you’re talking about “in triplicate,” what they’re saying is multiple sensors and multiple devices that are able to focus on the same object and provide the same data or supplementary data on it. So it’s not just what you might normally think of. I mean, there’s…they can glean a lot of information down to what type of materials something’s made from, all sorts of stuff they can get just from a different sensor array. And so, you know, Mr. Grey’s claim there is that a lot of these observations and some of the best ones have been made by multiple, multiple sensors, multiple devices, to kind of verify what it is. Give you some real scientific accuracy.

CP: Alright, so we’re now on page seven. I only got one left.

TM: Okay

CP: “Grey noted that the hypothesis that the United States alone has bullied the other nations into maintaining this secrecy for nearly a century continues to prevail as the primary consensus amongst the public at large. “My hope is to dissuade the global populace from this archaic and preposterous notion and to potentially pave the way for a much broader discussion.” Again, not something that you can specifically fact-check. But the reason I’m asking you about it here…it seems like this might hint at Grey’s motivation for being willing to contribute to this story; this idea that America has somehow bullied other governments into not talking about this subject. Where, in reality, they’re all doing the same thing. Or, at least, if they’re staying quiet, it’s of their own accord and not because of pressure from the (U.S.) government. Is that? Am I reading that correctly?

TM: I’m glad that you brought that up. Because it’s important to highlight that when you’re investigating information, and you’re dealing with eyewitnesses, you’re dealing with human beings, you’re dealing with people. And they’re giving you testimonial evidence. They always bring with them their own sets of motivations, intents, and personalities. But more importantly, whenever they’re discussing information, people are always going to have their own sets of opinions, beliefs, and the things that they know of as fact.

CP: Okay.

TM: So, in this case, as (Raph and Leslie stated in the article, saying, you know, this is his opinion, or this is his belief that this is going on, and then his hope is that the reality of it will make world peace and everything. Is that something that he’s saying as fact? No. So he’s not saying that’s the goal, you know, that he knows that based on any official capacity. This is just his belief or opinion on how he has viewed these activities and how they can be swept under the rug for so long. And how it is believed that the US, obviously, the US has some pretty big geopolitical power. It’s able to project power in different arenas. And so, it’s believed they use that power to try to make other governments not discuss it. But again, it’s important to always understand that’s just opinion and belief. Is it important to the story? Sure. Do you want to include those opinions and beliefs that you have for the people, your witnesses, and how they’re viewing it? Absolutely. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that that’s not necessarily something that’s being stated as a fact of record.

UPDATE: Following outreach from Compass Rose Legal Group (CRLG), The Debrief wishes to clarify that the whistleblower complaint itself was not classified, and CRLG’s representation pertained only to the withholding of UAP materials from Congress and retaliation against Mr. Grusch. The firm has clarified to The Debrief that it took no position on the contents of the materials in question, only their improper withholding from Congress, while they represented Mr. Grusch. That formal representation ended on June 9, 2023. This article/interview transcript has been amended to clarify an earlier assertion about communication between authors Kean and Blumenthal and CRLG.

Christopher Plain is the Head Science Writer at The Debrief as well as a Science Fiction and Fantasy novelist. Follow and connect with him on Twitter, learn about his books at plainfiction.com, or email him directly at christopher@thedebrief.org.

Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter, and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing typically focuses on defense, national security, the Intelligence Community, and topics related to psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter: @LtTimMcMillan.  Tim can be reached by email: tim@thedebrief.org or through encrypted email: LtTimMcMillan@protonmail.com