From mob activity in Las Vegas to strange phenomena in the sky.
Now, NewsNation is bringing you unprecedented access to his archives that date back decades. And how his life’s work still influences the conversation on UFOs today.
“I was so cocky in the beginning,” said Knapp. “I figured ‘Well look, what this topic needs is a good reporter. I’ll have this all whipped into shape in six months.’ Of course that was ridiculously optimistic.”
Six months turned into a 36-year Las Vegas career for the investigative reporter.
Knapp helped reveal the very existence of Area 51 through his interviews with Bob Lazar.
Lazar was a young scientist who claimed to work at the secret base near Groom Lake called S4, what would later be known as Area 51, where he claimed crashed UFOs were stored.
Lazar’s interview with Knapp garnered attention far beyond Las Vegas.
“Suddenly people around the world were paying attention to it,” said Knapp. “There was something called Paranet that was transcribing every piece as it aired. And then they would send it all over the world through this fledgling technology called the internet.”
Lazar was even invited to go to Japan to interview with reporters there. But along with all the attention came disturbing threats.
“The day we were supposed to go, I had tickets in hand. I even bought Yen at the currency exchange. But we had threatening phone calls. And we really thought how important is the interview, and we didn’t go,” recounted Lazar.
He told Knapp that security was tight and that fear and intimidation were used as a brainwashing tool.
LIE DETECTORS AND THREATS
It was one of Knapp’s standout scoops.
His interviews with Lazar, a young scientist who claimed to have worked at Area 51.
But was Lazar telling the truth?
Knapp put him to the test and Lazar underwent several polygraph tests.
The results of the first exam were inconclusive. Lazar appeared to be truthful on one test, but deceitful on another.
Knapp then brought in a second polygraph examiner, who put Lazar through four more tests.
In the end, several different examiners determined they could not say for sure whether or not Lazar was being truthful.
Knapp’s connection to Lazar led to other tipsters calling him. Again, however, there was intimidation that made his quest to learn increasingly difficult.
Even one of the polygraph examiners, former police officer Terry Tavernetti, says shortly after his involvement with Lazar was made public, his employers were contacted.
“The corporate officers were called,” said Tavernetti. (They) received a telephone call from a government agency, and wanted to know why I was involved. I asked what agency and I was refused this information.”
Tavernetti says his house was also burglarized around the time he did Lazar’s polygraph.
“As an investigator of over 20 years, I don’t believe in coincidences,” said Tavernetti. “Could it have been random I guess.”
Knapp believes he was also under surveillance.
“They were listening to my phone and it really pissed me off,” said Knapp. “I mean, they couldn’t have obtained a warrant to do it. No judge in Nevada would approve something like that.
They wanted to know who was offering to give me information. And so we produced another nine-part series in May of 1990 and it hit even harder. And that’s sort of sealed the deal for me. It made me the UFO reporter, whether I liked it or not.”
“Two really important things happened in association with that project: one was Harry Reid,” Knapp said.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., saw Knapp’s UFO series and was interested.
The senator visited Area 51 several times over the years but never commented to Knapp on the record about what he saw.
In 2007, Reid and other senators authorized a study of UFOs.
“It later became known as ATIP, Advanced Aerospace Threat Indentification Program. A contract for the program was awarded to a company called Bass, an offshoot of Bigelow Aerospace that was owned by Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, a billionaire who had funded his own UFO studies for years.
Bigelow first connected with Knapp after his initial UFO reports in the late 80s.
“Eventually Reid and Bigelow got together and I introduced them,” Knapp said.
Knapp reported on every step of the new project.
During the five years of research, Robert Bigelow made an unexpected finding: Details of a UFO resembling a tic-tac off the Pacific Coast.
As Knapp started to become synonymous with UFO reporting, he started to look outside the U.S., specifically at Russia.
“So there comes this high-level Russian scientist to Las Vegas and we have a couple of beers and ask him about UFOs,” said Knapp. “‘You ever hear anything about UFOs?’” asked Knapp. ‘I don’t think so. Doesn’t ring a bell,’ the man said. We have one more beer. He goes, ‘You know, now that you mentioned it, there’s a friend of mine, a KGB who said he had worked on a report about UFOs. And some documents, I can ask him about it.’
Behind the scenes, Knapp was planning a high-stakes trip in 1993, with Russia in turmoil and sources ready to talk.
“We were there 10 days, we were pulled over by cops seven times,” said Knapp. “There were people stationed outside of our rooms at the hotel, and I would put little, little traps to see if they went through my stuff, which they did every single day. We met with this guy, Boris Sokolov, who had been the head of what was then the largest UFO investigation conducted by a government in the history of the world. There was a period of 1978 to 1988 where the Russians had had these dramatic UFO incidents, and they decided to create a program to get to the bottom of it.”
“And man, that was really something. I won’t explain exactly how I got access to the files, but I did,” said Knapp. “Thousands of pages from the Russian Ministry of Defense, many of those pages were classified at the time.”
But there was a problem. How was Knapp supposed to get the files out of Russia?
“These documents in those days, at least, the Russian Ministry of Defense would stamp a classification on the top page of the document, and the rest of them weren’t marked at all,” said Knapp. “It was clear they were military documents, but without that classification, it’s a lot less onerous and dangerous. I just removed the top pages of all those documents.”
“I threw the rest of it in my suitcase with some caviar, by the way. They told us we weren’t allowed to take caviar, so I threw some in there as a diversion.”
“And it worked. They opened it up there,said ‘Caviar is not allowed.’ Closed the suitcase back up. And then the other pages I carried through security I carried on my person. If they had caught me I’d still be there in a gulag somewhere, but they didn’t. And you know, the goal was maybe we’ll find out more from
the Russians about what our government knows about UFOs than we’ll ever learn from our government itself, which is true,” Knapp said.
He began sharing his findings with key players in Washington, and his friends: Sen. Reid and Robert Bigelow.
“I’d asked Col. Sokolov, ‘What’s the interest? What he tried to do here? And he said, ‘It’s really simple. These craft can do things that we can’t, they fly circles around our best aircraft.’”
Three years later Knapp returned to Russia and returned to the U.S. with even more bombshells.
“I interviewed this guy named Maltsev, who had been commander of the entire Soviet Air Forces, the Russian air forces, and he told me about these encounters that Sokolov had recalled counted,” said Knapp. “Forty different incidents where Russian warplanes chased UFOs, and boom, they were gone. And three of those cases, though, the Russian warplanes crashed, two of the pilots died. And after that, this guy Maltsev issued an order: Leave them alone. You see a UFO, leave them the hell alone because they have incredible capacities for retaliation.”
More than 25 years later, a Pentagon whistleblower would share the exact fears that Knapp reported on back then: A secret cold war with some of our biggest enemies.
“We are in a competition with our adversaries to understand this. It is a multi-decade cold war that has been under our noses for so long. There is no good way to level the playing field and hold other nation-states accountable if they are doing unethical or illicit activity as it relates to this subject. The secrecy is putting us in a very dangerous position that a county that is an adversary of ours might make a breakthrough and it is destabilizing,” said Pentagon whistleblower David Grusch.
In June 2023, an exclusive interview on NewsNation with David Grusch revealed alleged secrets within our own government of the existence of UFOs.
Grusch’s story, which was first shared publicly in June, was actually known to George Knapp well before then.
“I’m sitting at a bar and I had been told I might be introduced to somebody,” said Knapp. “I’m sitting at the bar and they’re shooting video of me, just cutaways at that time for something we’re working on. And at that exact moment while they’re getting video made. Dave Grush walks up and introduces himself. And we started a conversation and got to know each other and we’ve been talking ever since. And boy, he shared with me something that I wasn’t allowed to make public then, but it was in his whistleblower complaint, what he had filed with the inspector general. Because at that point, they’re already coming after him.”
David Grusch’s claims on NewsNation sparked an unprecedented move in Washington: A historic hearing focused on disclosure and getting answers about what the government truly knows about UFOs.
And seated right there with the three key witnesses, was none other than George Knapp, the UFO reporter.
“These members of Congress haven’t been at it that long. They knew they needed help. They wanted to set up a hearing,” Knapp said.
“My main concern was that it was it needed to be bipartisan,” said Knapp. “It can’t just be Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., and other Republicans. And he agreed to that. He said, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna make it bipartisan. We got some Democratic members who are interested in it.’ And he did, he kept his promise.”
“They’re ( the politicians) all asking pointed questions (during the hearing), they’re all into it,” said Knapp. They’re not asking questions just prepared by staff, they’re listening to the witnesses and asking good stuff. And they’re, they’re pissed off. But they’re interested. So they they want to keep you going. But as I have said, a hundred times, ‘The keepers of the secrets are better at their job than people like us are at ours.’ And they are not going to let this thing go easily. The pushback has already begun.”
MORE WORK TO DO
Knapp has teamed up with UFO researcher Jeremy Corbell for his podcast “Weaponiized,” as they continue to be at the forefront of breaking the biggest stories in the field of UFOs.
And Knapp says there is more to come.
“There are more whistleblowers, and there will be more that will come out,” said Knapp. “There’s considerable competition in the UFO world for access to these whistleblowers.”