By Steve Gill
[Feb 20, 1995] Much to the chagrin of the United States military establishment, their "secret" test facility on the Nellis Air Force Range northwest of Las Vegas has become one of the best known military bases on the entire planet. In fact, continuing to call the base "secret" can really only be done with tongue in cheek. It is probably more accurate to call the facility "unacknowledged" -- at least from the military's perspective.
As close as anyone can come to an official name for this remote outpost -- which doesn't even appear on FAA pilots' charts or U.S. Geological Survey maps -- is "Area 51," as it was identified on old government maps. Over the years, numerous monikers have been hung on the base, such as Groom Lake, Dreamland, The Pig Farm, The Ranch, Watertown Strip, and on and on.
While the government continues to deny the existence of Area 51, it is common knowledge that the facility has long played a key role in the test and development of this country's super-secret aircraft. It was Area 51's runways -- the longest in the world -- that gave flight to the likes of the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117A Stealth fighter.
It can be argued that the Air Force itself was responsible for
attracting much of the unwanted attention to Area 51 when it illegally seized 89,000 acres of public land surrounding the facility. Congress eventually approved the land grab under the auspices of national security, but not without generating considerable publicity. For all the embarrassment created by this fiasco, however, it was small potatoes compared to what came next.
In 1989, Las Vegas investigative journalist George Knapp broadcast a story over KLAS-TV about a worker at Area 51 who claimed he was hired by the Office of Naval Intelligence to reverse engineer the propulsion system of what he eventually concluded was an extraterrestrial spacecraft. That man was Bob Lazar, an individual whose story is every bit as complex and controversial as Area 51 itself. That pivotal news broadcast marked the end of any anonymity that Area 51 may have enjoyed.
Soon after the Lazar story broke, people began flocking to the perimeter of the facility in hopes of catching a glimpse of the alien craft Lazar claimed were being test flown there. Since then, every major television network and news program has done features on this facility.
A bird's eye view of Area 51, taken from a Soviet reconnaissance satellite, appeared on the cover of the March 1994 issue of "Popular Science" magazine, and numerous other publications have run
articles on the base.
All this publicity and attention is apparently more than the Pentagon's cloak and dagger mentality can stand. In September of 1993, Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall submitted a request that, if granted, would give the Pentagon control of an additional 4,000 acres of public land, virtually all of it high ground that affords a distant, but unobstructed view of the Groom Dry Lake bed.
This latest attempted land grab has generated additional unwanted publicity and public outcry from many sectors wanting to know just why the Air Force needs to secure a facility that officially does not exist. At this time, the request is still being reviewed, but most insiders concede that it's just a matter of time.
Well-known local activist Glenn Campbell says that they have just about run out of appeals. He figures that the closure of Freedom Ridge, White Sides, Crisis Corner and Supplemental Hills (sites from which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians have viewed the Area 51 base in recent years) is only a matter of one to four months away.
Campbell also stated that once they have a confirmed closure date, a major "camp-out" will be organized to observe the event.
But it seems no matter what the Air Force does, their headaches over Area 51 just won't go away. The February 20, 1995 issue of "Newsweek" reports that five current and former government employees and the widow of a sixth have filed a law suit against the Air Force, claiming they have suffered various medical ailments as a result of exposure to toxins created by the burning of plastics and chemicals in open pits at the Area 51 complex.
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Jonathan Turley, reports that the suit has hit a snag. Four months after the suit was filed, the government -- true to form -- denied that the facility exists. With increasing pressure, however, it now concedes that there is an "operating location" in the area. Turley filed a motion last week to get the official name of the location, without which the suit cannot proceed. A brief filed by the government claims the request is "vague, overbroad, and unreasonably burdensome." But Turley has an ace up his sleeve, one the Feds probably would prefer he not play. If the government fails to supply the official name of the facility, Turley plans to call as a witness the military attache at the Russian Embassy whose testimony would show that the place is real and certainly no secret.
As if all this weren't bad enough, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have launched their own investigations into hazardous-waste violations at Area 51.
Then, just when you'd think things couldn't get any worse, on
February 17, 1995 the government's Area 51 headache grew to migraine proportions. CBS's "Hardcopy" broadcast military video footage apparently smuggled off the Nellis Range. The video showed highly anomalous airborne objects executing fairly unconventional maneuvers with the voices of the flabbergasted radar operators in the background, trying to figure out what they were tracking. In addition, the video tape contained digital readouts of the objects telemetry, velocity, coordinates, radar signal strength and other information that wasn't immediately decipherable.
According to Dave Aaron [owner of a well-known UFO video archive in southern California], "Hardcopy" has even more footage that they plan to air sometime in the future. One of the objects shown on the video bears a striking resemblance to a still photo shot by UFO researcher Gary Schultz near Area 51 in February of 1990 (see "Alien Contact", page 165, by Timothy Good).
Ralph McCarron of Wolf Video reports that several people have been
arrested recently for entering the restricted area. Glenn Campbell, who escorted a KNBC film crew to the area in July of 1994, goes to trial March 3 for a misdemeanor obstruction charge. It seems that when the Lincoln County Sheriff deputies tried to confiscate KNBC's video tape, Glenn locked the doors of the vehicle. KNBC has refused to honor a subpoena to appear in Alamo, Nevada for the trial and, thus far, have not returned any of Glenn's phone calls.
What will happen next at Area 51 is anyone's guess, but if the past is any indication, it is bound to be extremely interesting.
Original file name: CNI - Area 51 Update
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