[CNI News thanks our friends at Houston Sky, and Glenn Campbell (aka psychospy), for forwarding this article, which first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Oct. 3, 1995.]
by Warren Bates
The federal government has obtained a presidential exemption that will allow it to keep secret the identification of chemicals used at the U.S. Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake.
On Sept. 29, President Clinton signed an exemption saying it "is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt" the Air Force from disclosing classified information regarding the base.
The details are being sought by workers who have two lawsuits pending against the government, alleging that they were exposed to toxic contaminants while working on projects.
In an Aug. 30 ruling U S. District Judge Philip Pro said that under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the military could not arbitrarily claim certain documents were classified, forcing it to either release the data or get Clinton's signature preventing disclosure.
Lawyer Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who represents the workers, had hailed Pro's decision as a victory. Turley said Monday he was not discouraged that an exemption was granted.
"The military should not conclude that a presidential exemption is the same as a presidential pardon," he said. "This relieves them of current and future responsibility, but it does not mean they can go back in time and make unlawful conduct lawful.
"The first act of Bill Clinton in this case is to ride on the scene and shoot the wounded," Turley said. "While we wish the president had stood with the workers, the law is a wonderful equalizer. Even a Groom Lake worker can prevail over the president when he is right."
Turley said: "If nothing else, we can accept that the activities at Groom Lake have been reviewed at the highest office.''
Lawyers for the Department of Justice on Monday filed a motion asking Pro to reconsider parts of his decision.
Attorneys Russell Young and Sylvia Quast argued that Congress never intended to require presidential action regarding disclosure of classified information under the Resource Act.
They said the order would frustrate the current system that presidents use -- the delegation of classification decisions to subordinate executive branch officials.
"It would be impossible for the president to personally make all -- or anything but a minuscule percentage of -- classification or declassification decisions," their motion says.
Turley said the motion for reconsideration was based on an "inconvenience theory." He said the government is unhappy with the hoops they have to now go through, so they want to circumvent the law.
"While Groom Lake may seem expendable or remote in the Beltway, the cost of violations are felt by real people and there are real injuries. Fortunately they have real protections given them by the Constitution."
Original file name: .CNI - Groom Lake Exempt 10.5
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