Area 51 Declassified CIA Documents

Area 51

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Area 51 is a popular but not-so-affectionate moniker used to denote a remote Edwards Air Force Base detachment located in the Nevada Test and Training Range. More specifically, Area 51 lies inside Nevada's southernmost region, about 83 miles north-northwest of Las Vegas. A large military field is also located in its center near Groom Lake's southern edges. First acquired by the U.S. Air Force in 1955, the site's then stated main purpose was to serve as a testing facility for Lockheed U-2 aircraft. All this information was revealed in CIA documents that were declassified in 2013.

Area 51 true purposes are top-secret

Although the U.S. Armed Forces contend that Area 51's primary on-site activities and functions are classified, certain historical data reportedly suggest its most probable use as an experimental aircraft and weapons development and testing facility. Interestingly enough, the U.S. government has never declared it a secret base, but does classify all Area 51 events and research as Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.

Regardless of what's really going on in Area 51, its intensely secretive aura has sparked widespread conspiracy theories and made the base an integral feature of UFO folklore. Quite fittingly, areas in the immediate vicinity with very close proximity to Area 51 are collectively known as "Extraterrestrial Highway." A nearby town named Rachel is also reportedly a popular tourist attraction for precisely the same reason.

Area 51's entire border is plastered with conspicuously posted signs designed to warn the public that, "photography is prohibited," and the "use of deadly force is authorized," pursuant to 1950 McCarran Internal Security Act provisions. Likewise, all surrounding areas near Groom Lake are officially deemed as permanently off-limits to civilian and regular military aircraft. Personnel security clearances are frequently verified and even military pilot trainees at nearby NAFR face swift, severe discipline if they stray so much as a fractional millimeter into an "exclusionary box" around Groom Lake's airspace.

Furthermore, declassified government documents pertaining to the Nevada Test Site or Groom operations must be redacted to remove all references to Area 51. The sole known departure from this long-standing official practice was a Memorandum issued in 1967 by then CIA Director Richard Helms that mentioned "Three OXCART aircraft and ... necessary task force personnel will be [dispatched] to Kadena from Area 51." That verbiage was apparently overlooked by redacting editor(s).

Following nearly a full decade of persistent requests for disclosure pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by George Washington University National Security Archives Director Jeffrey Richelson, the CIA finally released an official history of OXCART and U-2 projects. That "simple" act was a historical event by itself, as it was the first official CIA acknowledgement that Area 51 even existed.

Area 51 inculcation into environmental litigation

Five private civilian contractors and two deceased contractors' widows filed suit against the U.S. Air Force and Environmental Protection Agency in 1994. Plaintiffs' legal counsel was George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who claimed that his clients or their late spouses were present during the burning of a very large volume of unidentified chemicals in open pits on Groom.

Besides monetary compensation for serious bodily injuries like severe liver, skin and respiratory damage, plaintiffs demanded full disclosure of details about specific toxins to which they were allegedly exposed. However, government agency defendants refused to comply for various reasons that were reportedly stated so vaguely as to self-prove nothing more than thinly-veiled evasive tactics to conceal egregious negligence. Such blatant official disregard for the law sparked widespread theories of governmental conspiracies with much greater far-reaching implications than legal issues subsumed in the instant litigation.

One widely cited prominent example was a live interview televised by 60 Minutes, during which Congressman and former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Lee H. Hamilton publicly accused the U.S. Air Force for "classifying all [data] about Area 51 ... to protect [itself] from a lawsuit."

When the presiding federal judge rejected a government petition to exempt requested documents from mandatory FOIA disclosure, U.S. President Bill Clinton issued a Presidential Determination. That executive proclamation had the practical effect of exempting all requested documents from legally compelled disclosure. Consequently, the same federal judge who initially denied a government request to exempt relevant documents from forced disclosure was himself forced to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of legally competent supporting evidence.

Turley appealed to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Appeals Court on grounds of governmental abuse of vested power to classify information. Then incumbent Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Sheila Widnall filed an opposing legal memorandum that argued against mandatory disclosure on grounds that it could jeopardize the scope or nature of military operations. Ninth Circuit Court judges rejected Turley's appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, thereby leaving plaintiffs with no legal recourse to pursue recovery for alleged damages.

In 2005, an Air Force website published a non-classified official memo with details about safe handling procedures for the same materials that plaintiffs previously requested but the government denied on grounds that it was classified. Soon after investigative journalists discovered it, the very damaging post suddenly disappeared.

Final remarks about Area 51

Based on above-reported findings, this author remains undecided as to whether Area 51 is legitimately classified or merely provides the feds with a convenient deeply shrouded "safe haven" for dirty secrets. In either case, one fact is certain. Human nature has long proven to spend at least ten times more thought on mysteries than known facts. Given that immutable timeless truth, the U.S. government might be best advised to jettison all cloak-and-dagger secrecy and just let whatever chips may fall simply land wherever they may. This recommendation stems from a second well-known reality that mere appearances can be far worse than case-specific factual circumstances that reside just beneath shallow surfaces.

On the other hand, public officials with sole discretion and exclusive possession of data with potentially vital import to public interests have strong disincentive to disclose information that may expose their own malfeasance. Hence, each reader must reach their own conclusions by using their own best judgment of all relevant facts reported.