THE long-fabled facility known as Area 51 has finally been acknowledged by the CIA in newly declassified US government documents.
The recently declassified documents have set Area 51 and UFO buffs abuzz, though there’s no mention of UFO crashes, black-eyed extraterrestrials or staged moon landings.
The CIA history released yesterday not only refers to Area 51 by name and describes some of the activities that took place there, but places the Air Force base on a map, along the dry Groom Lake bed in Nevada.
It also describes some cool, top secret spy planes, though none of them are saucer-shaped.
George Washington University’s National Security Archive used a public records request to obtain a CIA history of one of Area 51’s most secret Cold War projects, the high-flying U-2 spy plane program.
National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson first reviewed the history in 2002, but all mentions of Area 51 had been redacted. So he requested the history again in 2005, hoping for more information, and sure enough, he received a version a few weeks ago with the mentions of Area 51 restored.
The documents show the US government purchased the site in 1955, to test its top secret spy planes, the BBC reports.
“The U-2 was absolutely top secret,” British defence writer Chris Pocock told the BBC. “The had to hide everything about it.”
The declassified CIA papers also try to shed light on the rash of reported UFO sightings around the area, saying that the secret spy planes flew at very high altitudes, which caused “a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs.)”
It’s not the first time the government has acknowledged the super-secretive, 8000-square-mile (13,000 square kilometre) installation. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush acknowledged the “location near Groom Lake” in insisting on continued secrecy, and other government references date to the 1960s.
But those who are convinced “the truth is out there” are taking the document as a sign of loosening secrecy about the government’s activities in the Nevada desert.
Barbara Mervine, who describes herself as part of the “UFO community,” said the declassification of the documents is “quite important.”
The site is known as Area 51 among UFO aficionados because that was the base’s designation on old Nevada test site maps.
Beginning with the U-2 in the 1950s, the base has been the testing ground for a host of top-secret aircraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird, F-117A stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber. Some believe the base is also a storage site for alien vehicles, evidence from the “Roswell incident” and extraterrestrial corpses.
Even for those who do not believe, the mystery surrounding the site, situated about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, across miles of empty desert speckled with Joshua trees and sagebrush, has been a boon.
One Nevada bicycle event company produces an “X Rides” event that incorporates mountain and road biking near a certain heavily guarded patch of Nevada desert. Las Vegas’ minor league baseball team is called “the 51s.”
Small-town restaurants along State Route 375, officially designated the Extraterrestrial Highway, sell souvenir T-shirts to tourists making their way to the boundary of Area 51, which consists of a no-trespassing sign, a surveillance camera and an armed guard on a hill.