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At the Border of Area 51
As we pulled up to the border of Area 51, marked with large white signs, a brand-new Jeep Cherokee slowed to a stop on the other side, neatly blocking the dirt road. The windows of the Jeep were nearly black, so with the sun setting in the hills behind them, I could barely see silhouettes of the two men inside.
USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED, one of the two border signs stated in bold red letters. Both cited Federal Regulation #795 as forbidding entrance to the government installation.
Though the signs didn't say it, we were at the eastern border of Area 51, the secret government facility approximately ninety miles due north of Las Vegas, Nevada. From almost any vantage point, the six-by-ten-mile block of land that encompasses Area 51 is hidden behind low mountains.
But the mountains can't hide the aircraft that take off and land on the runways across Groom dry lake bed--said to be the longest in the world at nearly thirty thousand feet. The new stealthy aircraft, such as the mythical hypersonic Aurora, are rumored to be capable of reaching speeds of Mach 8, which means it would take a racetrack half the size of America for it to turn in a circle at top speed.
People are drawn to Area 51 not only to see supersophisticated aircraft, but because of the numerous sightings of flying saucers and UFOs. There is actually video footage of a UFO over Nellis Range that is remarkably like a video of a Brazilian UFO. And there have been strange cattle mutilations as well as reports of abductions by aliens while visitors were in the area.
In a 1989 interview with George Knapp on KLAS-TV, a former government employee named Bob Lazar said that he worked at S-4, just south of Area 51, in a project to back-engineer alien flying saucers. Lazar says our government has obtained nine discs and is trying to decipher the alien technology. He went public, he claims, in order to protect his own life after breaking his security oath.
No one knows for sure which government agency controls Area 51, so I tried to get in by contacting Nellis Air Force Base, which operates the Nellis Range Complex, a bombing and gunnery range that surrounds the Groom Lake area. During one of my phone conversations I was told, "It's dangerous out there--there's bombs dropping all over the place." One of the uses of the Nellis Range is "Red Flag," established in 1975 as a realistic combat training exercise involving the Air Force and its allies. These forces "attack" Nellis Range targets--mock airfields, vehicle convoys, missile sites, tanks, parked aircraft, and bunkered and defensive positions. The Gulf War owed a measure of its success to Red Flag exercises.
The Air Force denied me access to Nellis Range, and Technical Sergeant James Brook sent me a fax of the official Groom Lake Statement (dated 26 October 1994):
There are a variety of activities, some of which are classified, throughout what is often called the Air Force's Nellis Range Complex. The range is used for the testing of technologies and systems and training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States. There is an operating location near Groom dry lake. Some specific activities and operations conducted on the Nellis Range, both past and present, remain classified and cannot be discussed.
Brook explained that he couldn't talk about anything regarding the Nellis Range, even about his personal feelings, because of security reasons. And he never let the words "Area 51" cross his lips--the secret base is officially known as "the Groom Lake facility." Brook then referred me to a next higher level: to Air Combat Command and the Secretary of the Air Force, Department of Defense.
I sent letters to the Pentagon requesting a tour of the Nellis Range, including but not limited to Papoose Lake and Area 51, but I wasn't surprised when one after another request simply disappeared into the black hole of "black project" secrecy. That's when I asked my congresswoman for help, and the Honorable Carolyn B. Maloney, member of the House of Representatives for the 14th District, New York, wrote several letters to Lieutenant Napoleon Byars, National Affairs Division, urging that my "request for a media tour receive prompt review and every possible consideration."
While the Pentagon never did answer me, Congresswoman Maloney kindly sent me a copy of her reply from Lieutenant Colonel Patricia M. Fornes, Congressional Inquiry Division. Fornes refused to grant my request on grounds of "policies and regulations relative to national security."
For further inquiries, a phone number was offered. So I called Major Guy Thompson, Public Affairs, and asked, Now that you've acknowledged the existence of the Groom Lake facilities, what would be the harm in allowing in a few select media? You've done it before at supersensitive government facilities, why not here?
Major Thompson was extremely pleasant and interested in my project, but he only replied, "We've had quite a few journalists ask for a tour, but we can't because of issues of national security."
The Department of Energy (DoE) was infinitely more accommodating, as per the dictates of former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, who took President Clinton's request for openness literally. The DoE gave me an extensive tour of the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,350-square-mile restricted area just west of the Nellis Range. On BLM maps, Area 51 is a small box of land barely connected to the northeastern part of NTS--and technically considered to be under the same land management.
NTS, otherwise known as "America's Nuclear Proving Ground," is a vast complex of underground test tunnels, assembly plants, bomb craters, and nuclear waste storage facilities. On my tour, I viewed the shafts where a warhead and a small amount of plutonium were going to be detonated 980 feet underground in June 1997. While eating lunch on Rainier Mesa, I had a fantastic view of the runways and the northernmost half of Groom Lake.
A few days later, at the eastern border of Area 51, I couldn't see the base, although I was physically much closer than I had been at NTS. With the narrow road blocked by the security Jeep, we were boxed into a narrow ravine where two mountain buttes overlapped. The two men didn't budge.
There were two cameras on the butte to the left, tracking our Dodge Diesel (equipped with two scanners and a CB radio). The sophisticated camera setups had video uplinks, parabolic dish reflectors, and yagi antennae. Near the white warning signs, another surveillance camera was tied to a yucca tree, an unsettling cyborg of ancient flora and silicon chips.
Ironically, this electronic Berlin wall was erected across what used to be known as Freedom Ridge, appropriated by the Air Force in a much-publicized "land grab." In April 1995, the border of Area 51 was pushed outward, eliminating the last two easily accessible vantage points to view the Groom Lake facility.
The name "Area 51" wasn't even acknowledged by the government until legal suits were filed against the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency. These suits were filed by a group of Area 51 employees and their families because of alleged exposure to toxic wastes burned in open pits at the Groom Lake facility. This lawsuit finally forced the Department of Defense to release their 1994 "Groom Lake Statement," which tersely admits, "There is an operating location near Groom dry lake."
The waste lawsuit, meanwhile, trundled on in the court of appeals in San Francisco, after being dismissed by a federal district court judge in Las Vegas. On January 8, 1998, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that state secrets privilege invoked by the Secretary of the Air Force makes discovery and trial on the claims of environmental crimes "impossible."
Area 51 on the Internet
The government apparently intends to keep everything about Area 51 a secret. Jonathan Turley, attorney for the workers in the hazardous waste lawsuits, realized how serious the Department of Defense was when he tried to introduce as evidence an alleged Groom Lake/Area 51 security manual. The government retroactively classified the document and the judge sealed Professor Turley's offices at George Washington University.
Turley was simply using the document to illustrate the types of buildings at Groom Lake--such as a vehicle maintenance shop, which presumably dealt in everyday materials such as battery acid, antifreeze, and fuel oil that can be hazardous when burned. Yet the defense attorney for the government said that public exposure of the security manual could "endanger the national security."
Anyone is free to go on the Internet and download their very own secret copy of the Area 51 Security Manual. Glenn Campbell and Mark Farmer each received the manual from anonymous sources, and Campbell posted the text on his extensive website, Ufomind.
In the security manual, the section on "Field Sensor Guide" describes the "electronical sensors" planted throughout the ranges. These sensors look like little pots, and are marked "Government Property"--though they don't say which part of the government! These sensors are able to monitor vehicles or individuals entering or exiting the BLM land next to Nellis, which is in itself an illegal use of public land.
The precision arrival at the border by the "Cammo Dudes" (as Campbell nicknamed the security guards) made it clear they knew we were coming--and it wasn't just from the trail of dust we left in our wake driving down the long dirt road. The sensors had caused our scanners to squelch regularly, every half mile.
Glenn Campbell's website, Ufomind, turned out to be a goldmine of information on Area 51. The maps in his "Area 51" Viewer's Guide got us to the border, and the frequencies he listed allowed us to eavesdrop on the encrypted squelches as the two Cammo Dudes lifted their radios and reported back to their main base.
Glenn Campbell has run the Area 51 Research Center since 1993, releasing information on the secret base and actively raising awareness on civil issues such as the Air Force land grab and the designation of the Extraterrestrial Highway running along the northeastern edge of the Nellis Complex. Campbell also produces The Groom Lake Desert Rat, a World Wide Web newsletter that "walks a careful line about what may be out there at Papoose and Groom Lakes, trying to avoid speculation, but arguing that the secrecy here is excessive given the end of the Cold War."
Before coming out to the border of Area 51, we went to Rachel, Nevada, to visit the Area 51 Research Center, a single-wide trailer with all kinds of junk piled in front that has fallen out of the sky--pieces of aircraft and radar targets. Rachel is literally a handful of trailers in a vast empty desert valley, with several establishments devoted to selling alien- related merchandise.
As reports of UFO sightings in the area continued to increase, so did Campbell's reputation as the man to contact if you wanted a "native" guide to Area 51. By the end of 1994, Campbell had been interviewed by virtually every major media outlet in the country, from CNN, NBC, and ABC News to The New York Times Magazine--everyone wanted to see the secret base that had no name.
What's in a Name?
To this day no one knows where the term "Area 51" came from, but it could have originated in the Department of Energy, which currently operates the Nevada Test Site. Many of the sections of NTS are referred to by number--Area 15, Area 10, and Area 9 are near Area 51.
When I checked with the DoE database of declassified documents housed at the Coordination and Information Center (CIC), there were a number of documents recording radiation levels and structural examinations dating back to 1969 that referred to the Groom Lake area as "Area 51."
Despite the government's attempts at secrecy, the term "Area 51" has been in the popular vernacular for decades. George Knapp located official maps that show Area 51 in the region of Groom Lake. And the most damning evidence came from the defense contractor Lockheed, which flight-tested the U-2 spy plane and the F-117 stealth fighter. Lockheed black-and-white film footage shows aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson pointing to a blackboard that clearly states: "move out to Area 51."
On the drive up to Area 51, there were other more obvious indicators of a secret base hidden somewhere in the Nellis Range. Running along the narrow two-lane U.S. 93 were large power lines--three wires with six insulators each, in excess of 200,000 volts. Going where? Not to the tiny roadside towns of Aztec and Rachel, the largest population centers in Lincoln County, which totals 3,800 people.
Just south of Alamo, the power lines cross U.S. 93, sending a surge of static over both scanners and opening all forty channels of the CB. Then the power lines veer from the highway and head due west, directly toward Groom Lake.
Between the power lines and the sophisticated equipment scattered through the desert--underground transformer stations and fenced generator substations with propane tanks, not to mention double dump trucks with U.S. Government license plates and signs on the cab saying SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES, LOS ALAMOS--I wondered how the government thought they had been hiding Area 51.
The Nellis Range was established as the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range in 1940, but the Groom Lake area wasn't utilized as an airstrip for at least another decade. It's not likely that any structures existed on Groom Lake before 1952, when Kermit H. Larson, chief of the Alamogordo section of the Atomic Energy Commission, wrote to Dan Sheehan asking if he and his colleagues could "stay in the Cabin" at Groom Mine again: "Four of our survey group have another assignment to do over in your territory, west of Groom Lake to the Water Tank and to the northwest of the Tank...."
The DoE database holds a series of memos and letters between the Sheehan family, who worked Groom Mine overlooking Groom Lake, and the AEC, which was shaking things up in the area beginning with its 1951 series of nuclear bomb tests. Friendly relations soon turned sour, and Sheehan was reduced to writing to the director of the Test Division in August 1955 to request compensation for the damage done to the family's road and for the time lost when they had to evacuate their claim.
The facility on Groom dry lake was known as "Watertown" during the years of the U-2 program, until at least 1960. An unclassified press release from July 29, 1957, was unearthed first by Paul McGinnis, describing how a pilot landed his "small private aircraft" on the "Watertown air strip within the restricted air space over the Nevada Test Site." The release pinpoints the location as "in the Groom Lake area at the northeast corner of the Nevada Test Site."
The first mention of Watertown comes from an unclassified memo in October 1955 from Colonel Calfred Starbird, USAEC (U.S. Atomic Energy Commission), Washington D.C. Starbird writes in response to a Las Vegas Review Journal request for a "progress report on Watertown Project." The approved release said,
Construction at the Nevada Test Site installation a few miles north of Yucca Flat which was announced last spring is continuing. Data secured to date has indicated need for limited additional facilities and modifications of the existing installation. The additional work which will not be completed until sometime in 1956 is being done by the Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Company, incorporated under the direction of the Atomic Energy Commission's Las Vegas Branch Office.
Tom Mahood, one of the Interceptors and webmaster of the Blue Fire website, believes REEC was working on the infrastructure, like the roads and power lines, while Lockheed Skunk Works was actually building the facilities on the sly to test their U-2. In Ben Rich's book Skunk Works (1994), the search for a testing facility is described--how Kelly Johnson and a representative of the CIA visited Groom Lake and decided that it was sufficiently remote and secure enough.
As a cover story for the CIA, the official government press release on Watertown in 1957 stated that NACA, the precursor agency to NASA, along with support from "the Air weather Service of the U.S. Air Force," was developing an aircraft that could "make weather observations" at unusually high altitudes. The U2 at Watertown was even painted in NACA markings.
It seems likely that there was no authorization for the covert facility between 1955 and the land withdrawal in 1958. Glenn Campbell found Public Land Order 1662, which went into effect in June 1958, withdrawing about sixty square miles of Groom Lake from public use and allocating it to the Atomic Energy Commission for use by the Test Site. As Campbell explains:
I have yet to find any evidence that the land was part of the LVBGR [Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range] prior to this--at least from the Federal Register. Such authority must have existed, I assume, I just can't find it. (In other words, I have found the withdrawal for most of the LVBGR, but it does not cover Groom Lake.)
To find out what the Watertown facility was like, I consulted another 1957 DoE document addressed to William Fairhall, manager of the Engineering Department at REEC. The 1957 nuclear test series, Operation Plumbob, included twenty-four nuclear detonations, so a lot of structural safety checking was done. The NTS headquarters at Mercury, Nevada, requested "information on the following structures at Watertown." Along with a battery shop, "Trailer 98," and the control tower, there was also a "Base Theater" and "Building 104 (Base headquarters)."
In the official press releases, Watertown remained under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Test Site. Most people believe that through some sort of subsequent agreement, the AEC then passed control of Groom Lake to the Air Force. My tour guide for the Nevada Test Site told me there were rumors that Area 51 had been traded to the Air Force for Tonopah, a large installation at the northwestern end of the Nellis Range. Yet according to the official DoE history of Tonopah, the site was surveyed by the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility at Kirkland Air Force Base and recommended in a report dated February 27, 1956.
The first appearances I found of the term "Area 51 camp" were in DoE documents from 1969 to 1970, assessing ground motion and radiation levels after nuclear blasts at NTS. Every time there was a nuclear detonation, the Watertown personnel had to evacuate for weeks, which undoubtedly interfered with the flight test and training schedules.
The secret air base has undergone several bursts of growth during the past four decades. One buildup occurred from 1960 to 1964, at approximately the same time that stealth technology began to take off with research into new radar absorbers such as carbon-fiber composites and high-strength plastics. Another major influx of funding came in the Reagan years, when the large runway was constructed.
We aren't sure exactly how much money has been spent on Area 51 because it has been funded under so-called black projects. Tens of billions of dollars have disappeared into black-project budgets--and only a few members of Congress have the clearance to know where and how the money is being spent.
One thing is certain, there's a lot of black project money being poured into Area 51 for the new research-and-development aircraft--whether they are disc-shaped or bat-winged stealths.
"Cammo Dudes" in Action
Seeing the "Cammo Dudes" in action gave new meaning to the term "black project." I've been on tours of secured areas--the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, the Nevada Test Site, even a nuclear submarine--but this was security like I've never seen before. Their silent efficiency was almost frightening. They even hide their radio communications--and encryption is a costly and difficult process rarely undertaken by the military.
The cameras on Freedom Ridge followed my movements as I climbed up the low hill on the other side of the road, up dirt tracks fit only for a four-wheel-drive.
In response, the Jeep Cherokee finally began to move, turning and driving up a well-maintained road to a lookout post on the opposite hill. They were perhaps sixty feet away. Down in the wash between us were smaller versions of the warning signs, disappearing into the rugged land between the buttes.
My view into Area 51 was blocked by the mountain ridges to the west. I trained my binoculars on the Cherokee as one of the Cammo Dudes got out and uncovered a permanent binocular mounted on a tripod. I watched him watching me.
He was wearing gray pants and shirt that blended well with the desert, and his black gun holster was tied down to his thigh, the way SWAT teams and Special Forces do, so they can run after "violators."
Whatever they're hiding in Area 51, they certainly protect it well. One of the many secrets about Area 51 is exactly who runs the security force at the border. Best guesses say it's Wachenhut, the premier private security firm that works so closely with the CIA that it might as well be part of the Agency. But--no offense--these men were a notch above the typical Wachenhut employee.
The only time Glenn Campbell ever saw a Cammo Dude's ID was in August 1993, when one presented a card identifying him as a sworn and "compensated" deputy of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. A list of "Special Deputy Sheriffs" appears on the County Recorder, all entered and revoked on the same day, August 24, 1994. In all, Sheriff Dahl Bradfield deputized twenty-two men, supposedly beginning in 1989 shortly after he took office. That's more "special" deputies than the entire paid staff of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department.
These men were sworn in by notaries in neighboring Clark County, with the records endorsed "DET AFFTC," which stands for Detachment-Air Force Flight Test Center. All twenty-two deputies listed their address as Pittman Station, a lonely post office substation on Boulder Highway. In early 1996, Campbell learned from the main postal center in Las Vegas that both Pittman Station and its zip code, 89044, had been decommissioned about "six or seven years ago."
It took several calls to reach Sheriff Bradfield in Lincoln County, who told me it was merely due to logistics--the distance between the sheriff's office in Alamo and the border of Area 51: "The reason we deputized them [the security force at Area 51] at that point was that they could only hold a suspect for thirty minutes. Then they changed the state regulation to one hour, and they didn't need to be deputized anymore." I asked if these special deputies were paid by Lincoln County, and Sheriff Bradfield said no. He also couldn't tell me who they did work for.
Since nobody seemed to know for certain, I looked in the most obvious place--the radio frequencies the security guards were using. Every nonfederal land-mobile radio service must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), while government agencies receive their authorization from the Interdepartmental Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC).
Frequencies are licensed to prevent interference for existing users. Those who illegally use a licensed frequency, particularly if it is a federal frequency, can receive stiff fines and prison sentences of up to ten years.
During my trips to Area 51, I've heard encrypted bursts over four of the five frequencies Campbell lists in the "Area 51" Viewer's Guide. I found all four in Police Call from Radio Shack (1996). Wachenhut frequencies wouldn't be listed in Police Call because private patrol and security companies must use the "Business Radio Services" from Radio Shack.
Four out of the five frequencies were registered to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): 408.400, 418.050, 142.200, and 138.30. Frequency 170.500 was licensed by the Forest Service. On my first visit, I could see when the Cammo Dude in the Jeep raised his walkie-talkie and talked into it--at the same time, every time, the squelch of an encrypted transmission went over frequency 408.4.
So the Cammo Dudes are actively using FEMA frequencies. I couldn't help wondering: Where's the emergency?
I called the FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and asked about frequencies in use at Area 51. I was immediately connected with Morrie Goodman, director of communications for FEMA. My conversation with Goodman was definitely one of the more highly charged encounters I had while researching this book. But then again, Goodman was preoccupied by a lot of things--"We've got so many disasters going on, tornadoes in Texas," he noted. But he took the time to make it very clear: "This communications director who knows everything about this agency doesn't know a thing about Area 51. Nor do we have anything to do with Area 51." Early in our conversation, Goodman also said, "I'm not allowed to talk about black projects--do you want me to get arrested?"
The Federal Emergency Management Agency goes in after a flood or a hurricane and helps organize communities and charity assistance, making sure disaster victims are taken care of and necessary repairs are made. I couldn't put the two together--the silent, armed-to-the-teeth Cammo Dudes and FEMA, a benevolent government agency that gave me cheap apartment insurance while I lived in Manhattan.
But FEMA has been notoriously bad at its job. When Hurricane Andrew smashed into Florida, FEMA was accused of "dropping the ball" with disaster relief. The media and Congress finally looked into FEMA and discovered that the agency was spending twelve times more for "black operations" than for disaster programs.
According to a 1991 investigation by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the congressional watchdog unit, less than 10 percent of FEMA's staff (230 bureaucrats out of an estimated 2,600) were assigned full-time to preparing for major natural calamities such as storms or earthquakes. Most of FEMA's personnel were occupied with plans for protecting the government during a nuclear attack.
Mark Farmer, a pilot and a former photojournalist for the U.S. Coast Guard, has photographed the Groom Lake air base and the surrounding area both from the ground and the air. Farmer is also one of the Interceptors--one of a loose network of military monitors who use the airwaves to spot secret aircraft. When I asked Farmer why FEMA frequencies would be used by security, he said nonchalantly, "I wouldn't be surprised if FEMA had a bunker at Area 51. It would make sense since it's protected by secrecy anyway."
"Underground facilities" play a large part in the mythology of the UFO phenomenon. Many of the rumors about Area 51 concern underground rail systems or subterranean complexes where alien technology is taken apart and examined. Bob Lazar claims that the underground hangars of S-4 go "through the small ridge of the mountain next to Papoose Lake."
FEMA certainly is known for its underground facilities. Mount Weather near Bluemont, Virginia, is only one of ninety-six shelters in the Federal Relocation Arc, serving leaders and critical personnel in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. There are all kinds of rumors about the elaborate underground city at Mount Weather, including a battery-powered subway connecting numerous buildings, and an artificial lake.
Perhaps FEMA was also busy out at Area 51, and that's why the Office of Inspector General (OIG) gave the agency's effectiveness a universal thumbs-down during presidentially declared disasters in fiscal years 1989, 1990, and 1991. The OIG report concluded that FEMA didn't allocate funds to the states that needed them the most; instead, they used "various formulas, congressional direction, project proposals, and other techniques."
Though the FEMA budget has been drastically reduced (I lost my FEMA insurance in 1996 due to cutbacks), the Auditors' Report conducted by the OIG, on the fiscal year 1995 financial statements still wasn't satisfied with FEMA's performance. By February 1997, FEMA had complied with only five out of the thirteen recommendations to improve internal controls and ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
I was reminded of the government's actions in the waste lawsuit currently being fought over Area 51. On its official website, under "Responsibilities of FEMA," the agency states that it has precedence over other federal response activities, "except where national security implications are determined to be of a higher priority."
The words "national security" pop up with alarming frequency when officials talk about both Area 51 and UFOs. I can understand the government wanting to keep its new R&D craft secret, but why are tens of thousands of UFO documents classified for "national security" reasons?
When the waste lawsuit was in district court, the Air Force Secretary, Sheila Widnall, tried to circumvent the judicial system by asking President Clinton to exempt Groom Lake from "any federal, state, interstate, or local" environmental laws. Clinton obligingly signed Executive Order 95-15 in September 1995 issuing the exemption for one year. This exemption continues to be renewed every year.
You hear a lot about executive orders from New World Order conspiracy theorists and Patriot groups. Executive orders, they maintain, are an unconstitutional presidential power, yet they become law simply through publication in the Federal Register. Congress is bypassed, therefore "we the people" have no direct say in what becomes law. Congress also has no power to prevent martial law from being declared, and according to Executive Order 11921, they can't review the process for six months.
FEMA has been invested with a great deal of power through executive orders. Just a few of the powers transferred to FEMA's Authority in 1979, to be put into effect "in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis," include:
* the National Security Act of 1947, which allows for the strategic relocation of industries, services, government, and other essential economic activities, and to rationalize the requirements for manpower, resources, and production facilities;
* the Act of August 29, 1916, which authorizes the Secretary of the Army, in time of war, to take possession of any transportation system for transporting troops, material, or any other purpose related to the emergency; and
* the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which enables the President to seize the property of a foreign country or national.
In case you think executive orders aren't ever enacted, think again. President Andrew Jackson used executive orders to force the Cherokee Nation off its ancestral lands. The Cherokee fought the illegal action in the U.S. Supreme Court and won, but Jackson defied the Court's ruling, forcing the Cherokee to move in a journey now known as the Trail of Tears.
More recently, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used Executive Order 9066 in December 1941 to place Japanese citizens of the United States in concentration camps. Their property was confiscated and when World War II ended, these Japanese families had to start all over again from scratch.
Perhaps the power of executive orders can be summed up most succinctly by arch-conservative activist Howard J. Ruff: "Since the enactment of Executive Order 11049, the only thing standing between us and dictatorship is the good character of the President, and the lack of a crisis severe enough that the public would stand still for it."
So what is FEMA doing out at Area 51? Even when there is no martial law in effect, FEMA offers "guidance" to the Department of Defense and the National Security Council (NSC) on issues of national security emergency preparedness. FEMA could be authorized to provide security for Area 51 if the state government asks for help in "an uncommon situation which requires law enforcement assistance, which is or threatens to become of serious or epidemic (large-scale) proportions, and with respect to which State and local resources are inadequate to protect lives and property of citizens, or to enforce the criminal code."
Yet Margie Gunn, Lincoln County representative of the Emergency Management Agency, told me that her county hadn't requested emergency aid. Because it can be difficult to get the FCC to issue new frequencies rapidly, Gunn figures federal agencies just work those things out among themselves. Especially when, as Gunn said with a laugh, "Area 51 doesn't exist, you know, except in everyone's minds."
FEMA and UFOs
A key government study completed in 1953 by the Robertson panel concluded that UFOs were much more a threat to the "orderly functioning of the protective organs of the body politic" than to national security. This was supported by the 1960 Brookings Institute Report for NASA, which concluded that the discovery of extraterrestrial life could have a "disastrous impact on society."
These studies indicated that people would panic and civil unrest would ensue if aliens landed on Earth--a scenario right out of the H. G. Wells story "War of the Worlds" (1898). It was this belief in the potential for disasterlike conditions that led the authors of Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control to include a new chapter on UFOs in their most current, 1993 edition.
The weighty Fire Officer's Guide is used by fire and police departments across the United States. It is published by the Delaware State Fire School and made available through the Fire Engineering Book Service, which features it in its catalog as "An essential publication for those persons involved in emergency planning, management, response, and government operations."
The authors, William M. Kramer, Ph.D., and Charles W. Bahme, J. D., relied heavily on their own research and experiences when writing the UFO section, concluding:
Hence, as we near the year 2000 and move beyond, any comprehensive disaster plan should address the potential for panic and other deleterious effects that might befall a populated area when unexplainable phenomena occur. We will see, as we continue our discussion in this chapter, that widespread blackouts, communication disruptions, and other potentially disastrous conditions have been linked directly to UFO sightings.
Kramer and Bahme claim that power failures associated with UFOs took place in Brazil in 1957-59, in Italy in 1958, and in Mexico in 1965. They also quote the Operations and Training Order issued by the Inspector General of the Air Force on December 24, 1959, emphasizing the seriousness of UFOs: "Unidentified Flying Objects--sometimes treated lightly by the press and referred to as 'Flying Saucers'--must be rapidly and accurately identified as serious Air Force business...."
But it was personal conviction that led these two authors to include the detailed section on UFOs in a manual for government employees, including reported shapes, history, secrecy, UFO hazards, and a recommendation for emergency action when confronted by a UFO.
Bahme's belief in the danger of UFOs harked back to the "Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942," which he personally witnessed:
All the fire fighters saw in the sky were the 15 or 20 moving "things" which seemed to change course at great speed apparently unaffected by the flak from bursting shells all around them. Rumors that one had been shot down were never verified, nor was the explanation that these zig-zagging invaders were weather balloons ever taken seriously.
Kramer and Bahme admit that "some fire chiefs have little confidence in disaster plans, especially those dealing with UFOs or enemy attack." Yet they counsel that "a good plan, good leadership and adequate resources" will inevitably save lives in any disaster.
When it comes to emergency preparedness, both the U.S. Fire Administration and the Federal Insurance Administration are under FEMA's jurisdiction. Under FEMA's Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS), local fire jurisdictions are integrated with other emergency activities for disaster response.
So while I had Morrie Goodman, director of FEMA communications, on the phone, I asked if FEMA has any contingency plans for aliens landing in the United States. Goodman said his interest in UFOs is purely for their "entertainment value," but he added that when he was being fully briefed four years ago on entering his position, he had asked whether FEMA dealt with UFOs. Goodman says they told him to "get real" and moved on the serious issues at hand.
I asked if FEMA had officially approved the 1993 version of The Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control, as was reported in the January 1995 issue of Omni Magazine. But Goodman insisted, speaking very slowly so I wouldn't miss a word, "FEMA does not now or never has as far as preparedness, response and recovery, or any other arena, dealt with the subject of UFOs."
Secrecy at Area 51
Nobody knows for certain whether UFOs are being kept at Area 51 for research and development purposes. But there's no denying the deadly seriousness of government secrecy. It's exemplified by a little catchphrase used by employees from the Nevada Test Site--where, incidentally, Area 51 employees are told to say they work. This phrase was repeated by FEMA spokesman Bob Blair when Time magazine asked about the underground complex at Mount Weather: "I'll be glad to tell you, but I'd have to kill you afterward."
I returned to Area 51 in June 1997 with my father, Bob Wright, and my partner, Kelly Beaton, the same month Popular Mechanics printed a cover story that Area 51 had moved. We already knew from the picture on the second page that Jim Wilson, the science editor, hadn't gotten within spitting distance of Area 51. He was shown standing in a vast desert valley in front of a cattle guard locked with padlocks, and therefore he concluded: Area 51 has moved.
Popular Mechanics has a real interest in UFOs; another recent cover story was entitled "Flying Saucers Are Real," based on Bob Lazar's testimony. The most recent Area 51 article noted that "Bob Lazar ... claims the government moved the crashed flying saucer he worked on at the S4 site to a more secret location."
When we arrived at the border of Area 51, we did find some changes. The signs now announced: NO TRESPASSING, U.S. AIR FORCE INSTALLATION, as if you have simply stumbled across the boundary of the Nellis Range. Now in order to see signs that say USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED you have to hike some distance along the border. I had to applaud the good PR move that removed that stinging phrase from the main entrance.
We saw another carload of tourists arrive while we explored the area, but as we returned we scared them off. The Cammo Dudes didn't appear until we pulled back about a quarter of a mile and parked on the outermost buttes. I had just cracked open my door, camera in hand, when we heard the sound of rotors.
A Pave Hawk helicopter seemed to rise up from the ravine to the north, appearing out of nowhere. The side of the helicopter was open and a man in desert camouflage leaned out, looking through a piece of equipment--possibly a camera--he aimed in our direction. The helicopter dipped to within forty feet of our car, rocking us with the downdraft and raising a cloud of dust. It forced me to break off taking pictures to close the door, then the helicopter flew over and we heard on frequency 126.650, "staying on the perimeter of the Range."
If that wasn't enough, a Jeep Cherokee blasted out of Area 51--this one with a red and blue light-bar on top and a government license plate on the front. It shot past us going sixty--a piece of cake on the beautifully graded Groom Lake road.
As we followed, listening to their encrypted transmissions to the sheriff's department on 139.00, I laughed at the Popular Mechanics article and tossed it in the back. Not only was Area 51 alive and kicking, but it was still quite effectively guarding its secrets. But I bet the Air Force brass were congratulating themselves on how many hundreds of thousands of people would believe what they read in that national magazine.
Like all of my research, the UFO phenomenon persistently tried to hide its secrets. But as my forays into Area 51 certainly proved, we may not know exactly what's going on, but there's far too much evidence that something is happening to continue to ignore it.
So let's peel back the layers of secrecy and see what's hidden within the UFO phenomenon, using the secret government base at Area 51 as the UFO Rosetta stone.
|1.||At the Border of Area 51||1|
|Area 51 on the Internet||5|
|What's in a Name?||7|
|"Cammo Dudes" in Action||11|
|FEMA and UFOs||18|
|Secrecy at Area 51||20|
|2.||The History of UFO Sightings||23|
|The UFO Wave of 1947||42|
|3.||Government Investigations of UFOs||46|
|The Washington Wave of 1952||50|
|The Robertson Panel||53|
|The Brookings Institute Report||56|
|The Condon Report||58|
|The O'Brien Committee||63|
|4.||Government Secrecy and Black Projects||72|
|Freedom of Information Act||74|
|Manipulating the Media||80|
|Area 51 Land Grab||86|
|The Cost of Secrecy||91|
|The Area 51 Security Manual||100|
|"Misinformed or Intentionally Misleading"||103|
|Cults as a Consequence||114|
|Government Insider Claims||130|
|Roswell Autopsy Film||134|
|Area 51 Alien Interview Film||137|
|Capitalizing on Roswell||141|
|7.||Sightings at Area 51||143|
|Nellis UFO on Film||147|
|Research and Development Aircraft||149|
|What's in a Name?||157|
|8.||Sightings by Pilots and Astronauts||164|
|NASA Video and Audio Recordings||168|
|9.||Engineering UFOs at Area 51||186|
|National Institute of Discovery Science||228|
|Abductions by the Government||248|
|12.||UFOs in Popular Culture||255|
|UFOs in the Media||256|
|UFOs on the Internet||264|
|UFO Organizations and Resources||293|
Posted July 8, 2014
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I have to say - this is a really interesting book... Be warned, there are some really boring parts to it. But here's the thing - this book has been so well researched and remains so well rounded in it's objectivity it more than makes up for it. I could have done without the recap (In yet another book) of the history of UFO's, but that is par for the course in pretty much any book like this. And while the book is a slog in the first half it loosens up a bit in writing style in the second half and becomes a quick read.
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Posted July 4, 2011
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