CIA acknowledges its mysterious Area 51 test site for first time

Area 51 (Groom Lake, Dreamland) File Photo near Rachel, Nevada (Credit: Getty Images/ Barry King/WireImage)
Area 51 (Groom Lake, Dreamland) File Photo near Rachel, Nevada (Credit: Getty Images/ Barry King/WireImage)

National security scholars at George Washington University have some good news and bad news for UFO buffs – the U.S. government has finally confirmed the existence of Area 51 in Nevada, but it makes no mention of little green men or alien spaceships.

The government acknowledged the existence of the mysterious aviation test site known as Area 51, a remote installation about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas, in a newly declassified CIA history of its U-2 spy plane program.

After decades of extreme secrecy surrounding the site, stoking conspiracy theories about UFOs and experiments on alien spacecraft, the CIA lifted its veil on Area 51 in response to a public records request from George Washington University scholars in Washington, D.C.

Publicly released online on Thursday by the university’s National Security Archive, the 400-page CIA history contains the first deliberate official references to Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, as a site developed by the intelligence agency in the 1950s to test fly the high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance plane.

Other top-secret aircraft were tested there later, including the supersonic reconnaissance A-12 aircraft, code-named OXCART, and the F-117 stealth ground-attack jet, said archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson, who asked for the CIA’s U-2 history in 2005.

A newly revised document restoring numerous references to Area 51 that had been redacted in earlier versions was furnished by the CIA a few weeks ago, he said.

“It’s the first time that there must have been a senior-level decision to acknowledge the term ‘Area 51′ and its specific location,” he told Reuters on Friday.

Chapter 2 of the CIA history recounts how Richard Bissell, the CIA officer then overseeing development of the U-2 plane by Lockheed, first spotted the site on an aerial scouting mission over Nevada in April 1955, accompanied by an Air Force officer and two others.

The four men landed their plane near an old, abandoned air strip at the edge of a salt flat known as Groom Lake near the northeastern corner of the Nevada Test Site, the nuclear proving ground then controlled by the Atomic Energy Commission.

IDEAL TEST SITE

The group agreed that Groom Lake would “make an ideal site for testing the U-2 and training its pilots.” Bissell subsequently asked the Atomic Energy Commission to add the area to its Nevada real estate holdings, the account says.

“AEC Chairman Admiral Lewis Strauss readily agreed, and President Eisenhower also approved the addition of this strip of wasteland, known by its map designation as Area 51, to the Nevada Test Site,” the document says.

To make the barren new facility seem more appealing to its workers, managers of the U-2 program dubbed the facility “Paradise Ranch,” which was later shortened to “the Ranch.”

Photos of the site and a newly declassified map outlining and labeling the location were also included in the document.

Richelson said he could recall at least two previous government documents in which an incidental reference to Area 51 appeared, but he assumed those were inadvertent because they were devoid of any other details or context.

The multiple detailed references to Area 51 in the latest CIA account – the document’s index lists at least 12 mentions – show that they were deliberate, he said.

The intelligence agency had little to say about the disclosure.

“What readers of the CIA study will find is that CIA tests its U-2 and A-12 reconnaissance aircraft at the site in Nevada sometimes referred to as ‘Area 51,’” CIA spokesman Edward Price said. “What readers won’t find are any references to aliens or other conspiracy theories best left to the realm of science fiction.”

Among the more sensational pieces of UFO conspiracy lore linked to Area 51 is that the remains of a flying saucer that supposedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, were brought to the site for reverse engineering experiments that attempted to replicate the extraterrestrial spacecraft.

Richelson said the CIA document makes no mention of any such theories. But he pointed to one passage that discusses the relationship between U-2s and unidentified flying objects “in the sense that people sighted U-2s in a time that they were very secretive and at very high altitude and didn’t know what they were, and in that sense they were UFOs.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.