Area 51: Still Above the Law
Dennis Balthaser's Editorial for October 2003
Searching for the Truth
(Always Telling the Truth Means Never Having to Remember Anything)
Area 51: Still Above the Law
Since 1955 the United States has developed and maintained a secret military base 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, known by several names, such as Groom Lake, Dreamland, the Box and the most popular name, "Area 51." This is no small piece of real estate in the Nevada desert, but rather a land area the size of the state of Connecticut, containing an even larger restricted air space. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order on August 19, 1955, restricting the air space over Groom Lake, Nevada, which is still heavily in force today.
Originally set up to test the U-2 reconnaissance airplane by the CIA, it has served as a test facility for nearly every newly developed aircraft since then including; the A-10, A-12, Stealth F-117, B-1 and B-2 bomber. Whatever has come off of the design drawing boards since then is probably being test flown there now, which could include such craft as the Black Manta, The Pumpkin Seed, the Aurora and other military aircraft that we can't even speculate about.
The Air Force finally admitted to the existence of Area 51 on April 17, 2000, when an Air Force spokeswoman told the Associated Press reporters, "We acknowledge having an operating site there (Area 51), and the work is classified". She also stated that the work done at Area 51 includes "operations critical to the U.S. military and the country's security."
I have always maintained that Area 51 (at least for me) is a "Catch 22" situation. I totally agree that we (the United States) need a place to test newly developed aircraft to keep our adversaries from knowing what we are developing. That would also explain to me why much of what is at Area 51 probably is hidden in underground facilities or in hangars to keep the prying eyes of foreign satellites from knowing what is going on there. Rumors have surfaced over the years that the base has as many as 22 levels underground, and some of the hangars seen from locations miles from the base indicate structures of gigantic size. One of the two runways at Groom Lake is 30,000 feet long, indicating some aircraft are landing at tremendous velocity, to require that length of runway. As a comparison, one of the Roswell Army Airfield runways is 13,000 feet and was used by B-29 and B-52's to carry atomic bombs in the 40's, 50's and early 1960's.
Other than the flight-testing of aircraft, we know very little about what transpires at the base, but due to the security around the base and in the air, it's obvious that other highly secretive projects are conducted there on a regular basis. At least one of those projects involves the production, use, and disposal of toxic waste, which all government and private business's except Area 51 are required to report in their waste disposal procedures, as required under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For the fifth year in a row, the President of the United States has recently granted the Air Force an "executive exemption" from legal requirements to disclose information regarding solid or hazardous waste disposal operations at Area 51. Under federal law 42-U.S.C. 6961(a), the President can exempt any solid waste management facility of any department or agency in the executive branch from compliance with such a requirement, if he determines it to be in the paramount interest of the United States to do so. I have always believed that the President of the United States does not have the security clearance to know all there is to know about UFOs, and other secretive projects of our government and/or military, because he's a temporary employee---in office a maximum of 8 years. Making the exemption every year for Area 51 was decided in 1997, when a court ruled that the exemption for "an operating location near Groom Lake" had to be issued by the White House. The first exemption was issued by President Clinton in 1998 and is being continued yearly by our current resident in the White House, George W. Bush, who issued the most recent exemption (Presidential Determination No 2003-39) on September 16, 2003, according to an "immediate release" issued by the White House Office of the Press Secretary.
It's believed the yearly exemption by the President is the result of a lawsuit filed in 1996 on behalf of two former civilian employees at Area 51. Both died of illnesses connected to inhalation of smoke from toxic materials being disposed of at Area 51. Attorneys for the families of the two employees claimed the Air Force and EPA violated the RCRA by illegally burning hazardous waste at Area 51 in open pits. The attorneys were not seeking monetary damages, but were asking that the Air Force be required to disclose what the chemical nature of the hazardous waste was, and their method of disposing of the chemicals at Area 51. When the lawsuits were filed, the Pentagon denied the existence of Area 51, and the Air Force lawyers indicated the deceased former employees could not have possibly inhaled non-existent smoke from non-existent hazardous waste disposed of at a non-existent Air Force Base. When the court handed down it's ruling, it ordered the EPA to conduct annual inspections at "the operating location near Groom Lake" for compliance with RCRA and to make it's findings public. To avoid any information going public, the federal law mentioned above was invoked and the Air Force was able to maintain their secrecy at the base, with the blessing of the President by virtue of the exemption issued each year. The widows of the former employees will probably never know what their husbands were exposed to that caused their deaths, while employed at Area 51. There are undoubtedly other secretive bases within the United States that also do not need to comply with the EPA laws, simply exempted from the law, with the stroke of the President's pen. What about the ranchers, livestock and wildlife in the vicinity of Area 51? Are they also in jeopardy of being exposed to deadly radiation from the unlawful means used to dispose of toxic wastes at the secret base?
Nothing about any aliens, UFO craft or otherworldly things was ever mentioned by the former employees or the attorney's representing their families, when the lawsuit was filed. There is no factual proof or verification that anything related to UFOs is taking place at Area 51, however the rumors continue to flourish, based primarily on statements made by individuals who claim to have worked there at one time or another. Those rumors will continue I'm sure until such time that the government or military decides to inform the public about what really transpires at the base that has the highest security in the world. As taxpayers we are entitled to know some things, however if national security is involved, care must be taken in who is told what. That however does not in my opinion relieve our government from complying with the same laws that all other businesses have to comply with. Politicians constantly rant and rave about the environment, while dedicated employees such as the two mentioned in the lawsuit are exposed to toxic waste, that apparently had fatal results while employed at Area 51, and exemptions continue to be given.
The original Presidential Determinations signed by then President Clinton and more recently by George W. Bush in 2000 did not mention the lawsuit. Both the 2002 and 2003 Determinations signed by Bush however do mention the litigation, in Kasza v. Browner and Frost v. Perry.
We can assume then that Area 51 is still alive and well. The signs around the perimeter still indicate "the use of deadly force is authorized", and the patrols by the "cammo dudes" in their Jeeps, and 4 wheel drive Ford and Chevy pickups, still monitor any unauthorized individuals approaching to close to the boundary of the base.
I agree that some of the work being done at Area 51 probably deserves to be classified, but it does not give the government or military permission to break the law or to abuse the rights of its employees.
Dennis G. Balthaser
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