March 17, 1996.

Transcribed with permission.
Public domain.  Distribute without editing.

This 60 Minutes segment orignally aired on March 17, 1996.  It follows the 
controversy at a top secret air base which supposedly doesnít exist.  For 
more information regarding the lawsuit and / or Area 51, point your web 
brouser at:

Leslie Stahl:  Why this story is called Area 51 / Catch 22 will become 
clear as it unfolds.  But letís start at the beginning...  What if we told 
you that someone is dumping truck loads of toxic waste in open trenches, 
and setting it on fire, endangering the health and lives of everyone down 
wind?  Youíd probably want the government to prosecute.  After all, it is 
a federal crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and a one million 
dollar fine.   But what if we then told you that the perpetrator, the one 
who is doing the open pit burning, is the government.  In this case, the 
United States Department of Defense.  Well thatís exactly what dozens of 
government whistle blowers are charging.  The problem is, they canít prove 
it.  Because it took place at a top, top secret air force base, that 
officially, doesnít exist.

Stahl:  Las Vegas, McKaren Airport.  Every morning, civilian contractors, 
test pilots, and others, board unmarked planes with whited out windows.  
They are flying to an air force installation that has never appeared on 
federal aviation pilot charts, or U.S. geological survey maps.  It exists 
only in what is called the "black world".  A place so sensitive, that only 
those who take an oath of secrecy for life are allowed in.  

Stahl:  The perimeter of the base is blanketed with ground sensors and 
listening devices, and patrolled by security guards in unmarked white 
jeeps who are authorized to use deadly force to keep intruders out.   They 
kept a close watch on us as we approached the border.  This is as close as 
you can get to the base, which is thirteen miles back off (points behind 
her) in this direction.   Itís known as Area 51, Groom Lake, Dreamland, 
any one of a dozen names depending on who you ask.   But just donít ask 
anyone at the defense department.  They donít want to talk about it.

Stahl:  But Jonathan Turley is only too happy to talk about it.  Heís a 
law professor representing Area 51 employees, past and present, who say 
they not only witnessed dumping of toxic waste at the base, but in many 
cases participated in it.  Turley is suing the government on their behalf, 
trying to get the defense department to acknowledge the burning, and to 
get a federal court order barring it from happening again.  He isnít 
asking for punitive damages, all he wants is information about what toxins 
his clients were exposed to, and help paying their medical bills.  

Stahl:  But heís been about as successful as we were in getting the 
defense department to say anything about the base, seen here by a nearby 
mountaintop, even that it exists.  

Jonathan Turley:  Oh, they would not confirm itís existence or itís non 

Stahl:  They wouldnít say it wasnít there.  They wouldnít say that it was 

Turley:  Right.  The only problem of course is that you can see the damn 
base from public land.  You can take a picture of it.  This is in the 
middle of the desert!.  Itís a large facility.  Itís about as concealable 
as a pig in the parlor.

Stahl:  And about as secret.  UFO groupies from around the world, 
convinced that the air force is hiding flying saucers there, trek to the 
perimeter of the base by the busload.  There is an Area 51 research 
center, an Area 51 viewers guide, and in downtown Las Vegas, the base that 
doesnít exist has a bar and a video game named after it.  

Turley:  We finally said listen, if you are going to deny the obvious, 
then we are going to prove the obvious.  Then I took a series of pictures 
and submitted those in evidence.  I submitted affidavits of people who 
worked there, which said they were real people and this is a real base.  I 
even had satellites from Russian and French satellites take pictures of 
the base

Stahl:  The Russians have satellite pictures of this base?

Turley:  Not only do they have satellite pictures, under treaty, the 
Russians are required to be flown over this base.  Itís called..

Stahl:  Required?? Required to be flown over this base???

Turley:  Yeah, itís called the Open Skies Treaty.  The United States 
Government must fly the Russians, upon the demand of the Russians,  and 
other countries over this facility.  And they have to do the same at their 

Stahl:  And they still deny it existed?

Turley:  Yeah!  

Stahl:  "They" meaning the Pentagon?

Turley:  Right..You sorta sit there and ya think, ya know.. this is like 
an out take of  Maxwell Smart..  (laughs)  These guys are gonna grab a 
phone or something..

Stahl:  After nine months of hand to hand litigation, over whether or not 
the base exists, Air Force attorneys in November of 1994 finally confirmed 
the obvious.  That yes it does exist.  But then they dug in on a new 
front.  This one, over whether or not the base has a name.  

Turley:  Well the name was important because we have a lot of documents 
that show that they had hazardous waste here.  Weíve got testimony and 

Stahl:  You needed to link the name with what you have in your documents..

Turley:  Yes, and by denying  Area 51, which was the common name, they 
made, or at least they tried to make all  those documents irrelevant.  

Stahl:  But if the base has no name, as the Air Force insists, then how 
does the Pentagon explain this old film produced by Lockheed Skunk Works, 
the legendary defense contractor that flight tested the U2 spy plane, and 
the F117 stealth fighter among others, at Area 51?  If you look closely, 
you can see this man write ëmove out to Area 51í.  And how do we know that 
those planes were flight tested at the base?   We asked Jay Miller, the 
man Lockheed Skunk Works hired to write the companiesí official history.  

Jay Miller:  Once the manuscript was completed, one of the things that the 
Department of Defense asked me to do is remove the words Area 51, Groom 
Lake, Dreamland, The Ranch, ..those are all names that have been utilized 
for this one particular facility..  and uh.. to refer to it as the "test 

Stahl:  So they didnít mind that you described it, but they did mind that 
you named it.  Explain that??

Miller:  I have no answer for ya, I wish I did.  

Stahl:  The Air Force also refuses to answer any and all questions about 
the dumping of  hazardous waste at Area 51, which as we said is why the 
workers are suing.  Workers like John Doe #1, who is pressing the case 
anonymously, since anything he says about the base would violate his oath 
of secrecy, a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison.  

John Doe #1: (producers altered his voice to mask his identity)  You could 
not tell anyone that you even worked there.  The acknowledgment of the 
operating location is strictly forbidden.  

Stahl:  He and other Area 51 employees say security is so complete that 
nothing except the workers ever leaves the base, not even garbage.  It is 
either burned or buried right there, everything from food scraps, to 
jeeps, to jet parts.  And those drums of toxic chemicals and wastes used 
in classified  programs.  

Stahl:  This former Area 51 worker says the open pit burning was executed 
with extraordinary security.  

JD#1:  There was armed guards which would stop us approximately 100 yards 
or even more near the dump area.  

Stahl:  There were armed guards?  

JD#1:  Yes..

Stahl:  Come on.. Armed with what?

JD#1:  Rifles, side arms..

Stahl:  You are talking about something thatís in the middle of a totally 
secure, secret air base, and in the middle of this, there are armed 

JD#1:  Yes maíam..

Stahl:  The burning he says, lasted for hours, and generated plumes of 
toxic smoke that swept over the base like London fog.

JD#1:  Your eyes would water, sting, your throat would go dry, and uh, you 
felt like you were drug through a pig pen, so to speak.

Stahl:  Do you think that you were exposed to something that was harmful 
to your health?

JD#1:  Yes. Definitely, yes.

Stahl:  And why do you say that?

JD#1:  Skin irritation.  ..wonít go away.  Thereís no cure for it that I 
can find.  

Stahl:  What do you mean by skin irritation?  Is it a rash?

JD#1:  Cracking, bleeding.  Itís gets pretty scaley.  

Turley:  Not surprisingly, people that were downwind from this operation 
became ill.  And two of them have died.  

Stahl:  Youíre absolutely sure they died from the wastes that went up in 
this open pit?

Turley:  No, Iím not absolutely sure.  What Iím trying to find out is 
whether they did die because of this.

Stahl:  One of those that did die, Robert Frost, also had cracking scaley 
skin, which can be caused by exposure to cancer causing chemicals like 
dioxin.  This anaylsis by a Rutgers University biochemist found 
substantial quantities of dioxins in Robert Frostís fatty tissue.  He also 
found other toxic chemical compounds he couldnít recall having ever seen 
in human tissues.  

Stahl:  Instead of responding to the specific charges, the defense 
department asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that neither 
the government nor the workers can make their case without divulging top 
secret information.  

Turley:  I donít care if theyíve got Jimmy Hoffa buried in those trenches. 
 What I care about is whether they burned hazardous waste and exposed my 
clients to the burning of those hazardous wastes.  We can  handle that 
without getting into sensitive areas.

Stahl:  The Air Force maintains that if they answer your question, then 
the enemy will be able to piece together a mosaic about the specific 
operations at Area 51.    

Turley:  Yes, and thatís just facially absurd.  

Stahl:  Didnít you ever ask them any specifics?

Turley:  Yes.  

Stahl:  Like what?

Turley:  Oh, we asked if they have jet fuel there.  

Stahl:  Jet fuel..  What did they say?

Turley:  They said to "admit or deny the presence of jet fuel at an air 
base would put American lives in danger."  

Stahl:  They said that?

Turley:  Oh yeah..

Stahl:  Címon.. What else did you ask?

Turley:  We asked about paint.  

Stahl:  What ?  (laughs)

Turley:  Not the magic paint, not the stuff that makes planes disappear.. 
 Paint..  Like in your house.

Stahl:  What was the answer?

Turley:  "American lives would be put in danger if we answer that 

Stahl:  No...

Turley:  Yeah...

Stahl:  What else did you ask?

Turley:  Pesticides.  

Stahl:  Answer?

Turley:  "Oh well.. Thatís a national security question."  We asked what 
about if they have a single discarded car battery.?  

Stahl:  You actually asked that?

Turley:  Yeah..

Stahl:  What was there response.

Turley:  "This is a top secret question that we could never answer."

Stahl:  If itís so top secret, how come this manual distributed to Area 51 
employees, identifies a gas station, a paint storage building, and yes, 
even a motor pool battery shop all on the base.  The manual is available 
on the Internet.  It was for years, unclassified, and widely distributed 
in the public domain.  But when Turley introduced it into evidence, the 
defense department suddenly classified it, and everything in Turleyís 
office that quotes from it including notes and legal briefs.

Stahl:  Congressman Lee Hamilton, former chairman of the House 
Intelligence Committee, has been following the Area 51 lawsuit.  

Lee Hamilton:  The Air Force is classifying all information about Area 51 
in order to protect themselves from a lawsuit.  

Stahl:  The Air Force says, quote, "to reveal this information increases 
the risk to the lives of United States personnel, and decreases the 
probability of successful mission accomplishment."  I mean, thatís very 

Hamilton:  Itís very strong and itís completely unsubstantiated.  Iím not 
personally prepared to take the word of a person who has, or an entity 
which has a huge financial stake in the outcome here, that this 
information needs to be classified.

Stahl:  There in court, a judge agreed with that, and has said yes, that 
they can keep these things secret.

Hamilton:   I think that judges are often snowed by the national security 

Stahl:  Because of the lawsuit, the Environmental Protection Agency 
inspected Area 51 last year for the first time, and prepared a hazardous 
waste inventory.   They did a hazardous waste inventory, but they wonít 
admit there is hazardous waste there.  But it gets better because they 
stated in court that they would put this facility on the hazardous waste 
docket..   Itís a list of federal facilities with hazardous waste.  And 
they said, "weíre gonna put it on that list."  And  I said, "Well, 
Hello!", "doesnít that mean you have hazardous waste??!!"   [Their 
response] well, not necessarily...  

Stahl:  Turley asked to see the hazardous waste inventory, since the law 
requires that it be disclosed to the public, unless that is, the President 
of the United States personally exempts it.  You guessed it..  The Air 
Force asked President Clinton for the exemption, and got it.  

Turley:  There are very comical aspects to this case.  The government is 
so absurd.  And even in my office, we sit there and sort of guffaw they 
are claiming these things are secret.  But at the end of the day, Iíve got 
two dead clients, Iíve got other people who are ill, and Iíve got 
defendants who committed crimes.  They know they committed crimes.  So do 
I.  And so does the court.  And the question is, whether they are going to 
be held accountable?   Because ultimately, that is what this case is 
about.   Whether there is something unique about the United States 
Government that either makes it accountable or exempt from it own laws.

Stahl:  On March 6, 1996, the Federal judge overseeing the lawsuit 
dismissed it, ruling that pursuing the case risked "significant harm to 
national security".  Turley is appealing.