State Sets Up
Tourists for Arrest,
Film Seizure on
Alien Highway

Governor Miller ignores problems of visitor safety in designation of State Route 375 as "Extraterrestrial Highway." Questions are raised about validity of a process where only supporters are consulted, opponents excluded.

E.T. GO HOME?

A Report By

Glenn Campbell
Director
Area 51 Research Center
Rachel, Nevada 89001
702-729-2648
http://www.best.com/~area51

March 6, 1996


Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Background on the Alien Highway Legislation
  3. The Author's Role
  4. What This Action Means
  5. The Social Environment
  6. Trespassing Problems
  7. Seizure of Film and Video Tape
  8. Other Safety Issues
  9. Original Objections Now Moot
  10. Proposed Mitigation
  11. Additional Warning Signs
  12. Clarification to Trespassing Law
  13. Actions by Attorney General
  14. Summary
  15. Appendix A: Original Objections
  16. Appendix B: Editorial Cartoon
  17. Appendix C: Nevada's Trespassing Law

Abstract

Nevada Governor Bob Miller has designated State Route 375 as the "Extraterrestrial Highway" without considering the possible negative effects of this action. The implied intent of this official name change is to invite tourists to this remote part of Central Nevada to look for UFOs. Unfortunately, the governor is also attracting these mostly unprepared visitors to a tense and poorly marked military border. Along this border...

  1. Tourists are routinely tracked and intimidated by nameless and heavily armed security guards.

  2. Film and video tape is frequently seized from tourists and journalists without warrant and without hope of recovery.

  3. Tourists who wander too close to the military border have been arrested, charged and convicted of trespassing without the opportunity to face their accusers.

  4. At least one foreign tourist who wandered across the border has been barred from the country without explanation.

  5. Tourists on public land have been deliberately buzzed at low altitude by unmarked military helicopters, in violation of both FAA and military flight rules.
In signing this measure without considering its effects, the governor has placed tourists in great jeopardy while trivializing the many serious issues associated with the unnamed and unaccountable military base at Area 51. This is the secret facility to the west of the highway that most visitors are really coming to see.

The report describes some possible negative consequences of the Alien Highway designation. These are issues that should have been heard before the measure was acted upon, but opponents were excluded from the hearing process both before the Legislature's Economic Development and Tourism Committee and the State Transportation Board. When an objection was submitted in writing to the sponsor of the bill, the document was apparently ignored and was not read at the hearing as requested. Because objections were avoided, the "Alien Highway Bill" appeared in all public proceedings to have unanimous support, which was never the case.

This report is not suggesting at this point that the designation be rescinded. In Rachel, the only town along the highway, support for this measure among residents appears strong. This is a struggling mining town where mining ceased a decade ago, so any glimmer of economic development has the local people very excited. The state's action has already resulted in significant publicity, and Rachel is now awash with "Alien Highway" t-shirts and souvenirs. Now that residents have been given hope and have begun to make investments based on this designation, it would be wrong to pull out the rug.

Instead, the primary aim of this report is to make sure the negative concerns are aired and hopefully addressed before the measure is implemented with signs on the highway and further publicity by the state. Various mitigating actions are proposed to reduce the danger to tourists and resolve some of the pending state-related issues along this road.

Background on the Alien Highway Legislation

In early February 1996, the Nevada Transportation Board and Governor Miller designated State Route 375 through Rachel, Nevada, as the "Extraterrestrial Highway."[1] The measure had previously died in the legislature when the Senate Transportation Chairman refused to hear it, calling the bill "frivolity."[2] Now, the Governor and Transportation Board have bypassed the legislature and created an "Alien Highway" by their own authority, and the Nevada Division of Tourism has begun promoting it as such. The act has already generated wide national publicity that is scheduled to culminate soon in the unveiling of new signs erected along the highway.

State Route 375 runs for approximately 99 miles through south-central Nevada from US-93 to US-6. It is the closest public highway to Area 51, a secret Air Force base near Groom Dry Lake that the military only partially acknowledges and will not discuss. Although the base is primarily concerned with the testing of secret aircraft, it has been associated with UFO claims since at least 1989, when a Las Vegas resident, Bob Lazar, claimed he had worked with alien spacecraft at a government facility near there. The only town on the highway is Rachel, a scatter of mobile homes with about 100 residents, which was soon labeled the "UFO Capital" when sky-minded tourists started to visit following the Lazar claims.

The principal backers of the new highway designation are the "Little A'Le'Inn"--a small restaurant once known as the Rachel Bar & Grill which stands to benefit the most economically--and "Ambassador Merlyn Merlin II," who claims to be an alien from "Draconis," a distant star. "Ambassador Merlin," who appears to be human and is otherwise known as David Solomon of Silver City, has actively and single-mindedly lobbied the legislature and state government in support of this measure, which he believes will help prepare humanity for the coming alien arrival.

On May 19, 1995, when the bill was being considered by the Assembly, a public hearing on the measure was held in Carson City with a television link to Las Vegas. No notice of the hearing was given to most residents of Rachel and few could have attended anyway given the all-day journey to either location. Only the owners of the Little A'Le'Inn were told of the pending legislation, and they made no effort to notify opponents. At the hearing, attended by people in alien costumes who were mostly from Las Vegas, support for the bill appeared to be unanimous. Shortly thereafter, the Assembly passed the bill with much fanfare. As reported in a May 28 Associated Press article:

The fun began at the measure's Las Vegas hearing when proponents donned space alien masks, antennae and pointy ears as they made their pitch.

Backed up by spacy sound effects, [bill sponsor Roy] Neighbors said on the Assembly floor that reported UFO sightings "are part of the fantasy and the excitement of the tourist attraction that is Nevada."

Wearing a Darth Vader mask, Assemblyman Bob Price, D-North Las Vegas, presented a letter supporting the bill from the "intergalactic tourism association."

Saying he couldn't read the letter on account of the earthly pollution's effects on his eyes, "Darth" handed the letter to the "earthling" on his left--a reluctant Assemblyman Wendell Williams, D-Las Vegas.

Up to the challenge, Williams read aloud the note promising that the association would include a stop at "E.T. Highway" as part of its package tour-to-earth offering.

After the floor session, Assembly Co-Speaker Joe Dini, D- Yerington, called Neighbors and Price to the rostrum to present them with gifts from their alien friends, including plaques of recognition and copies of the Klingon Dictionary.

Although the bill passed unanimously in the Assembly, it was killed in the Senate. With other business pending as the summer recess approached, Senate Transportation Chairman Bill O'Donnell refused to schedule a hearing on the bill. "I don't have time for frivolity," he said, noting the enormous cost of the Legislature's time.[3] Neighbors called O'Donnell's attitude, "sour grapes."

Although it died in the Legislature, the measure was resurrected six months later without public warning by the State Transportation Board. Again, only supporters of the measure were informed of the pending action, and no notice was given to most Rachel residents. Around Feb. 1, 1996, the Transportation Board passed the measure and the Governor approved it, bypassing the democratic process that previously failed.[4]

The Author's Role

I am the primary local activist fighting for greater public accountability at Area 51, the secret military base near Rachel that attracts the UFO buffs. For several years I have published a book and an internet newsletter on the topic. I am also a business owner in Rachel and a part-time resident.[5] When the bill was being considered by the Assembly, I was a full-time Rachel resident and had been so for 2-1/2 years. I continue to be involved in Lincoln County politics, and I have actively opposed the secret relationship between the base and the local sheriff's department, which seizes film and arrests trespassers on behalf of the anonymous base security force. I feel that I am responsible for the much of the current Area 51 publicity by providing information to the press and organizing opposition to a recent expansion of the base's land holdings.

I also invented the "Alien Highway." I used that designation on the cover of my book, The Area 51 Viewer's Guide, which was first published in Jan. 1993. I called 375 "America's `Alien Highway'," a name no one else had used previously. I also discovered and named "Freedom Ridge," a hill on public land from which you could see the "nonexistent" base and that was the focus of the land fight.

In addition to being an activist, I am a serious UFO researcher who thinks a few of the stories about government involvement with UFOs deserve attention. However, I believe the majority of the UFO sightings associated with this highway are nonsense and reflect the misidentification by inexperienced observers of airplanes, flares and other routine military activity associated with the nearby Nellis Air Force Range. In all the time I have lived in this area, spending countless days and nights in the desert, I have never seen anything in the sky I cannot explain.

It might seem that because I am attracting publicity to this area, my goals and those of the Governor coincide. My interest, however, is to attract only well-informed visitors, not the näive and ill-equipped ones the state's action seems to be targeting. In my book, I have tried to let people know exactly what they were getting into. I have never claimed there is anything alien at Area 51 or along this road, and when I use "Alien Highway" it is always in quotes, with a fair amount of skepticism implied. Because of the harshness of the desert here, the often brutal treatment of tourists at the military border and the disappointing showing of UFOs, I have actively discouraged näive tourists from coming here, at least without understanding the local rules of safety. Now, I feel that the state has taken over my highway name and my publicity while throwing all the rules of safety aside.

In July 1994, I escorted Assemblyman Roy Neighbors and several county politicians to Freedom Ridge. My concern at the time was the base's failure to pay its substantial local property taxes, which every private contractor is theoretically liable for but that secret bases can ignore. I gave Neighbors a copy of my book, and apparently this was the inspiration for the "Alien Highway" bill he sponsored the following year. Neighbors never consulted me on the bill, however, even though he knew I was an interested party. Although he claims to have seen "weird things" himself when he was a Navy pilot, Neighbors considered the Alien Highway a "fun bill"[6] that he apparently thought no one would object to.

I heard of the Alien Highway bill only one day before the scheduled hearing. Like most other Rachel residents, I was not informed of the hearing by Neighbors or by any notice published in our local newspaper. In Rachel, only the owners of the Little A'Le'Inn were told, and I heard of it by chance from "Ambassador Merlin" on one of his many unsolicited visits to my home. I immediately phoned Roy Neighbors and told him that I opposed the bill. A prior engagement prevented me from driving the 6 hours from Rachel to Carson City or the 3 hours to Las Vegas for the hearing, so I asked Neighbors what I should do. He said I should put my objection in writing and fax it to him before the hearing. I quickly did so, and the original text of my letter can be found in Appendix A. At the beginning of my letter, I asked that it be read aloud at the hearing, since the distances and short notice prevented my attendance. After I sent the fax, I called Neighbors' secretary to confirmed that it had been received and that it would get to Neighbors before the hearing.

People who attended the hearing tell me my objections were never read. I am told that the hearing was attended by assorted "earthbound aliens," including the Ambassador, all in unanimous support of the bill. The only Rachel residents there were the owners of the Little A'Le'Inn, who obviously supported the bill and the business it would bring them. My objections, had they been heard, would have "spoiled the party," and I can't help but believe that this is why my letter was not read.

I was relieved when the bill failed, and like most other members of the public I thought the measure was dead for good. To me, Neighbors and his fellow assemblymen had looked foolish in the press, and Senator O'Donnell apparently had the same impression when he killed the bill. Like most other Rachel residents, I was taken by surprise when the action was later resurrected before the Transportation Board and signed by the Governor. I had no clue that the matter was being considered anew until I read of its passage in a page one story in a Las Vegas newspaper.[7]

What This Action Means

The governor and other state-level supporters of this action are likely to say, "What's the big deal? It's just a few signs in the desert." It is more than this, though. These signs are backed by the full authority and credibility of the State of Nevada, and the state clearly intends to use this designation to promote this area to out-of-state tourists. Supporters may say that the proposed 8-foot-wide signs--"Extraterrestrial Highway"--convey only a catchy slogan and are not intended to imply any meaning deeper than this. That is not how the rest of the world perceives it, however. The recent nationwide publicity generated by this action attests to the fact that the public considers it important. Because the state is a powerful force, nothing it does is without significance. If a merchant put up a similar sign it would receive little notice, but when the state takes the same action it is immediately taken as an indication of official policy and a statement by the state of something meaningful.

These are the implications that the general public, or at least näive sectors of it, have read into the Alien Highway designation:

1) The State claims that tourists can come here to see UFOs.

2) The State endorses past UFO sightings.

3) The State assures tourists the area is safe to visit.

4) The State assures tourists that they will find adequate services here.

5) The State endorses the ambassadorial status and alien origins of David Solomon.

Supporters may say that the above points never appeared in the governor's proclamation, so the state bears no liability for their truth. The public, however, understands that the designation "Extraterrestrial Highway" must mean something; otherwise, why would the State of Nevada go to all the trouble of making it official?

The state may only be "advising" tourists to come here, but like everything else our government does, that advice carries responsibilities. For example, the state should not advise visitors to enter an abandoned mine or vacation in any other known danger area. As long as the state takes no action to promote an area, it bears no liability for what happens to tourists there, but once it starts sending out a public message--"Come on over!"--then the state has to consider what the results of its actions will be.

The Social Environment

In taking this action, the state has shown no understanding of the political tensions of the area or the behavior of the UFO buffs it is trying to appeal to. The supporters seem to think that tourists are only going to drive down the highway, take a few pictures, buy a few souvenirs, then leave. Many tourists are going to have different expectations: They want to see the UFOs the State of Nevada has implied are out here. That means they are not going to just drive down the highway. They are going to stop, set up camp and wander the unpaved side roads leading off it. Whether or not the state chooses to tell them, television viewers know that there is a top secret military base just beyond the mountains. They know, from all the publicity, that this is the base where the flying saucers must be kept, so they will inevitably leave the highway to try to get closer to the base.

That's when things get messy, because to the south and west of the highway is an unforgiving military border that is both poorly marked and heavily patrolled. This is an area that is not known for its civil rights, and it has been the site of countless conflicts between tourists and the brutish local authorities. The primary conflicts involve unintentional trespassing and the warrantless confiscation of film and video tape. The problems are greatly aggravated by the unaccountable nature of the security force, which consists of guards in camouflage fatigues wearing no insignia and driving unmarked government vehicles. These unidentified guards, assumed to be private contractors working for the Air Force, patrol both the military area and adjoining public lands as far out as the highway. Because they refuse to identify themselves and have no legal standing outside the boundary, they call on the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department to arrest accused trespassers and seize the film of tourists and journalists who point their cameras toward the area. Because the guards will not testify in court, Sheriff's Deputies have successfully testified "in proxy" for them before the untrained Justice of the Peace. The obvious violations of both constitutional rights and NRS statutes are lost on the local law enforcement authorities, who seem to regard themselves as an absolute power within this rural county.

When tourists cross the line into Lincoln County, they effectively lose their civil rights as accepted by the outside world. An editorial cartoon in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on July 26, 1994 (Appendix B) describes the common public perception. A pot-bellied sheriff in dark sunglasses stands beside his cruiser at the county line, waiting for the next victim to cross. A sign beside him says: "Now Entering Lincoln Co. Nevada.... NO Videotaping, NO Trespassing, NO Bill of Rights." The caption at the bottom says, "...Now Leaving America."

The repeated abuse of tourists by local law enforcement is what the state should be looking into, but instead the state has chosen to invite still more tourists here to be victimized.

Trespassing Problems

The state Legislature has given us a vague trespassing law (NRS 207.200, reproduced in Appendix C) which states that a boundary need be delineated only by narrow, unmarked orange posts spaced 200 feet apart, with no signs or fence required. The law says that anyone found on the other side of this otherwise ambiguous line, regardless of intent or how they got there, is guilty of trespass.

How this has been interpreted in Lincoln County is that the anonymous security guards can capture a tourist in an ambiguous location, transport him at gunpoint to a non-ambiguous location inside the line, and Sheriff's deputies can then arrest the person and later testify in Justice Court that they found him inside the orange posts. This is exactly what happened in the case State vs. Chivers and Winget (1995). Although there was no testimony from the security guards who captured and transported them, these two tourists from Utah were found guilty of trespass in the Pahranagat Valley Justice Court. It should be noted that the Justice of the Peace who denied the defendants a jury trial and later found them guilty occupies an adjacent office to the arresting deputy and, as far as I can determine, has never found any defendant not guilty.

In the case of State vs. Chivers, the local prosecutor argued at the trial in Justice Court that the two accused trespassers were guilty because they "cannot prove they were on public land" at the time of their capture.[8] The tourists, both teenagers, defended themselves at the trial--and did a respectable job in my opinion given their lack of experience.[9] Again and again, they emphasized that there was no evidence they were on military land at the time the unidentified guards first detained them and before they were moved. The Justice of the Peace, however, refused to even let them use the name "security guards," which the prosecutor objected to as unproven. The prosecution provided no map or other documentation of the boundary, so a crude one was drawn by the deputy on a blackboard.[10] An "x" was placed by him on the military side of a chalk line he had drawn, and the prosecutor said to the defendants, "Do you see now that you were across the line?" The Justice of the Peace agreed with the prosecutor's reasoning, saying the two were foolish anyway to be hiking in this area, and fined them $600 each. That makes Lincoln County the only place in the country where defendants are guilty until proven innocent.

The orange posts, which are less than two inches wide, are meaningless to anyone who has not read NRS 207.200. They look like the stakes for mining claims or some other benign survey marker, and there isn't any fence. The posts are also invisible at night, as acknowledged in testimony of the deputy in State vs. Chivers. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the military area has been expanded twice in the past decade, and the border is not shown properly on most maps. In some areas, markers for both the new and old border are still in place, creating a trap for tourists who obey the wrong one.

The only "No Trespassing" signs along the border are found at places where an existing road crosses it. However, there are usually no gates or fences at these locations. On the main access road from Highway 375, the signs are in a blind ravine with little warning and visitors have been tempted to drive ahead to a guard house about a half mile beyond for more information. Upon arriving at the guard house, tourists are immediately detained at gunpoint without opportunity for explanation. This is what happened in the case State vs. Fitzgerald, Ruiz, et al. (1994). In this incident, six tourists from Las Vegas, traveling in three vehicles were stopped at the guard house and were quickly surrounded by dozens of heavily armed paramilitary troops.[11] Their vehicles were impounded, and the six of them were taken away in handcuffs and leg irons by the Sheriff's Dept. Their only crime was to get their directions wrong when trying to find a public trailhead. They drove beyond the signs to the guard house, where they expected some advice.

People who accidentally cross the poorly marked border are typically held at gunpoint by the unidentified guards until the Sheriff arrives. Some victims[12] have been forced to hold their hands in the air at gunpoint for extended periods until the Sheriff comes. Others have been removed from their vehicles on public land and forced to lay face-down in the dirt.[13] One victim,[14] detained by anonymous security guards on public land on a cold winter day, was forced to lie on the ground in a t-shirt for an extended period and was denied use of a jacket when he asked. A number of tourists in recent years have reported being held at gunpoint by the paramilitary guards at locations that clearly on public land outside the military border[15]. The guards can do this because they remain unidentified and thus unaccountable. They retain an immunity to the law because the Sheriff's Dept., empowered by the state, has done nothing to require their identification.

Once the state has attracted tourists here, it cannot force them to stay on the highway. Most of the land surrounding Highway 375 is public. This wide expanse of unrestricted desert is one of the attractions of the area, and the lure of exploring it is irresistible. There is no warning at highway, however, of the poorly marked military border and the rough treatment to be expected there a few miles away. Visitors are also not warned that their normal American expectations of civil rights do not apply.

Foreigners get no break, either. Recently, a Canadian resident reported to me that he wandered across the line in 1994 and was detained by the security force. Although he was never prosecuted, he has been denied entry to the U.S. ever since. He has been given no explanation of why he is an "undesirable alien," so there is no proof that the incident was the cause, but it certainly seems a likely possibility. Does this mean that every other foreign tourist runs the same risk? If so, shouldn't they be warned?

And the dangers are not purely legal. Although it has not happened in the past year, big military helicopters without identifying tail numbers have routinely assaulted tourists on public land here, using their downwash to flush out visitors from the bushes or hold them to the ground until the Sheriff arrives.[16] This is in direct violation of not only FAA rules but altitude regulations of the military itself. Has the state prepared tourists for this kind of reception should it happen again?

Seizure of Film and Video Tape

Similar violations of civil rights and accepted police procedure have routinely occurred in the confiscation of film and video tape from tourists and journalists near the highway. According to the sworn court testimony of the Lincoln County deputy who handles most such cases,[17] the Sheriff's Dept. believes it can seize any film or video tape of any tourist who points a camera in the direction of any military land, and can confiscate this material without a warrant or written accounting. According to this deputy's testimony, this includes any film taken by tourists from Highway 375 if the camera is pointed even momentarily towards any distant mountains on military land. In all past cases, the Sheriff's Dept. then turns over the film to the anonymous security force without written receipt, and the film or video tape vanishes without any realistic hope of recovery.[18]

The Sheriff's Dept. believes this action is justified by a 1948 federal law (18 USC 795) which requires the permission of the installation commander before photos can be taken of any military facility designated by the president as requiring such protection. The limits of the law have never been defined in court, however, and no public definition has been offered by the military of the facility here that cannot be photographed. To my knowledge, none of the film or video tape taken from tourists or journalists has included pictures of the secret base at Area 51, because others who have taken such pictures are more careful not to be seen doing it. Sufficient justification for seizing these materials, in Lincoln County, is simply pointing one's camera at empty military land or distant mountain ranges--like most tourists will do when they visit the "Extraterrestrial Highway."

Media outlets who have lost film or video tape without warrant include the New York Times and KNBC-TV of Los Angeles. ABC News had both its video tape and $65,000 worth of equipment seized by the Sheriff, although this was with a warrant issued by the Justice of the Peace, and all their video tape and equipment was eventually returned. (This is the only occasion in which confiscated film or video tape has been returned to anyone here, perhaps due to the television network's political clout.) In addition to these high-profile cases, many other citizens, including myself, have had their personal film confiscated without warrant, often many miles from the military border. Usually, the deputy promises to "develop" the film and then return it, and he threatens or implies arrest if the subject does not immediately comply. The film, of course, is never returned or accounted for, but instead the undeveloped film is immediately taken inside the boundary by the deputy and turned over to the "nonexistent" security guards without written record.

Cameras, binoculars and telescopes have also been seized by the Sheriff's Dept. and anonymous security guards, often at gunpoint in the course of alleged trespassing cases, but also on public land. In only two cases has this property been returned; in all the others, the equipment has vanished and remains unaccounted for.

My own involvement in such cases has become personal. My own film has been confiscated twice by the same deputy. My film showed no military installations, but it did show, in one case, a military helicopter deliberately hovering only 20 feet above me on public land to try force me to leave an area near the border. In seizing this film and turning it over to the same military that committed the crime, the Sheriff's Dept. effectively suppressed my evidence of this wrongdoing. During a third warrantless seizure, I was arrested by the same deputy for pushing down the door locks of a vehicle in which I and a TV crew were traveling. I said, "Wait, there are unresolved issues here," and was immediately arrested. I was later convicted of obstructing a public officer (NRS 197.190 a misdemeanor) in the same Justice Court where all the other actions have been successfully brought.

As far as I know, there have been no further film or video tape seizures in the past year, but this provides no assurances that such behavior will not resume. In my own trial, the Sheriff's Dept., supported by the Justice of the Peace, asserted on the record, that it can confiscate, without warrant or accounting, virtually any film taken anywhere along the "Extraterrestrial Highway" and that a citizen is powerless both to resist and to get his film back regardless of what pictures it contains. As long as this claim remains unchallenged, the state cannot assure new tourists that their film and equipment will not also be taken.

Other Safety Issues

The "Extraterrestrial Highway" has been compared by Assemblyman Neighbors to the "Loneliest Highway" designation for US-50 across northern Nevada.[19] In both cases, the highway runs through an extremely remote area with few services, and the designation is intended to help promote tourism.

The claims for the two highways are different, however. The draw of US-50 is the remoteness itself, which is clearly implied in the name. People understand on a "lonely highway" that you have to watch your gas gauge and take advantage of services wherever you can find them. It is clearly conveyed in the name that if you get into trouble on a side road here, help could be far away. No one is expected to linger along this highway, only drive it straight through and be able to say, "I Survived the Loneliest Highway."

There are no such implied warnings in the name of the "Extraterrestrial Highway." Instead of accurately portraying this as a harsh desert area, the state is putting an appealing label on it--making the area seem gentle and attractive instead of dangerous. Relying on only the superficial publicity that the name generates, most tourists unfamiliar with the desert are going to be unprepared for the potential hazards here. There are plenty of incidents associated with rural Nevada where tourists have broken down on remote roads, and the occupants have died or nearly died for lack of water. With US-50, the danger is not so great, because there is no motivation for people to depart from the paved highway and there is enough traffic on this road to provide emergency help when needed.

The "Extraterrestrial Highway" conveys a different attraction. Implied in the name is the claim that you can see UFOs here. That means people have to stop and spend time looking at the sky. The irresistible impulse, then, is to leave the paved highway and try to get closer to Area 51 where the UFOs are supposed to be housed by the military. Apart from the risk of crossing the poorly marked border, there is a substantial danger that ordinary cars will become stuck in sand or otherwise break down on roads they are not suited for. This has happened to perhaps a half-dozen people in my time here[20], and the victims were usually forced to take long and dangerous hikes in desert conditions to save themselves. (They get no help from the anonymous security force often watching them from a distance.)

The state must recognize that the majority of its out-of-state visitors are not experienced in desert driving. These tourists assume there will be a gas station whenever they need one and that their rental car can handle any road. Such drivers also may forget to bring enough water and appropriate clothing to assure their survival in emergency situations. Even cellular telephones do not work on Highway 375, so when someone breaks down on a dirt road, they are truly on their own.

Tourists who are separated from their rental cars run a real risk of dehydration in the summer and hypothermia in the winter. There have been a number of close calls even among the relatively well-informed visitors of the past. Now, the state is promoting the highway to a whole new class of unsophisticated tourists--the ones who normally pull slot machine handles in Las Vegas. This is the natural market for the state's highway promotion: näive gamblers who want to take a day off from the neon to come up and see some UFOs. As a demographic group, these people have done no research; they know nothing about the desert, and they expect the same level of services they found in Las Vegas. These are exactly the people who are bound to get in trouble here, and when they do they can fairly claim that it was the state's fault for drawing them here without preparing them for the dangers.

Original Objections Now Moot

Most of the other issues that I tried to raise with Assemblyman Neighbors in my original letter are now moot, since the measure has been signed and the damage done. As outlined in that document (Appendix A), I continue to believe that the alien highway designation (1) encourages the delusions and intrusive behavior of "Ambassador Merlin," (2) promotes false UFO claims while trivializing serious research, (3) primarily promotes a single local business--the Little A'Le'Inn--and the extreme right wing political views of its proprietors, (4) intrudes on the privacy of the local rancher who owns the popular "Black Mailbox" where the UFO buffs gather, (5) ignores and trivializes more serious state-related issues associated with Area 51, including hazardous waste, worker rights and tax evasion problems, and (6) authorizes road signs that will likely be stolen or shot up on this lightly traveled highway.

I am annoyed, personally, to be excluded from the political process, especially when I invented the designation and played a primary role in other political issues relating to the base. Since the highway is a critical part of Rachel's identity, I think it is wrong for people in Carson City to impose a new identity from afar without consulting those who live and work here. In my view, it is equivalent to building a new freeway through a residential part of Las Vegas without giving the local residents the opportunity to voice their concerns. In the end, the freeway might be approved, but the government and community still need a chance to address potential problems--like the ones I have raised here--before the action is approved. If there are hearings, they should held in the community which is most affected, not three or six hours away where interested parties cannot realistically attend. At the least, notice of any hearings should be given in the affected community. There were no local notices of the hearings in this case, and the affected community was essentially excluded from the proceedings.

I am also disturbed to see our state officials and legislators paying more heed to an alien ambassador than their own constituents. "Ambassador Merlin" seems to monopolize attention wherever he goes. When TV news crews come to Rachel, they interview me about government accountability; then they meet Merlin and hear his claim that he is a "being of light" residing simultaneously on earth, Draconis, Venus and a couple of other galactic venues, and suddenly the story becomes his alone and all serious issues are discarded in the editing room.[21] I feel that my state representatives have done the same. I have listened to a tape of Ambassador Merlin testifying before one of the many state committees he frequents in Carson City,[22] and I am embarrassed to hear legislators respond to him with mock seriousness and promise to take action on whatever he is asking. In addition to pushing for the alien highway, Merlin has lobbied for a return to the gold standard and various initiatives to prepare humanity for the coming arrival of his alien brothers, which he says will happen within the next five years. I do not feel qualified to pass judgment on Merlin's alien origins, but state officials seem to have not even considered the possibility that he is not an alien, only an earthling whose mental illness they are encouraging. Even if he is from another world, I do not see this as relevant to Nevada politics. If the Ambassador from Italy wanted to name 375 the "Italian Highway," would our legislators have given him the same deference? What goes on within the borders of our state is not the business of any foreign dignitary, earthly or otherwise.

What my original objections did not anticipate, however, was the generally positive response by Rachel residents now that the designation has been approved by the governor. Even though they were not consulted and the action came as a surprise to most residents, the slimmest hope of economic development seems to be well appreciated here. Two other businesses in Rachel in addition to the Inn have now begun to make investments based on the state's action. For the state to reverse the designation now and renege on its publicity promises would be a serious blow to this economically depressed community (as well as earning me its wrath for writing this report).

Instead, I propose that mitigating actions be taken to lessen the dangers to tourists and resolve some of the state-related legal issues connected to the tense military border near the highway.

Proposed Mitigation

I proposed three realistic areas of mitigation that could resolve most of my major concerns above:
  1. Erecting a few additional signs containing warnings for tourists of dangers that are not obvious.

  2. Modifying the state's trespassing law to resolve its ambiguities.

  3. Actions by the state Attorney General's office to resolve issues concerning warrantless film seizure and "in proxy" testimony by sheriff's deputies.
I do not know exactly how each item should be handled within the state's available framework, but I do have some general suggestions. These can be refined according to the requirements of each agency or subcommittee that is involved.

Additional Warning Signs

It makes sense that if the state is attracting unprepared tourists to the area, it should also inform them of any dangers that are not obvious. Two signs, one at either end of the highway, might give a simple warning about the remoteness of the area. An example might be:

CAUTION

THIS IS A REMOTE DESERT HIGHWAY. THERE ARE NO
SERVICES EXCEPT AT RACHEL, 40 MILES FROM
HERE, WHERE GAS IS AVAILABLE ONLY 7 AM TO 7
PM. DO NOT LEAVE THE PAVED HIGHWAY UNLESS
YOU ARE EQUIPPED FOR DESERT SURVIVAL.

Other signs should be erected at two main access roads approaching the military area. The text might be similar to the following:

WARNING

THERE IS A RESTRICTED MILITARY INSTALLATION TO
THE WEST. THE BOUNDARY, WHICH IS DIFFERENT
THAN SHOWN ON MANY MAPS, IS MARKED BY SIGNS
ON EXISTING ROADS AND BY WIDELY PLACED
ORANGE MARKERS IN THE DESERT. DO NO CROSS
"RESTRICTED AREA" SIGNS ON ROADS, AND DO NOT
HIKE IN THIS AREA UNLESS YOU ARE SURE WHERE
THE BOUNDARY IS.

A third type of sign might be appropriate at the rancher's "Black Mailbox" which tourists assume is a mailbox for Area 51 and as a result is routinely opened and abused. The rancher also sometimes finds his access to his mailbox blocked by people parked in front of it. A small sign might say...

THIS IS A PRIVATE MAILBOX. ANY TAMPERING WITH
THE MAIL HERE IS A VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW.
YOUR RESPECT AND DISTANCE WOULD BE
APPRECIATED.

Signs cannot be erected on every minor access road approaching the border, because there are dozens, and lost tourists will no doubt continue to wander across the line, but these three signs will at least warn most of them.

Clarification to Trespassing Law

The Nevada Legislature has given the state a vague trespassing law (Appendix C) which allows poor marking of borders by the military and prosecution of anyone found on the other side of the line even if brought there at gunpoint--as in State vs. Chivers. The ambiguities of the trespassing law and its low standards of proof have encouraged the Air Force to rely almost entirely on this local law for prosecution of trespassers instead of the more demanding federal trespassing statute that would require the guards to testify.

Fundamental to any public law is adequate warning. Common sense and accepted legal standards say that if a reasonably intelligent person is not given enough information to know where the border is or what it means, he should not be prosecuted for accidentally crossing it. Orange posts less than two inches wide and spaced two hundred feet apart are almost unnoticeable in the open desert, and without any printed explanation they are meaningless to most people even if seen. At night, when many UFO watchers are likely to be cruising near the border, the posts are completely invisible. Yet, NRS 207.200 says that this marking alone is sufficient, and the fact that a person is found on the other side is prima facia proof of guilt. Nothing in the law prevents "kidnapping" of a tourist at gunpoint from an ambiguous location to an unambiguous one or requires the original captors to testify in court. The current law requires no printed signs even at obvious crossing points, like the former hiking trail to Freedom Ridge, so when the boundary changes as it did last year, returning visitors are completely unaware of the new boundary and have been entrapped.

The current wording of the law seems inconsistent both with fundamental civil rights and trespassing laws in other states, where printed signs are usually required. A citizen, in order to obey the law, must be given a reasonable opportunity to know what it is. This means that printed signs must be placed at regular intervals along the military border, perhaps with less widely spaced orange posts in between. As it stands now, the posts continue for miles without explanation, with rarely more than one or two visible at once. The posts look like many other kinds of benign survey markers, and they are meaningful only to lawyers who have already examined the Nevada statute.

In my experience, the military in this area will not make any accommodations to public interest without being forced to by law. A change to NRS 207.200 would involve no cost to the state, however.

The issues of what constitutes proof and who must testify in court is more difficult to define in statute than the boundary requirements. The requirements of proof are usually created in case law, which our local District Attorney and Sheriff's Dept. seem to have no understanding of. In any other jurisdiction, the moving of accused trespassers at gunpoint and the refusal of the original captors to testify would clearly invalidate any prosecution. The trouble in this jurisdiction is that the usually close relationship between the security guards, the Sheriff's department, the D.A. and the local Justice of the Peace prevents the normal standards of law from being recognized.

The experience of recent cases here indicates that tourists who approach the line at an ambiguous location can be arrested whether or not they actually cross the line. If charged, they are "guilty until proven innocent" and have no right to face their accusers. They will be cited and fined regardless of the circumstances, and if they contest the charges, they will be convicted anyway and probably be given a stiffer fine. If a plea agreement is reached, the local Justice will ignore it, as she did in State vs. Fitzgerald, and the accused trespassers will be given the maximum fine anyway.

Abuses of justice could be addressed by appeal, but if the maximum fine in a trespassing case is $600, no one is going to spend as much as $10,000 pursuing an effective appeal. Instead, to protect new tourists from similar treatment along the "Extraterrestrial Highway," some form of action is required from the state, which ultimately regulates all of these local authorities.

Actions by Attorney General

In Lincoln County, there is no significant separation between the security guards, Sheriff's Dept., District Attorney and Justice of the Peace. They work together to pursue an agenda which seems to coincide with that of the Air Force. As far as I can determine, the local Sheriff's Department is the only public police force in the country that defends and represents a secret military entity--the base at Area 51. Until recently, the Sheriff even secretly deputized the anonymous guards there[23]--without any public record, of course. What this means for tourists is that they have no rights here, and given the high cost of legal action and complete absence of defense lawyers in the county, the average tourist just wants to pay up and get out.

In Lincoln County, the Sheriff's Department is charged with investigating complaints by one citizen against another, but who investigates complaints against the Sheriff? All public officers in the county derive their power from the state, so the state is ultimately responsible for their discipline and adherence to law. In situations like this, where there are repeated abuses of many citizens, each of whom does not have the resources to fight back, it is the duty of the state to assure justice.

Last year, I called the state attorney general's office about these complaints and was connected to a staff member, Harry Swainston, who was apparently assigned to Lincoln County. Swainston showed no interest in my complaint and could give me no advice on how to file one. He confided to me that investigations by the attorney general were dominated by political interests. At the time, the attorney general's office was preoccupied with the removal of certain Lincoln County officials from office for their stand on nuclear waste, These officials had passed a county resolution to explore the possibility of locating an interim waste storage facility here, which was contrary to the anti-nuclear position of the governor and attorney general. It was my understanding that any investigation of the Sheriff or D.A., who both seemed to be allied with the governor's position, would have conflicted with the state's political agenda in the nuclear waste issue.

Although it has apparently been resolved, this conflict showed what the state is capable of once motivated. The county's nuclear waste initiative was seen as contrary to an untested Nevada law forbidding any nuclear waste to be stored within the state. On this basis, the attorney general brought a massive lawsuit against seven local officials who had supported the initiative, seeking to remove them from office (State vs. Culverwell, et al, 1995). (The state legislature later passed a resolution condemning the attorney general's action.) The attorney general also launched an investigation against two of those same officials for alleged violations of the open meeting law when they both dined at the same public function. Harry Swainston and his staff seemed to devote enormous resources to seeking out some other form of wrongdoing by the county officials and anyone associated with them. Now that this matter has been resolved and the lawsuit dropped, I wonder if just a small fraction of those resources might be devoted to more conventional problems of rural justice.

If the state promotes the "Extraterrestrial Highway" but does not resolve the outstanding issues of justice here, then it has lured tourists into a trap. If a law enforcement authority has successfully abused its power in the past, then it is likely to abuse it again in the future, even if not in the same way. To assure tourists both of their physical safety and their legal safety, public confidence in local law enforcement and the state's discipline of it must be restored.

I know that the attorney general is capable of issuing legal opinions on matters of public interest. I suggest that it would be appropriate and relatively easy for three opinions to be produced, answering the following questions:

  1. What proof is required to support the state's trespassing charge when a border is marked only by orange posts (NRS 207.200(2a))? Is the original detaining party required to identify himself and testify in court? Can Sheriff's deputies testify "in proxy" for that person?

  2. Under what circumstances is a Nevada police force allowed to confiscate film on behalf of a secret federal entity, and what are its bookkeeping and follow-up requirements if it does?

  3. Can a local police department deputize private or military security guards without public record?
Once these opinions have been produced, the state then has a standard by which it can judge the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department--or any other Nevada police force. The attorney general can then say whether or not civil rights have routinely been violated along the "Extraterrestrial Highway." If so, she can then recommend further actions or investigation to resolve the pending issues and protect the new tourists the state is attracting here.

Summary

As with any other action by the state, naming State Route 375 the "Extraterrestrial Highway" has resulted in serious effects that may not have been anticipated. Our best approach is not to try to reverse history or lay blame for an improper process but to move ahead to resolve the pending issues.

The "Extraterrestrial Highway," without mitigating actions, presents serious risks to the safety of the same tourists it is trying to attract. The state should not wait for more disasters to happen along this highway, but must take positive action to prevent such incidents in the future. If it does not move promptly to resolve a danger it has created, then the state becomes liable for the negative effects of its action. At the least, "disaster" means the spoiled vacations of unprepared visitors. At the most, there is risk of serious physical injury and significant civil rights violations.

In writing and distributing this report, I am trying to make it clear to the state what the risks are and am hoping that positive remedies will result.


Appendix A: Original Objections

Below are my original objections to the Alien Highway Bill, as faxed to Assemblyman Roy Neighbors prior to the May 19, 1995, hearing.


Glenn Campbell
HCR Box 38
Rachel, NV 89001
702-729-2648

Opposition to Bill #533
Designation of Nevada Highway 375
as the "Extraterrestrial Alien Highway"

Presented to the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism
May 19, 1995

Dear Honorable Members of the Legislature:

I am a Rachel resident writing to voice my opposition to the proposed bill which would designate the highway through my town, State Route 375, the "Extraterrestrial Alien Highway."

I regret not being able to attend the hearing on this matter held on May 19, but Rachel is 150 miles from Las Vegas and twice that distance from Carson City, and prior commitments prevent me from making this journey. In lieu of my presence, I hope that this letter can be read into the record.

I am the principal activist seeking greater government accountability at "Area 51," the secret military base 25 miles south of Rachel. I have been living in Rachel for two and a half years, and I wrote the book, the "Area 51 Viewer's Guide," which helped bring this story to national prominence. As far as I know, I was the first to refer to 375 as the "Alien Highway," mentioning it on the cover of my book. As a self-appointed "public relations officer" for issues surrounding the secret base, I have hosted reporters from the New York Times, every major TV network, many worldwide magazines as well as our local Nevada press.

Before my arrival in Rachel, Area 51 was a "fringe" story dominated by conspiracy-oriented UFO buffs who made a lot of ridiculous claims. I made the story palatable to the mainstream media by sticking to the facts and concentrating on government accountability and not UFOs themselves.

There are some UFO stories emanating from Area 51 and nearby areas that I do not dismiss. I think some of the reports that the government has been working with alien hardware deserve serious attention. However, I do dismiss most of the UFO sightings made by tourists along 375. A circus of fantastic claims has emerged here, and this is distracting both for serious UFO research and to democratic accountability at the Groom Lake base.

In summary, these are my objections to the bill....

1) Only a single business in Lincoln County is in a position to benefit from this bill--the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel. This establishment endorses all UFO claims as real and promotes the same extreme anti-Federal philosophy that lead to the Oklahoma City bombing. The U.N., they say, has joined forces with a secret New World Order to first take away our guns and then enslave us, but the Inn has plenty of guns and is prepared to fight off the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when it comes. It is not the role of the legislature to promote a single business like this, especially when its views are so inflammatory. There are many people in Rachel who feel that the A'Le'Inn has already become too powerful and that their recent success has disrupted the balance of power in this tiny community. This bill will give them still more economic power.

2) Since most tourists drive here from Las Vegas, they will find gas and lodging there and are unlikely to spend much money in the rest of Lincoln County. These tourists show little interest in stopping before they get to Rachel and the "Black Mailbox."

3) Any "Alien Highway" signs erected on this remote highway would be irresistible to tourists and would be promptly stolen.

4) Highway 375 is adjacent to a highly sensitive and poorly marked military border. Both the anonymous federal guards who patrol it and the local sheriff's department who handles the prisoners have shown no leniency toward tourists who accidentally wander across the unfenced line. Trespassers are routinely made to lay face down in the dirt or to stand with their hands over their heads for up to two hours. They are given the maximum fine and get no breaks from the local Justice of the Peace. This bill and the publicity it creates would encourage just the sort of naive and ill-equipped tourist who would get lost and suffer such a fate.

5) Although this bill is sponsored by Assembly members, there is another citizen who feels that this is "his" bill. The Ambassador Merlyn Merlin II of the Saucerian Embassy of Christ probably sits before you at this hearing. Ambassador Merlin believes he is an extraterrestrial who has been sent to this planet to prepare us for the coming alien arrival. While I cannot pass judgment on Merlin's claims, I can attest to the fact that he makes a very poor ambassador. Merlin has no understanding of the privacy or private property of others. He latches onto people who he believes are "chosen" and he won't leave them alone. A number of people in Lincoln County and elsewhere in Nevada have felt that Merlin was stalking them. Some people believe that Merlin is not an alien at all but that he is in fact a human with some profound personal problems. If this true, than passage of this bill encourages him in this delusion. He will forever be claiming that he pushed this bill through the legislature, and he will take it as proof of his legitimacy.

A couple of years ago, Merlin invited Secretary of State Cheryl Lau to a meeting in California. Ms. Lau wrote Merlin a letter politely declining, but she made the mistake of addressing him by his chosen title of "Ambassador." Since then, Merlin has been showing the letter to people as "proof" that the State of Nevada officially recognizes his ambassadorial status. Passage of this bill, which he had been promoting, can only provide further affirmation and encourage his continued intrusive behavior.

6) Many serious environmental, fiscal and worker rights issues remain unresolved at the Groom Lake base, the existence of which the military still does not fully acknowledge. The secret base has for years dumped toxins onto the land and into the air, and it has avoided payment of millions of dollars in county property taxes. Institutionalizing a "lighthearted" approach to the area distracts from these issues and makes it much more difficult to have them taken seriously.

7) Serious UFO researchers also cringe at the lighthearted approach to their work. They have been dogged for years by the "little green men" jokes, and this bill doesn't help things any.

8) The proposal cannot help but send the message to the public that they can see UFOs here, which I believe is false. Most of the objects people are seeing in the sky now are flares and other manifestations of the frequent war games on the Nellis Range. If there were UFOs here once, they certainly won't perform in this current well-publicized atmosphere.

9) The popular UFO viewing site that this bill will indirectly promote is the "Black Mailbox," a rancher's mailbox on 375. Because this is the only landmark on this lonely stretch of highway, this is where the "true believers" come to see whatever it is they expect. Unfortunately, this is a private mailbox that has already been vandalized. This single ranch family in the Tikaboo Valley, often harassed by watchers, will bear most of the burden of the increased tourist traffic, with no benefit to them.

10) This is a remote and potentially dangerous desert area that is not "visitor friendly." It is a mistake to make it too easy for people to come here. The visitors who come to this area now are fairly sophisticated: They have to do some research at least to find out where this place is. Giving the highway a friendly-sounding name will inevitably attract the very naive kind of tourist, coming up for the day from Las Vegas, who has done no research and taken no precautions and is bound to get in trouble as a result.

In short, most of Lincoln County appears to be indifferent to this bill. Only a single isolated business would significantly benefit, while serious research and activism will be hindered. Someday in the future, when the story here has "matured" and problems at the Groom Lake base have been resolved, this bill might be appropriate. For now, though, I ask that you let it drop.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Glenn Campbell


Appendix B: Editorial Cartoon


Appendix C: Nevada's Trespassing Law

Nevada Revised Statutes

[[section]]207.200 Unlawful trespass upon land; warning against trespassing.

  1. Any person who, under circumstances not amounting to a burglary:

    (a) Goes upon the land or into any building of another with intent to vex or annoy the owner or occupant thereof, or to commit any unlawful act; or

    (b) Willfully goes or remains upon any land or in any building after having been warned by the owner or occupant thereof not to trespass, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The meaning of this subsection is not limited by subsections 2 and 4.

  2. A sufficient warning against trespassing, within the meaning of this section, is given by either of the following methods:

    (a) Painting, at intervals of not more than 200 feet on each side of the land, upon or near the boundary, a post, structure or natural object with not less than 50 square inches of fluorescent orange paint or, if the post is a metal fence post, painting the entire post with such paint.

    (b) Fencing the area.

  3. It is prima facie evidence of trespass for any person to be found on private or public property which is posted or fenced as provided in subsection 2 without lawful business with owner or occupant of the property.

  4. An entryman on land under the laws of the United States is an owner within the meaning of this section.


Footnotes

1"Rural road may help E.T. find home," by Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review Journal, Febuary 2, 1996

[2]"No Hope for Alien Highway," an Associated Press news story, June 24, 1995. "Bills that did not become law"Las Vegas Review-Journal, 7/3/95.

[3]Ibid.

[4]"Rural road may help E.T. find home," by Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review Journal, Febuary 2, 1996, page 1.

[5]I now divide my time between Rachel and Las Vegas.

[6]"No Hope for Alien Highway," Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6/24/95, page 2B

[7]"Rural road may help E.T. find home," by Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review Journal, Febuary 2, 1996, page 1.

[8]The account here of the Feb. 1995 trial is from memory (I was present.), but a full transcript of it is also available in District Court, where the defendents filed a notice of appeal but did not have the resources to pursue it.

[9]The defendents initially asked for a public defender, being indigent, but the Justice of the Peace said they would not qualify if their parents had any assets. Since they did not want their parents assessed, they then chose not to apply.

[10] Which has no legal standing under NRS evidence rules and was never entered into evidence anyway.

[11]An incident I happened to witness from a distant hill.

[12]Including Kevin Vogt in 1993.

[13]Including Ray West in 1995.

[14]West.

[15]Vogt, West and Mark Farmer in 1993.

[16]Two such incidents were reported in a cover story on Area 51 in Popular Science, March 1994. Another was reported in a similar article in The New York Times Magazine, June 26, 1994, where the downwash of a Pave Hawk helicopter was used to hold the reporter, photographer and myself on the ground on public land until the deputy arrived. A photographer for the Times captured the latter incident on film, but later lost some of that film in a warrantless seizure by the deputy.

[17]Deputy Douglas Lamoreaux testifying in State vs. Campbell.

[18]Also established in State vs. Campbell.

[19]"No Hope for Alien Highway," Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6/24/95, page 2B

[20]Including Vogt and Dave Schmitz.

[21]As happened in a CBS Sunday Morning segment in 1995 and on many local news reports.

[22]Ambassador Merlin speaks before the Nevada Legislative Commission, 7/6/94.

[23]One of the guards displayed a card to that effect to myself and several companions during a midnight raid of our campsite on Aug. 28,1993.


[Area 51 | Rachel | Lincoln County Justice]

Glenn Campbell, Area 51 Research Center, Rachel, NV 89001

Created: 3/6/96