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Briefs filed in haz. waste lawsuit appeal [News Article]

From: (Glenn Campbell, Las Vegas)
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 14:48:18 -0800
Subject: Briefs filed in haz. waste lawsuit appeal [News Article]


By Glenn Puit
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jan. 15, 1997, Page 8B

The federal government deliberately misled the public and media about court
proceedings addressing allegations that hazardous wastes were illegally
burned at a classified Nevada military base, according to documents
scheduled to be filed today in a San Francisco appeals court.

According to the documents the government, under the shield of closed
court proceedings, also sought the names of media agencies and contacts
that it believed had dealings with an attorney who represents former base

In 1994, several workers who were granted a shield of anonymity filed suit
against the federal government. They claimed chemicals were burned in open
pits at the U.S. military's operating location near Groom Lake,
contributing to worker illnesses and possibly two deaths.

The Lincoln County base, informally known as Area 51, has long been
believed to be the site where military aircraft such as the Lockheed U-2
spy plane and the F-117 stealth fighter were tested.

One of the many case controversies took place during a June 1995 closed
hearing before U.S. District Judge Philip Pro, who has kept the record
confidential to the present day.

During the hearing, it is alleged the government threatened to seize and
classify unclassified documents in possession of attorney Jonathan Turley,
a George Washington University law professor representing the workers and
their spouses.

In appellate briefs to be filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appe als
today, Turley and cocounsel Joan Manley argue that the government and its
lawyers intentionally misled the public and media when discussing the
closed hearing.

Turley contends that in public statements made to various media
organizations about the case, the government claimed it simply asked him
for voluntary disclosure of information pertaining to the case.

The workers' attorneys today were to present the contents of a letter sent
to the government before the matter became a public controversy, which
reiterates the demands it is alleged were made to Turley during the

Those demands include documentation that would reveal the names of sources
of the workers' information, material stamped class)fied and material
presumed class)fied. Turley and Manley argue the letter proves the U.S.
Department of Justice statements were deliberately misleading.

"The government's statements were all false and, in argument before the
court, defense counsel (the government) has never contested that the
statements were false," Turley wrote.

Attempts to contact officials with the Justice Department in Washington
D.C., for comment Tuesday evening, shortly after the briefs were obtained
by the Review-Journal, were unsuccessful. Turley declined comment.

In the letter Turley alleged the government also demanded the names of the
workers' media contacts. The appellate briefs argue that such information
is protected under the First Amendment.

Last year Pro threw out the lawsuit, stating that national security
interests overrode worker requests for base information. Because no
information was available, no controversy could be shown and the suit could
not continue, Pro ruled.

That decision is currently under appeal and today's briefs were filed as
part of that appeal. After Pro's decision, Turley claimed victory in parts
of the suit, stating the workers were able to force the government against
its will to reveal the existence of the base and conduct environmental
inspections there.

KLAS-TV, Channel 8 has filed a brief in U.S. District Court seeking access
under the First Amendment to the transcript of the sealed hearing.

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