CIA doc­u­ment re­lease ac­knowl­edges Area 51

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By DANIEL DE LUCE in Wash­ing­ton Agence France-presse

A newly de­clas­si­fied CIA doc­u­ment con­firms the ex­is­tence of famed Area 51 in Ne­vada, but con­spir­acy the­o­rists will be dis­ap­pointed that the spy agency of­fers no proof of alien space­ship land­ings in the desert.

Area 51 has long been fod­der for science fic­tion films and wild UFO tales claim­ing the US govern­ment im­posed se­crecy over the site north­west of Las Vegas to cover up ev­i­dence of ex­trater­res­tri­als touch­ing down on Earth.

In­stead of en­coun­ters with fly­ing saucers, the doc­u­ments re­leased by the CIA on Thurs­day re­count a less sen­sa­tional his­tory of Area 51 — as a test­ing range for the govern­ment’s U-2 spy plane dur­ing the Cold War.

The CIA in-house his­tory makes no men­tion of the leg­endary “Roswell in­ci­dent,” when a weather bal­loon crashed in New Mex­ico in 1947. UFO true be­liev­ers al­lege it was an alien space­craft that went down, and that Area 51’s hangars had hid­den ev­i­dence of ex­trater­res­trial corpses.

But ac­cord­ing to the CIA, the govern­ment se­crecy sur­round­ing Area 51 was not about Mar­tians but about hid­ing a new spy plane from the Sovi­ets.

The U-2 re­con­nais­sance air­craft was de­signed to snoop on the for­mer Soviet Union at high-al­ti­tude, and its de­vel­op­ment was top-se­cret.

In April 1955, the CIA chose a re­mote dry lakebed in the Ne­vada desert as a test­ing ground, which was des­ig­nated on maps as Area 51.

Test flights for the U-2 air­craft were con­ducted at a much higher al­ti­tude than com­mer­cial air­lin­ers or other mil­i­tary planes.

Re­ports of uniden­ti­fied fly­ing ob­jects in the Ne­vada desert started to roll in, the re­port said.

“High al­ti­tude test­ing of the U-2 soon led to an un­ex­pected side ef­fect — a tremen­dous in­crease in re­ports of uniden­ti­fied fly­ing ob­jects,” it said.

The re­ports of UFOs of­ten came from pi­lots from com­mer­cial air­lin­ers in the early evening hours, with the U-2 plane’s sil­ver wings re­flect­ing the rays of the sun.

The sur­veil­lance planes ap­peared to be “fiery ob­jects” high in the sky, it said.

“At this time, no one be­lieved manned flight was pos­si­ble above 60,000 feet, so no one ex­pected to see an ob­ject so high in the sky,” it said.

The com­mer­cial pi­lots and other ob­servers on the ground wrote let­ters to an Air Force unit in Day­ton, Ohio, charged with in­ves­ti­gat­ing such sight­ings.

Anx­ious to avoid ex­pos­ing the ul­tra-se­cret U-2 pro­gram, Air Force of­fi­cers ex­plained the sight­ings as merely due to nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena, though they knew the high-fly­ing U-2 was the true cause.

U- 2 and other sur­veil­lance flights “ac­counted for more than one-half of all UFO re­ports dur­ing the late 1950s and most of the 1960s”, it said.

The 400-page re­port, ti­tled “Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency and Over­head Re­con­nais­sance: The U-2 and Ox­cart Pro­grams, 1954-1974,” was re­leased as a re­sult of a Freedom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest dat­ing to 2005 from the National Se­cu­rity Ar­chives at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity.

The study was pub­lished in clas­si­fied form for spy agen­cies in 1992 and a heav­ily cen­sored ver­sion was pub­lished in 1998.

Area 51’s lo­ca­tion has been an open se­cret for years but govern­ment doc­u­ments re­leased pre­vi­ously had not ac­knowl­edged its ex­is­tence and role in such a de­tailed way. Of­fi­cials also had re­ferred to a lo­ca­tion “near Groom Lake”.

The CIA re­port said at the time of­fi­cials de­cided to nick­name the site “Par­adise Ranch” to make it sound more at­trac­tive to po­ten­tial work­ers.

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