Monday, August 11, 2008

Area 51 - 1996 - 60 Minutes Transcript

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

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

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

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

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.

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