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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Area 51

Air Date: Week of

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The top-secret military base in southern Nevada has been suspected by conspiracy theorists of harboring alien spacecraft and extraterrestrial research for years. Now, the Bush administration has exempted the base from disclosing information on its waste disposal practices. Host Steve Curwood talks with space.com’s senior space writer, Leonard David, about what truth there is behind the secrets.


CURWOOD: Area 51 is a classified U.S. military base in Southern Nevada that has long been a playground for the Fox Mulders of conspiracy theorists. UFO sightings, alien abduction and secret extraterrestrial research are a part of Area 51’s lore.

Now, the Bush administration wants to exempt the base from having to report on its waste disposal practices. The government says that it’s of “paramount interest” that such information be kept classified.

Leonard David is senior space writer for the astronomy website space.com. He spotted the announcement in the Federal Register, the government’s weekly legislative newspaper. Mr. David, welcome to Living on Earth.

DAVID: Thank you for having me.

CURWOOD: I know there are a number of people that have pretty dark conspiracies about Area 51. How are they, how are these conspiracy theorists taking this news?

DAVID: Well, I think it sort of fortifies the UFO community to say: See, we told you there’s something going on, and they don’t want anybody to know what’s going on there, and, therefore, the big mental leap is that obviously the UFOs must be there and they’re being tested. There is a degree of silliness that goes on, in my mind, with some of this.

CURWOOD: What truth do you think there is to all this talk of a government cover-up there?

DAVID: Well, I think the cover-up is there because from the mid ‘50s when the base opened, stealth technologies, the stealth fighter, cruise missile technologies, those all were tested out there at Area 51. And I just recently learned that one of the other things that happens out there is that when we capture foreign aircraft those foreign aircraft are flown out there by U.S. pilots, and we learn more about how those aircraft operate. So, it has a natural hush-hush level to it to begin with.

On the other hand, I do believe that if alien technology does plow into the earth at some time, and maybe it’s happened in the past, I would think that the scenario is very much what we’re seeing at Area 51. They would take this kind of craft to some base of operations and dissect it and try to understand it. So, I don’t think we’re that far off from reality in a sense.

CURWOOD: There’s a lawsuit involving Area 51. What’s that all about?

DAVID: The lawsuit that’s involved here has been focused on toxic materials that have reportedly been burned in open football-size fields and that have exposed workers at this classified base. And unfortunately several of these people have died, others have respiratory problems, and so this lawsuit has been pushed forward. Unfortunately, I think the issue has become more of what can the military really tell you about this incident without unveiling the types of materials used, the types of programs that might have used those materials.

CURWOOD: Leonard David is senior space writer for the on-line astronomy magazine space.com. Thanks for speaking with me today.

DAVID: Thank you.



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