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Air Force Wants To Seize Mountain To Protect Secret Base

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                                 December 3, 1993

              This file shared with KeelyNet courtesy of Rick Lawler.
       Supersecret Groom Base  can  be  viewed  from  Nevada's  White Sides
       Mountain -- a mountain the U.S.  Air  Force  is  attempting  to take



       RACHEL, Nev. --  Hikers who make it to the top of  6,089-foot  White
       Sides Mountain get  a  clear  view  of dry Groom Lake.  Trekkers can
       spot long runways,  barnlike hangars  and  crops  of  communications
       equipment in the distance.  Some people even pull out binoculars and
       telescopes trying to get a peek at the latest U.S.  Air  Force  jets
       that routinely take off and land at the facility.

       The Pentagon wants  it stopped. It plans to seize 4,000 acres around
       White Sides Mountain and end public  observation  of  an air base so
       secret officials refuse  to  say it exists.  On Saturday,  about  20
       protesters crossed sagebrush   and   walked   to  the  edge  of  the
       restricted military zone at Groom  Lake. They set up camp at a place
       they call "Freedom Ridge" -- about two miles from the  foot of White
       Sides Mountain.  From  the ridge, protesters could look down and see
       the air base,  located some 125 miles  west  of  St.  George.   With
       protesters gathered around, Glenn Campbell said in a mocked bravado:
       "Just let them try and seize Freedom Ridge. We will  defend  that to
       the death."

       But Nevada Rep. James Bilbray says the mountain should be restricted
       for national-security reasons.  "Every time someone goes up on White
       Sides it costs  taxpayers  a lot of money," said Bilbray, a Democrat
       serving on the House Armed Services  Committee.  "They have to cover
       up what they're doing - at the base} with camouflage netting or roll
       it into hangars.  They  have to wait until the people  get  off  the
       mountain before they  can go on with what they were doing and that's
       not fair."

       The base has been used by the Air  Force  and the CIA to test secret
       aircraft, such as  the  U-2  spy plane and more recently  the  F-117
       stealth fighter.  Bilbray  says  military  security  knows  that spy
       satellites routinely observe the facility, but the base knows their

                                      Page 1

       orbit schedules --  and plans accordingly.  However, he says, hikers
       with cameras are unpredictable.

       Campbell sees no reason for the government's  secrecy.  The 33-year-
       old leader of  the White Sides protesters says times  have  changed.
       Campbell describes himself  as  a  UFO  investigator.  He moved from
       Boston to Rachel  in January after  reading  about  alien-spacecraft
       sightings at the  Groom  facility.  So  far, he says,  he  has  seen
       nothing but military planes cross the sky.

       When Campbell moved  to the town of about 100 people, he set up shop
       at the A-Le-Inn. The bar's owner,  Joe Travis, had painted a picture
       of a bug-eyed  alien  on  his  sign  to  attract  the  numerous  UFO
       enthusiasts who make the pilgrimage to Groom.  At first Campbell was
       welcome. But his  activism  about  White  Sides  brought the Lincoln
       County sheriff out to Rachel one too  many  times. In August, he was
       ejected from the   A-Le-Inn  after  a  sheriff's  deputy   came   to
       confiscate pictures Campbell had taken near the Groom facility.

       Photography is prohibited  near  the base.  Jim Goodall, an aviation
       historian who lives in Tacoma, Wash.,  plans a more direct approach.
       He says he  will  sneak up to the border at night,  armed  with  his
       cameras until he  gets  a  clear  photo  of  a  new, secret aircraft
       rumored to be at the base.  "I'm  a  real  pain  in  the  a--  to my
       government because I'm not someone you can brush off. I keep hanging
       on," the 48-year-old said.  Goodall is a sergeant with the Minnesota
       Air National Guard and is the group's wing historian.  He  also  has
       free-lanced for several aviation publications and sold photos of the
       stealth fighter before the Air Force publicly revealed the aircraft.

       On Oct. 6,  the  Air  Force filed a petition with the Bureau of Land
       Management office in Reno, asking  that 3,972 acres of land on White
       Sides be withdrawn   from  public  access.   The  purpose   of   the
       withdrawal, they wrote,  would  be  to "ensure the public safety and
       the safe and secure operation of  activities  in  the  Nellis  Range

       The Nellis Range  is  a  3  million acre military reserve  used  for
       combat training, weapons testing and -- at the secret air base -- a
       lengthy airstrip for  worldwide  reconnaissance  flights.   When the
       base expanded in 1984, the Air Force  took  89,000  acres  of public
       land. They set  up guard posts and turned hunters, miners,  ranchers
       and reporters away  at gunpoint.  Nevada politicians raised a stink,
       saying the land grab was illegal.

       Although after-the-fact, Congress  approved  the  land withdrawal in
       October of that year.  This time around, the land-withdrawal process
       will be more  different, according to Curtis Tucker,  the  BLM  area
       manager who oversees  much  of central Nevada, including White Sides
       Mountain.  "A decision could take  six  months  to  a  year," Tucker
       said. "Of course, I don't know how much political pressure will come
       to make it happen sooner."

       Tucker said a representative of the secret facility  approached  him
       in the spring  to  explain why the Air Force wanted White Sides shut
       off to outsiders.  "He was nonspecific.  We talked in generalities,"
       Tucker said.  "It basically gets down to there are  some assets they
       don't want people to see."

                                      Page 2

       What they don't  want  people to see, according to published reports
       in aviation trade journals, is a secret  high-flying spy plane code-
       named "Aurora."

       The super-secret jet is said to attain speeds of 4,000  mph (Mach 6)
       and seismologists in Southern California now call the plane's earth-
       shaking sonic boons  "air-quakes."  Air  Force  information officers
       offer some surprising answers when  asked  about  the  plane  or the
       secret test facility.  "You're not going to get anyone  in  the  Air
       Force to talk about it," said Maj. Monica Aloisiom, a public-affairs
       officer stationed at  the  Pentagon.   "-  Groom  Lake is probably a
       secret test facility and I don't  have  a  need  to  know that, so I
       don't know about  that."  The  Air  Force has a history  of  running
       people out of the Groom area.

       During the late 1940s and early 1950s the Sheahan family, led by Dan
       Sheahan, mined at  Groom.   But  atomic  blasts damaged the mine and
       above-ground buildings at Groom, according  to  Department of Energy
       records.  The Sheahans'  horses  were  killed after  they  developed
       huge, open sores. The Sheahans blamed radioactive fallout.  Then, in
       the summer of  1954,  Air  Force  pilots  flying  from the Las Vegas
       Gunnery Range attacked the Sheahan mining operation.

       "Buildings have been struck by bullets, several people have narrowly
       escaped being killed and some pilots  have  even  gone  so far as to
       dive down and strafe our workings," Dan Sheahan wrote  in  a July 7,
       1954, letter to  then-Nev.  Gov.  Charles Russell.  In 1958, the Air
       Force bought out the Sheahans.  That  is when the military began the
       U-2 spy-plane mission, according to a book written  by  Francis Gary
       Powers. He was  the U-2 pilot captured by Soviet forces in 1960 when
       his spy plane went down over Russia.

       In his book Operation Overflight,  Powers referred to the secret air
       base in the  Nevada desert where he trained "as one  of  those  you-
       can't-get-there-from-here places." It  was run by the CIA, he wrote,
       and called "Watertown Strip" or simply  "the  ranch."  Powers  spent
       nearly two years in a Soviet prison after his capture.  In  1977, he
       crashed a Los  Angeles  television  station's  helicopter  and died.
       During the Reagan administration, the Groom facility got a big boost
       as part of the president's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) plan.
       That is when the Air Force seized  89,000 acres adjacent to the base
       in 1984, presumably to protect the stealth fighter  and other black-
       budget aircraft.

       In 1989, UFO  enthusiasts  began traveling to the base after stories
       spread that live aliens were being kept at so-called "Area 51." They
       have climbed White Sides and the  ridges  overlooking  the  air base
       looking for outer-space critters.

       If the Air Force succeeds and takes White Sides, the people who trek
       into the desert  to look at lights in the night sky  have  a  backup
       plan.  "I've already found a new spot," says aviator Goodall. "You
       can't see the facility, but you can see anything that takes off from
       the facility."
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