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Project Aquiline was not the CIA's first attempt to gather intelligence using cover from the animal kingdom. Project Ornithopter Project Ornithopter involved a birdlike drone designed to blend in with nature by flapping its wings. And a third, even smaller drone was designed to look like a crow and land on windowsills in order to photograph what was going on inside CIA-targeted rooms. The tiniest drone program, orchestrated in the early 1970s, was involved a birdlike drone designed to blend in with nature by flapping its wings. And a third, even smaller drone was designed to look like a crow and land on windowsills in order to photograph what was going on inside CIA-targeted rooms. The tiniest drone program, orchestrated in the early 1970s, was Project Insectothopter Project Insectothopter, an insect-size aerial vehicle that looked like a dragonfly in flight. Insectothopter had an emerald green minifuselage and, like Ornithopter, flapped its wings, which were powered by a miniature engine that ran on a tiny amount of gas. Through its Office of Research and Development, or ORD, the CIA had also tried turning live birds and cats into spies. In one such program, CIA-trained pigeons flew around Washington, DC, with bird-size cameras strapped to their necks. The project failed after the extra weight tired out the pigeons and they hobbled back to headquarters on foot instead of in flight. Another CIA endeavor, Acoustic Kitty Acoustic Kitty, involved putting electronic listening devices in house cats. But that project also backfired after too many cats strayed from their missions in search of food. One acoustic kitty got run over by a car. The Agency's pilotless-vehicle projects were forever growing in ambition and in size. One robotic drone from the early 1970s, a project financed with DARPA, was disguised to look like an elephant-ready to do battle in the jungles of Vietnam.

Several projects, like Aquiline, involved only a handful of special-access personnel. But a few other projects took place on a considerably larger scale. In July of 1974, the CIA's Special Activities Division filed a memorandum of agreement with the Air Force to set up a cla.s.sified project at Area 51 that was extensive enough that it required five hangars of its own. Aeros.p.a.ce historian Peter Merlin, who wrote monographs for NASA, explains: "The top-secret project, with a cla.s.sified code-name, was expected to last about one year. Six permanent personnel were a.s.signed to the test site, with up to 20 personnel on site during peak periods of short duration activity." The Air Force designated Hangar 13 through Hangar 17, located at the south end of the facility, as CIA-only. What mysterious project the CIA was working on there, those without a need-to-know have no idea. The work remains cla.s.sified; rumor is that it was a Mach 5 or Mach 6 drone.

Some operations at Groom Lake in the 1970s involved the Agency's desire to detect facilities for weapons of ma.s.s destruction, or WMD, including bioweapons and chemical weapons, before those weapons facilities were in full-production mode. This work, the CIA felt, could ideally be performed by laying sensors on the ground that were capable of "sniffing" the air. Since the 1950s, the Agency had been advancing its use of sensor drones to detect WMD signatures sensor drones to detect WMD signatures by monitoring changes in the air, the soil, and an area's energy consumption. by monitoring changes in the air, the soil, and an area's energy consumption. Early efforts had been made using U-2 pilots Early efforts had been made using U-2 pilots, who had to leave the safety of high-alt.i.tude flight and get down dangerously low in order to shoot javelinlike sensors into the earth. But those operations, part of Operation Tobasco, risked exposure Operation Tobasco, risked exposure. Several U-2 pilots had already been shot down. Because these delicate sensors needed to be accurately placed very close in to the WMD-producing facilities, it was an ideal job for a stealthy, low-flying drone.

Decades before anyone had rekindled an interest in drones, the CIA saw endless possibilities in them. But to advance drone technology required money, and in 1975, a Senate committee investigating illegal activity inside the CIA, chaired by Senator Frank Church and known as the Church Committee, did considerable damage to the Agency's reputation did considerable damage to the Agency's reputation as far as the general public was concerned. Budgets were thinned. During Jimmy Carter's presidency, which began in 1977, CIA discretionary budgets were at an all-time low, and the CIA didn't get very far with its drones-until late 1979, when the Agency learned about a lethal anthrax accident at a " as far as the general public was concerned. Budgets were thinned. During Jimmy Carter's presidency, which began in 1977, CIA discretionary budgets were at an all-time low, and the CIA didn't get very far with its drones-until late 1979, when the Agency learned about a lethal anthrax accident at a "probable biological warfare research, production and storage installation" in Sverdlovsk, Russia-the same location where Gary Powers had been taking spy photographs when his U-2 was shot down nineteen years before. As a result of the Sverdlovsk bioweapons accident, the CIA determined that as many as a hundred people had died from inhaling anthrax spores. The incident gave the CIA's drone program some legs. But without interest from the Air Force, drones were perceived largely as the Agency's playthings.

For twenty-five years, from 1974 to 1999, the CIA and the Air Force rarely worked together on drone projects at Area 51. This lack of cooperation was evident, and succinctly summed up in an interview Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave Time Time magazine in April of 2008. Gates said that when he was running the CIA, in 1992, he discovered that "the Air Force would not co-fund with CIA a vehicle without a pilot." That changed in the winter of 2000, when the two organizations came together to work on a new drone project at Area 51, one that would forever change the face of warfare and take both agencies toward General Henry "Hap" Arnold's Victory Over j.a.pan Day prediction that one day in the future, wars would be fought by aircraft without pilots sitting inside. In the year 2000, that future was now. magazine in April of 2008. Gates said that when he was running the CIA, in 1992, he discovered that "the Air Force would not co-fund with CIA a vehicle without a pilot." That changed in the winter of 2000, when the two organizations came together to work on a new drone project at Area 51, one that would forever change the face of warfare and take both agencies toward General Henry "Hap" Arnold's Victory Over j.a.pan Day prediction that one day in the future, wars would be fought by aircraft without pilots sitting inside. In the year 2000, that future was now.

The project involved retrofitting a CIA reconnaissance drone, called Predator, with ant.i.tank missiles called h.e.l.lfire missiles h.e.l.lfire missiles, supplied by the army. The target would be a shadowy and obscure terrorist the CIA was considering for a.s.sa.s.sination. He lived in Afghanistan, and his name was Osama bin Laden his name was Osama bin Laden.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE.

Revelation It was January of 2001, nine months before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, Cofer Black, had a serious problem. The CIA had been considering a.s.sa.s.sinating Osama bin Laden with the Predator, but until that point, the unmanned aerial vehicle had been used for reconnaissance only, not targeted a.s.sa.s.sination. Because two technologies needed to be merged-the flying drone and the laser-guided precision missile-engineers and aerodynamicists had concerns. Specifically, they worried that the propulsion from the missile might send the drone astray or the missile off course. And the CIA needed a highly precise weapon with little possibility of collateral damage. The public would perceive killing a terrorist one way, but they would likely perceive killing that terrorist's neighbors in an altogether different light. This new weaponized drone technology was tested at Area 51; the development program remains cla.s.sified. After getting decent results, both the CIA and the Air Force were confident that the missiles unleashed from the drone could reach their targets.

Along came another hurdle to overcome, one that was unfolding not in the desert but in Washington, DC. The newly elected administration of President George W. Bush realized that it had no policy when it came to taking out terrorists with drones. Osama bin Laden was known to be the architect of the 1998 U.S. emba.s.sy suicide bombings in East Africa, which killed more than 225 people, including Americans. He masterminded the suicide bombing of the USS Cole Cole and had officially declared war against the United States. But and had officially declared war against the United States. But targeted a.s.sa.s.sination by a U.S. intelligence agency was illegal targeted a.s.sa.s.sination by a U.S. intelligence agency was illegal, per President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12333, and since the situation required serious examination, State Department lawyers got involved.

There was one avenue to consider in support of the targeted-killing operation, and that was the fact that the FBI had a bounty on the man's head. By February of 2001, the State Department gave the go-ahead State Department gave the go-ahead for the a.s.sa.s.sination. Then State Department lawyers warned the CIA of another problem, the same one that had originally sent the Predator drone to Area 51 for field tests; namely, potential collateral damage. The State Department needed to know how many bin Laden family members and guests staying on the compound the CIA was targeting could be killed in a drone attack. Bin Laden's compound was called Tarnak Farm, and a number of high-profile Middle Eastern royal family members were known to visit there. for the a.s.sa.s.sination. Then State Department lawyers warned the CIA of another problem, the same one that had originally sent the Predator drone to Area 51 for field tests; namely, potential collateral damage. The State Department needed to know how many bin Laden family members and guests staying on the compound the CIA was targeting could be killed in a drone attack. Bin Laden's compound was called Tarnak Farm, and a number of high-profile Middle Eastern royal family members were known to visit there.

To determine collateral damage, the CIA and the Air Force teamed up for an unusual building project CIA and the Air Force teamed up for an unusual building project on the outer reaches of Area 51 on the outer reaches of Area 51. They engineered a full-scale mock-up of Osama bin Laden's compound in Afghanistan on which to test the results of a drone strike. But while engineers were at work, CIA director George Tenet decided CIA director George Tenet decided that taking out Osama bin Laden with a h.e.l.lfire missileequipped Predator drone would be a mistake. This was a decision the CIA would come to regret. that taking out Osama bin Laden with a h.e.l.lfire missileequipped Predator drone would be a mistake. This was a decision the CIA would come to regret.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Pentagon knew that it needed drones to help fight the war on terror, which meant it needed help from the CIA. For decades, the Air Force had been thumbing its nose at drones. The pride of the Air Force had always been pilots, not robots. But the CIA had been researching, developing, and advancing drone technology at Area 51 for decades. The CIA had sent drones on more than six hundred reconnaissance missions in the Bosnian conflict, beginning in 1995. CIA drones had provided intelligence for NATO forces CIA drones had provided intelligence for NATO forces in the 1999 Kosovo air campaign, collecting intelligence, searching for targets, and keeping an eye on Kosovar-Albanian refuge camps. The CIA Predator had helped war planners interpret the chaos of the battlefield there. Now, the Air Force needed the CIA's help going into Afghanistan with drones. in the 1999 Kosovo air campaign, collecting intelligence, searching for targets, and keeping an eye on Kosovar-Albanian refuge camps. The CIA Predator had helped war planners interpret the chaos of the battlefield there. Now, the Air Force needed the CIA's help going into Afghanistan with drones.

The first reconnaissance drone mission in the war on terror was flown over Kabul, Afghanistan, just one week after 9/11, on September 18, 2001. Three weeks later, the first h.e.l.lfire-equipped Predator drone was flown over Kandahar. The rules of aerial warfare had changed overnight. America's stealth bombers were never going to locate Osama bin Laden and his top commanders hiding out in mountain compounds. Now pilotless drones would be required to seek out and a.s.sa.s.sinate the most wanted men in the world. was flown over Kabul, Afghanistan, just one week after 9/11, on September 18, 2001. Three weeks later, the first h.e.l.lfire-equipped Predator drone was flown over Kandahar. The rules of aerial warfare had changed overnight. America's stealth bombers were never going to locate Osama bin Laden and his top commanders hiding out in mountain compounds. Now pilotless drones would be required to seek out and a.s.sa.s.sinate the most wanted men in the world.

Although drones had been developed and tested at Area 51, Area 52, and Indian Springs for nearly fifty years, the world at large would come to learn about them only in November of 2002, when a drone strike in Yemen made headlines around the world. Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi was a wanted man. A citizen of Yemen and a senior al-Qaeda operative, al-Harethi had also been behind the planning and bombing of the USS Cole Cole two years before. On the morning of November 2, 2002, al-Harethi and five colleagues drove through the vast desert expanse of Yemen's northwest province Marib oblivious to the fact that they were being watched by eyes in the skies in the form of a Predator drone flying several miles above them. two years before. On the morning of November 2, 2002, al-Harethi and five colleagues drove through the vast desert expanse of Yemen's northwest province Marib oblivious to the fact that they were being watched by eyes in the skies in the form of a Predator drone flying several miles above them.

The Predator launched its missile at the target and landed a direct hit. The al-Qaeda operatives and the vehicle were instantly reduced to a black heap of burning metal. It was an a.s.sa.s.sination plot straight out of a Tom Clancy novel, except that it was so real and so dramatic-the first visual proof that al-Qaeda leaders could be targeted and killed-that a.s.sistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz began bragging about the h.e.l.lfire strike to CNN. The drone attack in Yemen was "a very successful tactical operation," "a very successful tactical operation," Wolfowitz said. Except it was supposed to be a quiet, unconfirmed a.s.sa.s.sination. Wolfowitz's bravado made Yemen upset. Brigadier General Yahya M. Al Mutawakel, the deputy secretary general for the People's Congress Party in Yemen, gave an Wolfowitz said. Except it was supposed to be a quiet, unconfirmed a.s.sa.s.sination. Wolfowitz's bravado made Yemen upset. Brigadier General Yahya M. Al Mutawakel, the deputy secretary general for the People's Congress Party in Yemen, gave an exclusive interview to the exclusive interview to the Christian Science Monitor Christian Science Monitor explaining that the Pentagon had broken a secrecy agreement between the two nations. "This is why it is so difficult to make deals with the United States," Al Mutawakel explained. "They don't consider the internal circ.u.mstances in Yemen. In security matters, you don't want to alert the enemy." explaining that the Pentagon had broken a secrecy agreement between the two nations. "This is why it is so difficult to make deals with the United States," Al Mutawakel explained. "They don't consider the internal circ.u.mstances in Yemen. In security matters, you don't want to alert the enemy."

Yemen pushed back against the United States by outing the secret inner workings of the operation. It was the U.S. amba.s.sador to Yemen, Edmund Hull, an employee of the State Department, who had masterminded the plot, officials in Yemen explained. Hull had spearheaded the intelligence-gathering efforts, a job more traditionally reserved for the CIA. Hull spoke Arabic Hull spoke Arabic. He had roots in the country and knew people who knew local tribesmen in the desert region of Marib. The State Department, Yemen claimed, was the agency that had bribed local tribesmen into handing over information on al-Harethi, which allowed the CIA to know exactly where the terrorist would be driving and when. Revealing Amba.s.sador Hull to be the central organizing player in the drone strike exposed the Department of State as having a hand in not just the espionage game but targeted a.s.sa.s.sination as well. Surprisingly, little fuss was made about any of this, despite the fact that diplomats are supposed to avoid a.s.sa.s.sination plots.

In political circles, Amba.s.sador Hull was greatly embarra.s.sed. He refused to comment on his role in what signaled a sea change in U.S. military a.s.sets with wings. The 2002 drone strike in Yemen was the first of its kind in the war on terror, but little did the public know that hundreds more drone strikes would soon follow. The next one went down the very next week, when a Predator targeted and killed al-Qaeda's number-three, Mohammed Atef, in Jalabad, Afghanistan Mohammed Atef, in Jalabad, Afghanistan. As the war on terror progressed, some drone strikes would be official while others would go unmentioned. But never again would the CIA or the State Department admit to having a hand in any of them. When Mohammed Atef was killed, initial reports said a traditional bomber aircraft had targeted and destroyed Atef's home. Only later was the strike revealed as being the work of a Predator drone and a targeted a.s.sa.s.sination spearheaded by the CIA targeted a.s.sa.s.sination spearheaded by the CIA.

Almost everything that has happened at Area 51 since 1968 remains cla.s.sified but it is generally understood among men who formerly worked there that once the war on terror began, flight-testing new drones at Area 51 and Area 52 moved full speed ahead. This new way of conducting air strikes, from an aircraft without a pilot inside, represented a fundamental reconfiguration of the U.S. Air Force fighting force and would continue to remain paramount to Air Force operations going forward. This meant that a major element of the drone program, i.e., the CIA's role in overhead, needed to return quietly and quickly into the "black." The Air Force has a clear-cut role in wartime. But the operations of the CIA, a clandestine organization at its core, can never be overtly defined in real time. Remarkably, after nearly fifty years, the CIA and the Air Force were back in the business of overhead, and they would model their partnership on the early spy plane projects at Area 51. As the war on terror expanded, budgets for drone programs went from thin to virtually limitless almost overnight. As far as developing weapons using cutting-edge science and technology was concerned, it was 1957 post-Sputnik all over again.

No longer used only for espionage, the Predator got a new designation Predator got a new designation. Previously it had been the RQ-1 Predator: R R for for reconnaissance reconnaissance and and Q Q indicating unmanned. Immediately after the Yemen strike, the Predator became the MQ-1 Predator, with the indicating unmanned. Immediately after the Yemen strike, the Predator became the MQ-1 Predator, with the M M now indicating its now indicating its multirole multirole use. The use. The company that built the Predator company that built the Predator was General Atomics, the same group that was going to launch Ted Taylor's ambitious s.p.a.ceship to Mars, called was General Atomics, the same group that was going to launch Ted Taylor's ambitious s.p.a.ceship to Mars, called Orion, Orion, from Jacka.s.s Flats back in 1958. from Jacka.s.s Flats back in 1958.

A second Predator, originally called the Predator B, was also coming online. Described by Air Force officials as "the Predator's younger, yet larger and stronger brother," it too needed a new name. The Reaper fit perfectly: the personification of death. "One of the big differences between the Reaper and the Predator big differences between the Reaper and the Predator is the Predator can only carry about 200 pounds [of weapons]. The Reaper, however, can carry one and a half tons, and on top of carrying h.e.l.lfire missiles, can carry multiple GBU-12 laser-guided bombs," said Captain Michael Lewis of the Forty-second Wing at Creech Air Force Base. The General Atomics drones were single-handedly changing the relationship between the CIA and the Air Force. The war on terror had the two services working together again, exactly as had happened with the advent of the U-2. This was not simply a coincidence or a recurring moment in time. Rather it was the symbiotic reality of war. If the CIA and the Air Force are rivals in peacetime-fighting over money, power, and control-in war, they work together like a bow and arrow. Each organization has something critical the other service does not have. The CIA's drones could now give Air Force battlefield commanders visual images from which they could target individuals in real time. Now, intelligence capabilities and military could work seamlessly together as one. Which is exactly what happened next, as the war on terror widened to include Iraq. is the Predator can only carry about 200 pounds [of weapons]. The Reaper, however, can carry one and a half tons, and on top of carrying h.e.l.lfire missiles, can carry multiple GBU-12 laser-guided bombs," said Captain Michael Lewis of the Forty-second Wing at Creech Air Force Base. The General Atomics drones were single-handedly changing the relationship between the CIA and the Air Force. The war on terror had the two services working together again, exactly as had happened with the advent of the U-2. This was not simply a coincidence or a recurring moment in time. Rather it was the symbiotic reality of war. If the CIA and the Air Force are rivals in peacetime-fighting over money, power, and control-in war, they work together like a bow and arrow. Each organization has something critical the other service does not have. The CIA's drones could now give Air Force battlefield commanders visual images from which they could target individuals in real time. Now, intelligence capabilities and military could work seamlessly together as one. Which is exactly what happened next, as the war on terror widened to include Iraq.

On the night of March 29, 2004, an MQ-1 Predator drone surveilling the area outside the U.S. Balad Air Base in northern Iraq caught sight of three men digging a ditch in the road with pickaxes. Brigadier General Frank Gorenc was remotely viewing Brigadier General Frank Gorenc was remotely viewing the events in real time from an undisclosed location somewhere in the Middle East. He watched the men as they placed an improvised explosive device, or IED, in the hole. Gorenc was able to identify that the men were burying an IED in the road because the resolution of the images relayed back from the Predator's reconnaissance camera was so precise, Gorenc could see wires. Gorenc and other commanders in Iraq knew what the Predator was capable of. Gorenc described this technology as allowing him to the events in real time from an undisclosed location somewhere in the Middle East. He watched the men as they placed an improvised explosive device, or IED, in the hole. Gorenc was able to identify that the men were burying an IED in the road because the resolution of the images relayed back from the Predator's reconnaissance camera was so precise, Gorenc could see wires. Gorenc and other commanders in Iraq knew what the Predator was capable of. Gorenc described this technology as allowing him to "put a weapon on a target within minutes," "put a weapon on a target within minutes," and he authorized a strike. The Predator operator, seated at a console next to Gorenc, launched a h.e.l.lfire missile from the Predator's weapons bay, killing all three of the men in a single strike. "This strike," explained Gorenc, "should send a message to our enemies that we're watching you, and we will take action against you any time, day or night, if you continue to stand in the way of progress in Iraq." Eyes in the sky, dreamed up in the 1940s, had become swords in the sky in the new millennium. Reconnaissance and retaliation had merged into one. and he authorized a strike. The Predator operator, seated at a console next to Gorenc, launched a h.e.l.lfire missile from the Predator's weapons bay, killing all three of the men in a single strike. "This strike," explained Gorenc, "should send a message to our enemies that we're watching you, and we will take action against you any time, day or night, if you continue to stand in the way of progress in Iraq." Eyes in the sky, dreamed up in the 1940s, had become swords in the sky in the new millennium. Reconnaissance and retaliation had merged into one.

Simultaneous with the early drone strikes in Iraq, the CIA and the Air Force had begun comanaging a covert program to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders in the tribal areas in the northwest of Pakistan, on Afghanistan's border, using drones. To get the program up and running required effort, just as the U-2 and the Oxcart had. A drone wing, like a U-2 detachment or a squadron of Oxcarts, involved building more Predators and Reapers, training drone pilots, creating an Air Force wing, building secret bases in the Middle East, hooking up satellites, and resolving other support-related issues. From 2003 to 2007 the number of drone strikes rose incrementally, little by little, each year. Only in 2008 did the drones really come online. During that year, which included the last three weeks of the Bush administration, there were thirty-six drone strikes in Pakistan, which the Air Force said killed 268 al-Qaeda and Taliban. By 2009 the number of drone strikes would rise to fifty-three By 2009 the number of drone strikes would rise to fifty-three. Since the Air Force does not release numbers, and the CIA does not comment on being involved, those numbers are approximate best guesses, put together by journalists and researchers based on local reports. Since journalists are not allowed in many parts of the tribal areas in Pakistan, the actual number of drone strikes is unknown.

As much publicity as drones are getting today, there is a lot more going on in the skies than the average citizen comprehends. According to T. D. Barnes, "There are at least fifteen satellites and an untold number of Air Force aircraft 'parked' over Iraq and Afghanistan, providing twenty-four-hour-a-day coverage for airmen and soldiers on the ground. The Air Force is currently flying surveillance with the U-2, Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, and Global Hawk. These are just the a.s.sets we know about These are just the a.s.sets we know about. Having been in the business, I would expect we have surveillance capability being used that we won't know about for years." The majority of these platforms, all cla.s.sified, are "in all probability" being built and tested at Area 51, says Barnes.

In April of 2009, reporters with a French aviation newspaper published drawings of a reconnaissance drone seen flying over Afghanistan. With its long wings, lack of tail, and two wheels under its belly in a line, like on a bicycle, what became known as the Beast of Kandahar the Beast of Kandahar looks reminiscent of the Horten brothers' flying wing of 1944. What was this new drone built for? It seemed not to have a weapons bay. Eight months later, in December of 2009, the looks reminiscent of the Horten brothers' flying wing of 1944. What was this new drone built for? It seemed not to have a weapons bay. Eight months later, in December of 2009, the Defense Department confirmed Defense Department confirmed the existence of the drone, which the Air Force calls the RQ-170 Sentinel. Built by Lockheed Skunk Works and tested at Area 51 and Area 52, the newest drone appears to be for reconnaissance purposes only. As such, it follows in the footsteps of the U-2 and the A-12 Oxcart, comanaged by the Air Force and the CIA at Area 51. Save for its name, all details remain cla.s.sified. It is likely flying over denied territory, including Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia. Fifty-five years after Richard Bissell set Area 51 as a secret place to test-fly the nation's first peacetime spy planes, new aircraft continue to be built with singular design and similar intention. Despite the incredible advances in science and technology, the archetypal need for reconnaissance remains. the existence of the drone, which the Air Force calls the RQ-170 Sentinel. Built by Lockheed Skunk Works and tested at Area 51 and Area 52, the newest drone appears to be for reconnaissance purposes only. As such, it follows in the footsteps of the U-2 and the A-12 Oxcart, comanaged by the Air Force and the CIA at Area 51. Save for its name, all details remain cla.s.sified. It is likely flying over denied territory, including Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia. Fifty-five years after Richard Bissell set Area 51 as a secret place to test-fly the nation's first peacetime spy planes, new aircraft continue to be built with singular design and similar intention. Despite the incredible advances in science and technology, the archetypal need for reconnaissance remains.

Quick and adaptable, twenty-first-century surveillance requirements means the future of overhead lies in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. The overhead intelligence take once provided by CIA spy pilots like Gary Powers, Ken Collins, Frank Murray, and others now belongs to remotely piloted drones. The old film cameras, which relied on clear skies, have been replaced by state-of-the-art imaging systems developed by Sandia and Raytheon, called synthetic aperture radar, or SAR synthetic aperture radar, or SAR. These "cameras" relay real-time images shot through smoke, dust, and even clouds, during the day or in the dark of night. But as omnipotent and all-seeing as the drones may appear, there is one key element generally overlooked by the public-but certainly not by the Pentagon or the CIA-when considering the vulnerability of the Air Force's most valuable a.s.set with wings. Drones require satellite links.

To operate a drone requires ownership in s.p.a.ce. All unmanned aerial vehicles require satellites to relay information to and from the pilots who operate the drones via remote control. As the Predator flies over the war theater in the Middle East, it is being operated by a pilot sitting in a chair thirty miles south of Area 51, at Indian Springs thirty miles south of Area 51, at Indian Springs. The pilot is seated in front of a computer screen that provides a visual representation of what the Predator is looking at on the ground in the battlefield halfway across the world. Two sensor operators sit beside the pilot, each working like a copilot might have in another age. The pilot and the sensor operators rely on a team of fifty-five airmen for operational support. The Predator Primary Satellite Link is the name of the system that allows communication between the drone and the team. The drone needs only to be in line of sight with its ground-control station when it lands. Everything else the drone can do, from capture images to fire missiles, it does thanks to its satellite link.

Indian Springs is the old airstrip where Dr. Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, and all the other nuclear physicists used to land when they would come to witness their atomic bomb creations being set off as tests from 1951 to 1992. Indian Springs is where the atomic-sampling pilots trained to fly through mushroom clouds. It is where EG&G set up the first radar-testing facility on the Nevada Test and Training Range in 1954. Indian Springs is where Bob Lazar said he was taken and debriefed after getting caught trespa.s.sing on Groom Lake Road. And in 2011, Indian Springs, which has been renamed Creech Air Force Base, is the place where Air Force pilots sit in war rooms operating drones.

For the Department of Defense, the vulnerability of s.p.a.ce satellites to sabotage has created a new and unprecedented threat. According to a 2008 study on "Wicked Problems" "Wicked Problems" prepared by the Defense Science Board, in a chapter significantly ent.i.tled "Surprise in s.p.a.ce," the board outlines the vulnerability of s.p.a.ce satellites in today's world. By the Pentagon's definition, "Wicked problems are highly complex, wide-ranging problems that have no definitive formulation... and have no set solution." By their very nature, wicked problems are "substantially without precedent," meaning the outcome of them cannot be known because a wicked problem is one that has never before been solved. Worst of all, warned the Pentagon, efforts to solve wicked problems generally give way to an entirely new set of problems. The individual tasked with keeping abreast of the wicked problem is called a wicked engineer, someone who must be prepared to be surprised and be able to deal with unintended consequences because prepared by the Defense Science Board, in a chapter significantly ent.i.tled "Surprise in s.p.a.ce," the board outlines the vulnerability of s.p.a.ce satellites in today's world. By the Pentagon's definition, "Wicked problems are highly complex, wide-ranging problems that have no definitive formulation... and have no set solution." By their very nature, wicked problems are "substantially without precedent," meaning the outcome of them cannot be known because a wicked problem is one that has never before been solved. Worst of all, warned the Pentagon, efforts to solve wicked problems generally give way to an entirely new set of problems. The individual tasked with keeping abreast of the wicked problem is called a wicked engineer, someone who must be prepared to be surprised and be able to deal with unintended consequences because "playing the game changes the game." "playing the game changes the game."

By relying on satellites to fight the war on terror as well as many of the foreseeable conflicts in the immediate future, the single greatest wicked problem facing the Pentagon in the twenty-first century is the looming threat of the militarization of s.p.a.ce. To weaponize s.p.a.ce, historical thinking in the Pentagon goes, would be to safeguard s.p.a.ce in a preemptive manner. A war in s.p.a.ce over satellite control is not a war the United States necessarily wants to fight, but it is a war the United States is most a.s.suredly unwilling to lose.

"Over eighty percent of the satellite communications used in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility is provided by commercial vendors," reads the Pentagon's "Surprise in s.p.a.ce" report. And when, in 2007, the Chinese-unannounced and unexpectedly-shot down one of their own satellites with one of their own weapons, the incident opened the Pentagon's eyes to a whole host of potential wicked-problem scenarios in s.p.a.ce. satellites with one of their own weapons, the incident opened the Pentagon's eyes to a whole host of potential wicked-problem scenarios in s.p.a.ce.

Around 5:00 p.m. eastern standard time on July 11, 2007, a small, six-foot-long Chinese satellite was circling the Earth 539 miles up when it was targeted and destroyed by a Chinese ballistic missile launched from a mobile launcher at the Songlin test facility in Szechuan Province, running on solid fuel and topped with a "kinetic kill vehicle," or explosive device. The satellite was traveling at speeds of around sixteen thousand miles per hour, and the ballistic missile was traveling approximately eighteen thousand miles per hour. The hit was dead-on. As radical and impressive as it sounds, the technology was not what raised flags and eyebrows at the Pentagon. The significance of the event came from the fact that with China's satellite kill, the world moved one dangerous step closer to the very wicked problem of weaponizing s.p.a.ce. To enter into that game means entering into the kind of mutual-a.s.sured-destruction military industrialcomplex madness that has not been engaged in since the height of the Cold War.

Actions of this magnitude, certainly by those of a superpower like China, are almost always met by the U.S. military with a response, either overt or veiled, and the Chinese satellite kill was no exception. Seven months later, in February of 2008, an SM-3 Raytheon missile was launched off the deck of the USS Lake Erie Lake Erie in the North Pacific. It traveled approximately 153 miles up into s.p.a.ce where it hit a five-thousand-pound U.S. satellite described as being about the size of a school bus and belonging to the National Reconnaissance Office. in the North Pacific. It traveled approximately 153 miles up into s.p.a.ce where it hit a five-thousand-pound U.S. satellite described as being about the size of a school bus and belonging to the National Reconnaissance Office. The official Pentagon story The official Pentagon story was that the satellite had gone awry and the United States didn't want the satellite's hazardous fuel source, stated to be the toxin hydrazine, to crash on foreign soil. "Our objective was to intercept the satellite, reduce the ma.s.s that might survive re-entry [and] vector that ma.s.s into unpopulated areas ideally the ocean," General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the press. International leaders cried foul, saying the test was designed to show the world that the United States has the technology to take out other nations' satellites. "China is continuously following closely the possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer s.p.a.ce security and relevant countries," declared Liu Jianchao, China's foreign ministry spokesman-certainly an example of the pot calling the kettle black. was that the satellite had gone awry and the United States didn't want the satellite's hazardous fuel source, stated to be the toxin hydrazine, to crash on foreign soil. "Our objective was to intercept the satellite, reduce the ma.s.s that might survive re-entry [and] vector that ma.s.s into unpopulated areas ideally the ocean," General James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the press. International leaders cried foul, saying the test was designed to show the world that the United States has the technology to take out other nations' satellites. "China is continuously following closely the possible harm caused by the U.S. action to outer s.p.a.ce security and relevant countries," declared Liu Jianchao, China's foreign ministry spokesman-certainly an example of the pot calling the kettle black.

In the 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union actually considered using s.p.a.ce as a launching pad for war. President Eisenhower's science adviser James Killian-a man with so much power that he was not required to tell the truth to Congress not required to tell the truth to Congress-fielded regular suggestions from the Pentagon to develop, in his own words, "satellite bombers, military bases on the moon, and so on." Killian was the man who spearheaded the first nuclear weapon explosions in s.p.a.ce, first in the upper atmosphere (Orange), then near the ozone layer (Teak), and finally in outer s.p.a.ce (Argus). But Killian shied away from the idea of weaponizing s.p.a.ce not because he saw putting weapons in s.p.a.ce as an inherently reckless or existentially bad idea but because Killian believed nuclear weapons would not work well from s.p.a.ce.

"A satellite cannot simply drop a bomb," Killian declared in a public service announcement released from the White House on March 26, 1958, a report written for "nontechnical" people at the behest of the president. "An object released from a satellite doesn't fall. So there is no special advantage in being over the target," Killian declared. Here was James Killian, who, Killian declared in a public service announcement released from the White House on March 26, 1958, a report written for "nontechnical" people at the behest of the president. "An object released from a satellite doesn't fall. So there is no special advantage in being over the target," Killian declared. Here was James Killian, who, by his own admission, was not a scientist by his own admission, was not a scientist, explaining to Americans why dropping bombs from s.p.a.ce wouldn't work. "Indeed the only way to 'drop' a bomb directly down from a satellite is to carry out aboard the satellite a rocket launching of the magnitude required for an intercontinental missile." In other words, Killian was saying that to get an ICBM up to a launchpad in s.p.a.ce was simply too c.u.mbersome a process. Killian believed that the better way to put a missile on a target was to launch it from the ground. That the extra effort to get missiles in s.p.a.ce wasn't worth the task. This may have been true in the 1950s, but decades later James Killian would be proven wrong.

Flash forward to 2011. a.n.a.lysts with the United States s.p.a.ce Surveillance Network United States s.p.a.ce Surveillance Network, which is located in an Area 51like facility on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, spend all day, every day, 365 days a year, tracking more than eight thousand man-made objects...o...b..ting the Earth. The USSS Network is responsible for detecting, tracking, cataloging, and identifying artificial objects...o...b..ting Earth, including active and inactive satellites, spent rocket bodies, and s.p.a.ce debris. After the Chinese shot down their own satellite in 2007, the network's job got considerably more complicated. The Chinese satellite kill produced an estimated thirty-five thousand pieces of one-centimeter-wide debris and another fifteen hundred pieces that were ten centimeters or more. "A one-centimeter object is very hard to track but can do considerable damage if it collides with any s.p.a.cecraft at a high rate of speed," said Laura Grego, a scientist with the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The United States said the NRO satellite it shot down did not create s.p.a.ce debris because, being close to Earth when it was shot down, its pieces burned up as they reentered Earth's atmosphere. but can do considerable damage if it collides with any s.p.a.cecraft at a high rate of speed," said Laura Grego, a scientist with the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The United States said the NRO satellite it shot down did not create s.p.a.ce debris because, being close to Earth when it was shot down, its pieces burned up as they reentered Earth's atmosphere.

These scenarios create another wicked problem for the U.S. military. Every modern nation relies on satellites to function. The synchronized encryption systems used by banks around the world rely on satellites. Weather forecasts are derived from satellite information, as is the ability of air traffic controllers to keep airplanes safely aloft. The U.S. global positioning system, or GPS, works on satellites, as will the European version of GPS, the Galileo positioning system, which will come online in 2012. The U.S. military relies on satellites not just for its drone programs but for almost all of its military communications worldwide. Were anyone to take down the satellite system, or even just a part of it, the world would see chaos and panic that would make The War of the Worlds The War of the Worlds seem tame. When considering the actions of the United States and the Soviet Union during the atomic buildup of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s-the nuclear hubris, the fiscal waste, and the imprudent public policy-it is nothing short of miraculous that the s.p.a.ce-based nuclear tests of the late 1950s and early 1960s did not propel the two superpowers to fight for military control of s.p.a.ce. Instead, in the last decades of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR worked with a tacit understanding that s.p.a.ce was off-limits for warfare. Neither nation tried to put missiles on the moon. And neither nation shot down another nation's spy satellites. According to Colonel Leghorn, this is because " seem tame. When considering the actions of the United States and the Soviet Union during the atomic buildup of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s-the nuclear hubris, the fiscal waste, and the imprudent public policy-it is nothing short of miraculous that the s.p.a.ce-based nuclear tests of the late 1950s and early 1960s did not propel the two superpowers to fight for military control of s.p.a.ce. Instead, in the last decades of the Cold War, the United States and the USSR worked with a tacit understanding that s.p.a.ce was off-limits for warfare. Neither nation tried to put missiles on the moon. And neither nation shot down another nation's spy satellites. According to Colonel Leghorn, this is because "spy satellites launched into s.p.a.ce were accepted as eyes in the skies that governments had to live with." The governments Leghorn is referring to are Russia and the United States. But today, allegiances and battle lines have been considerably redrawn. At least one enemy army, that of al-Qaeda, would rather die than live according to the superpowers' rules. were accepted as eyes in the skies that governments had to live with." The governments Leghorn is referring to are Russia and the United States. But today, allegiances and battle lines have been considerably redrawn. At least one enemy army, that of al-Qaeda, would rather die than live according to the superpowers' rules.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, his ninety-one years, Leghorn speaks with great authority. In addition to being considered the father of aerial reconnaissance, Leghorn founded the Itek Corporation Leghorn founded the Itek Corporation in 1960, which developed the high-resolution photographic system for America's first reconnaissance satellite, Corona. The Corona program was highly successful and, most notably, was originally designed and run by Richard Bissell for the CIA at the same time he was in charge of operations at Area 51. After leaving the Air Force, in 1960, which developed the high-resolution photographic system for America's first reconnaissance satellite, Corona. The Corona program was highly successful and, most notably, was originally designed and run by Richard Bissell for the CIA at the same time he was in charge of operations at Area 51. After leaving the Air Force, Leghorn spent decades in the commercial-satellite business Leghorn spent decades in the commercial-satellite business. From the satellite images produced by Itek satellites, the CIA learned that in order to escape scrutiny by America's eyes in the sky, many foreign governments moved their most secret military facilities underground.

Out in the Nevada desert, while the CIA redoubled its efforts at Area 51 to develop ground sensor technology and infrared tracking techniques to learn more about underground facilities (which also requires the use of drones), the Department of Defense and the Air Force got to work on a different approach. In the 1980s, the military worked to develop the bunker buster, a nuclear weapon designed to fire deep into Earth's surface, hit underground targets, and detonate belowground. Weapons designer Sandia was brought on board. It was called the W61 Earth Penetrator W61 Earth Penetrator, and testing took place at Area 52 in 1988. The idea was to launch the earth-penetrator weapon launch the earth-penetrator weapon from forty thousand feet above but after many tests (minus the nuclear warhead), it became clear that a nuclear bomb would have little or no impact on granite, which is the rock of choice in which to build sensitive sites underground. After President Clinton ended all U.S. nuclear testing in 1993 (the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General a.s.sembly in 1996 from forty thousand feet above but after many tests (minus the nuclear warhead), it became clear that a nuclear bomb would have little or no impact on granite, which is the rock of choice in which to build sensitive sites underground. After President Clinton ended all U.S. nuclear testing in 1993 (the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General a.s.sembly in 1996 and signed by five of the then seven or eight nuclear-capable countries and signed by five of the then seven or eight nuclear-capable countries), the idea of developing an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon lost its steam. But the building of underground facilities by foreign governments continued to plague war planners, so along came a nonnuclear s.p.a.ce-based weapons project called Rods from G.o.d Rods from G.o.d. That weapons project involved slender metal rods, thirty feet long and one foot in diameter, that could be launched from a satellite in s.p.a.ce and hit a precise target on Earth at ten thousand miles per second. T. D. Barnes says "that's enough force to take out Iran's nuclear facility, or anything like it, in one or two strikes." The Federation of American Scientists reported that a number of similar to take out Iran's nuclear facility, or anything like it, in one or two strikes." The Federation of American Scientists reported that a number of similar "long-rod penetration" "long-rod penetration" programs are believed to currently exist. programs are believed to currently exist.

After the Gulf War, DARPA hired a secretive group called the JASON scholars (a favored target in conspiracy-theorist circles) and its parent company, MITRE Corporation, to report on the status of underground facilities, which in government nomenclature are referred to as UGFs. The uncla.s.sified version of the April 1999 report April 1999 report begins, "Underground facilities are being used to conceal and protect critical activities that pose a threat to the United States." These threats, said JASON, "include the development and storage of weapons of ma.s.s destruction, princ.i.p.ally nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," and also that "the proliferation of such facilities is a legacy of the Gulf War." What this means is that the F-117 stealth bomber showed foreign governments "that almost any above ground facility is vulnerable to attack and destruction by precision guided weapons." For DARPA, this meant it was time to develop a new nuclear bunker buster-Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty or not. begins, "Underground facilities are being used to conceal and protect critical activities that pose a threat to the United States." These threats, said JASON, "include the development and storage of weapons of ma.s.s destruction, princ.i.p.ally nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons," and also that "the proliferation of such facilities is a legacy of the Gulf War." What this means is that the F-117 stealth bomber showed foreign governments "that almost any above ground facility is vulnerable to attack and destruction by precision guided weapons." For DARPA, this meant it was time to develop a new nuclear bunker buster-Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty or not.

In January of 2001, the Federation of American Scientists reported their concern over the disclosure that the nuclear weapons laboratories were working on low-yield nukes, or "mini-nukes," to target underground facilities despite the congressional ban against "research and development which could lead to the production by the United States of a new, low-yield nuclear weapon." Los Alamos fired back Los Alamos fired back, claiming they could develop a mini-nuke conceptually. "One could design and deploy a new set of nuclear weapons that do not require nuclear testing to be certified," stated Los Alamos a.s.sociate director for nuclear weapons Stephen M. Younger, a.s.serting that "such simple devices would be based on a very limited nuclear test database." The Federation of American Scientists saw Younger's a.s.sertion as improbable: "It seems unlikely that a warhead capable of performing such an extraordinary mission as destroying a deeply buried and hardened bunker could be deployed without full-scale [nuclear] testing" first. On July 1, 2006, Stephen Younger became president of National Security Technologies, or NSTec, the company in charge of operations at the Nevada Test Site operations at the Nevada Test Site, through 2012.

In 2002, with America again at war, the administration of George W. Bush revived the development of the nuclear bunker-buster weapon, now calling it the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. In April of the same year, the Department of Defense entered into discussions with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to begin preliminary design work on the new nuclear weapon. By fiscal year 2003, the Stockpile Services Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator line item received $14.5 million; in 2004 another $7.5 million; and in 2005 yet another $27.5 million. In 2006, the Senate dropped the line item In 2006, the Senate dropped the line item. Either the program was canceled or it got a new name and entered into the black world-perhaps at Area 51 and Area 52.

Or perhaps next door at the Nevada Test Site, underground. For as far-fetched and ironic as this sounds-developing a bunker-busting nuclear bomb at an underground nuclear testing facility in Nevada-this is exactly what DOE officials proposed in an uncla.s.sified report released quietly in 2005. In this report, officials with the agency formerly known as the Atomic Energy Commission proposed to revive the NERVA program proposed to revive the NERVA program-the Area 25 nuclear-powered rocket program designed to send man to Mars-and to do it, of all places, underground.

Unlike the NERVA program of the 1960s, argued Michael Williams, the author of the report, "DOE Ground Test facilities for s.p.a.ce exploration enabling nuclear technologies can no longer be vented to the open atmosphere," meaning a facility like the one that previously existed out at Jacka.s.s Flats was out of the question. But for the new NERVA project, Williams proposed, the Department of Energy could easily conduct its nuclear tests inside "the existing [underground] tunnels or new tunnels at the Nevada Test site for this purpose."

Former Los Alamos a.s.sociate director of nuclear weapons Stephen Younger, who currently serves as the president of operations at the Nevada Test Site, categorically denies that any underground nuclear weapons tests are in the works at the test site. But he does confirm that "subcritical" nuclear tests currently take place there, inside an underground tunnel complex located beneath Area 1. To access that facility, Younger says, employees use an elevator that travels a thousand feet underground. What goes on there are "scientific experiments with plutonium and high explosives," Younger says, "not weapons tests." Younger insists the "same cannot be said about the Russians." He says that inside their underground facility at Novaya Zemlya-the location where the Soviet Union detonated their fifty-megaton thermonuclear bomb, called Tsar Bomba, in 1961-"the Russians are developing new nuclear weapons around the clock. Mr. [Vladimir] Putin has said that repeatedly. He keeps saying that because they want us to know."

There is no way to know precisely what is happening today at the Nevada Test and Training Range-aboveground at Area 51 or Area 52, or in the underground tunnels beneath the test site, because most of what is currently happening out in the Nevada desert is cla.s.sified and the federal agencies involved believe the people do not have a need-to-know. The question is, does the public have a right to know? Does Congress? Many secret projects that have gone on at Area 51 have delivered results that have kept America safe. The first flight over the Soviet Union, by Hervey Stockman in a U-2 spy plane in 1956, provided the CIA with critical intelligence, namely, that the Russians were not lining up their military machine for a sneak attack. The intelligence provided by an A-12 Oxcart spy plane mission kept the Johnson administration from declaring war on North Korea during the Vietnam War. The F-117 stealth bomber crippled Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. But there are other kinds of secret actions that have gone on at Area 51, at least one of which should never have been authorized and should not be kept as a national secret anymore.

After World War II, the American government's hiring and protection of n.a.z.i scientists was based on the premise that these scientists were the world's best and their information was needed in order to advance science-and win the next war. In doing so, America made a deal with the devil. This deal became a wicked problem for the agencies involved, and playing the game with former n.a.z.is gave way to an entirely new set of problems, one of which has been the federal government's ongoing complicity in covering up many of these scientists' original crimes. Approximately six hundred million pages of information six hundred million pages of information about the government's postwar use of n.a.z.i criminals' expertise remains cla.s.sified as of 2011. about the government's postwar use of n.a.z.i criminals' expertise remains cla.s.sified as of 2011. Many doc.u.ments about Area 51 exist in that pile Many doc.u.ments about Area 51 exist in that pile.

The reason why the federal government will not officially admit that Area 51 exists is not the secret spy planes, the stealth bombers, or the drones that were, and still are, flight-tested there. The reason is something else. It is a program undertaken by five EG&G engineers at Area 51. This program involved the Roswell crash remains the Roswell crash remains and predated the development of the original CIA facility, currently called Area 51, which was built by Richard Bissell beginning in 1955. Area 51 is named as such not because it was a randomly chosen quadrant, as has often been presumed, but because the 1947 crash remains from Roswell, New Mexico, were sent from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base out to a secret spot in the Nevada desert-in 1951. and predated the development of the original CIA facility, currently called Area 51, which was built by Richard Bissell beginning in 1955. Area 51 is named as such not because it was a randomly chosen quadrant, as has often been presumed, but because the 1947 crash remains from Roswell, New Mexico, were sent from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base out to a secret spot in the Nevada desert-in 1951.

The gypsies have a saying: You're not really dead until the last person who knows you dies. For investigative journalists it goes something like this: As long as there is an eyewitness willing to tell the truth, the truth can be known.

The flying craft that crashed in New Mexico, the myth of which has come to be known as the Roswell Incident, happened in 1947, sixty-four years before the publication of this book. Everyone directly involved in that incident-who acted on behalf of the government-is apparently dead. Like it does about Area 51, the U.S. government refuses to admit the Roswell crash ever happened, but it did-according to the seminal testimony of one man interviewed over the course of eighteen months for this book. He partic.i.p.ated in the engineering project that came about as a result of the Roswell Incident. He was one of the elite engineers from EG&G who were tasked with the original Area 51 wicked engineering problem.

In July of 1947, Army intelligence spearheaded the efforts to retrieve the remains of the flying disc that crashed at Roswell. And as with other stories that have become the legends of Area 51, part of the conspiracy theory about Roswell has its origins in truth. The crash did reveal a disc, not a weather balloon, as has subsequently been alleged by the Air Force. And responders from the Roswell Army Air Field found not only a crashed craft, but also two crash sites, and they found bodies alongside the crashed craft. These were not aliens. Nor were they consenting airmen. They were human guinea pigs. Unusually pet.i.te for pilots, they appeared to be children. Each was under five feet tall. Physically, the bodies of the aviators revealed anatomical conundrums. They were grotesquely deformed, but each in the same manner as the others. They had unusually large heads and abnormally shaped oversize eyes. One fact was clear: these children, if that's what they were, were not healthy humans. A second fact was shocking. Two of the child-size aviators were comatose but still alive.

Everything related to the crash site was sent to Wright Field, later called Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio, where it all remained until 1951. That is when the evidence was packed up and transported to the Nevada Test Site. It was received, physically, by the elite group of EG&G engineers. The Atomic Energy Commission, not the Air Force and not the Central Intelligence Agency, was put in charge of the Roswell crash remains. According to its unusual charter, the Atomic Energy Commission was the organization best equipped to handle a secret that could never be decla.s.sified. The Atomic Energy Commission needed engineers they could trust to handle the work that was about to begin. For this, they looked to the most powerful defense contractor in the nation the most powerful defense contractor in the nation that no one had ever heard of-EG&G. that no one had ever heard of-EG&G.

The engineers with EG&G were chosen to receive the crash remains and to set up a secret facility just outside the boundary of the Nevada Test Site, sixteen miles to the northwest of Groom Lake, approximately five and a half miles north of the northernmost point where Area 12 and Area 15 meet. A facility this remote would never be visited by anyone outside a small group with a strict need-to-know and would never have to be accounted for or appear on any official Nevada Test Site map. These five men were told there was more engineering work to be done, and that they would be the only five individuals with a set of keys to the facility. The project, the men were told, was the most clandestine, most important engineering program since the Manhattan Project, which was why the man who had been in charge of that one would function as the director of this project as well.

Vannevar Bush had been President Roosevelt's most trusted science adviser during World War II. He held engineering doctorates from both Harvard University and MIT, in addition to being the former vice president and former dean of engineering at MIT former dean of engineering at MIT. The decisions Vannevar Bush made were ostensibly for the good of the nation; they were sound. The men from EG&G were told that the project they were about to work on was so important that it would remain black forever, meaning it would never see the light of day. The men knew that a secrecy cla.s.sification inside the Atomic Energy Commission charter made this possible, because they all worked on cla.s.sified engineering projects that were hidden from the rest of the world. They understood born cla.s.sified born cla.s.sified meant that no one would ever have a need-to-know what Vannevar Bush was going to ask them to do. The operation would have no name, only a letter-number designation: S-4, or Sigma-Four. meant that no one would ever have a need-to-know what Vannevar Bush was going to ask them to do. The operation would have no name, only a letter-number designation: S-4, or Sigma-Four.

The problem that the EG&G engineers would face would be highly complex, wide-ranging, without a definite formulation and with no set solution. This wicked problem was wholly without precedent. Solving it would undoubtedly have unintended consequences, because playing the engineering game would change the game. But there were two puzzles to solve, not just one. Two engineering mysteries for the elite group of EG&G engineers to unlock.

There was the crashed craft that had been sent by Stalin-with its Russian writing stamped, or embossed, in a ring around the inside of the craft. So far, the EG&G engineers were told, no one working on the project when it had been headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had been able to discern what made Stalin's craft hover and fly. Not even the German Paperclip scientists who had been a.s.signed to a.s.sist. So the crashed craft was job number one. Reverse engineer it, Vannevar Bush said. Take it apart and put it back together again. Figure out what made it fly.

But there was the second engineering problem to solve, the one involving the child-size aviators. To understand this, the men were briefed on what it was they were dealing with. They had to be. They were told that they, and they alone, had a need-to-know about what had happened to these humans before they were put in the craft and sent aloft. They were told that seeing the bodies would be a shocking and disturbing experience. Because two of the aviators were comatose but still alive, the men would have to transfer them into a Jell-O-like substance and stand them upright in two tubular tanks, attached to a life-support system. Sometimes, their mouths opened, and this gave the appearance of their trying to speak. Remember, the engineers were told, these humans are in a comatose state. They are unconscious; their bodies would never spark back to life.

Once, the children had been healthy humans. Not anymore. They were about thirteen years old. Questions abounded. What made their heads so big? Had their bodies been surgically manipulated to appear inhuman, or did the children have genetic deformities? And what about their haunting, oversize eyes? The engineers were told that the children were rumored to have been kidnapped by Dr. Josef Mengele kidnapped by Dr. Josef Mengele, the n.a.z.i madman who, at Auschwitz and elsewhere, was known to have performed unspeakable experimental surgical procedures performed unspeakable experimental surgical procedures mostly on mostly on children, dwarfs, and twins children, dwarfs, and twins. The engineers learned that just before the war ended, Josef Mengele made a deal with Stalin. Stalin offered Mengele an opportunity to continue his work in eugenics-the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase desirable, heritable characteristics-in secret, in the Soviet Union after the war. The engineers were told that this deal likely occurred just before the war's end, in the winter of 1945, when it was clear to many members of the n.a.z.i Party, including Mengele, that n.a.z.i Germany would lose the war and that its top commanders and doctors would be tried and hanged for war crimes.

In Josef Mengele's efforts to create a pure, Aryan race Josef Mengele's efforts to create a pure, Aryan race for Hitler, at Auschwitz and elsewhere, he conducted experiments on people he considered subhuman so as to breed certain features out. Mengele's victims included Jewish children, Gypsy children, and people with severe physical deformities. He removed parts of children's craniums and replaced them with bones from larger, adult skulls. He removed and transplanted eyeb.a.l.l.s, and injected people with chemicals that caused them to lose their hair. On Mengele's instruction, an Auschwitz inmate, a for Hitler, at Auschwitz and elsewhere, he conducted experiments on people he considered subhuman so as to breed certain features out. Mengele's victims included Jewish children, Gypsy children, and people with severe physical deformities. He removed parts of children's craniums and replaced them with bones from larger, adult skulls. He removed and transplanted eyeb.a.l.l.s, and injected people with chemicals that caused them to lose their hair. On Mengele's instruction, an Auschwitz inmate, a painter named Dina Babbitt painter named Dina Babbitt, made comparative drawings of the shapes of heads, noses, mouths, and ears of people before and after the grotesque surgeries Mengele performed. Another inmate doctor forced to work for Mengele, named Dr. Martina Puzyna Dr. Martina Puzyna, recounted how Mengele had her keep detailed measurements of the shapes and sizes of children's body parts, casting those of crippled children-particularly their hands and heads-in plaster molds. When Mengele left Auschwitz, on January 17, 1945, he took the doc.u.mentation of his medical experiments with him. According to his only son, Rolf According to his only son, Rolf, Mengele was still in possession of his medical research doc.u.ments after the war.

The EG&G engineers were told that part of Joseph Stalin's offer to Josef Mengele stated that if he could create a crew of grotesque, child-size aviators for Stalin, he would be given a laboratory in which to continue his work. According to what the engineers were told, Mengele held up his side of the Faustian bargain Mengele held up his side of the Faustian bargain and provided Stalin with the child-size crew. Joseph Stalin did not. and provided Stalin with the child-size crew. Joseph Stalin did not. Mengele never took up residence in the Soviet Union Mengele never took up residence in the Soviet Union. Instead, he lived for four years in Germany under an a.s.sumed name and then escaped to South America, where he lived, first in Argentina and then in Paraguay, until his death in 1979.

When Joseph Stalin sent the biologically and/or surgically reengineered children in the craft over New Mexico hoping it would land there, the engineers were told, Stalin's plan was for the children to climb out and be mistaken for visitors from Mars. Panic would ensue, just like it did after the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. The War of the Worlds. America's early-warning radar system would be overwhelmed with sightings of other "UFOs." Truman would see how easily a totalitarian dictator could control the ma.s.ses using black propaganda. Stalin may have been behind the United States in atomic bomb technology, but when it came to manipulating the people's perception, Stalin was the leader with the upper hand. This, says the engineer, is what he and the others in the group were told. America's early-warning radar system would be overwhelmed with sightings of other "UFOs." Truman would see how easily a totalitarian dictator could control the ma.s.ses using black propaganda. Stalin may have been behind the United States in atomic bomb technology, but when it came to manipulating the people's perception, Stalin was the leader with the upper hand. This, says the engineer, is what he and the others in the group were told.

For months I asked the engineer why President Truman didn't use the remains from the Roswell crash to show the world what an evil, abhorrent man Joseph Stalin was. I guessed that maybe Truman didn't want to admit the breach of U.S. borders. For a long time, I never got an answer, just a shaking of the head. Here was the engineer who had the answer to the riddle inside the riddle that is Area 51, but he was unwilling to say more. He is the only one of the original elite group of EG&G engineers who is still alive. He said he wouldn't tell me more, no matter how many times I asked. One day, I asked again. "Why didn't President Truman reveal the truth in 1947?" This time he answered.

"Because we were doing the same thing," he said. "They wanted to push science. They wanted to see how far they could go."

Then he said, "We did things I wish I had not done."

Then, "We performed medical experiments on handicapped children and prisoners."

"But you are not a doctor," I said.

"They wanted engineers."

"On whose authority did you act?"

"The Atomic Energy Commission was in charge. And Vannevar Bush," he said. "People were killed. In this great United States."

"Why did we do that?"

"You do what you do because you love your country, and you are told what you are doing is for the good of the country," the engineer said. Meaning out at the original Area 51, starting in 1951, the EG&G engineers worked in secret on a nefarious n.a.z.i-inspired black project that would remain entirely hidden from the public because Vannevar Bush told them it was the correct thing to do.

"It was a long, long time ago," the engineer said. "I have tried to forget."

"When did it end?" I asked.

No answer.

"In 1952?" I asked. Still no answer. "In 1953...1954...?"

"At least through the 1980s it was still going on," he said.

"I believe you should tell me the whole story," I said. "Otherwise, once you are gone, you will take the truth with you."

"You don't want to know," he said.

"I do."

"You don't have a need-to-know," he said.

For many months, I tried to learn more. I got pieces. Slivers of pieces. One-word details. "This" confirmed and "that" reconfirmed, regarding what he had previously said. One day, when we were eating lunch in a restaurant, I recounted back to the engineer everything I knew. I asked for his permission to put it all in this book. He did not say yes. He did not say no. We interviewed for more than one year. Then one day, I asked him how much of the story I now knew.

"You don't know half of it," he said sadly.

I took a crouton, left over from my lunch, and set it down in the middle of the restaurant's white china plate. "If what I know equals this crouton," I said, pointing at the little brown piece of bread, "then is what I don't know as big as this plate?"

"Oh, my dear," he said, shaking his head. "The whole truth is bigger than this table we are eating on, including the chairs."

He wouldn't say more. He said he was hurting. That soon he would die. That, really, it was best that I did not learn any more because I didn't have a need-to-know. But it is not just me who needs to know. We need to be able to keep secrets, but this kind of secret-keeping-of this kind of secret-is the work of totalitarian states, like the one we fought against for five decades during the Cold War. Fighting totalitarianism was America's rationale for building seventy thousand nuclear weapons in sixty-five styles. In a free and open democratic society, conducting projects in the name of science is one thing. Keeping forty-year-old secrets from a president even after he tries to find them out is an entirely different problem for a democratic nation. It sets a precedent. It makes it easier for a group of powerful men to set up a program that defies the Const.i.tution and defiles morality in the name of science and national security, all under the deceptive cover that no one has a need-to-know. I believe that even though the engineer didn't tell me everything, that is why he told me what he did.

According to my source, the Atomic Energy Commission conducted experiments on humans in a cla.s.sified government facility in the Nevada desert beginning in 1951. Although this was done in direct violation of the Nuremberg Code direct violation of the Nuremberg Code of 1947, it is far from the first time the Commission had acted in violation of the most basic moral principle involving voluntary human consent. In 1993, reporter of 1947, it is far from the first time the Commission had acted in violation of the most basic moral principle involving voluntary human consent. In 1993, reporter Eileen Welsome wrote a newspaper story Eileen Welsome wrote a newspaper story stating that the Atomic Energy Commission had conducted plutonium experiments on human beings, most notably r.e.t.a.r.ded children and orphan boys from the Fernald State School, outside Boston, without the children's or their guardians' knowledge or consent. After this horrible revelation came to light, stating that the Atomic Energy Commission had conducted plutonium experiments on human beings, most notably r.e.t.a.r.ded children and orphan boys from the Fernald State School, outside Boston, without the children's or their guardians' knowledge or consent. After this horrible revelation came to light, President Clinton opened an investigation President Clinton opened an investigation to look into what the Atomic Energy Commission had done and the secrets it had been able to safeguard inside its terrifying and unprecedented system of secret-keeping. I asked the engineer why President Clinton hadn't learned about the S-4 facility at Area 51-or had he? to look into what the Atomic Energy Commission had done and the secrets it had been able to safeguard inside its terrifying and unprecedented system of secret-keeping. I asked the engineer why President Clinton hadn't learned about the S-4 facility at Area 51-or had he?

"I think he might have come very close," the engineer said about President Clinton. "But they kept it from him."

"Who are they? they?" I asked. The engineer told me that his elite group had been given the keys to the original facility at Area 51. "Who inherited those keys from you five engineers?" I wanted to know.

"You don't have a need-to-know" is all he would say.

EPILOGUE.

In the summer of 2010 a book arrived in the mail from Colonel Leghorn, the father of overhead reconnaissance, age ninety-one. The pages were musty and smelled like an attic. What he had sent was his 1946 Army Air Forces commemorative yearbook Army Air Forces commemorative yearbook from the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests. What is most striking is how the story of America's first postwar nuclear test begins as a "mysterious Army-Navy a.s.signment" in a "sand-swept town-Roswell." from the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests. What is most striking is how the story of America's first postwar nuclear test begins as a "mysterious Army-Navy a.s.signment" in a "sand-swept town-Roswell."

"Roswell... Roswell... Roswell... Roswell... Roswell... Roswell."

The word repeats six times in the first few pages of the government-issued yearbook, making it clear that it was from the Roswell Army Air Field in New Mexico that the first shot in what would be a forty-three-year-old Cold War was fired. And what a colossal opening shot Operation Crossroads was, an unprecedented show of force aimed at letting Joseph Stalin know that America was not done with the nuclear bomb. Forty-two thousand people were present in the Pacific for the two nuclear bomb tests, including Stalin's spies. The U.S. government spent nearly two billion dollars The U.S. government spent nearly two billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) to show the world the nuclear power it now possessed. (adjusted for inflation) to show the world the nuclear power it now possessed.

"Stalin learned from Hitler," the EG&G engineer says, "revenge... and other things." And that to consider Stalin's perspective one should think about two key moments in history, one right before World War II began and another right before it ended. On August 23, 1939, one week before war in Europe officially began, Hitler and Stalin agreed to be allies and signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, meaning each country promised not to attack the other when war in Europe broke out. And yet almost immediately after shaking hands, Hitler began plotting to double-cross Stalin. Twenty-two months later, Hitler's sneak attack against Russia resulted in millions of deaths. And then, just a few weeks before World War II ended, Stalin, Truman, and Churchill met in Potsdam, Germany-from July 17, 1945, to August 2, 1945-and agreed to be postwar allies. Just one day before that conference began, America had secretly tested the world's first and only atomic bomb, inside the White Sands Proving Ground in the New Mexico desert. Truman's closest advisers Truman's closest advisers had suggested that Truman share the details of the atomic test with Stalin at Potsdam, but Truman did not. It didn't matter. Nuclear weapons historians believe that Joseph Stalin was already well aware of what the Manhattan Project engineers had accomplished. Stalin had spies inside the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory who had been providing him with bomb blueprints and other information since 1941. By the time the Potsdam conference rolled around, Stalin was already well at work on his own atomic bomb. Despite Stalin and Truman pretending to be allies, neither side trusted the other side, neither man trusted the other man. Each side was instead making plans to build up its own atomic a.r.s.enal for future use. When Operation Crossroads commenced just twelve months after the handshakes at Potsdam, the Cold War battle lines were already indelibly drawn. had suggested that Truman share the details of the atomic test with Stalin at Potsdam, but Truman did not. It didn't matter. Nuclear weapons historians believe that Joseph Stalin was already well aware of what the Manhattan Project engineers had accomplished. Stalin had spies inside the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory who had been providing him with bomb blueprints and other information since 1941. By the time the Potsdam conference rolled around, Stalin was already well at work on his own atomic bomb. Despite Stalin and Truman pretending to be allies, neither side trusted the other side, neither man trusted the other man. Each side was instead making plans to build up its own atomic a.r.s.enal for future use. When Operation Crossroads commenced just twelve months after the handshakes at Potsdam, the Cold War battle lines were already indelibly drawn.

It follows that Stalin's black propaganda hoax Stalin's black propaganda hoax-the flying disc peopled with alien look-alikes that wound up crashing near Roswell, New Mexico-could have been the Soviet dictator's revenge for Truman's betrayal at Crossroads. His double cross had to have been in the planning stages during the handshaking at Potsdam, metaphorically mirroring what Hitler had done during the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. By July of 1947, Stalin was still two years away from being able to successfully test his own nuclear bomb. The flying disc at Roswell, says the EG&G engineer, was "a warning shot across Truman's bow." "a warning shot across Truman's bow." Stalin may not have had the atomic bomb just yet, but he had seminal hover and fly technology, pilfered from the Germans, Stalin may not have had the atomic bomb just yet, but he had seminal hover and fly technology, pilfered from the Germans, and and he had stealth. Together, these technologies made the American military gravely concerned. Perplexed by the flying disc's movements, and its radical ability to confuse radar, the Army Air Forces was left wondering what else Stalin had in his a.r.s.enal of unconventional weapons, usurped from the n.a.z.is after the war. he had stealth. Together, these technologies made the American military gravely concerned. Perplexed by the flying disc's movements, and its radical ability to confuse radar, the Army Air Forces was left wondering what else Stalin had in his a.r.s.enal of unconventional weapons, usurped from the n.a.z.is after the war.

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Area 51 Part 9 summary

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