George Washington University’s National Security Archive obtained a CIA history of the U-2 spy plane, a high-altitude surveillance aircraft, through a freedom of information request, and released it Thursday. National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson says he requested the information back in 2005 and received a version a few weeks ago. According to the Archive’s website, the new information “is notable for the significant amount of newly declassified material with respect to the U-2 (spy plane project),” which provides the names of pilots, codenames and cryptonyms, as well as a map of the secret site where the jet was tested in the 1950s. The story of Area 51 begins with the CIA searching for a reliable place to test the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft at a time when the military showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union was in high gear. US pilots found what they were looking for at Groom Lake, a desert salt flat, on April 12, 1955, according to “The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance,” an internal CIA history of the U-2, written by Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald E. Welzenbach. “President Eisenhower also approved the addition of this strip of wasteland, known by its map designation as Area 51, to the Nevada Test Site,” the authors wrote. The U-2 spy plane flew at an altitude of 70,000 feet, which made some believe UFOs were buzzing Earth. “High-altitude testing of the U-2 soon led to an unexpected side effect – a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs),” the report states. Richelson says the new document shows the CIA is becoming less secretive about Area 51′s existence, and the activities that took place there. “It marks an end of official secrecy about the facts of Area 51,” he told The Las Vegas Sun. “It opens up the possibility that future accounts of this and other aerial projects will be less redacted, more fully explained in terms of their presence in Area 51.” However, judging by the number of conspiracy theories involving Area 51, the release of the information may only serve to intensify rumors as to what else may have taken place on this lonely stretch of wasteland in the Nevada desert, which remains off-limits to this day. Area 51 has come to be associated with a number of so-called urban legends, perhaps most famously the Roswell UFO incident that occurred on July 7, 1947 when an airborne object crashed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. The US government said the crash involved a military surveillance balloon, but other reports said the object was a spacecraft containing extraterrestrial life. Ever since the 1970s, speculation has been rife as to what really crashed in Roswell.
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