Thursday, January 24, 2008

No More "Area 51": The World's Least Secret Secret Base has Its Name Revealed

Homey Airfield.

That's right. That's the English-language designation Groom Lake, AKA Area 51 gets. It appears to be a descendant of an earlier nickname for the place, Home Plate, during the OXCART days.

If you prefer, you can also call it XTA.

It amazes me that, because of one reporter in Las Vegas, a guy saying he worked on a flying saucer, and a few activists, "Area 51" has become a legend and a household word across the globe. After its appearance in movies, video games, books, and countless tv shows, you know you've looked at satellite imagery of it on Google Earth.

Meanwhile, the US regularly operates out of secret military bases around the world, moving vast quantities of people, military and contractor, and material. And if you mention this to 99% of people, they stare at you like you're speaking Tzotzil.

William Arkin talked about these bases, for example those in Jordan and Israel, in his impressive book Code Names. Here in his blog at the Washington Post, Arkin goes into some detail about the secret facilities that aren't household words, that aren't even close to bubbling up into mainstream public view. And that of course is the point. As Arkin puts it

"There are some logistic security arrangements that we have with Jordan that I don't want to go into," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told the AP. I know that Di Rita is just a water boy, but this type of lying about the real U.S. military presence and intelligence relations with foreign governments ultimately undermines the war on terrorism and the American's public's ability to add its wisdom and values to the conduct of that war.

I'm all for legitimate secrecy to protect America's intelligence operations, but official secrecy imposed to obscure what is otherwise observable by the local population and the bad guys only serves to deny the American public the ability to understand what is being done in its name and to have proper context for understanding the not so insane targeting of our terrorist enemy.

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