- The CIA officially acknowledges Area 51, long a fixation for conspiracy theorists, in documents
- The area, 125 northwest of Las Vegas, was a testing ground for Cold War aerial surveillance
- Document release could be just the beginning of Area 51 information, expert says
Area 51 has long been a topic of fascination for conspiracy theorists and paranormal enthusiasts, but newly released CIA documents officially acknowledge the site and suggest that the area served a far less remarkable purpose than many had supposed.
According to these reports, which include a map of the base's location in Nevada, Area 51 was merely a testing site for the government's U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs. The U-2 program conducted surveillance around the world, including over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Area 51, about 125 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is synonymous in popular culture with government secrecy, and many have theorized that it holds the answer to one of the greatest questions plaguing mankind: Are we really alone in the universe?
But the newly released documents make no mention of alien autopsy rooms or spaceship parking lots.
This information will be disappointing to some, who have come to view the area as a mecca of sorts for alien encounters.
For these true believers, the existence of alien spacecraft at Area 51, and the government's attempts to cover up their trace, is irrefutable and has been since reports of Unidentified Flying Objects -- or UFOs -- began to emerge from the Nevada desert in the middle part of the 20th century.
The map and other documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, in 2005.
Richelson submitted the request as part of his continuing study of aerial surveillance programs and told CNN that he was not given an explanation of why the new documents were less redacted than previous versions declassified by the agency.
He points out, however, that the location of Area 51 was not a particularly well-kept secret. Its location appears in books on aerial surveillance and is widely referenced in popular culture.
In fact, the map that was released in the CIA documents mirrors the one that appears after a simple Google Maps search for "Area 51."
Area 51 has also been referenced in government documents in the past, though this newest release is the first that acknowledges its existence and location in a purposeful way.
Richelson told CNN he believes this could signal a dramatic change in the government's willingness to declassify information about the famed base, meaning even more information could come out about Area 51 in the future.
The release of these reports seem to put the theories about aliens and flying saucers to rest for the time being, although they may not be enough to silence the true believers.
At least they still have Roswell, right?