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Don’t keep it a secret

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The government simply cannot keep things hidden forever.

Federal officials recently came clean about something on which they’ve been mum for many years. In newly declassified documents, released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, the government finally acknowledged the existence of a mysterious facility in Nevada called Area 51.

Now, the actual existence of Area 51 has been well-known by many people for a long time. It has been the subject of wild speculation about government research into extraterrestrial life-forms.

The reality of what people have been doing there isn’t quite as far-fetched, and many people have also known this for years. But the government’s refusal to admit there was an Area 51 kept the conspiracy junkies guessing as to what was really going on behind the locked doors.

It turns out that space aliens are not being kept there, either dead or alive. Government scientists have not been communicating with intelligent beings from other planets. And Area 51 is not used as a landing zone for UFOs.

The government revealed more details about its use of Area 51 as a research facility for aircraft used to spy on the Soviet Union and, later, other nations. Testing on the U-2 reconnaissance plane was done there, and the Oxcart program — which eventually produced the supersonic SR-71 Blackbird — also was developed at the site.

It’s also been known for some time, although not widely, that Area 51 had various nicknames. One of them referred to the birthplace of Allen W. Dulles, who served as director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961.

A dried lake bed on the base used to train U-2 pilots was called Watertown Strip because it sometimes flooded with rainwater from surrounding mountains. But CIA contractor T.D. Barnes from Henderson, Nev., revealed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the Watertown moniker used for Area 51 also was a nod to Mr. Dulles.

Born in Watertown on April 7, 1893, Mr. Dulles lived here with his family until he was about 11. He served as CIA director under both Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

His brother, John F. Dulles, served as secretary of state under President Eisenhower. The Dulles State Office Building on Washington Street is named in his memory.

Allen W. Dulles played a major role in U.S. foreign policy during his time at the CIA, overseeing operations that were both monumental and controversial. His request of President Eisenhower to have the CIA take over the aircraft reconnaissance project from the military gave the government the flexibility to carry out these missions with maximum confidentiality.

History has shown that not all of Mr. Dulles’s decisions were in the best interests of the United States or the rest of the world. A successful coup in Iran in 1953 and a failed coup in Cuba in 1961 have soured our relationship with these nations to this day.

But Mr. Dulles’s leadership during the Cold War stands as his true legacy. Deciding how to deal with the Soviet Union required the most reliable information possible, and he devised the best way to obtain it.

Even as he headed up the world’s premier spy agency, with its commitment to clandestine tactics, Mr. Dulles made no secret of his fondness for his hometown. It is quite a distinction for our community to have been immortalized by Mr. Dulles’s colleagues and staff members in referring to Area 51 as Watertown.

So while ET does not have a presence at Area 51, the people of Watertown do. We would be wise to follow the example of Mr. Dulles, who hoarded secrets for a living, by not keeping word of our wonderful hometown to ourselves.

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