You guys, Area 51 exists! So conspiracy theorists can gloat -- sort of.
Alas, the recently declassified CIA report mentions UFOs, but it doesn't make any mention of strange creatures being kept in the area northwest of Las Vegas. The area was a real-life government facility, but the "UFOs" were apparently planes from U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs.
So why were the documents only released now?
Freedom of Information Act
The map and other documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, in 2005. He submitted the request while he was conducting research on aerial surveillance programs, reports CNN.
FOIA is a legal way for the public to request a copy of a record maintained by a federal agency. In general, you may use FOIA to ask for copies of reports on specific matters or for compilations of records on a particular subject.
But don't expect very quick turnaround. FOIA requests can take an incredibly long time.
How to Make a Request
If you are requesting records that may be available under FOIA, you should first talk to the agency that you believe has the material.
In many cases, the agencies make the information available free of charge or sell it through the Government Printing Office, the National Technical Information Service, or private sources.
Other agencies may insist that you must file a request through the agency's FOIA office in order for you them to grant access to a document or to create a file for you.
The Truth Is Out There
Before you start going on a conspiracy theorist requesting spree, know that intelligence agencies like the NSA can block FOIA requests "in the interest of national security."
Here, it wasn't such a big deal because the Area 51 report was declassified and, y'know, didn't include information on alien autopsies.
More importantly, Area 51's location was apparently not a big secret. "The X-Files" was right: The truth is out there. In fact, it's on Google! The map that was released in the CIA documents mirrors the one that appears after a simple Google Maps search for "Area 51," reports CNN.
Sorry, true believers.
- There It Is! Area 51 Revealed In Declassified CIA Report (NPR)
- Top 5 FCC Viewer Complaints About 'Saturday Night Live' (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- FOIA Request: What's on the Pentagon's Playlist? (FindLaw's Courtside)
- Freedom of Information Act (FindLaw's LawBrain)