LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Air Force aren’t talking about the reason two dozen agents broke down the doors of a pair of Nevada homes in early November.
The search warrants, served at properties owned by dreamlandresort.com manager Joerg Arnu, led to the addition of the text “NEW: Endorsed by the FBI and USAF OSI” in bold, yellow letters on the home page. The sarcastic reference is to the Nov. 3 events that upended Arnu’s life.
“My life has been very much turned upside down by all this,” Arnu said of the search warrant executed on his properties.
The site, managed by Arnu since 1999, is a central clearinghouse for anything and everything related to the world’s most famous “secret” base. Military watchdogs, including many who formerly worked at the Groom Lake facility, post photos and video of the base, chat about its rich history, and speculate on what classified projects might be under development in the Nevada desert.
“There’s absolutely nothing that I would consider classified or that I know to be classified on my website,” Arnu said. “It’s pretty much the same stuff that you find on other websites also, and I’ve repeatedly actually stated in my discussion forum that if ever anyone has a legitimate issue with what I’m posting, let me know. And I will take it down.”
Two teams of federal agents, more than a dozen in each group, bashed in the doors of two homes owned by Arnu. One in Rachel, Nevada, not far from the base. The other in Las Vegas. They seized computers, phones, files, and a wealth of personal property.
Arnu said he has no idea what the agents were after. Approximately 40 pages of the search warrant are sealed, according to Arnu.
“The case is sealed so well we don’t know what these 40 pages include,” Arnu said. “Probably a justification for the search, but at this point, I don’t know what it is.”
Area 51 has become so well known and draws so many curious people to its boundaries that the public sometimes forgets just how strenuously the government defends its secrecy. For years the Pentagon would not acknowledge its existence, although Russian satellites took detailed photos of the base, and curious visitors could snap close-ups photos of its facilities. In the mid-1980s, after the US Air Force took charge of the base from the Central Intelligence Agency, security forces illegally seized control of 89,000 acres of public land around the base. They later asked congress for permission.
The the early 2000s a friend of Arnu’s, fellow Area 51 watchdog Chuck Clark, took 8 News Now on a tour of public lands surrounding the base revealing a network of motions sensors hidden in the dirt to warn the base when anyone approaches. Days after that news report aired, Clark’s Rachel, Nevada home was raided by the joint terrorism task force. His computers and cameras were seized. Clark later moved from Nevada and left Area 51 behind.
The secrecy surrounding Area 51 has likely fanned the flames of public and media curiosity, which is one reason Arnu’s website exists. “What’s the big secret,” the public wonders. Arnu said his attorney told him he will likely never get his computers and cameras returned, even if it’s unlikely he will ever be charged with a crime. He thinks the raid was entirely about sending a strong, if vague, message.
“At this point I don’t know exactly what I’m up against, but my best guess is that because my residence is close to Area 51 and my website, Dreamland Resort, is kind of prominent in the field, that I’m being used to send a message to the Area 51 community,” Arnu said.