LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– The owner of a website devoted to the Area 51 military base, is searching for answers as to why federal agents busted down the doors to search two of his homes.
Joerg Arnu, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has devoted much of his life to understanding the base. His website, dreamlandresort.com, is a clearinghouse for all things Area 51, including photos and videos of the base and anything flying above it.
Arnu owns a home in Las Vegas but bought a place in tiny Rachel, Nevada so he could be close to the action.
Secrecy has always been paramount at Area 51, a once-obscure outpost in the Nevada desert that may be the world’s best-known secret base.
Since the mid-1950s, Groom Lake has been the location of choice for the testing and development of America’s most advanced military technology, including spy planes, drones and cutting-edge sensor systems. Dreamland, one of its many nicknames, is a magnet for civilian watchdogs, aerospace enthusiasts, the UFO-curious and most likely spies.
Arnu is not anti-government, nor is he anti-secrecy.
“I came to this country because I love this country and I became a citizen to support this country,” said Arnu. ”I would never do anything to hurt this country, but I don’t understand what is going on right now.”
He said he has always been careful to screen out content that might cross the line and expose something that is legitimately classified. But, he learned the hard way that something on his site had apparently gone too far.
On Nov. 3, more than a dozen agents from the FBI and Air Force Office of Special Investigations smashed through his gate, broke through his door, and stormed into his Rachel, Nevada home.
“I’m asking, ‘Okay, what is going on? What are you doing in my house?’” Arnu said. “I’m looking basically at this point at a riot shield and a gun that was drawn and pointed at me and an agent in a stern voice giving me commands.”
Arnu was held outside while agents searched the home. He was given a few pages from a search warrant that was over 40 pages long. Most of the warrant remained sealed, he said, including what he presumed is an explanation of what the agents wanted, or what he might have done wrong.
“As it is right now, I have no clear understanding of what I’m being charged with or why my property was seized,” Arnu said. “Cell phones, memory sticks, backup drives, my camera equipment that is worth almost $10,000, my drone, everything was taken.”
While all this was happening, another team of agents kicked in the door of his Las Vegas residence, detained his girlfriend and then conducted another vigorous search.
“She was led out into the street — in the middle of the street in full view of all the neighbors, and subsequently our homes were searched,” Arnu said.
Arnu claims that he repeatedly asked what he had done and received hints from an agent that one or more images on his site showed something that was classified, but no one told him what it is, or which image crossed the line.
He voluntarily took down some panoramas of the base and said he would have quietly done so earlier if anyone had requested it.
Three years ago when up to two million online UFO enthusiasts vowed to storm into Area 51, Arnu led the local campaign to discourage the event, and even defended the Air Force’s need for some secrecy.
Many of the people who frequent his website are former Area 51 employees or government contractors, not anti-government radicals.
“I believe this was all about sending a message,” Arnu responded when asked if he thought this was meant to do so.
Arnu will be meeting with an attorney this week and will try to arrange for a return of his belongings. He does not know if he might be facing criminal charges.