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  • Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2010, volume 28, pages 759 ^ 771 doi:10.1068/d5308 Goatsucker: toward a spatial theory of state secrecy Trevor Paglen Department of Geography, University of California at Berkeley, 507 McCone Hall #4740, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA; e-mail: [email protected] Received 1 May 2008; in revised form 6 April 2010 Abstract. While the question of state secrecy has become a topic of much political debate, relatively little attention has been paid to the topic in academic literature. Most of the literature adopts one of several frameworks. In the legal literature, state secrecy has been examined as a historical and constitutional question. Social scientists have tended to follow Weber in examining secrecy as a question of regulation and bureaucracy or have focused on the cultural play of visibility and invisibility that is often characteristic of state secrecy. This paper, by way of contrast, uses the development of the F-117A `stealth fighter' as a case study to give a spatial account of secrecy. I show how state secrecy gives rise to numerous spatial, political, juridical, and even ecological contradictions and propose that a spatial understanding of state secrecy foregrounding these contradictions provides a fruitful basis for a deeper understanding of state secrecy. Late one night during the summer of 1984, two fighter pilots saw a ghost in the sky above Las Vegas. A single two-seat F-16 `Viper' fighter was on a routine flight over the city that night, its pilots alternating between watching instruments, checking in with ground controllers, and scanning the skies above. And then they got a glimpse of something they could not explain. One thousand feet above, the Viper pilots watched a black arrowhead-shaped craft streak by. The startled fighter pilots radioed a Las Vegas air traffic controller below, who came back that the Viper had seen an A-7 Corsair. Shot back the pilot, ``I don't know what it is, but it's no fucking A-7!'' If the Viper pilots imagined seeing a ghost that evening, they would have been right. The F-16 crew were the first `noncleared' people to see an F-117A stealth fighter, a new and highly classified aircraft that had only recently begun to make cautious forays out of a vast tract of restricted airspace to the north. The stealth fighter was a `black' aircraft; it `did not exist'. The anonymous pilot in the stealth plane had overheard the exchange between the Viper and the air traffic controller that night, and radioed his own operations center at the Tonopah Test Range, 160 miles to the north, to report that his secret aircraft had been spotted. The stealth pilot was practicing bombing runs against the Vegas skyline that night, counting on the blinding Las Vegas lights to prevent anyone from seeing him. This was not supposed to have happened. When the Viper crew landed at their home base, Air Force brass was waiting for them on the tarmac. The crew was told in no uncertain terms that they had not seen anything that night and that they were not going to talk about it. In the close-knit world of Air Force pilots, the Viper crew may have heard rumors about a new `black' jet at Tonopah, or they may have had an inkling that the Pentagon was building a new class of `stealth' aircraft, but they most surely did not know the nickname of the 4450th Tactical Group's Q-Unit, one of two units responsible for flying the planes: the Goatsuckers (Peebles, 1999; Scott, 2003). $
  • 760 T Paglen This paper is about state secrecy and the production of space. It is about the strange dialectics of secrecy and geography that take place under conditions of topsecret production. Using the development of the F-117A `stealth fighter' and its aftermath as a case study, I propose that an understanding of state secrecy as the production of space is a valuable addition to the theoretical literature on state secrecy. Existing work on state secrecy explores the various cultural, epistemological, political, bureaucratic, cartographic, and legal questions posed by state secrecy. Weber (1978) famously described secrecy as a bureaucratic means of accruing power, and was followed by former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who described state secrecy as a ``form of regulation'' (1998, page 59). In his seminal article ``Removing knowledge'' (2004), Peter Galison developed the relationship between bureaucracy, secrecy, and knowledge, inferring that in terms of knowledge produced ``the classified universe as it is sometimes called is certainly not smaller, and very probably much larger than this unclassified one,'' and developed a Habermasian argument that state secrecy formed an ``anti-epistemology'' fundamentally at odds with liberal democracy. Anthropologists such as Gusterson have examined the everyday workings of secrecy and the production of classified knowledge (Gusterson, 1998; 2004; Reppy, 1999), while Louis Fisher has done extraordinary work on state secrecy in the legal system (2006). Recent commentators such as Bratich, Dodge, and Perkins have emphasized the role of secrecy in public culture and politics. Following Debord (1998), Deleuze and Guattari (1987), and Taussig (2002), Bratich understands secrecy as a spectacle of concealing and revealing through which the state exercises power (Bratich, 2006). Dodge (2004) and Perkins and Dodge (2009) have examined the politics of seeing in relation to sensitive sites in their studies of Cryptome's ``eyeballing'' series and other cartographic practices, pointing out that cartographic efforts to visualize secret sites have a complicated and sometimes contradictory relationship to state power but are nonetheless ``important in the construction of oppositional discourse'' (Perkins and Dodge, page 559). My aim here is to synthesize some of this work on secrecy with the goal of developing a broader theoretical framework to understand state secrecy in terms of the production of space. Understanding state secrecy as the production of space illustrates the connections between the seemingly disparate approaches scholars have taken towards the topic. Fundamental to any understanding of state secrecy, I believe, is the notion of contradiction. Indeed, if state secrecy is understood as an array of bureaucratic, practical, cultural, political, and social operations designed to conceal, render invisible, mask, misrepresent, or hide the relations, programs, sites, or events under their purview, state secrecy can only be characterized by contradiction. Why? Because those secret relations, programs, sites, and events have to be made out of the same `stuff ' that everything else (ie the nonsecret world) is made of. Because there are no such things as invisible factories, airplanes made out of unearthly ghost-matter, or workers who `don't exist', logics of secrecy are contradicted by their material implementations. State secrecy, thus, consists not only of state efforts to conceal programs, relationships, and events in the first instance, but also attempts to manage ensuing contradictions in political, cultural, and legal spheres. Managing those contradictions inevitably produces more contradictions, which must in turn be managed. By understanding state secrecy as a dynamic characterized by the production of contradictions and their subsequent management, we can begin to explain how state secrecy tends to sculpt the material, cultural, and political spaces around them in their own image (Paglen, 2009). And so we return to the stealth fighter, our case study. As we will see, developing the stealth fighter involved much more than developing a secret weapon; it involved the production of peculiar kinds of space. The secrecy associated with the stealth fighter
  • Goatsucker: toward a spatial theory of state secrecy 761 did far more than produce a weapon that `did not exist', in some sort of political, bureaucratic, or legal sense; it went much further. Producing a weapon that `did not exist' meant producing internally contradictory political, legal, labor, and ecological spaces. A space of stealth. As the Air Force sought to manage the contradictions created when the space of stealth intersected other spaces around it, those spaces, in turn, were transformed. They, too, became `stealthy'. $ If we were to look at a map of the United States showing the restricted military ranges devoted to weapons testing, it would be easy to see that secret weapons are almost without exception tested in the `badlands' or `wastelands' of southwestern deserts. Occupying most of southern Nevada is the Air Force's 3.1 million-acre Nellis Range Complex, a swath of restricted land and airspace the size of Switzerland. Just south of western Utah's great salt flats is the Army's 800 000-acre Dugway Proving Grounds, home to the Army's biological and chemical weapons testing programs. California's Mojave desert hosts the Navy's 1.1 million-acre China Lake Naval Air Warfare Weapons Division. And there are many, many more. These desert ranges are united by the fact that, since the European invasion of the Americas, they have been regarded as `wastelands': little more than a bad no-man's-land one had to traverse in order to get to the gold and oil of California (Kuletz, 1998; Paglen, 2007a; Solnit, 1994). When many contemporary weapons ranges were initially established during the Second World War, the prevailing logic was summed up by the Army Air Corps. The land, they said, ``wasn't much good for anything but gunnery practiceyou could bomb it into oblivion and never notice the difference'' (Loomis, 1993, pages 9 ^ 10). $ The F-117A stealth fighter had its roots in a 1974 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) competition called `Project Harvey', named after the invisible rabbit in the James Stewart movie of the same name (Sweetman, 2001). Project Harvey took the form of a challenge: DARPA invited five defense companies (Boeing, Northrop, McDonnell Douglas, General Dynamics, and Grumman) to come up with ideas for an aircraft with dramatically reduced radar cross sections. In other words, DARPA wanted an airplane that would be far less visible to radar than the fighters of the time were. Lockheed was not on the initial list of invitees, even though the company's Skunk Works division had pioneered stealth designs with its A-12 airplane and D-21 reconnaissance drone. The problem was that Lockheed's early work on stealth had been done on behalf of the CIA, and remained highly classified; DARPA had no idea that the Skunk Works had already begun to solve the problems they now posed to the aerospace community (Peebles, 1999). When the Skunk Works found out about the competition, they lobbied the CIA to allow them to share the top-secret radar information developed for the A-12 Blackbird. The CIA gave them the OK, and the Skunk Works entered the competition (Rich, 1994). Lockheed had two crucial tools in hand to improve the effectiveness of their stealth concept. In one hand, they held a paper by a Soviet scientist at the Moscow Institute of Radio Engineering named Pyoty Ufimtsev, and in the other, they had newer and faster computers. Utfimtsev's paper, called ``Method of edge waves in the physical theory of diffraction'', updated a set of equations about the behavior of electromagnetic waves first proposed by the 19th-century Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. The Soviet paper, first published in the 1960s, had been recently translated into English and given to defense researchers, courtesy of the Air Force Foreign Technology Division. The paper's translation excited a young Lockheed radar specialist
  • 762 T Paglen named Denys Overholser. Showing the obscure physics paper to his boss Ben Rich, Overholser said, ``this guy has shown us how to accurately calculate radar cross sections across the surface of the wind and the edge of the wind and put together these two calculations for an accurate total'' (Rich, 1994, page 20). Overholser continued: ``we can break down an airplane into thousands of flat triangular shapes, add up their individual radar signatures, and get a precise total of the radar cross section''. Rich did not completely understand what Overholser was talking about, but allowed him use of the Skunk Works' computers to explore the concept (Rich, 1994). Using Lockheed's computers, Overholser designed a program called `Echo I' that would predict the radar cross section returns for simple aircraft shapes. A few months later, the engineer returned to Rich's office with the results of the equations and a proposal for a strange-looking aircraft: ``Boss, meet the Hopeless Diamond.'' ``How good are your radar-cross-section numbers on this one?'' ``This shape is a thousand times less visible than the least visible shape previously produced at the Skunk Works.'' ``Whoa! Are you telling me that this shape is a thousand times less visible than the D-21 drone?'' ``You've got it!' ``If we made this shape into a full-sized tactical fighter, what would be its equivalent radar signature ... as big as whata Piper Cub, a T-38 trainer ... what?'' ``Ben, understand, we are talking about a major, major, big-time revolution here. We are talking infinitesimal.'' ``Well, what does that mean? On a radar screen it would appear as a ... what? As big as a condor, an eagle, an owl, a what?'' ``Ben, try as big as an eagle's eyeball '' (Rich, 1994, page 26). After Overholser's discovery, the Skunk Works set to work fabricating all sorts of test shapes and trucking them to the Grey Butte Microwave Measurement Range in the Mojave Desert and the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for analysis. DARPA and the Air Force began taking notice of the resulting radar measurements, which showed that the test shapes were essentially invisible, and commissioned Lockheed to build a prototype demonstrator. As the gravity of Lockheed's new technology dawned on DARPA officials, they made `stealth' one of the most highly classified military programs since the Manhattan Project (Rich, 1994). Stealth moved into the `black world', control over the program shifted from DARPA to the Air Force Special Projects Office, and the project effectively disappeared from the record. Even the word `stealth' could no longer be used in any public statement or in an unclassified context (Peebles, 1999). Thus, stealth began as a series of algorithms published by a Soviet academic. Then a computer program, and a set of sketches in a top-secret factory. As the Skunk Works and Air Force began transforming those ideas into actual hardware, new spaces were produced. At first, the stealth program reproduced and reinvigorated existing spaces of secrecy. The Skunk Works built two prototypes at their secret factory in Burbank, California. By 1980 Lockheed had flown the two stealth demonstrators, code-named `Have Blue', at a secret Air Force Base near Groom Lake, Nevada. Impressed with the results, the Air Force prepared to commission a squadron of fighter-bombers based on the Skunk Works design. This shift from a secret prototype to a classified, operational aircraft meant expanding the emerging geographies of stealth. To manage the operational aspects of the stealth program, the Air Force created the 4450th Tactical Group on October 15, 1979, and began recruiting potential pilots.
  • Goatsucker: toward a spatial theory of state secrecy 763 Major Alton C `Al' Whitley was one of the first to be offered a job with the top-secret squadron. Whitely was told to report to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas for an interview and was promptly offered a chance to join. The interviewer did not tell Whitley what the job wasonly that it would require him to be away from his family constantly, that he could not be told much more, and that he had five minutes to decide. Whitley only needed ten seconds (Rich, 1994). He was then told to return to his unit: he would be contacted soon with new orders (Peebles, 1999). The 4450th Tactical Group would have an unprecedented assignment. It would be an entire unit with a classified mission flying classified planes. Even though the secret base at Groom Lake provided the secrecy that such a program would require, the base functioned as a flight-test center rather than an operational base. The Air Force deemed it unsuitable for the newly formed stealth unit. The solution was to build a new secret base within the Nellis Range near the old mining town of Tonopah, approximately 50 miles northeast of Groom Lake (Patton, 1998). The stealth base at the Tonopah Test Range was an expansion of an older facility, originally built in 1957 by Sandia National Laboratories to test arming, fusing, and firing systems for weapons and delivery systems for nuclear weapons (Duncan et al, 2000). New construction began in 1979 and continued even as the infant squadron began training in 1981. The Air Force beefed up security at the facility by surrounding the flight line with high fences and electronic security systems. Over the course of the early 1980s, the base grew from a remote Department of Energy outpost to a fullfeatured Air Force Base complete with new dormitories, dining halls, fire stations, fuel and water tanks, an improved runway, and rows of hangars (Lake, 1998; Peebles, 1999). Everything was in place except the planes. When the 4450th Tactical Group began training in June 1981, the stealth fighters were far from operational. The first flight of a stealth fighter, code named Senior Trend, took place at Groom Lake on June 19, 1981, but the plane required several years of tweaking and testing before it became truly functional. Meanwhile, for training purposes the Air Force outfitted the 4450th Tactical Group with a number of A-7 Corsairs, whose flight dynamics were similar to the new stealth planes. The older aircraft also provided a useful cover story for the `true' purpose of the group: when asked about the 4450th, Whitley and his colleagues said that they were testing avionics for A-7s (Rich, 1994). In September 1982, the 4450th Tactical Group at Tonopah Test Range got their first stealth fighter, providing the core of the Q-Unit, who would fly the `real' stealth fighters. By the end of that year, the Q-Unit began to receive additional planes as they rolled off the assembly line at Burbank and were deemed acceptable by test pilots at Groom Lake. As the planes arrived and operations began in earnest, the Q-Unit acquired a new name: the Goatsuckers (Peebles, 1999). As the stealth programs progressed, life at the Tonopah Test Range became increasingly vampiric. At the beginning of each week, pilots would leave their families in Las Vegas and fly north to the test range. Hangars at Tonopah opened an hour after sunset and closed an hour before sunrise. Two sorties flew each night, conducting nightly `turkey-shoots', simulating attacks against everything from apartments in Cleveland, to boats in Lake Tahoe. Whitley said that ``we could find Mrs. Smith's rooming house and take out the northeast corner guest room above the garage'' (Rich, 1994). With each `kill' of an unsuspecting person, or bombing of a sleeping home, the pilots gained points. When they arrived back at Tonopah after a night of hunting, the pilots would race against the clock to get to sleep before the sun came up (Peebles, 1999). This nocturnal schedule took its toll on the pilots and crews. By the end of each week, sleep-deprived pilots were a `wreck' (Sweetman, 2001). Lack of sleep coupled
  • 764 T Paglen with the disorientation of flying at night was exceedingly dangerous, even for an experienced pilot. Some of the goatsuckers began falling out of the sky. On July 11, 1986 Ross Mulhare complained to another pilot that he was exhausted and ``just couldn't shake it''; nevertheless, he took off from Tonopah at 1:13 am (Richelson, 2001). At 1:44 am, at a rest stop near Bakersfield, California, a tourist named Andy Hoyt saw ``three red lights and a dark image behind them like an upside-down triangle'' (quoted in Peebles, 1999, pages 174 ^ 175). Grabbing his camera, Hoyt took several pictures before the object disappeared from his sight. ``It seemed like something other than an airplane'', Hoyt said later, ``Believe it or not, I thought it was a UFO'' (The Bakersfield Californian 1986). An instant later, something ``lit up the sky like it was daylight out'', and a pair of explosions rocked the valley (Peebles, 1999). Ross Mulhare was dead. The exhausted stealth pilot had become disoriented in the night sky and slammed into the side of a mountain. When the Air Force arrived at the site, they installed armed guards to keep the curious away, made local firefighters sign statements swearing them to secrecy, and declared the site a national security/ national defense zone (Peebles, 1999). It was only the first in a series of crashes (Richelson, 2001). As the stealth planes ventured outside the restricted airspace of the Nellis Range, so did the space of stealth. Expansion created new contradictions. Mulhare's crash outside Nellis's borders meant that rural firefighters were compelled to sign secrecy oaths and that public spaces were cordoned off as national defense zones. The stealth fighter crash also pointed to another problem that was becoming endemic to the program: what to do with top-secret trash, such as the wrecked hulls of crashed stealth planes? How were the commanders of Groom Lake and the Tonopah Test Range to dispose of materials whose existence, not to mention chemical composition, were state secrets? The problem was not new to the stealth program: top-secret planes had been falling out of the skies near Groom Lake since the early days of the U-2 spy plane (Pedlow and Welzenbach, 1998). But top-secret weapons programs generate far more trash than wrecked aircraft hulls: in the case of the stealth program, there were paints and solvents, strange radar absorbent materials, experimental fuels, plastics, resins, and other unholy chemical concoctions. In the 1990s the military's solution to the problem of top-secret hazardous waste became public. Former workers at the Groom Lake described digging giant trenches; throwing top-secret airplane parts, chemicals, plastics, and other kinds of refuse into them; soaking the piles with jet fuel; and lighting them on fire (Rogers, 1993; Shenitz and Begley, 1995). The Air Force had developed a simple solution to the problem of `nonexistent' trash: burn it. In retrospect, evidence for a history of burning classified waste comes as early as 1968, when the US Geological Survey snapped an aerial image of the Groom Lake base for one of its aerial surveys. The photograph shows a long runway, rows of housing for base workers, an old collection of U-2 hangars to the north, and a group of hangars used for the A-12 spy plane to the south. Just west of the A-12 hangars, the photograph shows a cloud of thick, black smoke. As early as 1968, something was burning at the southwest corner of the base. As the stealth program developed over the late 1970s and early 1980s, so did the waste disposal problems associated with it. Not only did Lockheed and the Air Force burn the wreckage of crashed stealth planes and waste chemicals at the base, but they also began shipping waste from the Skunk Works manufacturing plant in Burbank to Groom Lake for similar disposal. Throughout the 1980s, a former worker explained, trucks would arrive on Mondays and Wednesdays filled with 55-gallon drums of top-secret waste from Burbank. The trucks carried no shipping manifests. The only
  • Goatsucker: toward a spatial theory of state secrecy 765 paper trail they did have was indecipherable through a haze of code names associated with the stealth program's various compartments. The trucks would make their way past the dormitories in the middle of the base and down a road towards the southern end at the foot of Papoose Mountain. Workers would then unload the barrels into 300 ft trenches, douse the barrels and other trash with jet fuel, and set the trenches on fire. The ensuing smoke became as ``thick as London fog'', said an anonymous former worker (Leiby, 1997, page f1). Fog from the burning stealth chemicals crept through the base and into the bodies of the people who worked there (Rogers, 1994d). The first inklings that something was not right came from the Skunk Works plant in Burbank, California. In 1988 a group of at least 160 Lockheed workers began publicly complaining of headaches, nausea, rashes, disorientation, memory lapses, and cancer. Five workers had already died. The phenomena centered on Skunk Works Building 351, an old World-War-Two-style hangar with a single guarded door. Inside, rubberized curtains hanging from the walls as a security measure collected the accumulated dust and debris from decades of work on secret airplanes. Exotic particles swirled continuously around the plant like snowflakes (Noble, 1988). The following year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ordered a series of inspections at the Skunk Works plant and cited Lockheed for 251 instances of ``willfully violating OSHA record-keeping requirements for injuring and illnesses'' (Swoboda, 1989, no page), 88 instances of willfully violating the government's hazardous communication standards, and failure to supply its workers with information about hazardous chemicals at the workplace (Swoboda, 1989). But the rubber-draped walls of the Skunk Works plant could not contain the accumulated decades of top-secret chemicals. By 1989 residents of Burbank found that the local water supply was horribly polluted and that the air was some of the worst in the country. Trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene made water beneath the San Fernando Valley too toxic to drink, cook with, or even bathe in (EPA, no date), while chemicals like carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, methylene chloride, and hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, poisoned the air and soil. The Skunk Works would soon become a superfund site (Aviation Week and Space Technology 1996; San Diego Union Tribune 2000; Victoroff, 2000). By 1991 Lockheed had agreed to pay $60 million in a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the Burbank site. Several years later, Lockheed settled a lawsuit with its employees. In 2000 the company agreed to a $5 million settlement with city residents (San Diego Union Tribune 2000). In the meantime, Lockheed abandoned Burbank and moved the Skunk Works northeast to the city of Palmdale, near Edwards Air Force Base in California's Antelope Valley. The stealth program had taken an unforeseen turn. If the plane was designed to kill without being seen, to enter someone else's airspace and deliver death before they knew it was coming, to create deadly lapses between cause, effect, and evidence, then in a sense, stealth was doing exactly that. But it was doing so far closer to home than the Pentagon might have intended. Nightly `turkey shoots' from the Tonopah test range may have only simulated the wanton destruction of the sleeping American West, but the chemicals leaking through the ground and cracks in the walls of the Skunk Works factory and the thick smoke from burning pits at Groom Lake brought the reality of the stealth program to land and bodies. Stealth insinuated itself into the groundwater, the soil, and the flesh of communities in its vicinity. Once again, as the stealth program expanded, so did the space of secrecy from which stealth was indistinguishable. Stealth was first an idea, then a computer program and some sketches, then secret factories, a secret airbase, a pair of secret squadrons. It migrated outside the restricted boundaries of the Nellis Range. Now it
  • 766 T Paglen was becoming part of the chemical composition of the air itself, even making its way into the bodies of the workers around it. $ In early 1994 Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall received a letter informing her that a George Washington University (GWU) professor was planning to sue the Air Force over toxic burning at Groom Lake. Professor Jonathan Turley, head of the Environmental Crimes Project at GWU asked Widnall to disclose any environmental crimes at the secret base in preparation for the lawsuit (Rogers, 1994a). The previous summer, a widow named Helen Frost had unsuccessfully tried to sue the Air Force and Lockheed over her husband's 1989 death, arguing that he had been killed by toxic fumes from the burn pits at Groom Lake. Frost failed to convince the judge that her husband's death was due to toxic fumes rather than alcoholism, but the 1993 lawsuit had prompted Nevada's Environmental Protection Division to begin an investigation into the site (Rogers, 1993). Turley became involved when a group of six anonymous workers came forward with stories corroborating Frost's allegations. They, too, claimed to have acquired strange illnesses while working at the base downwind of the burning trenches. Turley directed the first lawsuit towards the EPA, claiming that the EPA had failed to fulfill its obligations to inspect the site and was thereby culpable in part for his client's sicknesses (Rogers, 1994b). Two weeks later, Turley filed a second lawsuit against Secretary of Defense William Perry, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, and Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall (Las Vegas Review Journal 1994). Robert Frost's widow, Helen Frost, was the only named plaintiff in addition to the six John Does (Rogers, 1994c). The Air Force's first line of defense was to deny the existence of the base at Groom Lake and to invoke a `state secrets' privilege to claim that the federal court had no jurisdiction over the matter (Granader, 1995). In other words, the very existence or nonexistence of the base was a state secret, and therefore the federal courts had no jurisdiction over it. By November, Turley had presented hundreds of legal documents referring to the existence of the facility, forcing the Air Force to concede that ``there is an operating location near Groom Dry Lake'' (Rogers, 1994d, no page), but not the existence of hangars and a control tower, or anything else certainly not the existence of a full-scale flight-test facility (Bates, 1994). In the meantime, the Air Force quietly brought the EPA to the `operating location' for an inspectiona move designed to render the lawsuit against the EPA moot. But neither the Air Force nor the EPA would say anything about the EPA's findings, citing an obscure legal privilege that allows the Defense Department to conceal unclassified information (Greene, 1995). After finding out about this move, Turley wanted to know what the EPA report contained, and so did the six John Does. Their hope was that, if they learned what chemicals they had been exposed to, they could get better medical treatment (Darlington, 1997). In early September 1995 it appeared that the John Does were on the brink of winning when US District Judge Philip Pro ordered the government either to declassify the EPA report or to seek an executive order exempting the secret base from disclosure (Bates, 1995b). Turley proclaimed that the dying workers were being `vindicated' (Bates, 1995b). Judge Pro gave the government a deadline of 2 October to either release the EPA report or seek a presidential exemption. Although Judge Pro's ruling declared that the government could seek an exemption from the president, Turley thought that this was unlikely, saying that if the president
  • Goatsucker: toward a spatial theory of state secrecy 767 allows the military to ``circumvent the law, he will have to do so publicly and face the political consequences'' (Bates, 1995b, no page). He confidently stated that ``on Oct. 2, citizens will learn that they have a new federal facility'' and that ``the president will now have to personally exempt this facility by name, or order the military to operate it under the same rules as other [bases]'' (Bates, 1995b, no page). But Turley had misjudged the extent to which the government would go to keep its `operating location' secret. President Clinton accepted Turley's challenge to ``accept the political consequences'' of allowing the military to ``circumvent the law''. The facility would remain secret. It would also remain nameless. Its environmental report would remain secret. The workers would not get information about what they had been exposed to. Presidential Determination No. 95-45 was a simple two-paragraph memorandum to the EPA (see momorandum below). THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON September 29, 1995 Presidential Determination No. 95-45 MEMORANDUM FOR THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE SUBJECT: Presidential Determination on Classified Information Concerning the Air Force's Operating Location Near Groom Lake, Nevada. I find that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt the United States Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada (the subject of litigation in Kasza v. Browner (D. Nev. CV-S-94-795-PMP) and Frost v. Perry (D. Nev. CV-S-94- 714-PMP)) from any applicable requirement for the disclosure to unauthorized persons of classified information concerning that operating location. Therefore, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 6961(a), I hereby exempt the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada from any Federal, State, interstate or local provision respecting control and abatement of solid waste or hazardous waste disposal that would require the disclosure of classified information concerning that operating location to any unauthorized person. This exemption shall be effective for the full one-year statutory period. Nothing herein is intended to: (a) imply that in the absence of such a Presidential exemption, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or any other provision of law permits or requires disclosure of classified information to unauthorized persons; or (b) limit the applicability or enforcement of any requirement of law applicable to the Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada, except those provisions, if any, that would require the disclosure of classified information. The Secretary of the Air Force is authorized and directed to publish this Determination in the Federal Register. [Signed] William J. Clinton Turley and the John Does had been trumped by the highest authority: the facility remained unnamed, and the Air Force was exempt from providing information about its activities, no matter how mundane. The presidential order created a total ban on information coming out of the secret base. The toxic `London fog' at Groom Lake not only represented the space of stealth creeping into the flesh of those in its vicinity, but gave rise to an array of contradictions. The workers had gotten sick from their exposure to top-secret chemicals. They visited hospitals and went to see doctors. Stealth, thus, intersected the medical establishment. The workers sought a lawyer. That lawyer filed suit, bringing a discussion of the secret airbase and its goings-on into the legal system. The lawsuits raised environmental concerns at Groom Lake and brought the classified airbase to the attention of the EPA. The EPA's ensuing report represented another contradiction:
  • 768 T Paglen EPA reports are not supposed to be classified. At each of these moments, the space of stealth crept out from the restricted borders of its classified airbases. Each moment was like Ross Mulhare's plane crash, posing a contradiction between the space of secrecy and more mundane sectors of the state. The following March, Judge Pro dismissed the lawsuit against the Air Force by invoking the Mobius logic of state secrecy: ``The court first notes that the military and state secrets privilege is absolute, notwithstanding any allegations of criminal conduct. The court holds that federal defendants were not required to admit or deny allegations as to whether hazardous waste had been stored, treated, or disposed of at the site, because such information was classified and encompassed within the privilege ... the court next holds that plaintiffs could not provide the essential evidence to establish a prima facie case for any of their RCRA claims. The defendants' assertion of the military and state secrets privilege prevented the plaintiffs from providing detailed photographic evidence, sealed affidavits, and information in other exhibits'' (Frost v. Perry 1996). In other words, because all references to operations or activities at the unnamed `operating location' were state secrets, Turley and the John Does could not submit any evidence of wrongdoing (because the evidence would be secret). Because it is impossible to have a lawsuit without any evidence, the lawsuit, like the base and the stealth fighters tested there, cannot `exist' in some sort of conventional political or legal sense. The legal contradiction was resolved by the judge's ruling that the space of stealth was fundamentally incompatible with the legal system. The legal system was thereby altered to accommodate (by way of exclusion) the stealth program. Judge Pro's ruling was only barely more sophisticated than the Air Force's initial tautological claim: We don't know what you're talking about, because this place does not exist. And because this place does not exist, we don't know what you're talking about. If fragmented evidence of the ``operating location near Groom Lake'' had begun to form a rough sketch of the secret base in public, its lines would not be filled in. Instead, they would be erased. As the case seemed to be winding down, the government went again on the offensive, demanding to know the names of the six John Does and to interview them (Palermo, 1996). It was the last act in a strategy of complete silence: the government had denied everything, even the existence of the base itself, but made sure to try to find out who was asking. On appeal, Turley was able to convince the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the anonymity of the John Does (Bates, 1996), but was unable to successfully appeal Judge Pro's ruling that no court case could proceed because no evidence could be discussed. In November 1998 the Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal (Rogers, 1998). When the figure of John Doe (an amalgam of stealth workers' identities), through Jonathan Turley, sued the EPA for access to its newly minted report on the operating location near Groom Lake, Doe was asking a question about his own physiology. His hope was that the EPA report would help him understand what was happening to his changing body, that it would explain the burning flesh and bleeding skin that left him screaming in pain before the end of each day and left his bed sheets soaked with blood each morning (Leiby, 1997). John Doe hoped that by getting access to the EPA report, he might be able to explain to his doctor what he had been exposed to and therefore get specific treatment. He wanted to know what he was becoming so that he might treat himself, but relief was not coming. John Doe's body had fused with that of the stealth fighter, but the stealth fighter was still a state secret. John Doe's bare life took on that secrecyhis living flesh became a
  • Goatsucker: toward a spatial theory of state secrecy 769 special access program, and he was not in the `need to know' to be cleared for it. The space of stealth transformed his biology, which in turn led to the transformation of his political identity: in order to assert himself, Doe had to take on a political identity akin to the stealth fighter. To become a political subject, in other words, Doe's identity paradoxically had to become secret. He could only speak through a proxy. Jonathan Turley would speak for him. Next was his name: he became `John Doe', a man without history or family. His job was also obscuredwas he a welder, a construction worker, a flight technician, a pilot, a general? Who did he work for? The Air Force? Bechtel? Wackenhut? EG & G? REECO? The CIA? In the years before he died, Doe may have told acquaintances any number of things about his life as long as he did not reveal where he worked. Now, the exact opposite was true: Doe could say almost nothing except the location where he had worked. To stand up to the Air Force and to ask what he was becoming, Doe had to become as invisible as possible: secret death became a singular signifier for his life. The voice of John Doe had a simple and singular message: ``I am John Doe. I exist. I worked at Groom Lake. It exists. We burned things there. Now I am dying because of it.'' In 1995 one of the John Does died. Only after his death would his name become public: Walter Kasza. He had been awarded three bronze stars for heroism fighting against the Nazis in World War Two; he had been married for 45 years; he had children; and he had worked for seven years as a sheet-metal worker at the ``operating location near Groom Lake'' (Bates, 1995a; Leiby, 1997; Patton, 1998). $ My aim here has been to show how state secrecy works in terms of the production of space. I have shown how state secrecy cannot be wholly understood by focusing on its legal, political, bureaucratic, or cultural/spectacular aspects in isolation from one another. Moreover, I have shown how state secrecy creates peculiar political subjects, even ecologies and transformations of nature. This, I believe, represents a step towards formulating a more theoretically convincing account of secrecy than what is available in the current literature. Although I chose the story of the stealth fighter to illustrate the ways in which state secrecy and the production of space are one and the same, there are myriad other stories which would have illustrated the same argument. A study of Khaled el-Masri's `extraordinary rendition' from Macedonia, his subsequent confinement at a CIA prison called the `Salt Pit' outside Kabul, and failed attempts to seek redress from the court system (where the case discussed in this paper, Kasza v. Browner, was cited as a precedent to keep `state secrets' out of court) would have illustrated the same dynamics of state secrecy (Grey, 2006; Mayer, 2008; Paglen and Thompson, 2006). There is little doubt that the proliferation of classified programs and covert actions during the Bush administration, and their substantial continuation under the Obama administration, has entailed a deep transformation of American cultural and political geographies. Indeed, geographies of secrecy have carved out their own `nonspace' in the American legal system, as illustrated by the Bush (and now Obama) Justice Department's unprecedented reliance upon the state secrets privilege to keep troublesome lawsuits out of the court system (Hendler, 2010; Siegel, 2009). Meanwhile, classified spending (the so-called `black budget') has grown under the Obama Administration to historic highs, creating secret military and intelligence industries and economies (Sweetman, 2009). Moreover, geographies of secrecy have even transformed the epistemic norms of political discourse, as illustrated most famously by Donald Rumsfeld's ``unknown unknowns'', but perhaps more concretely by Marc Thiessen's
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