Top-secret sites are ripe with intrigue. By their very nature, governments can’t reveal what goes on within them. With the absence of a purpose, conspiracy theorists go wild, positing everything from underground tunnels beneath amusement parks to missing people on milk cartons used for genetic experimentation. The reality is much more benign and awful: these sites are made to research new weapons and defense systems, from biological agents to new aircraft.Continue reading to see 12 top-secret sites from around the world.
1. Cheyenne Mountain Complex
Known as the NORAD Cave, this bunker, a relic from the Cold War, has been reinvigorated since the attacks of 9/11. Literally located inside Cheyenne Mountain, near Colorado Springs, Colo., its original function was to create a combat operations center impervious to a nuclear blast (at least to 1960s standards). The complex has its own water, electric supply, air-filtration system, can absorb the shock of an earthquake and is safe from electromagnetic pulses.
Its mission today is to provide warnings of ballistic attack, support space operations, and combined with U.S. Northern Command, assist in keeping American and Canadian airspace safe. The U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Missile Defense Agency all have “office” space within its walls. That’s quite a fraternity of secrecy.
How secret is it today? Not at all. It’s even pictured on NORAD’s own website saying “No Public Tours.”
Still, when it comes to the protection and National Security of the United States, there is probably a lot more we don’t know.
2. National Security Agency/ “Stellar Wind”As reported in Wired Magazine, the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. When completed, its mission will be to sift through the billions of calls, email, Google searches and personal data trails like travel itinerates, book purchases and other digital “pocket litter.” The surveillance program is codenamed “Stellar Wind.” As Amy Goodman said, “The NSA created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes.”
Wired’s James Banford added that even though the CIA is more known, the NSA is actually three times the size, more secret than the CIA, and costs far more. “The NSA is really the most powerful intelligence agency, not only in the U.S., but in the world today.”
3. Area 51The granddaddy of all secret bases, the government didn’t even acknowledge its existence until 1995. It hosts a variety of conspiracy theories, including one that has seeped into popular culture: an alien spaceship crashed and the U.S. tried to reverse engineer all of its technological marvels. Located in Nevada, the area is part of Nellis Military Operations Area and has restricted airspace known by pilots as The Box. Its purpose is to test new technologies and training systems, most likely aircraft. To people 40 years ago, some of the stealth planes being developed at the time must have looked like alien crafts.
Wonder what the government thinks of the idea that anyone can look at Area 51 through the ease of Google Earth?
4. Site RSite R (official name, Raven Rock Mountain Complex) is an underground relocation facility for the Department of Defense, and is sometimes known as the “underground Pentagon.” Located in Pennsylvania about six miles from presidential retreat Camp David, there is a theory that a secret tunnel connects the two.
The DOD Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) website describes RRMC as "The Nation's Premier Secure Strategic Battle Command Platform – assuring senior leader's ability to execute their mission essential functions. RRMC's elite workforce provides a unique capability to meet requirements of a nation at war."
It was yet another Cold War bunker with no discernible purpose given new life after 9/11 when it was allegedly used as the undisclosed location of Vice-President Cheney, and “then as a base for revitalized ‘continuity of government’ operations”. As Wired wrote, “We couldn’t help but think that the only thing Site R protected was its own existence.”
Who has a logo of a sinister black bird to a bomb shelter entrance? Creepy.
5. The Capitol Visitor CenterThe Capitol Visitor Center or (CVC) is built entirely underground on the east side of our nation’s Capitol and its purpose, like the title, is to welcome visitors to Washington, D.C. But there is a theory that within, or underneath, the 580,000-square-foot building is a top-secret bottom floor for Congress’ use in an emergency. Exhibit A: four bombproof skylights, a tunnel system large enough for vehicles to move around, and the building has a sophisticated IT infrastructure that houses thousands of feet of fiber-optic cable.
The notion is not outlandish. Think of the White House, all stately on top, hiding a revamped Situation Room and a nuclear-bomb shelter beneath the East Wing to which Vice President Cheney was whisked on the morning of 9/11. As According to Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, the center’s cost doubled from the original estimate of $265 million to $559 million today. “We never saw anyone complaining about the lack of a $559 million visitor’s center. It’s not being done for the visitors. It’s being done for the members".
6. Pine Gap, AustraliaSometimes considered the Australian “Area 51,” it is the ground station for a network that intercepts telephone, radio and data links from around the world. Originally codenamed MERINO, it employs workers from the CIA and National Reconnaissance Office.
Pine Gap is important because of its advantageous proximity to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, its isolation, and its location in an area of low electromagnetic radiation. Tunnels supposedly run up to 12 levels deep and several miles out, like the spokes of a wheel.
7. Camp PearyCamp Peary, aka The Farm, an area occupying about 10,000 acres, is where CIA agents are believed to receive covert training. Located near Williamsburg, Va., the CIA’s Directorate of Operations uses the facility for training ranging from “basic operations through advanced weapons and explosions, driving, field surveillance, infiltration and exfiltration and other clandestine and paramilitary skills." There is a sister training site in Harvey Point, N.C.
8. Mount YamantauAlso featured in the game “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” Mount Yamantau is located in the Ural Mountains of Russia and is suspected by the United States of being a large secret nuclear facility or bunker. It’s near one of Russia’s last remaining nuclear labs and is a part of the “Dead Hand” nuclear retaliatory command structure. Scary enough, “Dead Hand” can automatically trigger the launch of Russian ICBMs if a nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity or overpressure sensors. It’s part of Russia’s fail-deadly deterrence. Here’s hoping Russia doesn’t get an earthquake and the computer makes a mistake interpreting the data.
9. Liberty CrossingHome to the National Counterterrorism Center, it’s based in a complex in McLean, Va. and draws on experts from the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and other agencies to avoid a large-scale terror plot. Each office is essentially a vault. The external windows are bullet and blast proof.
Notably, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9/11. Together, they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons.
10. RAF Menwith HillLocated near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, the Royal Air Force Menwith Hill station is supposedly the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. It is operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and is part of the ECHELON system, created to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Anything that looks like a giant golf ball can’t be good. Wonder if Disney’s Epcot Center is hiding a secret too?
11. Negev Nuclear Research CenterLocated in the Negev Desert, Israel, it is supposedly a nuclear facility built in 1958. How is that possible if Israel has never publically declared it has a nuclear capability? Instead, Israel keeps to a policy known as “nuclear ambiguity.”
Next: These People Look Ridiculous
12. Porton DownLocated near Wiltshire, England, Porton Down is a government and military “science park.” That makes it sound like a fun amusement park. It is anything but. Due to World War I, it studied chemical warfare. As decades passed, the specific studies changed (from mustard gas to nerve agents in the ‘40s) but it continued to study biological warfare and even took part in human experimentation as servicemen were duped into volunteering for research they believed was about the common cold. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t for the common cold.