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October 17, 2017

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Workers’ attorney appeals to Supreme Court in Area 51 case

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University environmental law professor, claims two workers died from exposure to toxic waste burning at Area 51, 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

"What happened was an outrage, and we will remain active in pursuing justice," Turley said Monday.

Turley filed the appeal July 27, asking the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The appeals court, in a 3-0 decision on Jan. 8, upheld the Air Force's claim that disclosure of the information Turley seeks could endanger national security and violate a 1995 order by President Clinton.

The appeals court ruled that five current and former workers at the base and the widows of the two dead workers, all represented by Turley, aren't entitled to learn whether hazardous substances exist at Area 51 or how they are handled.

The court also ruled that the results of a federal inspection of the base and even its name couldn't be disclosed.

Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney said Monday the department hasn't been notified of Turley's appeal to the Supreme Court but would have 45 days to respond "and we will."

Turley acknowledged his appeal is a long shot, noting that few cases are accepted by the Supreme Court. But he said the issues in the Area 51 lawsuit should interest some justices.

"The 9th Circuit's ruling seemed to create new law in national security as well as environmental law that contradicts past Supreme Court rulings," he said. "This case has many of the elements the court looks for. The question is whether a sufficient number of justices will be interested."


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