LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The world is getting a birds-eye view of Russian troop movements inside Ukraine, in large part because of technology that was developed and perfected by the spymasters who ran the world’s most famous military base — at Area 51.
8 News Now I-Team Reporter George Knapp spoke with a former CIA technician who was at the base during those secret programs.
Defense Department satellites and other platforms are keeping a close eye on Russian ground forces as they pour into Ukraine and creep ever close to the capital city. Many similar images have ended up on newscasts, documenting to the world how dire the situation has become for Ukrainians.
“I think what Putin has done is he woke up the world and everybody is taking notice,” said TD Barnes, a former CIA electronics specialist.
Barnes spent decades working for the CIA at a classified outpost now known all over the world — Nevada’s Area 51, the facility is well known for the development of amazing spy planes, including the U-2 and later, the sleek Blackbirds, A-12 and SR-71.
After a U-2 was shot down by Russia in the early ‘60s, another fledgling surveillance technology was fast-tracked. The CORONA satellites changed everything for the Pentagon and gave the U.S. military a crystal clear look at Russian capabilities during the darkest days of the Cold War. CORONA was the precursor to more advanced satellites being used right now to monitor Vlad Putin’s invasion.
“Actually, we pioneered the satellite that’s looking at him now,” Barnes said. “That was the CORONA program that was happening while I was at Area 51. We developed the CORONA satellites and at the same time we did the U2 and the A-12.”
And we used those for many, many years.
The CIA’s science and technology division, which essentially ran Area 51, Spearheaded the top secret CORONA program, and the same CIA man who oversaw Area 51 was the point man for CORONA. Cover stories and disinformation hid the true purpose of the CORONA launches. The intelligence provided by CORONA, and the cameras and spy platforms developed at Area 51 helped the U.S. prevail in the Cold War, just as their successor programs are helping in Ukraine right now.
TD Barnes and his Area 51 colleagues always considered Russia to be America’s primary strategic adversary, and if you ask them, the Cold War never really ended.