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FBI and US Air Force agents have raided the homes of a man who runs a website about the top secret military base in Nevada known as Area 51.

Officers entered the properties of Joerg Arnu in Las Vegas and the town of Rachel, which is close to the defence facility, earlier this month as part of a joint investigation, authorities have confirmed, but gave no further details.

The blogger operates a site called Dreamland Resort which focuses on Area 51, an air force base about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas where testing is conducted on classified military aircraft.

Started by Mr Arnu in 1999, it includes satellite images of the base; articles on test flights, “black projects” and UFOs; drone videos of locations around Area 51 and details on scanner frequencies.

Confirming the raids, Lt Col Bryon McGarry, a spokesman for Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “This is an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation between the Las Vegas FBI and Air Force OSI (Office of Special Investigations).”

In a news release posted on his website, Mr Arnu said: “I believe the search, executed with completely unnecessary force by overzealous government agents was meant as a message to silence the Area 51 research community.”

He said each of his homes had been raided on 3 November by up to 20 agents “in full riot gear”.

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The raids happened while Mr Arnu was in his Rachel home and his girlfriend in the Las Vegas one, and he said they were both “detained and treated in the most disrespectful way”.

He added: “My girlfriend was led out into the street barefoot and only in her underwear in full view of our neighbours.

“I was led outside, handcuffed and only in T-shirt and sweats in sub-freezing temperatures.

“Despite my repeated requests for an explanation, I was only told that the search was related to images posted on my Area 51 website.”

Image:
Classified military aircraft are tested at the defence facility

During the raid, Mr Arnu claimed that all of his “laptops, phones, backup drives, camera gear and my drone were seized”.

He estimated the damage to his home at $5,000 (£4,206) and the value of the confiscated equipment at $20,000 (£16,823).

He claimed there were 40 pages missing from the search warrant he received and the case file was sealed, preventing him reading about it.

Mr Arnu went on: “In an effort to defuse the situation I have removed some material from my Dreamland Resort website although I believe that it was legally obtained and legal to publish.

“I am not sharing anything on my website that cannot be found on dozens of other websites and news outlet publications.

“Considering how this went down I have no intention of removing any more material unless ordered to do so by a federal judge.”

Pic: AP
Image:
Mr Arnu believes the raids aimed ‘to silence the Area 51 research community’. Pic: AP

Area 51 has long been a focus of UFO and alien conspiracy theories, only enhanced by its secretive role.

The nearby state route 375 was even officially dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996.

But Mr Arnu is dismissive on his website of UFO stories.

Image:
Area 51 has long been a focus of UFO and alien conspiracy theories. Pic: AP

He states: “In reality, anyone who spends some time investigating Area 51 will quickly understand that what goes on there is very earthly in origin and has nothing to do with ‘ET’.

“It becomes apparent that the abundant UFO folklore is nothing but a welcome smokescreen, a distraction from the real purpose of the base, research and development of all sorts of black projects.”

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived back in America after being freed in a prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.

The 32-year-old WNBA star was flown to San Antonio, Texas.

US special presidential envoy, Roger D. Carstens, said: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”

Ms Griner was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She had pleaded guilty at her trial saying she used the cartridges to relieve pain from sports injuries and had made an “honest mistake”.

Nevertheless, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August.

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Griner’s wife: ‘Family is whole today’

US President Joe Biden said Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and been through a “terrible ordeal”.

More on Brittney Griner

Ms Griner “represents the best of America”, he added.

President Biden insisted the US has not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a former US marine who remains in Russian custody.

A senior US official said the administration tried everything they could to get Mr Whelan out, but “they are treating him differently. They say he is an espionage case. They said the choice was either one [Griner] or none”.

He did not refer to the price the US paid for Ms Griner’s liberty – the release of convicted arms dealer Bout.

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Joe Biden says Brittney Griner ‘lost months of her life’

Bout could land public role now he’s home and dry

Victor Bout has been top of the list of citizens Russia wants back for quite some time. He was jailed in 2012 for 25 years on arms dealing charges after two decades spent selling Soviet-era weaponry to rebels, warlords and dictators.

The Taliban, al Qaeda and Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia were all reportedly on his client roster.

His life was immortalised in the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Russia has always declared him innocent and that the case against him was fabricated.

Selling arms at that level tends not to happen without some kind of relationship with Russian security services, which may also be why Russia was so keen to get him home.

“Bout’s personality was demonised,” Russian lawmaker Maria Butina told me back in August after the US secretary of state said it was ready to strike a deal to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back. “I believe he’s like an evil Russian for the Americans, a bogeyman,” she said.

Butina herself spent 15 months in US detention after she was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Now she has a seat in the parliament.

Russia has a tendency to give public positions to people wanted by the West. Don’t be surprised if Bout finds himself with a similar role now he’s finally made it home.

Ms Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after going through “one of the darkest moments of my life”.

“So today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there’s so many other families who are not whole.”

The Griner-Bout swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” it said in a statement.

Pressure on Washington over Griner case

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate US sting, the Russian state has been keen to bring him back.

President Biden’s agreement to release Bout highlights the escalating pressure that his administration has faced to bring Ms Griner home, particularly after the recent conclusion of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Ms Griner’s detention was widely condemned by campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he was planning to fly to Russia in a bid to free the US basketball player.

The Texan-born athlete revealed her fears that she could be in prison “forever” in a letter to President Biden on US Independence Day.

She wrote: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.

“On the 4 July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout

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on

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Brittney Griner arrives back in US after prisoner swap with Russian 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout

US basketball star Brittney Griner has arrived back in America after being freed in a prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death”.

The 32-year-old WNBA star was flown to San Antonio, Texas.

US special presidential envoy, Roger D. Carstens, said: “So happy to have Brittney back on US soil. Welcome home BG!”

Ms Griner was detained in February when customs agents said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

She had pleaded guilty at her trial saying she used the cartridges to relieve pain from sports injuries and had made an “honest mistake”.

Nevertheless, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison in August.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Griner’s wife: ‘Family is whole today’

US President Joe Biden said Ms Griner had been held under “intolerable circumstances” and been through a “terrible ordeal”.

More on Brittney Griner

Ms Griner “represents the best of America”, he added.

President Biden insisted the US has not forgotten about Paul Whelan, a former US marine who remains in Russian custody.

A senior US official said the administration tried everything they could to get Mr Whelan out, but “they are treating him differently. They say he is an espionage case. They said the choice was either one [Griner] or none”.

He did not refer to the price the US paid for Ms Griner’s liberty – the release of convicted arms dealer Bout.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Joe Biden says Brittney Griner ‘lost months of her life’

Bout could land public role now he’s home and dry

Victor Bout has been top of the list of citizens Russia wants back for quite some time. He was jailed in 2012 for 25 years on arms dealing charges after two decades spent selling Soviet-era weaponry to rebels, warlords and dictators.

The Taliban, al Qaeda and Charles Taylor’s regime in Liberia were all reportedly on his client roster.

His life was immortalised in the 2005 Hollywood film Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Russia has always declared him innocent and that the case against him was fabricated.

Selling arms at that level tends not to happen without some kind of relationship with Russian security services, which may also be why Russia was so keen to get him home.

“Bout’s personality was demonised,” Russian lawmaker Maria Butina told me back in August after the US secretary of state said it was ready to strike a deal to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan back. “I believe he’s like an evil Russian for the Americans, a bogeyman,” she said.

Butina herself spent 15 months in US detention after she was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Now she has a seat in the parliament.

Russia has a tendency to give public positions to people wanted by the West. Don’t be surprised if Bout finds himself with a similar role now he’s finally made it home.

Ms Griner’s wife Cherelle said she was “overwhelmed with emotions” after going through “one of the darkest moments of my life”.

“So today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there’s so many other families who are not whole.”

The Griner-Bout swap took place at Abu Dhabi airport, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” it said in a statement.

Pressure on Washington over Griner case

For almost two decades, Bout was one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers, selling weaponry to rogue states, rebel groups and murderous warlords in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Ever since his capture in an elaborate US sting, the Russian state has been keen to bring him back.

President Biden’s agreement to release Bout highlights the escalating pressure that his administration has faced to bring Ms Griner home, particularly after the recent conclusion of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

Ms Griner’s detention was widely condemned by campaigners, including former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he was planning to fly to Russia in a bid to free the US basketball player.

The Texan-born athlete revealed her fears that she could be in prison “forever” in a letter to President Biden on US Independence Day.

She wrote: “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.

“On the 4 July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.

“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”

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Justice Department demands Donald Trump’s office be held in contempt over classified document subpoena, reports say

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Justice Department demands Donald Trump's office be held in contempt over classified document subpoena, reports say

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to hold Donald Trump’s office in contempt of court for failing to fully comply with a subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession, it has been reported.

One of the key areas of disagreement centres on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to acknowledge that all materials have been returned to the federal government, the report in Thursday’s Washington Post added.

District court Judge Beryl Howell has not yet held a hearing or ruled on the request, according to the newspaper.

The former president and his team say that the request is unreasonable, while the Justice Department declined to comment on the report.

A Trump spokesman told Reuters that the former president’s lawyers “continue to cooperate and be transparent” while describing the probe as “a political witch hunt”.

On Wednesday, an appeal court judged to end the use of a third-party special master to review records in the investigation, a move that allows the Justice Department to access about 13,000 records seized by the FBI at Mr Trump’s Florida estate for its ongoing criminal probe.

“President Trump will continue to fight against weaponisation of law enforcement and pursue appropriate legal avenues to obtain the items that were brazenly and illegally seized from his home during the Biden regime’s unconstitutional raid,” Mr Trump’s spokesman added.

More on Donald Trump

The Justice Department is investigating whether the former president broke the law by retaining government records, some marked as top secret, after leaving office in January 2021.

Mr Trump, who last month announced a third run for the presidency in 2024, is facing multiple legal troubles. His efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election continue to be investigated.

He also faces a state probe over a push to reverse his election loss in Georgia, where this week a candidate that Mr Trump had heavily backed failed to win a senate seat for the Republicans, handing President Joe Biden a political victory.

Earlier this week, his real estate company was found guilty of running a criminal scheme to defraud tax authorities over the last 15 years, although Mr Trump was not personally charged in the case.

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