Fueling continued speculation about the top-secret government base, President Bush has renewed the exemption allowing the military to refuse to provide any information about its operations at Area 51 in Nevada.

Saying it was of “paramount interest” to exempt the Groom Lake facility, Bush signed the order, which has been renewed every year since President Clinton first put it in place in 1995, the Associated Press reports.

Area 51, located on a dry lake bed 90 miles north of Las Vegas, has been the subject of widespread speculation, with some believing the federal government is hiding evidence of extraterrestrial vehicles or life forms. The mystery began in the nearby town of Rachel several years ago when a worker at the Nevada Test Site allegedly saw alien space ships at the base.

The Extraterrestrial Highway, a portion of Route 375 renamed by the state of Nevada.

In issuing the exemption, AP reports, Bush cited 1994 lawsuits that were brought by injured workers and the widows of two workers who claim the men were harmed by toxic materials at Groom Lake.

“It is baffling to see the government continue to cover up what went on at Area 51,” attorney Jonathan Turley, who represents the family, told the news service. “It is clear that there were … crimes and that government officials continue to resist any disclosure that would confirm such criminal content.”

One result of Bush’s renewal is exempting the Air Force from following federal, state or local solid-waste and hazardous-waste laws if classified information would be disclosed.

While acknowledging the existence of the base, the federal government has not revealed what goes on there. The area is constantly patrolled and is under a no-fly zone.

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