The origins of Lazar's "S4 security ID badge" and the roles of John Lear and Bill Cooper
Recently, a kind and generous reader by the name of Amy Collins (who maintains an excellent website about the Soviet space program) and who is the stepdaughter of a former employee at the Nevada Test Site (now the Nevada National Security Site), notified me about some interesting information she's collated regarding the Bob Lazar story and the roles of John Lear and Milton William Cooper (henceforth "Bill Cooper") in its genesis. Amy graciously agreed to review this article before I published it and has vouched that what I've written is consistent with her knowledge and experiences.
John Lear, son of pilot and businessman William Powell Lear (1902-1978) of Learjet fame, and himself an accomplished pilot who reputedly flew missions for the CIA in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, is an active conspiracy theorist whose yarns are, shall we say, too much even for many seasoned members of the UFO circuit to swallow. Lear has promoted everything from Paul Bennewitz's Dulce base story to the notion that alien praying mantids control the world to the Billy Meier scam. It's hard to know whether he genuinely believes all this stuff (his sheer commitment to it would suggest that he really does, though commitment is not at all synonymous with sincerity), but he's certainly been at it for a long time and was making TV appearances at least as far back as the late 1980s talking about UFO-related government cover-ups. As we'll see below, he was also instrumental in originating and promoting the Bob Lazar story (see my other Lazar article for more details about Lear's involvement).
As Amy explains, Lear worked at the Nevada Test Site during the early 1980s by flying over the site to collect air samples to measure radioactive contamination from the nuclear testing there. Even though the last atmospheric nuclear test at the NTS was conducted in July of 1962, after which all tests by the United States were performed underground, there were persistent concerns about the leakage of radioactive material from outgassing from underground tests into the atmosphere, accompanied by various programs to gauge the extent of this contamination.
The late Bill Cooper (1943-2001) was a conspiracy theorist and believer in government-alien machinations/cover-ups. He explicitly tied this narrative to the Illuminati/Bilderberg/Freemasons/One World Government tropes, and was also heavily into promoting JFK assassination conspiracy theories (the unfortunate president was, according to Cooper, on the cusp of revealing an alien presence on Earth and so had to be done away with) along with the notion that the US government engineered HIV to target blacks, Hispanics and homosexuals as part of a population reduction scheme (ironically, Cooper was an anti-communist libertarian type who railed against "Illuminati Socialist President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton" but was parroting an item that had been concocted and perpetuated by the disinformation department of the Soviet KGB to undermine American prestige in the Third World. See details about this Soviet psychological operation in Thomas Rid's "Active Measures". The HIV-as-weapon trope continues to make the rounds in some conspiratorially-minded quarters, partly thanks to Cooper's exertions. Cooper himself was undoubtedly unaware of the Soviet origins of the HIV tale and would have been aghast at assisting Soviet "active measures"). Cooper also became affiliated with the Second Continental Army of the Republic, an anti-government militia group, and was convinced that President Clinton and the IRS were conspiring against him. After evading multiple attempts to serve arrest warrants for tax evasion, the authorities finally caught up with him and he was tragically killed in a shootout (a sheriff's deputy was also killed, shot in the head by Cooper during the confrontation).
Here is Amy's original message to me, sent December 9, 2021:
Hi Dr. Cayetano,
After viewing you excellent website, I thought you might find it
interesting that I have found the backstory on Bob Lazar's security
He in fact got the design for it from seeing John Lear's expired test
site badge. (Lear was cleared in the early 1980s to fly over and take
radiation measurements at the Nevada Test Site (NTS).
What was little known then and now was that both the NTS and the "Area
51" Groom Lake Complex ran by the Air Force used the same badges with
a dosimeter holder issued by the Department of Energy Nevade [sic] Field
Office. An "8" visible (and not punched out) on the badge specifically
gave access to A51.
The old style of badge had the blue diagonal stripes but the newer
type used in the late 1980's was simply plain white with embossed gold
"NV" markings. The Expires: INDEF was moved to the bottom, near the
Other details such as Mike Thigpen's name as a clearance processor
could have been learned from Lear. Also other details such as how they
paid for food at the cafeteria. Lear may have provided him a bogus
answer - I think they just swiped the barcode at the bottom of the
badge or typed it in and it was charged back against the badge holder
at his respective agency.
I have attached a graphic I made about where I knew him to get his
information. Lear was definitely a partner in cooking this all up. The
Zeta Reticuli and MAJ markings on the badge were a result of Bill
Cooper's information which Lear not only had but likely spread
photocopies like penny candy to his friends.
Had Lazar either made the W2 or badge with "Office of Naval
Intelligence" as opposed to "Department" he would have been in real
trouble with the Feds.
You have my OK to use the graphic as you wish, My step father worked
at the Nevada Test Site in the 1980s and this gave me further insight
into the badge issue.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Amy has put together the following graphic to concisely illustrate some aspects of the Lazar story and how Lear and Cooper (as well as Billy Meier, though that was also through Lear) tie into:
Amy encourages people to widely disseminate this graphic, so please feel free to do so. Click on the image or download it here.
We can note some important things that are directly referenced or alluded to in this graphic:
-- The "S4" badge is period incorrect for a DoE-issued item: it uses (plagiarizes) the older-style diagonal blue stripes from early 1980s badges that were eventually superseded by versions using a simple white background and gold markings, yet Lazar claims that he worked at "S4" from late 1988 to early 1989. Of course, one could say that his badge was not issued by the DoE but rather the Department of Naval Intelligence - except that there was no such "Department". There was and is only an Office of Naval Intelligence, and it is part of the Department of the Navy. But, as Amy points out, using a fake "Department of Naval Intelligence" designation shielded Lazar from being accused of impersonating a federal employee, which is a felony. Legally speaking, this was thus a shrewd move on his part. Equally shrewd was to claim that he worked at "S4" - which in his story was a base dug into Papoose Mountain - rather than Area 51-proper, as the latter would have garnered more opposition from actual Area 51 employees.
-- The letter font for "MAJ" on Lazar's "S4 badge" is the same as that on his actual LANL security card. Of course, there is no "Maj" or "Majestic" clearance. It's a trope from UFO lore and has been doing the rounds for decades. It was certainly well known within UFO circles by the time that Lazar came out with his story. Even if the "Majestic 12" group existed, it would be ridiculous for them - a super-secret cabal - to advertise this fact on someone's security ID badge. Majestic 12 is reputed, in some versions of the myth, to be "above the President" on the issue of UFOs and extraterrestrials (in the 1987 interview with Knapp linked to earlier, Lear questions whether POTUS is told very much at all about the ET presence). Lazar's referencing to the MJ-12 mythology was purely for the consumption and gratification of the UFO crowd, who Lazar wished to ingratiate himself to (despite claiming that he's "not interested in UFOs") by regurgitating their mythology back to them.
-- "Z" numbers were issued to people working at LANL, including outside contractors. This did not give them "Q" clearance (the highest-level clearance used by the Department of Energy). Lazar has never proved that he worked on classified projects or on anything requiring a Q clearance. His LANL badge is consistent with him occupying a low-level position as an electronics technician or lab assistant (incidentally, Lear has inadvertently given the game away on this score during an interview in which he claims that Lazar was at the NTS to check dosimeters, which was probably the type of task within his job description at LANL).
-- John Lear can be seen in the lower left of the graphic, sporting a badge with a dosimeter. The insert shows a facsimile of Lear's face from the larger photo placed over the same style of badge that he is wearing: one with diagonal blue stripes and the dosimeter attached to it. (Note that the "007" designation under Lear's name in the facsimile is for depiction purposes only, as far as I know. his actual ID number was probably not 007) The original photo showing the close-up of the badge itself is from another former NTS employee:
-- The Billy Meier connection: Lear became a major proponent of the Swiss "contactee" (though initially, as seen in the 1987 interview with Knapp, he expressed serious doubts about the Meier beamship photos. Lear is an example of how far down the rabbit hole someone can go by virtue of how his beliefs have become ever more extreme and bizarre over the decades). The "sport model" that Lazar supposedly worked on at "S4" is a virtual copy of a "Pleiadean" (or "Plejaren", in the terminology of Meier's mythos) craft.
-- Various other narrative elements that John Lear and/or Bill Cooper likely contributed, such as references to Mike Thigpen, Janet flights, Zeta Reticulan aliens (a common trope by the time of Lazar's story and that was derived from the Betty and Barney Hill case and the "star map" analysis by Marjorie Fish) and Naval Intelligence. Cooper supposedly worked for Naval Intelligence at one point, but there is apparently only definitive evidence affirming that he at most held a relatively low-ranking position in the Navy and would not have been privy to viewing the types of documents that he claims to have seen (and that right there is yet another trope borrowed by Lazar: "briefing documents" alluding to an extraterrestrial presence). Naval intelligence seems to crop up quite a bit in UFO lore, and it could easily have been injected into Lazar's story thanks to Cooper talking to Lear. In any case, Lazar's "S4" badge is a laughable concoction - further evidence not for the claims in his story but for the fact that he fabricated it and that he is exactly the type of person who would make up a yarn about working on alien technology.
I asked Amy what her stepfather, Thomas J. Watson, did at the Nevada Test Site. She responded:
He worked for the P-3 (Phy[s]ics
Division) of Los Alamos as a Mechanical engineer. He helped assemble
various sensors to the "device. He went to the Test site on JANET
flights. I have seen the paperwork for that."
She has confirmed to me that "device" was a euphemism for a nuclear weapon. 921 nuclear tests, involving 1,021 detonations, were conducted at the NTS, most of them underground.
Here are the other items that Amy has allowed me to share (descriptions are beneath the items):
This correspondence references Lazar's "Z Number" (as would appear on his LANL badge) while working at the laboratory under contract from Kirk-Mayer. It should be noted that Lazar has himself said that he "initially" worked as a technician at LANL, but he also claims to have been a physicist later on, an assertion for which no compelling evidence exists. The best he can muster is a newspaper clipping from 1982 that credulously repeated his claim of being a physicist (the article was about his jet-powered Honda) and Dr. Robert Krangle's claim, in an interview with Jeremy Corbell, that he remembers Lazar at LANL, and that Lazar seemed to exude the demeanor of a physicist but that he personally has no idea what Lazar actually did at the facility. Lazar has no documentation in his own possession affirming his claimed status as a physicist at LANL - nor, incidentally, for his claims about earning master's degrees from CalTech and MIT. He has no scientific papers to his name, nor has he ever stood in front of a panel of physicists to discuss his supposed knowledge of alien technology.
A photo of John Lear sporting his security badge. Note the dosimeter wrapped around the bottom and left/right of the badge (see again Amy's graphic for a closer view of this type of badge and an image further below showing a dismantled dosimeter of the same type). He is standing in front of a propeller-driven North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco aircraft (see next image). This type of aircraft was used for reconnaissance during the Vietnam War and is a highly versatile platform, ideal for loitering over an area and, by virtue of that, presumably also for collecting air samples. It is still in service in air forces around the world.
A wider view shot of the same photo, with Lear in front of a repurposed Bronco aircraft that he flew over the NTS as part of his sampling duties at the site. Lear's involvement with the NTS and DoE would have made him privy to some administrative details he could easily have passed onto Lazar, such as the Janet flights ferrying people to Area 51 (Lear claims to have landed at Area 51, and this could well be true). Note that this photo was signed, not taken, in 1991. Lear looks rather more youthful in this photo than in his TV appearance in 1987, and it shows the older-style security badge with the diagonal stripes (see again the previous images for a closer look).
A dismantled dosimeter of the type that was combined with a security badge when working at the NTS in the early 1980s. This is the same type of dosimeter that Lear is shown with in the preceding photos.
A later-edition NTS security badge. According to Amy, this employee dated her former ID to 1988. This was the year when Lazar claims that he first started working at "S4". Note the gold-colored "NV" lettering and plain white background. This was markedly different to the earlier style using the diagonal blue stripes, which Lazar paid homage to on his supposed "S4" badge.
Lazar stands exposed as a compulsive plagiarist of narrative elements. Some of them reflect actual administrative details that he could easily have gleaned from his acquaintance with Lear (and also from Jim Tagliani, who was a friend of his at the time and who worked at the Tonopah Test Range, which was involved in the development of the F-117 stealth aircraft and which really did, and perhaps still does, have a "Site 4" facility. It also, for a while, sported the Identimat hand-scanners that Lazar alludes to. See my previous Lazar article for more details about these items). Others are borrowed from UFO lore and were either selected by him on his own accord or were brought to his attention by avid UFO content-consumer John Lear (who himself was clearly influenced by Cooper). What was the motivation for this cross-pollination and funneling of ideas and tropes? Was it an echo-chamber that got out of control? Was it a prank that got out of hand and that no one could back down from because reputations were already on the line? Was Lear manipulating Lazar and trying to promote an alien narrative for his own purposes? Or was it the other way around, with Lear as naive dupe and Lazar as the one playing mind games to ingratiate himself to the public? Was it all for money? If so, was there the hope of a long-con, or was it a quick dash for cash? (Lazar set up a short-lived venture with Robert Bigelow, but this quickly bottomed out, presumably because Lazar couldn't cough up the goods). Maybe it was a combination of all these things. We may never know, but what we do know is that Lazar's "S4 security badge", just like his claims about having master's degrees from CalTech and MIT, or his claims about working on alien technology, is unmistakable horseshit.