Huge Nuke Slip-Up From the Government Printing Office
As first reported by Steve Aftergood on Monday, the United States’ routine declaration of its nuclear weapons facilities to the United Nation’s atomic watchdog agency somehow got published by the Government Printing Office. That meant — as President Obama put it when he shared his highly-confidential-but-unclassified declaration with Congress on May 9 — “each site, location, facility, and activity I intend to declare to the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” along with a “detailed description of such sites, locations, facilities, and activities,” was public until the GPO abruptly scrubbed the declaration from its Website yesterday.
The New York Times’ William Broad and The Washington Times’ Sara Carter and Eli Lake have much more. While the declaration doesn’t reveal any military secrets, it documents at great length and in great detail the United States’ civilian nuclear energy facilities. The top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, Kit Bond (R-Mo.), told Carter and Lake that the screw-up provided “a virtual treasure map for terrorists.” David Albright, one of the most respected nuclear-weapons experts in Washington, told both papers much the same thing. He explained to The Washington Times:
“The problem is there are a few places where it shows rooms inside of buildings where fissile material is located,” he said. Although terrorists still would have difficulty penetrating U.S. security to acquire the material, he said, the disclosure was potentially a violation of U.S. law.
It’s unclear how this all happened. The document lists the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on its cover sheet, but a committee spokeswoman told both papers that the committee had nothing to do with its publication. If I read this Bond quote from The Washington Times correctly — “Our best understanding is that this was sent to GPO by staffers of the House leader” — he’s blaming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and if so, it’s unclear what the basis for that is*. The foreign affairs committee spokeswoman, Lynne Weil, pledged an investigation; Bond’s staff is looking into the publication as well.
Aftergood told The New York Times that the disclosure is “a one-stop shop for information on U.S. nuclear programs.” Yet his organization, the Federation of American Scientists, still has the 267-page document on its Website.
Update: So as best I can understand, Bond is referring to the fact that the Speaker of the House appoints the House Parliamentarian (the link is a PDF), and it’s the Parliamentarian who delivered the declaration to the GPO.
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