Here’s Why The Government Won’t Release Nuclear Inspection Reports

Photo:Mass Communication Spc. 1st Class James Kimber/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

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The Pentagon has decided not to release results of inspections of U.S. nuclear facilities to protect potentially sensitive information, the Associated Press reports.

The increased security classification means that the Air Force will no longer release results of pass-fail inspections, which used to be publicly available.

“We are comfortable with the secrecy,” Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Associated Press. For “as long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile,” Hicks said.

The Department of Defense’s move to classify nuclear facility reports was recommended by two internal reviews ordered by Chuck Hagel, secretary of defense under former President Barack Obama, in 2014.

Hagel directed two internal reviews of the nuclear arsenal between 2013 and 2014. One, made public in November 2014, found that the arsenal management system was “understaffed, under-resourced and reliant on an aging and fragile supporting infrastructure in an over-inspected and overly risk-averse environment.”

The second review, which has not been publicly released, recommended keeping the inspection reports secret. “The elevated security classification” limits the amount of “potentially vulnerable information to adversary forces,” Hicks told the AP.

Keeping the results of nuclear facilities inspections secret could conceal failures of the government workers, critics say.

“I think the new policy fails to distinguish between protecting valid secrets and shielding incompetence,” Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists added. “Clearly, nuclear weapons technology secrets should be protected. But negligence or misconduct in handling nuclear weapons should not be insulated from public accountability,” Aftergood said.

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