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Air Force lost some communication with nuclear missiles
#1
Air Force lost some communication with nuclear missiles

From Larry Shaughnessy and Chris Lawrence,
CNNOctober 27, 2010 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)

Embedded video at the link

Washington (CNN) -- The Air Force lost partial communications with 50 nuclear missiles for almost an hour last weekend, an Air Force spokesman said Tuesday.

The problem, characterized as a "single hardware issue," affected more than 10 percent of the country's ICBM arsenal on Saturday morning, according to Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller IV.

Because of redundant systems, at no time was the Air Force unable to monitor, communicate with or, if need be, launch the intercontinental ballistic missiles on the president's command, several military officials said.

"Any time the president wanted to fire those missiles, he could have," a senior defense official said. At no time was the public in jeopardy, according to another military official.

The Minuteman III ICBMs are multiple warhead missiles that are controlled from Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming but are in missile silos spread out over a wide area around the base.

After the problem was detected, each silo was inspected by base personnel to make certain all 50 missiles were safe and secure.

The exact nature of the problem is still under investigation.

"The specific cause for the disruption is currently being analyzed on site by engineers from the ICBM systems program office," according to an Air Force statement.

A senior defense official said it was an underground cable that got disrupted.

The United States currently has 450 Minutemen III ICBMs. While the squadron of 50 that had problems Saturday represents 11 percent of America's ICBM arsenal, the United States also has bomber-based and sea-based nuclear weapons.

The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, informed Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, about the problem during the weekend.

Mullen made sure Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was informed. President Obama was briefed on the issue on Tuesday morning, according to a report in Atlantic Monthly.

Gates takes nuclear weapon security very seriously. In 2008, Gates took the unprecedented step of firing both the Air Force secretary and the Air Force chief of staff because of two highly publicized mistakes involving Air Force nuclear weapons.

First there was the embarrassing revelation in August 2007 that a B-52 bomber took off from North Dakota with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that no one knew were live weapons until after the plane landed in Louisiana.

Then came word that the Air Force mistakenly shipped fuses that are used in nuclear weapons to Taiwan in 2006 in crates believed to contain helicopter batteries.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/10/26/nuk...nications/

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Failure Shuts Down Squadron of Nuclear Missiles

October 27th, 2010 This is an extremely curious situation. I’m not even going to say which one this reminds me of.
Via: The Atlantic:
President Obama was briefed this morning on an engineering power failure at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming that took 50 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), one-ninth of the U.S. missile stockpile, temporarily offline on Saturday.
The base is a main locus of the United States’ strategic nuclear forces. The 90th Missile Wing, headquartered there, controls 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles. They’re on full-time alert and are housed in a variety of bunkers across the base.
On Saturday morning, according to people briefed on what happened, a squadron of ICBMs suddenly dropped down into what’s known as “LF Down” status, meaning that the missileers in their bunkers could no longer communicate with the missiles themselves. LF Down status also means that various security protocols built into the missile delivery system, like intrusion alarms and warhead separation alarms, were offline. In LF Down status, the missiles are still technically launch-able, but they can only be controlled by an airborne command and control platform like the Boeing E-6 NAOC “Kneecap” aircraft, or perhaps the TACAMO fleet, which is primarily used to communicate with nuclear submarines. Had the country been placed on a higher state of nuclear alert, those platforms would be operating automatically.
According to the official, engineers believe that a launch control center computer (LCC), responsible for a package of five missiles, began to “ping” out of sequence, resulting in a surge of “noise” through the system. The LCCs interrogate each missile in sequence, so if they begin to send signals out when they’re not supposed to, receivers on the missiles themselves will notice this and send out error codes.
Since LCCs ping out of sequence on occasion, missileers tried quick fixes. But as more and more missiles began to display error settings, they decided to take off-line all five LCCs that the malfunctioning center was connected to. That left 50 missiles in the dark. The missileers then restarted one of the LCCs, which began to normally interrogate the missile transceiver. Three other LCCs were successfully restarted. The suspect LCC remains off-line.
Commanders at the Air Force Base sent warning notices to colleagues at the country’s two other nuclear missile command centers, as well as the to the National Military Command Center in Washington. At that point, they did not know what was causing the failure, and they did not know whether other missile systems were experiencing similar symptoms.
According to the official, engineers discovered that similar hardware failures had triggered a similar cascading failure 12 years ago at Minot AFB in North Dakota and Malmstrom AFB in Montana. That piece of hardware is the prime suspect.
The defense official said that there had not been a power failure, though the official acknowledged that that explanation had made its way through public affairs channels. Engineers working on the system presented a draft of their initial findings late this afternoon, the official said.
An administration official, speaking about the president’s ability to control nuclear forces, said: “At no time did the president’s ability decrease,” an administration official said. ”
Still, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, was immediately notified on Saturday, and he, in turn, briefed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
“We’ve never had something as big as this happen,” a military officer who was briefed on the incident said. Occasionally, one or two might blink out, the officer said, and several warheads are routinely out of service for maintenance. At an extreme, “[w]e can deal with maybe 5, 6, or 7 at a time, but we’ve never lost complete command and control and functionality of 50 ICBMs.”
The military contends that command and control — “C2″ in their parlance — was not lost.


"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"
Reply
#2
...for what, I wonder. An event that inspires great confidence in a monstrous system to begin with....

The Pentagon has acknowledged a computer glitch took fifty nuclear missiles offline for about an hour last weekend. Military officials say they lost contact with the missiles but would have still been able to launch them from a separate platform. The fifty missiles comprise one-ninth of the US land-based nuclear arsenal. :call2::marchmellow:
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#3
Hey! Everything is okay even if some psychopaths in charge of the nukes have an "attitude problem". Go back to sleep....

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[TD="class: ap-story-td"]AP Exclusive: Commander cites 'rot' in nuke force
By ROBERT BURNS
AP National Security Writer
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[Image: A] WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demanded more information Wednesday after the Air Force removed 17 launch officers from duty at a nuclear missile base in North Dakota over what a commander called "rot" in the force. The Air Force struggled to explain, acknowledging concern about an "attitude problem" but telling Congress the weapons were secure.
Hagel reacted strongly after The Associated Press reported the unprecedented sidelining of the officers at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., where one of their commanders complained of "such rot" that even the willful violation of safety rules - including a possible compromise of launch codes - was tolerated.
The AP quoted from an internal email written by Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, which is responsible for all Minuteman 3 missile launch crews at Minot. He lamented the remarkably poor reviews they received in a March inspection. Their missile launch skills were rated "marginal," which the Air Force told the AP was the equivalent of a "D" grade.
"We are, in fact, in a crisis right now," Folds wrote in the email to his subordinates.
In response, the Air Force said the problem does not suggest a lack of proper control over the nuclear missiles but rather was a symptom of turmoil in the ranks.
"The idea that we have people not performing to the standard we expect will never be good and we won't tolerate it," Gen. Mark Welsh, the service's top general, said when questioned about the problem at a congressional hearing on budget issues.
Underlying the Minot situation is a sense among some that the Air Force's nuclear mission is a dying field, as the government considers further reducing the size of the U.S. arsenal.
Welsh noted that because there are a limited number of command positions to which missile launch officers can aspire within the nuclear force, those officers tend to believe they have no future.
"That's actually not the case, but that's the view when you're in the operational force," Welsh said. "We have to deal with that."
Hagel himself, before he was defense secretary, signed a plan put forward a year ago by the private group Global Zero to eliminate the Air Force's intercontinental ballistic missiles and to eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. At his Senate confirmation hearing he said he supports President Barack Obama's goal of zero nuclear weapons but only through negotiations.
Hagel's spokesman, George Little, said the defense secretary was briefed on the Minot situation as reported by the AP on Wednesday and demanded that he be provided more details.
Welsh's civilian boss, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, suggested a silver lining to the trouble at Minot. The fact that Minot commanders identified 17 underperformers was evidence that the Air Force has strengthened its monitoring of the nuclear force, he said. And he stressed that launch crew members typically are relatively junior officers - lieutenants and captains - with limited service experience.
It is the duty of commanders, Donley said, to "ride herd" on those young officers with "this awesome responsibility" of controlling missiles capable of destroying entire countries.
Donley noted that he is particularly sensitive to any indication of weakness in the nuclear force because he took over as Air Force secretary in October 2008 after his predecessor, Michael Wynne, was fired by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a series of nuclear embarrassments. Donley was charged with cleaning up the problem.
It appeared the Minot force, which is one of three responsible for controlling - and, if necessary, launching - the Air Force's 450 strategic nuclear missiles, is an outlier.
The Air Force told the AP on Wednesday that the two other missile wings - at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. - earned scores of "excellent" in the most recent inspection of their ICBM launch skills. That is two notches above the "marginal" rating at Minot and one notch below the highest rating of "outstanding." Each of the three wings operates 150 Minuteman 3 missiles.
The Malmstrom unit was inspected in December 2012, the F.E. Warren unit in May 2012.
Michael Corgan, a nuclear weapons officer in the Navy in the 1960s, said the Air Force cannot afford to let its launch control crews lose focus on their mission.
"The kinds of things that caused those Air Force officers to be rated `marginal' could well be what seem like trivial errors," Corgan said. "But in the nuke business you are not supposed to get anything wrong - anything." Corgan is a professor of international relations at Boston University.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, expressed outrage, telling Welsh and Donley that the AP report revealed a problem that "could not be more troubling."
The tip-off to trouble was the March inspection that earned the equivalent of a "D" grade when the unit was tested on its mastery of Minuteman 3 missile launch operations. In other areas, the officers tested much better, but the group's overall fitness was deemed so tenuous that senior officers at Minot decided, after probing further, on an immediate crackdown.
In April the Air Force quietly removed the 17 officers.
"You will be a bench warmer for at least 60 days," Folds told them in his email.
The 17 cases mark the Air Force's most extensive sidelining ever of launch crew members, according to Lt. Col. Angie Blair, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the missile units as well as nuclear-capable bombers. The 91st Missile Wing has 150 officers assigned to launch control duty.
In his congressional testimony, Welsh said Folds and other senior commanders determined that the problematic launch officers had "more of an attitude problem than a proficiency problem."
He said he wished Folds had "used different language" in his email.
"The word `rot' didn't excite me, but it got my attention," Welsh said, adding that he does not believe "rot" is the problem. "I don't believe we have a nuclear surety risk at Minot Air Force Base," referring to the danger of an accident or unauthorized launch.
The email obtained by the AP describes a culture of indifference at Minot, with at least one intentional violation of missile safety rules and an apparent unwillingness among some to challenge or report those who violate rules.
In response to AP inquiries, the Air Force said the lapses never put the security of the nuclear force at risk. It said the officers who lost their certification to operate ICBMs are now getting more training with the expectation that they will return to normal duty within about two months. The missiles remain on their normal war footing, officials said.
In addition to the 17, possible disciplinary action is pending against one other officer at Minot who investigators found had intentionally broken a safety rule in an unspecified act that could have compromised the secret codes that enable the launching of missiles that stand on high alert in underground silos in the nation's midsection. Officials said there was no compromise of missile safety or security.
Advising his troops on April 12 that they had "fallen," Folds wrote that drastic corrective action was required because "we didn't wake up" after the March inspection that he said amounted to a failure, even though the unit's overall performance technically was rated "satisfactory."
"And now we're discovering such rot in the crew force that your behavior while on alert is accepting of" weapons safety rule violations, possible code compromises and other failings, "all in the name of not inconveniencing yourselves," Folds wrote.
Folds also complained about unwarranted questioning of orders from superior officers by launch crews and failure to address superiors with the proper respect.
"It takes real leaders to lead through a crisis and we are, in fact, in a crisis right now," he wrote.
When the AP inquired about the Folds email, the Air Force arranged a telephone interview with one of Folds' superiors, Col. Robert Vercher, commander of the 91st Missile Wing.
"We are frustrated anytime we're performing less than we expect of ourselves," Vercher said, adding that he and other senior officers are implementing an aggressive and innovative plan to restore a record of high performance.
"There was a problem," Vercher said. "And we will fix it."[/QUOTE]
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/U...CTION=HOME
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"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#4
'Rot' makes it sound as if they were only sleeping on the job.....but perhaps they were working to secretly move [or lend control of] nukes to various places and/or into unauthorized hands.....who knows...we won't, that's for sure. :mexican: IMHO, the entire military structure of all major nations is 'rotten' to the core. Try Peace! Try nuclear disarmament!
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#5
Quote:Welsh noted that because there are a limited number of command positions to which missile launch officers can aspire within the nuclear force, those officers tend to believe they have no future.

The Sex Pistols had a song about that...
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#6

U.S. Air Force Gives Failing Grade to Montana Nuclear Unit

By REUTERS
Aug. 13, 2013


WASHINGTON A U.S. Air Force inspection of a Montana base found errors that resulted in a failing grade for the nuclear missile unit, the latest in a series of issues involving the Air Force's management of nuclear weapons, authorities said on Tuesday.
The failed inspection at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana does not pose any safety risks to the U.S. nuclear, Air Force Global Strike Command Commander Lieutenant General Jim Kowalski said in a statement.
The August 5-13 evaluation of the 341st Missile Wing covered operations, maintenance, security, safety and support activities and received unsatisfactory rating after making "tactical-level errors during one of several exercises," the statement said.
Carla Pampe, chief of civic outreach and internal information for Air Force Global Strike Command, told Reuters the Air Force does not release details of the inspection results in view of "operational security considerations."
But she said such unsatisfactory results during mandatory inspections conducted every two years are not unheard of and do not imply "the safety of the nation's nuclear enterprise is in jeopardy" and the finding is used to improve practices.
"Inspections have been passed and failed for decades," Pampe said in an e-mail from the command headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
"Commanders use inspection results and reports to adjust focus and resources as needed to ensure forces are combat ready, safe, secure and effective at all times," she added.
The Air Force has sought to tighten controls over its nuclear weapons after a 2008 incident in which a B-52 bomber accidentally transported nuclear armed missiles across the country, leading to the ouster of then-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and General T. Michael Moseley, the top uniformed officer in the Air Force.
The 341st Missile Wing, based at Malmstrom, operates 150 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) - one third of the country's missile wings. The other two wings are at bases in Wyoming and North Dakota.
"These inspections are designed to be tough to pass," Kowalski said in the statement.
Pampe said Tuesday's inspection result will be followed by retraining of the unit in the "deficient area" and a follow-on inspection within 90 days by the Air Force Global Strike's inspector general team.
(Reporting by Paul Eckert and Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/08/1...d=tw-share
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#7

How the U.S. Narrowly Avoided a Nuclear Holocaust 33 Years Ago, and Still Risks Catastrophe Today




Thirty-three years ago to the day, the United States narrowly missed a nuclear holocaust on its soil. The so-called "Damascus Accident" involved a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile mishap at a launch complex outside Damascus, Arkansas. During a routine maintenance procedure, a young worker accidentally dropped a nine-pound tool in the silo, piercing the missile's skin and causing a major leak of flammable rocket fuel. Sitting on top of that Titan 2 was the most powerful thermonuclear warhead ever deployed on an American missile. The weapon was about 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. For the next nine hours, a group of airmen put themselves at grave risk to save the missile and prevent a massive explosion that would've caused incalculable damage. The story is detailed in Eric Schlosser's new book, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety," which explores how often the United States has come within a hair's breadth of a domestic nuclear detonation or an accidental war. Drawing on thousands of pages of recently declassified government documents and interviews with scores of military personnel and nuclear scientists, Schlosser shows that America's nuclear weapons pose a grave risk to humankind.


Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Thirty-three years ago today, the United States narrowly missed a nuclear holocaust on his soil that would have dwarfed the horrors of the Hiroshima bomb blast that killed approximately 140,000 people. The so-called Damascus accident involved a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile mishap at a launch conflict outside Damascus, Arkansas. During a routine maintenance procedure, a young worker accidentally dropped a nine pound tool in the silo, piercing the missile skin and causing a major leak of flammable rocket fuel. Sitting on top of that Titan II was the most powerful thermonuclear warhead ever deployed on an American missile. The weapon was about 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. For the next nine hours, a group of airmen put themselves at grave risk to save the missile and prevent a massive explosion that would've caused incalculable damage.
AMY GOODMAN: To find out what happened next, we turn to a shocking new book called, "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety." In it, author Eric Schlosser reveals how often the United States has come within a hairs breath of a domestic nuclear detonation or an accidental war. Drawing on thousands of pages of recently declassified government documents and interviews with scores of military personnel and nuclear scientists, Schlosser shows that America's nuclear weapons pose a grave risk to human kind. We are joined by Eric Schlosser, author of a number of books, including the best-selling "Fast Food Nation." Welcome to Democracy Now! So, talk about that story 33 years ago today.
ERIC SCHLOSSER: Thirty-three years ago, during a routine maintenance procedure, a tool was dropped and it set in motion events that could have led to the destruction of the state of Arkansas and it just so happened that Bill Clinton was the governor at the time. Vice President Mondale was in the state at the time. And it is one of those events that literally could have changed the course of history. So, the book is a minute by minute account of this nuclear weapons accident. It's unfolding, but I use that narrative as a way to look at the management of our nuclear weapons really from the dawn of the nuclear era to this day.
A great deal has been in the media lately about Pakistani nuclear program, India nuclear program, Iran's, but not enough attention has been paid to our own and the problems that we have had in the management of our nuclear weapons. And it's a subject that I think is really, really urgent. It's interesting, as I was watching Bill McKibben, who I consider a true American hero, and I was just seeing the title of the show, Democracy Now, the whole system of managing nuclear weapons is an inherently authoritarian. And if you look at the kind of secrecy that we have now in this country, and the national security state, it all stems from the development of the atomic bomb, the secrecy around it, and the real point of this book is to provide information to Americans that the government has worked very hard to suppress, to deny an enormous amount of disinformation and misinformation about our weapons program.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: You also point out, Eric Schlosser, that there is a link between the amount of secrecy around nuclear weapons and the level of their and un-safety. Could you elaborate? Could you explain why that is the case?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: During the Cold War, and to a certain extent, today, there was such intense compartmentalized secrecy within the government, that for example, the engineers and physicists who were designing the weapons weren't allowed to know how the weapons were being used in the field. And the Air Force and Navy and Army personnel who were handling nuclear weapons didn't know about the safety problems or safety issues that the designers knew. One of the people I write about in the book is an engineer named Robert Peurifoy who rose to be a vice president at the Sandia National Laboratory, and is a remarkable man who realized that our weapons might be unsafe and pose a threat of accidental detonation.
Again, in the book, I go through a number of instances that we almost had American weapons detonate on American soil. So, I write about his effort to bring modern safety devices to our nuclear weapons. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get about a 250 page document that listed all these different accidents, mistakes, short-circuits, fires involving nuclear weapons, and I showed it to him, and he had never seen it. This is somebody who were decades was at the heart of our nuclear weapons establishment. So, the secrecy was so intense, that the Air Force wasn't telling the weapons designers problems that they were having in the field.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us some of those accidents, some of those near misses and how things are being handled today.
ERIC SCHLOSSER: Yeah, I mean, one of the most significant near misses occurred just three days after John F. Kennedy was inaugurated. A B-52 bomber broke apart in the sky over North Carolina, and as it was breaking apart, the centrifugal forces affecting the plane pulled a lanyard in the cockpit, which released one of the hydrogen bombs that it was carrying. And the weapon behaved as though it had been released over the Soviet Union, over an enemy target deliberately. It went through all of its arming stages, except one. There was one switch that prevented it from detonating in North Carolina. And that switch, later, was found to be defective and would never be put into a plane today. Straight electricity in the bomber as it was disintegrating could have detonated the bomb.
The government denied at the time there was ever any possibility that weapon could have detonated. Again and again there have been those sort of denials. But, I obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act that say conclusively that that weapon could have detonated. I interviewed former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who had just literally entered the administration, and was terrified when he was told the news of this accident when it occurred. The official list of nuclear weapons accidents that the Pentagon puts out lists 32. But the real number is many, many higher than that. And again
AMY GOODMAN: What are some of the more recent ones?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: Well, just this summer, two of our three Minutemen missile wings were cited for safety violations. A few years ago, the Air Force's largest storage facility for nuclear weapons, the group that ran it was de-certified for safety violations. And one of the more concerning things right now, this sounds like a Hollywood movie, is the potential vulnerability of our nuclear command and control system being hacked to cyber attack. The Defense Science Board put out a report this year that the vulnerability of our command and control system to hacking has never been fully assessed. There were Senate hearings on the spring that didn't get very much attention, but in 2010, 50 of our missiles suddenly went off-line and the launch control centers were unable to communicate with them for an hour. It would later turn out to be one computer chip was improperly installed in a processor, but what we have seen with Snowden and a relatively low level private contractor able to obtain the top secrets of the most secret intelligence agency, the cryptography and some of the code management of our nuclear weapons, is being done by private contractors.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is doing it?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: I think Boeing is doing some of it. And again, they may be doing a wonderful job, but when you're talking about nuclear weapons, there is no margin for error. If you managed nuclear weapons successfully for 40 years, that is terrific. But if you make one severe error and one of these things detonate, the consequences are going to be unimaginable.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: You've also said that the command-and-control structure system in place for nuclear weapons has actually weakened since the end of the Cold War. Is that right?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: One of the things that has happened and one of the problems the Air Force is having is once the Cold War ended and during the Cold War, having control of nuclear weapons was a high prestige occupation in the Air Force and the Navy, but since the Cold War, it has been seen as a career dead-end. So, there have been all kinds of management issues, underinvestment and I'm not saying we should be building hundreds and hundreds of new bombers or but if you're going to have nuclear weapons, no expense should be spared in the proper management.
AMY GOODMAN: How many do we have?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: And what I was going to say was, some of the systems we have right now are 30, 40 years old. We're still relying on B-52 bombers as our main nuclear bomber. Those are 60 years old. They haven't built one since the Kennedy administration. The Titan II missile that I write about it some length in my book, one of the problems and one of the causes of the accident was that it was an obsolete weapon system. Secretary of Defense McNamara had wanted to retire it in the mid-1960s and it was still on alert in the 1980s.
And again with nuclear weapons, the margin of error is very, very small.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to President Obama in June. He was speaking in Berlin, in Germany, and called for nuclear reductions.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be. And so, as president, I strengthen our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the number and role of America's nuclear weapons. Because of the New Start Treaty, we are on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.
AMY GOODMAN: That was president Obama speaking in Berlin in June. Shortly afterwards, Fox News contributor, Charles Krauthammer, criticized Obama for discussing nuclear arms reduction.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The idea that we're going to be any safer if we have 1000 rather than 1500 warheads is absurd, so why is he doing this? Number one, he has been obsessed with nuclear weapons and reducing them ever since he was a student at Columbia and thought the freeze, which was the stupidest strategic idea of the 1980s, wasn't enough of a reduction, and second, because I think that is all he has got.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Charles Krauthammer on Fox. Eric Schlosser?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: I think that given his record on the Iraq war, nothing he says should be taken seriously. The fact of the matter is, every nuclear weapon is an accident waiting to happen or a potential act of mass murder. The fewer nuclear weapons there are, the less likely there is to be a disaster. I think that President Obama on this issue has been quite courageous in calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. It's something that presidents have sought in one way or another since the end of the Second World War. I think that it is urgent that there be real arms control and reduction, not just of our arsenal, but of worldwide arsenals of nuclear weapons.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to a video released by anti-nuclear weapons group, Global Zero, that shows many members of Congress don't even know how many nuclear weapons the United States has. Here members of Global Zero approach Republican Representative Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Republican Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, Republican Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia, and Democratic Representative Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Republican Representative Duncan Hunter of California, Republican Representative Mark Amodei of Nevada and Republican Representative Bill Flores of Texas.
GLOBAL ZERO INTERVIEWER: Do you happen to know roughly know how many nuclear weapons we do have?
REP. MORGAN GRIFFITH: Uh...
REP. BLAINE LEUTKEMEYER: Well,...
REP. ROB WITTMAN: The current arsenal, I don't have an exact number.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER: My understanding is it's about 300.
REP. PEDRO PIERLUISI: No, no, it is much more than that.
GLOBAL ZERO INTERVIEWER: It's more than 15,000?
REP. PEDRO PIERLUISI: In terms of nuclear heads? Of course.
GLOBAL ZERO INTERVIEWER: More than 15,000? Really?
REP. PEDRO PIERLUISI: Well, I don't know.
GLOBAL ZERO INTERVIEWER: Do you have any idea about how many nuclear weapons we have?
CONGRESSIONAL REP.: Uh, no.
REP. MARK AMODEI: Nope, not the exact number.
REP. BILL FLORES: It changes every day.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: According to the group, Global Zero, more than 70 members of Congress were polled and more than 99% of them did not know, even roughly speaking, how many nuclear weapons the United States has. Eric Schlosser, your remarks on that?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: It's not an entirely fair question because the numbers are very different whether they are being counted for the SALT Treaty, how many are in reserve, etc. So it is a difficult thing to say specifically. We have about 1500 under the SALT Treaty deployed. We have a few thousand other
AMY GOODMAN: And where are they?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: ... in reserve. They're mainly on our nuclear submarines that are at sea. We have 450 strategic land-based missiles that are in the northern Midwest. But it is important to keep in mind that there is grounds for optimism. At the height of the Cold War, the United States had 32,000 nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union had 35,000. So right now, the number of weapons that both the Soviet Union and the United States have on alert ready to be launched combined is maybe 2000, 2500. So, to go from 60,000 to 2,500, you know 8,000 to 10,000, is a huge achievement; but there need to be much greater reductions.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there a possibility of a domestic Stuxnet, you know like the U.S. released against Iran, a virus that would affect command and control?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: It is a great concern. These weapons are not connected to the internet, but there are command information systems that run software. During the Cold War, Zbigniew Brezinski was woken up in the middle of the night. He was National Security Adviser. He was told the United States was under attack. He got another call and was basically preparing to call President Carter and advise a retaliation. It turned out that there was a faulty computer chip in the NORAD computers that was saying that Soviet missiles were coming toward the United States and they weren't. So, as long as you have a weapons stance in which we need to be able to retaliate immediately, it puts enormous pressure on acting quickly and there's are all kinds of possibilities for error.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what has to be done?
ERIC SCHLOSSER: I think firstly, the reason that I wrote the book, is in a democracy these sort of decisions need to be debated by the American people. And really, since 1944 or 1945, fundamental decisions about nuclear weapons have been made by a small group of policy makers acting in secret. So firstly we need openness, secondly we need a debate, and thirdly we need fewer nuclear weapons much more carefully managed, not only in this country, but in every country.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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