When it comes to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, some things may always have to be secret. But whether facilities that handle some of the deadliest weapons in existence are passing inspection, should not be.
Formerly, the military released the general results of inspections of nuclear bases. Now, the U.S. Department of Defense has banned such information from unclassified documents.
The decision was made as part of a secret review. Ironically, that review may have been prompted by a 2013-14 Associated Press report that found lapses in security and training — and the jumping-off point for that report was publicly available inspection information.
Some of the suggestions from a published official inquiry that was prompted by that report are still being implemented.
The Pentagon claims the secrecy helps promote security. But under the circumstances, the move may undermine both security and the public’s confidence in it.
Government information should normally be available to the public. There are, of course, exceptions, especially for military details: Loose lips, the saying goes, sink ships. But tight lips can do damage too. If security problems never draw public and congressional attention, that makes it less likely they’ll be fixed.
And moving to greater secrecy in this context is suspicious. If the Pentagon is confident that it has brought its nuclear facilities up to expectations, it should be eager to share the inspection results. And it’s hard to see what weaknesses an enemy would discover in the information that problems previously discovered have been fixed.
If, on the other hand, the situation is unsatisfactory, that would explain why officials would not want to be publicly accountable for it. Granted, it might also explain why they might see national-security value in hiding the inspection results. But whether the motives are base or pure, the secrecy suggests that what is being concealed is bad news.
And where our nuclear arsenal is concerned, that’s troubling indeed.
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