Secrecy News

CIA Blocks Book on Chinese Nuclear Weapons

An eagerly awaited book on the history of the Chinese nuclear weapons program will not be published due to objections from the Central Intelligence Agency, which said it contains classified information.

A federal court last week ruled (pdf) that the CIA was within its rights to block disclosure of 23 sections of a manuscript by former Los Alamos intelligence specialist Danny B. Stillman, who had brought a lawsuit asserting his First Amendment right to publish the volume.

During the 1990s, Mr. Stillman traveled to China nine times, including six trips that took place after his retirement in 1993. He visited nuclear weapons facilities and “engaged in extensive discussions with Chinese scientists, government officials, and nuclear weapons designers,” resulting in a 506-page manuscript entitled “Inside China’s Nuclear Weapons Program.”

Since he was a Los Alamos employee prior to retirement, and maintained a security clearance thereafter, he submitted his manuscript to the government for pre-publication review, as required by the non-disclosure agreements that he had signed.

His book was written for publication and did not include classified information, in the author’s judgment.

Significantly, the Department of Energy, which has principal classification authority over nuclear weapons design data, concurred. After initial resistance, DOE gave its approval for publication of the entire volume.

But the Central Intelligence Agency, DIA and DoD were opposed.

In a March 30 ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the DC District Court wrote that the non-disclosure agreements signed by Mr. Stillman contain “incredibly broad language” with regard to protection of classified information.

And upon review, the Court said it was persuaded that “the government has properly classified the twenty-three passages in Stillman’s manuscript.”

Since those passages constitute about 15% of the total manuscript and include some of the most interesting and valuable information that he gathered in his travels to China, the author said he would not publish the remainder.

0 thoughts on “CIA Blocks Book on Chinese Nuclear Weapons

  1. I’m more than sure many liberals will call this an outrage and an attack on the first amendment. It’s generally expected from people who haven’t been privy to classified information. Although we may not like it and may want to know more, parts of that book may affect other programs which are classified and in progress.

  2. Years ago, conservatives would have fought to get this information out into the spotlight. Anyone remember that? Now conservatives work overtime to protect communist China’s image: when fancy pants Manhattan Republicans have billions invested there, who cares about the truth, right?

  3. As someone who works in the nuclear industry, I can vouch that it is probably the most highly regulated industry on the face of the earth. It is not surprising that the government would want to regulate access to such information as put forward in this book. It is unfortunate, however, as such literature is infinitely fascinating and makes for excellent instructional materials.

  4. If you were rich, and you had servants, would you let them keep secrets from you about their work? Of course not. So why does the Government, which is supposed to be a servant to the people, get to keep secrets from us?

    Of course people will say it’s to keep us safe, but any sane person knows that’s ridiculous. How can you be more safe when you know less? Ignorance is not bliss people.

    We should all take personal responsibility for our safety, instead of letting the government ‘protect us.’

  5. So LPD676 – Why is it that Liberals are the ones concerned about the 1st Amendment? Why are you “more than sure” that “Liberals” will call this an outrage? Does this mean Conservatives won’t? What does that say about Conservatives and their respect for our founding document and the law of the land? Especially when the subject matter of the book in question came from China in the 1990s – not the US. This is government overstepping its bounds plain and simple.

  6. Well considering that the information in the book was related to the Chinese nuclear program and not the US nuclear program, it’s odd that this information is considered classified. I’m sure that none of the information contains any detailed processes or any new technical methodologies that are not already in use by the nuclear powers around the world. Oh well, it would have been an interesting read.

  7. LPD676, your comments would have more credibility if you didn’t expose your bias against “liberals” whatever they are.

    The DoE has principal authority here, and the real question is this: Is there an actual quantifiable risk associated with release of this information or is it in fact just another knee-jerk reaction made in the name of paranoia? The latter has been a pretty standard part of our “national security” ever since September 11th. It’s also been relatively absurd, but then again, I guess you are okay with loss of liberty and freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism. I’m not. It’s how they win.

  8. “written for publication and did not include classified information”

    “DOE gave its approval for publication of the entire volume.”

    So what are they so afraid of…? Maybe they just don’t want to let the world find out that there are far more dangerous countries (china, north korea, etc…) out there than poor little Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran (or any other “big oil reserve” country)…

  9. I think it is a shame the author doesn’t take the remaining 85% and publish it online under a Creative Commons License that prevents commercial use of the material.

  10. A great pity this book won’t be published. Typical lies from a criminally paranoid government and regime to “justify” this censorship.

    Is there anything in this book that the Chinese don’t know about THEIR OWN NUCLEAR PROGRAM!? Will it possibly come as a surprise to them. No.

    So how can you keep your CITIZENS in the dark?

    Reason: America is no longer and has not been a Republic for a long time. Empire and republic cannot co-exist. Empire requires control, paranoia, fear and secrecy (ie, CIA, the national “security state”, permanent “war on terror”, “war on drugs” etc.)

    Americans gave up their republic the moment they allowed the empire to be set up at the end of WW II.

    And just to think that Bush is always prattling about bringing “freedom” to the world. Freedom begins at home sir.

  11. Stillman should NOT be able to receive profits from his exploits while on the government dime. He gained substantial information while in the employ of the US taxpayer, and he shouldn’t reap any reward from intellectual property, classified or otherwise, that he obtained while doing his job. He would’ve never had access to the information without a security clearance – and he would’ve probably never been able to go to the places within China without his prior official visits. The Chinese agenda was certainly to exploit his access and disclosure of US technology…otherwise he would’ve never been granted access.

  12. Michael, engage brain before speaking. If nobody could ever use information that they learned while in government employment then how would they get jobs after leaving it?

    Military personnel leave all of the time and go to work for defense contractors. Federal Law Enforcement personnel leave and form security companies or act as consultants to both public and private entities.

    It happens whether the government is paying you or a private company is paying you.

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