A Flutter Over Air Force One Schematics
When the San Francisco Chronicle reported April 8 that information about the design and layout of the Presidential aircraft Air Force One was available on the world wide web, it generated a spasm of anxiety in some quarters.
The anxiety was magnified by a follow-on story in the Chronicle April 19, reprinted in the Pentagon Early Bird today, which observed ominously that the information “still remain[s] publicly available.”
The reporter, Paul J. Caffera, spoke to several people in and out of government who were prepared to express alarm about the disclosure. He did not quote anyone who questioned its significance or downplayed the potential threat that it might pose.
On closer examination, it appears that the Chronicle exaggerated the entire matter, and not only by mistakenly referring to the information as “classified” (an error that it corrected today).
The notion of a Secret that may lead to fatal vulnerability if exposed has mythological force and deep psychological resonance. But fear untethered by objective scrutiny is a poor guide to government information policymaking.
To begin with, the document that the Chronicle found on the web has never been classified. To the contrary, it was specifically reviewed and cleared for public release years ago.
This was no accident. As Stephen I. Schwartz observed in a cogent critique of the Chronicle story last week, the Air Force document was deliberately made public:
“It’s part of a safety manual, written so firefighters and emergency responders can quickly rescue Air Force One’s pilots and passengers if there’s an accident or mishap,” noted Schwartz, the former publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
It follows that new efforts to suppress the document in response to the Chronicle story may tend to impede accident preparedness.
See Schwartz’s critique on the DefenseTech blog “Air Force One Scare: Real Security Sacrificed,” April 11.
John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org observed that he regularly finds “all kinds of stuff” that is genuinely sensitive, such as new details relating to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq, which his organization refrains from publishing.
But the information in the unclassified Air Force One safety manual that triggered the Chronicle story, he said, “is neither very interesting nor unique.”
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons, and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
On 14 April 2023, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence released a short video of a Su-25 pilot explaining his new role in delivering “special [nuclear] munitions” following his training in Russia. The features seen in the video, as well as several other open-source clues, suggest that Lida Air Base––located only 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and the […]
A photo in a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) student briefing from 2022 shows four people inspecting what appears to be a damaged B61 nuclear bomb.
In early-February 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) had informed Congress that China now has more launchers for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) than the United States. The report is the latest in a serious of revelations over the past four years about China’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal and the deepening […]