Declassification Declassified: PRC and the W88 Warhead

09.20.12 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In 2006, the Department of Energy formally declassified the already widely publicized fact “That the People’s Republic of China obtained some Restricted Data information on the W88 [nuclear] warhead, and perhaps the complete W88 design.”

Then, in a remarkable display of bureaucratic acrobatics, DOE classified the memo that authorized the declassification of that information.  The declassification memo was found to merit classification at the Secret/Restricted Data level.

Five years later, in 2011, the two-sentence memo was reviewed for declassification and DOE has now released it.

As often seems to be the case, declassification here lags behind disclosure rather than leading it.  For a convenient summary of issues surrounding China and the W88, see China: Suspected Acquisition of U.S. Nuclear Weapon Secrets, Congressional Research Service, updated February 1, 2006.