The disturbing security slip-up at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base on Aug. 29, which resulted in the unintentional—not to mention unsupervised and unauthorized—transport of six nuclear warheads across the country to Louisiana, has touched off a major military inquiry and raised serious security concerns.
The Washington Post:
“I have been in the nuclear business since 1966 and am not aware of any incident more disturbing,” retired Air Force Gen. Eugene Habiger, who served as U.S. Strategic Command chief from 1996 to 1998, said in an interview.
A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation’s early results show.
The incident came on the heels of multiple warnings—some of which went to the highest levels of the Bush administration, including the National Security Council—of security problems at Air Force installations where nuclear weapons are kept. The risks are not that warheads might be accidentally detonated, but that sloppy procedures could leave room for theft or damage to a warhead, disseminating its toxic nuclear materials.