Red meat! Get your red meat here!

Ooooh, William Broad has a story in the New York Times that is the secret fantasy dream article for anyone wanting to criticize the Obama administration on national security grounds.  The first few paragraphs consist of gift after gift:  The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Ooooh, William Broad has a story in the New York Times that is the secret fantasy dream article for anyone wanting to criticize the Obama administration on national security grounds.  The first few paragraphs consist of gift after gift: 

Ooooh, William Broad has a story in the New York Times that is the secret fantasy dream article for anyone wanting to criticize the Obama administration on national security grounds.  The first few paragraphs consist of gift after gift: 

The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons.

The publication of the document was revealed Monday in an on-line newsletter devoted to issues of federal secrecy. That publicity set off a debate among nuclear experts about what dangers, if any, the disclosures posed. It also prompted a flurry of investigations in Washington into why the document was made public.

On Tuesday evening, after inquiries from The New York Times, the document was withdrawn from a Government Printing Office Web site.

Several nuclear experts argued that any dangers from the disclosure were minimal, given that the general outlines of the most sensitive information were already known publicly.

“These screw-ups happen,” said John M. Deutch, a former Director of Central Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of Defense who is now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s going further than I would have gone but doesn’t look like a serious breach.”

But David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said information that shows where nuclear fuels are stored “can provide thieves or terrorists inside information that can help them seize the material, which is why that kind of data is not given out. It can become a physical security threat.”

The information, considered sensitive but not classified, was assembled for transmission later this year to the International Atomic Energy Agency as part of a process by which the United States is opening itself up to more stringent inspections in hopes that foreign countries will do likewise, especially Iran and other states believed to be clandestinely developing nuclear arms.

President Obama sent the document to Congress on May 5 for Congressional review and possible revision, and the Government Printing Office subsequently posted the draft declaration on its web site.

[Um, isn’t this really the fault of the Government Printing Office, and not Obama per se?–ed.]  Well, the GPO is the proximate source of the blame, sure.  Stepping back, however, we have the following:

  1. A pretty significant national security lapse;
  2. A lapse that occurred because the U.S. was trying to comply with an international organization;
  3. A reassurance that this isn’t a big deal from John Deutch.  This is like having Eliot Spitzer comment on the gravity of an ethics scandal. 

Have at it, conservatives!

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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