Who moved my nukes?

About those armed nuclear missiles that were transported by plane through U.S. airspace... The WaPost reports that it was the result of a "simple error." One Talking Points Memo writer isn't buying it:

So lets see: not only did the munitions custodian officer lose trackof the warheads, but an additional two-man team failed to record thepertinent data, and the pilots did not inspect the weapons. And now welearn that nukes and conventional weapons are stored togetherwilly-nilly?

A former B-52 pilot offers the following bracing speculation on TPM:

With all of the necessary orders and paperwork required just to movea nuclear weapon from one room in a storage facility to another, it canbe stated with some sort of certainty that this was not a casualmistake as the Department of Defense has eluted (sic) to.

Then if the movement wasnt a mistake, it obviously was done with some sort of purpose in mind.

The destination of the aircraft was Barksdale AFB, LA from which anumber of the strikes on the Middle East have initiated. Speculationwould lead us to believe the weapons were being stockpiled at thisfacility for a possible strike somewhere in the world. Additionalspeculation would also lead us to believe the strike was to occur inthe very near future. Why else the need to forego the normal overlandtransportation procedures for nuclear weapons and risk flying them totheir destination in violation of a treaty with the Russians. Also howis it the press was aware of this movement? After all who would besuspicious of a B-52 taking off from a B-52 base and a B-52 landing ata B-52 base. This event goes on many times each day for practicemissions and training. Some one had to have leaked the information tothe press that the U.S. was moving nuclear weapons by air in a treatyviolation.

This leads us to two possible scenarios.

1. Whoever leaked theinformation would have been someone in a position of authority knowingwhat was going on and concerned the U.S. was actually attempting to usenuclear weapons somewhere in the world and wanting to stop it byexposing it. This someone would have had to have a security clearanceof some kind and violated the trust under which it was issued thusbeing exposed to severe penalties and jail time for potential treasonetc. Facing such severe penalties someone would have to be totallycommitted to his/her own conscience/moral beliefs. This preemptiveexposure would put the U.S. on a difficult footing and loss of thesurprise factor, thus potentially curtailing the mission.

2. Theother possibility would be the information on the flight was leaked onpurpose in an attempt to influence a foreign government, group orsituation to move in a particular direction. That the U.S. was Saberrattling and the stakes were high enough to risk antagonizing theRussians to accomplish it. (With the possibility the Russians weresupporting the action and willing to overlook the violation asexemplified by their lack of response in the entire situation.)

In either case we have only seen some minor actions taking by theDepartment of Defense in an attempt to say; well, by accident we left afew nucs laying around on some missiles we were going to destroy andthey accidentally got loaded onto a plane that by some coincidencehappened to be going to a base other than the one it was assigned to(we rarely fly B-52s assigned at one station to another station).B-52s usually take off from their home base, fly their missionanywhere in the world by aerial refueling and then return to the basefrom which they departed. Often these flights take over 20 to 30 hours.If this was a mistake, what is happening to the general officers in thechain of command who would have had to issue lawful orders for themovement of those weapons and all those in the custodial chain whowould have had to sign for each weapon as they gained possession ofthem? It just doesnt add up. Especially when there is a line item inthe budget before Congress to upgrade the missiles the Air Force saysthey were about to destroy. There appears to be too many loose endsstill dangling. In addition to all of this did anyone notice howquickly this entire situation quieted down. Usually the press wouldplay on such a world shaking event for months. They do for other thingslike the first birthday of Anna Nicoles daughter. Weve heard aboutthat for weeks on end. But, for a world event with treaty violationimplications, no protests from the other treaty signers or other majorworld players, we get about three days of news attention and it goesaway. It seems the exposure has played its roles and has gone away withhopes all is forgotten.

In closing, again we are not privileged in knowing all of the factsand undercover goings on in this matter to be fully aware of what thereal intent of this action, but it appears to be more than what thesurface information appears.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads