from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 85
September 7, 2005


Once upon a time, the government of the United States sought ways and means to achieve negotiated reductions in stockpiles of nuclear weapons through the verified destruction of such weapons.

In 1965, US Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur J. Goldberg presented what was known as the "Transfer" proposal, under which the U.S. would transfer 60,000 kilograms of weapons grade uranium to nonweapons uses if the Soviet Union would transfer 40,000 kilograms. Each country would destroy existing nuclear weapons to make these materials available.

In order to assess whether nuclear weapons could be verifiably destroyed for this purpose without disclosing sensitive design information, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Defense Department conducted a field test of the process in summer 1967.

The field test was part of a program known as "Cloud Gap," a remarkable government initiative established in 1963 "to test the feasibility of hypothetical arms control and disarmament measures."

The 1967 Cloud Gap Field Test-34 was "an investigation of the demonstration of the destruction of nuclear weapons by visual observation, use of radiation detection equipment, inspection of X-ray plates of weapons, and laboratory analyses of the resulting fissionable material."

The field test, which was documented in more than a thousand pages, did in fact identify weaknesses in the protection of classified information and in the ability of inspectors to distinguish real weapons from decoys. The final report on the test, however, also noted ways in which these weaknesses could be mitigated.

Today, Cloud Gap Field Test-34 is scarcely a footnote in the history of nuclear weapons and national security, a road not taken. Yet in its unusual dedication to the empirical testing of policy options, Cloud Gap may still have something to teach.

An assortment of Cloud Gap documents obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, including the Final Report on Field Test-34, may be found here:


Many Americans have sensed a qualitative reduction in their access to government information, particularly when it concerns matters of security policy.

Now a new publication from the coalition provides some quantitative benchmarks that confirm and document the rise in official secrecy.

Metrics cited in the report range from formal classification -- which is at a record high -- to the fraction of federal advisory committee meetings closed to the public -- nearly two-thirds.

See the Secrecy Report Card 2005 by Rick Blum,, September 2005:


Some recent reports of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following:

"Oil and Gas: Supply Issues After Katrina," August 31, 2005:

"Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress," updated August 30, 2005:

"Strategic Petroleum Reserve," updated August 29, 2005:

"Federal Disaster Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries," updated August 29, 2005:

"Federal Stafford Act Disaster Assistance: Presidential Declarations, Eligible Activities, and Funding," August 29, 2005:

"Risk-Based Funding in Homeland Security Grant Legislation: Analysis of Issues for the 109th Congress," August 29, 2005:

"Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and U.S. Policy," updated August 26, 2005:

"Department of Homeland Security Reorganization: The 2SR Initiative," August 19, 2005:

"Al Qaeda: Profile and Threat Assessment," August 17, 2005:

"Legislative Approaches to Chemical Facility Security," August 16, 2005:

"Loss-of-Use Damages From U.S. Nuclear Testing in the Marshall Islands: Technical Analysis of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal's Methodology and Alternative Estimates," August 12, 2005:

"Tsunamis and Earthquakes: Is Federal Disaster Insurance in our Future?," April 6, 2005:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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