from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2015, Issue No. 11
February 11, 2015
Secrecy News Blog: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/
CLASSIFIED AND PUBLIC: B-53 BOMB YIELD DECLASSIFIED
The explosive yield of the B-53 thermonuclear bomb, once the highest-yield nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, was 9 Megatons. "Effective 20 November, 2014, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy jointly declassified the fact that the yield of the B53/W53 Y1 was 9 megatons," according to a notice posted on a DoD website last week.
This is less of a breakthrough in declassification policy than might be supposed, since the 9 Megaton yield for the B-53 bomb has been publicly reported for decades, including on this 1997 web page:
But it seems that this information had not been *officially* disclosed before. Now that it has been, it can be publicly acknowledged by government employees without penalty and it no longer need be painstakingly redacted from historical documents as they are processed for declassification.
The problem of nuclear weapons information that is both formally classified and readily available to the public has long been a challenge for the Department of Energy.
Last September, DOE updated its longstanding "GEN 16" policy which dictates a "no comment" response to classified information in public settings.
The newly revised no-comment policy "recognizes that it is possible to have incidental contact online" with a classified document and that "merely reading the document online does not constitute a comment." See Classification Bulletin GEN-16, Revision 2, No Comment Policy on Classified Information in the Open Literature, September 23, 2014:
A DOE training package gives guidance on how to respond, and how not to respond, to public references to information that is classified, in accordance with the GEN-16 policy. The following exchange is offered as an example of what NOT to say:
Joe: "Can you believe there were weapons in X country?" [when that fact is classified]Instead, suggested alternative DOE responses are: "I never really thought about it," or "DOE doesn't confirm or deny the presence of weapons in most countries."
DOE: "I thought everyone knew that"
Another example of what NOT to say:
Joe: "Is it true you're holding up publication of Jim's book on his work in nuclear weapons development because of classification concerns?"One should also not disconfirm the status or validity of published nuclear-related information, DOE advises. Thus, one should not say, "I hope terrorists read that article, because the [nuclear weapon] design was a joke."
DOE: "It's taking a long time to review, not just because there is a lot of classified information about thermonuclear weapons, but also because it's boring."
See DOE briefing on Classification Bulletin GEN-16, Revision 2, Classification Training Institute, October 2014:
MILITARY TERMS AND SYMBOLS
The U.S. Army has updated and doubled the size of its lexicon of military terminology. This is a fluid and rapidly evolving field. In fact, "changes to terminology occur more frequently than traditional publication media can be updated."
The new Army publication extends beyond words to the use of symbols, including "hand drawn and computer-generated military symbols for situation maps, overlays, and annotated aerial photographs for all types of military operations."
Though intended primarily for military personnel, this work is also useful for others who are seeking to understand and interpret Army records and military culture.
A "clandestine operation," the Army document explains, is "an operation sponsored or conducted by governmental departments or agencies in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment. A clandestine operation differs from a covert operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of the operation rather than on concealment of the identity of the sponsor."
However, "In special operations, an activity may be both covert and clandestine and may focus equally on operational considerations and intelligence-related activities."
An "unauthorized commitment," which surprisingly merits its own entry, is defined as "An agreement that is not binding solely because the United States Government representative who made it lacked the authority to enter into that agreement on behalf of the United States Government."
See Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 1-02, Terms and Military Symbols, February 2, 2015:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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