Deutsche Welle reports data leaks and secret security protocols on US nuclear weapons and bases held in Europe.
According to a German newspaper, some American soldiers in charge of nuclear weapons used publicly available flashcard applications (training systems), revealing a range of sensitive and classified data.
Although the presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe has long been analyzed by various documents, photographs and statements by officials, nevertheless, the places where US nuclear weapons are stored are officially classified, and governments do not confirm or deny their presence. However, this “miss” reveals not only the bases, but also the exact points, describing details such as the location of cameras, the frequency of patrols and signals to enter the bases.
Apps like this offer flashcards to help users remember information, a popular learning tool. Bellingcat’s Fock Postma discovered that the military used well-known apps and sites like Chegg, Cram and Quizlet to create cards on which they stored information about bases in Europe likely to contain US nuclear weapons, secret codes , passwords and other important security details.
What’s more, the military forgot to “close” public access in the app settings, which made usernames and photos publicly available, and since some of the soldiers used the same photos as on their LinkedIn profiles, it wasn’t difficult to link them to information about nuclear weapons.
It remains a mystery why the soldiers used unprotected training apps to memorize information.
Postma contacted officials from the US Department of Defense, NATO, and the US European Command several weeks before the release of his report, and the sensitive cards have since been removed. It is noted that data on nuclear weapons were freely available on cards from 2013 to April 2021. That being said, they can still be seen on the Wayback Machine archive site.
How were the leaks found?
Military terminology is full of codes and abbreviations, and this also applies to the storage of nuclear weapons. However, some key terms are described in online articles, docs, and even Wikipedia articles.
A simple Google search for nuclear weapons, along with the names of air bases in Europe, quickly led to their exposure.
In addition to new information on “cold” and “hot” (empty or full) “treasuries” in Italy and Germany, information has been found about other bases in Europe, which allegedly host nuclear weapons.
NATO, the European Union (EUCOM), the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Dutch Ministry of Defense (MoD) have contacted about possible public safety implications, but no details or other information about the leaks has been provided.
Nuclear arsenal in Germany – part of the treaty with NATO
During the confrontation with the Soviet Union, the United States decided back in the 1950s to deploy part of its own nuclear arsenal in Europe. In Germany until the early 1990s, according to German media, there were from 150 to 200 atomic bombs. Today, the number of warheads is estimated at 20, we are talking about hydrogen bombs of the B61 type.
In 2010, the Wikileaks website published leaks of diplomatic cables, from which it followed that nuclear weapons were located at the Büchel Air Force Base in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Officially, the existence of nuclear weapons in Germany is not commented on by either the US authorities or the FRG government.
The deployment of this arsenal is part of NATO’s strategy for the joint use of nuclear weapons: as a member of the alliance, Germany is obliged to participate in its nuclear program. This guarantees Berlin a say in the planning or conduct of NATO’s nuclear operations. In exchange, Germany pledges to provide aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons and store nuclear warheads on its territory.