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Napping Air Force Crew Broke Security Rules

POSTED: 08:02 PM ET, 07/24/2008 by Derek Kravitz

A crew of three Air Force personnel fell asleep while assigned to watch classified missile launch code components at a facility at the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, but did not compromise any top-secret material, Air Force Space Command said today.

An investigation by the 91st Missile Wing into the July 12 incident did not find that the crew compromised any classified information. The Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, had previously said it had unconfirmed reports that an airman had improperly taken launch codes from the facility, prompting a lockdown at the Minot base.

Air Force officials denied that the base had been placed on lockdown or that launch codes had been lost or taken from the facility. Rather, Masao Doi, a spokesman for Headquarters Air Force Base Command at Peterson Air Force Space, Colo., said the launch-code components, which are used to communicate from a control center to the missile, were secured in a locked container behind closed doors.

The three Air Force crew members went to a "leadership room" above ground level -- described as a rest area for Air Force officers -- at about 9:30 p.m. July 12 and were asleep within 15 minutes, he said.

The trio were asleep for a few hours and later reported the incident, deemed a "procedural violation," to supervisors, Doi said. "We take those violations seriously," he added.

In May, an Air Force unit at Minot, the 5th Bomb Wing, was given an "unacceptable" grade in security of nuclear weapons, according to the review by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In another category, management and administration, it received a grade of "marginal," based on deficiencies in recording changes that affected the operational status of nuclear cruise missiles and gravity bombs.

Last summer, a B-52 at Minot was loaded with six air-launched cruise missiles and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana without the pilots, air or ground crews knowing they contained nuclear warheads.

By Derek Kravitz |  July 24, 2008; 8:02 PM ET
Previous: Report: Abandoned Mines Threaten Health, Safety | Next: Picks of the Week: Faulty DNA Tests, Sick Nuke Workers


Please email us to report offensive comments.

This article should mention that Robert Gates recently fired two of the Air Force's top brass over this nuclear stuff.

Posted by: Will Riddle | July 24, 2008 9:16 PM

Who really cares. Four guys locked in a room and only one was awake instead of two. Really, why is this even newsworthy?

Posted by: Joe | July 24, 2008 9:30 PM

Editorial: Air Force Base Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo should be corrected to read Air Force Space Command at....

Posted by: John | July 24, 2008 9:35 PM


Posted by: Robin | July 24, 2008 10:19 PM

It's very disturbing to hear that there is another "incident" at Minot AFB. I hope someone in the press is following up on both incidents that occured and not just taking the military's explanation at face value.

Posted by: pmorlan | July 25, 2008 7:48 AM

It isn't "just the military's explination at face value," Mr. Pmorlan, it is the Air Force's explination, a service known exposing thier mistakes if found to prevent any possible leaks or scandels. keeping the warhead missles on the b-52 quiet is easily somthing they could have covered up, but did they? And the shipment to taiwan was an accounting error, they were not nucular parts.

"WASHINGTON (AP) ― The Defense Department announced on Tuesday that it mistakenly shipped b/ non-nuclear b/ components for an intercontinental ballistic missile to Taiwan but has recovered them."

I woudn't even classify this as an incident, nothing even happened.

The post should look into the War in Iraq and Afghanistan for news, not some flavor of the week report. "thumbs down"

Posted by: TAF | July 25, 2008 8:30 AM

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