Napping Air Force Crew Broke Security Rules
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
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