Today's New York Times reports that the federal government stuck plans for a nuclear weapon up on the Internet, free for the taking (until yesterday). The "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal" was set up at the behest of Congressional Republicans smarting from the failure to find WMD's in Iraq; the website, which contained 55,000 boxes of Saddam-era documents, was meant to be a post-facto freelance intelligence-gathering free-for-all. The Weekly Standard and conservative bloggers were big fans of this idea. But the cache also included what experts are calling a "basic guide to building an atom bomb." Oops. (Not that the amateur WMD-hunters are buying it: Jveritas, an Arabic-speaking blogger who has translated many documents, claims the prospect of, say, Iran using the nuclear plans is "a laughable idea.")
This is not the first time that Iraqi nuclear plans have been shared online by the U.S. government. As Kurt Pitzer reported in the September/October 2005 issue of Mother Jones, spin got the better of security when the military picked up Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, the mastermind behind Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program in 2003:
On June 26, the CIA posted a press release about Obeidi's cache -- the most valuable WMD evidence the U.S. has yet obtained in Iraq -- on its official website. It also put up digital photos of the components and even one of the key centrifuge diagrams. The pictures, which [former U.N. weapons inspector David] Albright says could be "incredibly useful" to any regime trying to start a covert nuclear program, were online for almost a week -- long enough to be downloaded and made freely available on the Internet -- before the agency took them down. Literally buried for 12 years, some of Saddam's hoard of nuclear knowledge got out because of the U.S. government, not in spite of it.
Read the rest of the story here.