The Federation of American Scientists’ director of the nuclear information project Hans Kristensen reports that he has gotten ahold of a surprising document that shows the Bush White House guided the US military to change the US nuclear posture in 2002 to develop nuclear strike plans against rogue states, including North Korea, Iran and Iraq.
“Everybody got so afraid of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and the combination of the two that White House guidance ordered the military to prepare nuclear strike plans against them,” Kristensen tells me in a phone interview Monday. “This particular document is the main surprise here. It is a briefing that that US strategic command held sometime in 2002 which is about national nuclear war plans that went into effect in March 2003. Since then, there has been only upgrade of the plan.”
Kristensen says the document he got hold of is a compilation of slides, 126 pages. “They only released 23 of those, and most of that is heavily redacted,” Kristensen says. “But one thing they surprisingly let through is the identification of new strike plans against rogue states. And this is a surprise. … This shows nuclear strike planning rose all the way to the top, the national strategic war plan, a new development.”
Kristensen says White House guidance consists only of documents the president signs that directs the military to plan for certain scenarios. Kristensen says that on June 28, 2002, President Bush signed NSPD 14, the first comprehensive White House guidance to the military on how to plan for a nuclear war. That document is classified. But they have “pried open a corner of that with this discovery,” Kristensen says.
Kristensen says that back in March 2002, part of the Bush administration nuclear posture review – a big review the Pentagon did – was leaked and described in an article in the Los Angeles Times. “It led to a huge debate. Are we actually going to target rogue states with nuclear weapons? These used to be something focused only on Russia and China,” Kristensen says. “At that point, government officials played it down. They suggested this was not really a guidance document.” But clearly, it was.
About his latest discovery, Kristensen says, “This is a milestone in our knowledge about nuclear planning and how it has evolved after the Cold War. The document tells the various military commands what to do. They have to implement this guidance. Targeters in strategic command start targeting those facilities. Where do we have those weapons, submarines, bombers. They weave together this whole very orchestrated strike plan. If the president decided to nuke Iran, here’s the plan.”