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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Info Demanded on|Turmoil at U.S. Missile Base

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A public policy group sued the Pentagon for information on why 17 military officers at Minot Air Force Base lost their certification to launch nuclear-armed Minuteman III missiles after an Air Force review in March.

Speaking Truth to Power sued the U.S. Strategic Command and the Department of Defense in a federal FOIA complaint.

It claims the Pentagon has not responded to its May request for information about the investigation of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

That investigation, carried out by the Air Force Global Strike Command Inspector General, revealed "grave deficiencies [in] the missile wing's operational ability to launch Minuteman III missiles," according to the lawsuit.

It continues: "As a result of the inspection, 17 officers at Minot AFB were removed from the highly sensitive duty of standing watch 24 hours a day over the missiles.

"An email written by Lt. Col. Jay Folds in response to the inspection stated: 'We are in fact in a crisis mode right now'. Folds also stated in the email: 'And now we are discovering such rot in the crew force that your behavior while on alert is accepting of' weapons safety rule violations, possible code compromises, 'all in the name of not inconveniencing yourselves.'"

According to The Associated Press, all 17 officers were decertified from their responsibilities and ordered to take refresher training. One officer is being investigated for potentially compromising nuclear launch codes, and a decision on disciplinary action is pending, the AP reported.

Speaking Truth to Power describes itself in the lawsuit as a "public policy research and information organization."

It seeks documents on what prompted the inspector general's investigation, who did the inspection, who were the targets and what remedial actions were taken.

It also seeks documents on the policies or procedures put in place to correct the alleged morale problem among the missile launch crews.

It claims that both defendants have acknowledged receipt of its FOIA requests, and both have failed to provide it with a single document.

It wants to see the record. It says it plans to publish any documents it receives on several websites in collaboration with two other groups, Global Zero and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, which are not parties to the lawsuit.

The plaintiff is represented by Jules Zacher of Philadelphia.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In an email received after this article had been archived, a spokesman for Global Zero said his group "is not involved with Speaking Truth to Power's FOIA complaint lawsuit in any way, nor are we collaborating with respect to publication."

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