American bases in Europe, where nuclear weapons are kept ready, are among the best safe places on the continent. But only with simple flashcards did the security details become known.
Search Network Bellingcat It found that American soldiers responsible for the protection and maintenance of nuclear weapons have inadvertently posted classified details about the facilities online – in some cases for several years.
In order to ensure the protection of nuclear weapons, sentries have to stuff extensive information: regulations, protocols, and security processes – for example, what to do if strangers break into a building or a threat code if a guard is taken hostage.
An easy online search of the vault passwords revealed
Many soldiers apparently turned to popular help when studying: digital flashcards. In a simple internet search, Bellingcat activists combined the often-mentioned terminology regarding nuclear weapons with military base locations, and thus came across highly sensitive data.
► The result: soldiers have uploaded nuclear secrets to learning platforms like Chegg, Cram, or Quizlet, from all six European military bases on which nuclear weapons are supposed to be stored – and in some cases since 2013. Including Folklore Airport (Netherlands), Aviano (Italy) and in a bushel (Rhineland-Palatinate).
The soldiers had informed the electronic platforms, not only the location of the nuclear weapons caches, but also the patrol frequency or the location of the launch codes with which all the nuclear warhead safes could be opened at the same time.
Bellingcat activists found index cards containing up to 100 classified pieces of information from inside the atomic bases.
- Slogans to be chanted by guards when threatened,
- Warnings to spammers in the respective national languages,
- What are the distinguishing features of passports that allow access to restricted military areas,
- Locations of emergency power generators and modems connecting surveillance cameras in the basement,
- And the configuration and operation of components from the control unit that can control the cache of nuclear weapons.
Soldiers stand on Facebook carrying fake nuclear bombs
Bellingcat activists were able to easily verify the authenticity of the flashcards: Several soldiers uploaded the learning materials to Chegg, Cram, or Quizlet with their real names – some even had a profile picture. Bellingcat examined the soldiers’ profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook to ensure that they were also operating on military bases.
One of the soldiers even uploaded a group photo on Facebook where he and his comrades are standing in front of a fake nuclear device at a Dutch army base – in flagrant violation of military safety rules!
Perhaps the reason Bellingcat discovered flashcards at all was due to the fact that they were automatically set to “public” once users uploaded them. The atomic cards have since been deleted after Bellingcat confronted the US Army and NATO with his research.