Have you ever accidentally hit REPLY ALL to an e-mail from the boss, your sarcastic or critical remarks embarrassing you or worse? That a serious error but what about accidentally posting national secrets to a public website? No not on your blog – although that would be very bad. It seems the Government Printing Office did just that. They published a declaration detailing the location and even floor plans for nuclear facilities and U.S. nuclear missile sites. Senator Chris Bond (R-MO) described the publication as “a virtual treasure map for terrorists.”
Technically the document was not “secret” but was classified as “Highly Confidential Safeguards Sensitive.” In light of the dangerous world in which we live I am left wondering, did they downgrade the classification when they discovered the error or is it possible that such potentially dangerous information was really only considered sensitive.
The document was a May 5th letter from the President to the House of Representatives and included the sensitive information as attached documents. The information was posted on May 6 and remained online with full public access until it was removed on June 2, 2009. The GPO excused the error by noting that they process about 160 House documents each session.
There is no way to know if terrorists gained access to any of this information, at least the GPO hasn’t released that information. However, there are several websites such as FAS Secrecy News, and Wikileaks that seek such secrets and publish them. The GPO says the documents were received in a standard way and processed in a routine manner. Clearly the GPO needs to review these “routine proceedures.” This was no little mistake and we need to see some proceedural changes we can believe in.