U.S. troops have inadvertently exposed U.S. nuclear weapons secrets while using a flashcards learning app to help them memorize nuclear security protocols.
The flashcards contained sensitive information about the locations and security measures for every U.S. military base in Europe that holds nuclear devices.
There has previously been rumors and leaked documents about U.S. nuclear weapons being held in European bases, but the government has never confirmed it.
However, the flashcards used by soldiers have now revealed not just the bases, but also the specific locations with “hot” vaults that likely have nuclear weapons.
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They also detail intricate security details and protocols such as the positions of cameras, the frequency of patrols around the vaults, secret duress words that signal when a guard is being threatened and the unique identifiers that a restricted area badge needs to have.
Like their analogue namesakes, flashcard learning apps are popular digital learning tools that show questions on one side and answers on the other. By simply searching online for terms publicly known to be associated with nuclear weapons, Bellingcat was able to discover cards used by military personnel serving at all six European military bases reported to store nuclear devices.
Experts approached by Bellingcat said that these findings represented serious breaches of security protocols and raised renewed questions about US nuclear weapons deployment in Europe.
The investigation found flashcards online dating all the way back to 2013. There were also ones containing sensitive info from as recent as April, 2021.
Since the discovery of the flashcards, it is unknown whether the U.S. military has changed the security protocols of the bases containing the nuclear weapons.
However, the U.S. has appeared to take down all the sensitive flashcards from the apps after being contacted by Bellingcat about the report.
American Military News reports on what exactly some of the flashcards exposed:
In one example, the publication learned that bases with nuclear weapons use protective aircraft shelters (PAS) equipped with Weapons Storage and Security Systems (WS3) made up of electronic controls, sensors, and a “vault” that is built into the floor. The outlet subsequently searched flashcard apps like Chegg, Quizlet, and Cram for the terms “PAS,” “WS3” and “vault.”
One set of 70 flashcards associated with Volkel Air Base, operated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and used to host some U.S. forces, revealed the exact number of WS3 vaults at the base. The cards further listed specific vault numbers designated as “hot” and “cold” suggesting which vaults may contain nuclear weapons and which ones don’t.