US Nuclear Weapons Site in Europe Breached

Peace activists walked one kilometer onto a US nuclear weapons storage site in Belgium for more than one hour before security personnel reacted. Click image for larger version.
(For an update to this map, go here)

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By Hans M. Kristensen

A group of people last week managed to penetrate deep onto Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium where the U.S. Air Force currently deploys 10-20 nuclear bombs. (For an update to this blog, go here)

Fortunately, the people were not terrorists but peace activists from a group known as Vredesactie, who managed to climb the outer base fence, walk cross the runway, breach a double-fenced security perimeter, and walk into the very center of the air base alongside the aircraft shelters where the nuclear bombs are thought to be stored in underground vaults.


A Nuclear Cake Walk
 
The activists climbed the outer base fence (1), breached the inner double-fence (2), tagged a nuclear aircraft shelter (3), walked across the tarmac (4), before being arrested (5) after more than one hour inside the base. The numbers on the images correspond to the location of the numbers on the map above.

The activists penetrated nearly one kilometer onto the base over more than an hour before a single armed security guard appeared and asked what they were doing. Soon more arrived to arrest the activists, who later described: “The military blindfolded for hours, they forced us to kneel in the snow, arms outstretched at 90° and threatened us if we intend to return to the base in the months to come.”

The activists videotaped their entire walk across the base. The security personnel confiscated cameras, but the activists removed the memory card first and smuggled it out of the base. Ahem…

In June 2008, I disclosed how an internal Air Force investigation had concluded that most nuclear weapons sites in Europe did not meet US security requirements. The Dutch government denied there was a problem, and an investigative team later sent by the US congress concluded that the security was fine.

They might have to go back and check again.

The nuclear bombs at Kleine Brogel are part of a stockpile of about 200 nuclear weapons left in Europe after the Cold War ended. Whereas nuclear weapons have otherwise been withdrawn to the United States and consolidated, the bombs in Europe are scattered across 62 aircraft shelters at six bases in five European countries. The 130-person US 701st Munitions Support Squadron (MUNSS) is based at Kleine Brogel to protect and service the nuclear bombs and facilities.

They might have to go back to training.

The activists will likely be charged with trespassing a military base but they should actually get a medal for having exposed security problems at Kleine Brogel. And this follows two years of the Air Force creating new nuclear command structures and beefing up inspections and training to improve nuclear proficiency following the embarrassing incident at Minot Air Force Base in 2007. Despite that, the activists not only made their way deep into the nuclear base but also discovered that the double-fence around the nuclear storage area had a hole in it! “We’re not the first,” one of the activists said.

NATO needs to get over its obsession with nuclear weapons and move out of the Cold War and the Obama administration’s upcoming Nuclear Posture Review needs to bring those weapons home before the wrong people try to do what the peace activists did.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

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14 Responses to “US Nuclear Weapons Site in Europe Breached”

  1. Pieter Taris February 4, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    “The Dutch government denied there was a problem, and an investigative team later sent by the US congress concluded that the security was fine.

    They might have to go back and check again.”

    It seems that the author of this articles thinks Kleine Brogel is situated in the Netherlands. Not so much: instead, it is sutated in Belgium. As such, your remark on the US Congress Team having to recheck the security is far off the mark and somewhat err… stupid.

    Reply: Err, not so. As you can see if you read the story from 2008 about the Dutch reaction, it was in reaction to the US Air Force Blue Ribbon Report’s general description of security deficiencies in Europe – including the Belgian base at Kleine Brogel and the Dutch base at Volkel. HK

  2. Robert Salas February 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Not that I want to encourage breaking into U.S. Military installations, but this kind of ‘civil disobedience’ should be applauded. These activists were obviously testing the security of these nuclear weapons and bringing public attention to the fact that they were not secure and the question of why were they there in the first place. Nukes are an issue of concern for every man, woman and child on the planet. When the governments do not listen to the kinds of concerns that impact all of us, civil disobedience may be our only option of being heard.

  3. Roger February 4, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    Nothing like providind a road map for a breech by terrorists looking to steal a nuclear weapon. The US should immediately remove all of these tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Why are they still there?

    Reply: Why? The official explanation is that they provide a political link between Europe and the United States by reassuring the Europeans that the United States is serious about defending them in case they were attacked. Unofficially the reason is more a soup of outdated assumptions, unsubstantiated claims, worst-case scenarios, alliance tradition, and bureaucratic inertia. But my sense is that we’re approaching a point in time when these leftovers from the Cold War might finally be withdrawn. HK

  4. stevae February 5, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    This type of irresponsible journalism is the reason that the media has such a bad reputation. Why would you make such a security weakness well known, in this day and age of international terrorism? When I worked Air Base Ground Defense, we had standing orders to shoot anyone penetrating a US nuclear installation. There is nothing heroic about activist’s penetrating a nuclear facility! It is galatically stupid! But in this day of astronomical liberalism, people should be able to do whatever they want to do, and without consequences. Anything to the contrary is considered closed-minded. Well, the act these people involved themselves in was moronic, and the fact that media outlets publish it is not only irresponsible, but neanderthal in its concept as well. What an ignorant world we live in today…

  5. hkristensen February 8, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    Glen Milner reminded me that just last November, five peace activists were arrested at the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) near Bangor, Washington, after they cut their way through several layers of fense before being arrested. The announcement is here. HK

  6. Max F February 8, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    Are people still advocating security though obscurity? I’m scared of terrorism again now.

    How irresponsible of guards to blame others for their failures. The media is doing their job reporting government failures- how about these guys start doing theirs?

  7. 3.1415 February 8, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    In the Bangor incident, five citizens were able to penetrate the base for 4 hours before being discovered by base security. While the way the security force handled the protestors was very American and, dare I say, coward, the 4 hr delay should be the consolation prize for the lone Belgian security guy, considering that the base has some 1/4 of Uncle Sam’s nukes. If FAS and others are really interested in nuclear disarmament, please publicize more of these incidents. For example, news report at http://www.jonahhouse.org/Disarm_Now_Plowshares/media.html

  8. Andrew February 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I think it’s hilarious hippies can breach nuclear weapons facilities this easily… not to mention taking the “janitors” job of finding holes in the fence. And seeing as they didn’t make that hole, and a squirrel definitely didn’t, then who did and why?

  9. Stephen Schwartz February 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    Seattle Times reporter Mark Rahner had some fun recently with 81 year-old Bill “Bix” Bichsel, one of the activists involved in the November 2 SWFPAC infiltration:

    http://www.quackquack.org/post/335975917/seattle-times-reporter-mark-rahner-takes-a

  10. Darren February 9, 2010 at 5:46 am #

    Double fence?
    And why are there still NW’s in Europe. Nice use of the NPT.

  11. Franco Munini February 13, 2010 at 12:49 am #

    The comment by stevae on February 5th, 1:07am raises another issue: why should truth be hidden? Allowing it to happen brought the umpleasant package there in the first place. Trying to hide the nukes from public attention doesn’t make them safer.
    Present wars are meant to occupy our minds. Truth as we would like to be fed requires surgical examination of mainstream information pumped into the system by corpomedia to remove open or subliminal ideological contraband.
    Think of it. How do we fight to get and distribute TRUE information to help liberate people from induced paranoia?
    Franco, from beautiful Venezuela.

  12. R.G. Frano, A-EMT-4-Paramedic, ACLS, (Ret.) February 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    What a an impressive feat.
    I applaud the people who encountered this lone security guard, becuase, as the article states, they didn’t hurt anyone, AND, more importantly, they called attention to a glaring defect in the security required, for these ‘boys, (and girls, I presume, since gender knows no limits on gross imbecility!), and their toys’.
    If some good hearted but naieve civilians, barely out of their adolescence, (judging by the pics), can walk around on any military base with nuclear weapons for an hour/a kilometer, (embarassing officials a lot LESS then they should have been embarrassed!), I can only wonder what a focused team, led by people with too much ‘god’ on their narrowly focused, tiny little minds could do!
    What if the NEXT ‘Scott Roeder’, who killed a fellow Christian, (in church, due to anti abortion arrogance, and will get 25-50 Y’s for it, [B.F.D.!]), decides ‘bigger-is-better’?
    What happens the next time ‘flight students’ with NO desire to learn how to land jetliners, (like the fools who nearly got ME on 11.Sept.01) decide ‘bolder, not older’ is their buzz-phrase?

  13. Samuel Cole February 17, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    This is in response to what Stevae said. I do not understand how a former member of the United States Air Force as a former security member can justify hiding this fact as a threat to national security. This would be a valuble lesson to those in government that mistakes like this cant be tolorated and that hiding these facts amount to criminal behavior. When you drop the ball you admit your mistake and take steps to improve the situation that caused the breach in the first place. You as well as the security detail and those above them should take pause and think which is dangerous a bunch of hippies breaching a nuclear faclilty or those who are tasked with protecting these facilities going along with a cover up of a potential danger to not only the National Security of the nation that owns the weapons but the host nation as well. By the way Stevae this is not the first time an incident has occured where Air Force security has been in question in terms of nuclear weapons handling and storage.

  14. Countries in Europe July 8, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    Not that I want to encourage breaking into U.S. Military installations, but this kind of ‘civil disobedience’ should be applauded. These activists were obviously testing the security of these nuclear weapons and bringing public attention to the fact that they were not secure and the question of why were they there in the first place. Nukes are an issue of concern for every man, woman and child on the planet. When the governments do not listen to the kinds of concerns that impact all of us, civil disobedience may be our only option of being heard.

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