Ready to Blow
A nuclear watchdog organization sues for access to documents detailing new nuclear weapons programs at Sandia Labs. Let the battle begin!
By Simon McCormack
Illustration by Rex Barron
Citizen Action New Mexico is serious about getting their hands on nuclear weapons documents. The NNSA is now fully aware of just how serious they really are.
The NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) has refused to turn over unclassified documents with information on new nuclear weapons programs taking place at Sandia National Laboratories. Citizen Action New Mexico’s Director Sue Dayton says in late 2005, her organization filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents and was told that, although the documents were unclassified, they were only for government use. “Since then, we’ve heard nothing,” Dayton says.
In reaction to the NNSA’s nonresponse, Citizen Action has filed a lawsuit in state district court demanding the documents be released. “These documents have intimate details about Sandia’s role in the development of nuclear weapons,” Dayton explains. “The members of our organization, and I think the public at large, are very interested in the information these documents contain.”
Stephanie Holinka, a representative from Sandia, says the lab has a longstanding policy of not commenting on “pending legislative issues.”
Citizen Action is seeking access to Sandia’s “Ten Year Comprehensive Site Plans,” which are released annually by every national nuclear weapons laboratory and, Dayton says, are the foundation for the implementation of President Bush’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). According to a Citizen Action press release, “The NPR expanded the rationale for the potential use of nuclear weapons and targeted countries, and argued the need for the new design of nuclear weapons.”
Dayton believes the documents may shed light on Sandia’s role in the nation’s nuclear weapons production and what she says is a common misconception about Sandia’s activities. “Some people have this pie-in-the-sky idea that Sandia is this research lab that does all these wonderful, good things for humanity, when in fact, over half of the people employed at the labs are working on nuclear weapons programs. A lot of people I talk to don’t realize that nuclear weapons aren’t a thing of the past and that they’re being produced right now and right here.”
“I think everybody has a really good idea of what the primary mission of the lab is,” Holinka says. “Everything is clearly delineated and discussed on our website (www.sandia.gov) and there’s information on many areas, including nuclear weapons programs as well as alternative energy work.
“As far as how many people work in what department and percentage breakdowns, that’s a personnel matter and we don’t discuss personnel matters.”
Jay Coghlan, director of Nuke Watch New Mexico, whose organization previously won a lawsuit for the release of similar documents regarding Los Alamos National Labs, says Nuke Watch fully supports Citizen Action's position in the lawsuit. “The documents we had turned over to us were very helpful in terms of giving us information that we needed and the public needed.” Coghlan believes Citizen Action will benefit similarly if they are awarded access to Sandia’s documents.
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