Knowledge of vital interests justifying a nuclear attack

Julian Todd made this Freedom of Information request to Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn.

Dear Ministry of Defence,

This is a simplification and restatement of my 9 January 2013 request because I did not fully clarify the apparent disclosure made in the final response to it.

The outline principles provided by the government for use of nuclear weapons is that they are:

"to deter and prevent nuclear blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests that cannot be countered by other means... we deliberately maintain some ambiguity about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate use of our nuclear deterrent... for example, we do not define what we consider to be our vital interests."

https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/m...

My original request was for documentation defining this "we"-group, as well as documentation as to what constituted the "vital interests".

The eventual response from the MOD on 11 March 2013 was:

"Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act gives an applicant the right to access recorded information held by public authorities at the time the request is made and does not require public authorities to answer questions, provide explanations or give opinions, unless this is recorded information held. I can confirm that the Ministry of Defence holds no recorded information that would provide an answer to the question/s you have asked in your request."

What Section 1 of the FOI Act actually says is:

"Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and, if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him."

In other words, the response must be in writing, but the information that you hold does not necessarily need to be.

By convention, persons making requests tend to ask after recorded information to make it easier for the public authority to identify and locate the information.

Accordingly, please can you answer the following questions based on information you must necessarily hold by virtue of the remit of the Ministry of Defence:

1) Does there exist a set of persons and internal agencies within the MOD and the rest of government among whom the contemplation of the use of "our nuclear weapons" is not ambiguous?

2) Does there exist a set of persons and internal agencies within the MOD and the rest of government who know what "we consider to be our vital interests"?

3) Does there exist a set of persons and internal agencies within the MOD and the rest of government that can make amendments to what "we consider to be our vital interests"?

4) For each affirmative answer above, please define the sets of persons and internal agencies concerned.

5) For each negative answer above, please explain how the MOD and the rest of government administers the stated policy without the existence of such a sets of persons or internal agencies.

I have come to understand that on the matter of the government's policy on nuclear weapons, nothing can be too irrational. However, I will be very disappointed to learn that the known policy actually involves the contemplation of the use of nuclear weapons first, followed by an official determination of the vital interests made for no better purpose than the justification of their use.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Todd

CBRN Pol-Det Pol1 (Smith, Mark C1), Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn

1 Atodiad

Freedom of Information Request: 09-05-2013-150952-010

 

Dear Mr. Todd,

 

Please find attached a response to your Freedom of Information request.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Dr. Mark Smith

 

Dr. Mark Smith, CBRN Pol - Det Pol 1, 4-A-13, Ministry of Defence, Main
Building, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HB.

Tel: +44(0)207 218 3280

Fax: +44(0)207 218 2432

 

Dear Dr M Smith,

Thank you for your response on 6 June 2013 to my FOI request for information about the existence of any government organizations relating to the knowledge what constitutes vital national interests for the purpose of contemplating the use of nuclear weapons.

The claim that the definition of "we" in the context of the phrase "what we consider to be our vital interests" refers to the "United Kingdom" is nonsense because this entity is not capable of thought. The claim can only mean something the word is shorthand for a particular controlling faction within the UK government, in which case the answer is circular.

The idea that the MOD holds no information whatsoever pertaining to the organizations or procedures capable of carrying out the policy of knowing, though keeping secret, the list of what constitutes UK vital interests that are worth risking nuclear war over is not credible. If true, it would lead one to believe that the policy is substantially rhetorical, and that the Prime Minister intends to invent a vital interest on the day he decides to threaten the use of nuclear weapons for whatever policy reason has moved him in the moment.

Owing to the seriousness of the conclusions that one would draw from the response, I would like my request to be passed on to the Deputy Chief Information Officer for an internal review.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Todd

CBRN Pol-Det Pol1 (Smith, Mark C1), Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn

Dear Mr. Todd,

Thank you for your email. It has been forwarded to the FOI Internal Review team in the MOD, who will be in touch in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mark Smith

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

CIO-FOI-IR (MULTIUSER), Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn

Dear Mr Todd

Acknowledgement of Request for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Internal Review

Your email of 2 July 2013 has been passed to this office. MOD will conduct an internal review of your request for information under the FOIA, dealt with by the CBRN Pol Secretariat, our reference 09-05-2013-150952-010.

The Department's target for completing internal reviews under the FOIA is 20 working days and we therefore aim to complete the review and respond to you by 30 July 2013. While we are working hard to achieve this, in the interests of providing you with a realistic indication of when you should expect a response, I should advise that the majority are currently taking between 20 and 40 working days to complete.

The review will involve a full, independent reconsideration of the handling of the case as well as the final decision.

Regards,
Ms Usha Sondhi
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Ms Usha Sondhi | MOD Information Rights Compliance Team | CIO-SPP-IR Comp2 | 01.N.16 MOD Main Building | Whitehall | London SW1A 2HB

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Alvin Pritchard. anodiad ()

Mr. Todd.

I would not worry sir.

The actual use of such a weapon would have unimaginable consequences of reprisal, thus making any Nuclear war unwinnable.

It would be impossible to use the Nuclear deterrent for example on terrorist cells for obvious reasons.

The radiation fallout drifting uncontrollably into other innocent countries is another factor to consider, so is the fact that the United Kingdom would almost certainly first need to obtain the permission from their political masters in Washington DC to launch such a weapon. Every Nuclear armed country in the world know these facts.

The chances of the United Kingdom actually launching Trident in anger is 0.000.1%.

Gadawodd Julian Todd anodiad ()

The unimaginable happens all the time. Accidents, mishaps and misunderstandings occur wherever humans are involved. For more elaboration, please refer to Robert McNamara in The Fog of War:
http://www.errolmorris.com/film/fow_tran...

Gadawodd Alvin Pritchard. anodiad ()

I would agree with you regarding the human error factor, however regarding a nuclear launch, a whole chain of independent procedures have to be first authorised and sanctioned, these weapons have been deliberately designed so that no one man could ever launch one by himself, the vital authorisation codes are also kept in a secure secret independent location thus rendering the weapon useless and impossible to launch without them.

For example, even a conventional torpedo can not be fired from a British Sub without firstly obtaining the correct secret authorisation code and permission from London.

Just incase in the very unlikely event the crew went renegade!

I Hope all that puts peoples minds more at rest! Lol.

Gadawodd Julian Todd anodiad ()

True story: During the height of the Cold War, unbeknown to the President and the Secretary of Defence, the secret unlock code for the Minuteman intercontenental missiles was set to 00000000.

http://web.archive.org/web/2012051119160...

It is quite possible that the entire system is renegade (nevermind the crew), given that they are illogically denying they know of anyone who is aware of the secret unambiguous circumstances when it is to be used.

That is the topic of this particular FOI request. Comments about safety shouldn't be put here, especially when there is plenty of recorded history which contradicts them.

CIO-FOI-IR (MULTIUSER), Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn

1 Atodiad

  • Attachment

    20130730 Rev Mr Todd Knowledge of vital interests justifying a nuclear attack Rev final response.pdf

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Dear Mr Todd,

Please find attached MOD's internal review response to your request, our references 10-01-2013-105056-004 and 09-05-2013-150952-010.

Regards,
Ms Usha Sondhi
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Ms Usha Sondhi | MOD Information Rights Compliance Team | CIO-SPP-IR Comp2 | 01.N.16 MOD Main Building | Whitehall | London SW1A 2HB

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Julian Todd anodiad ()

The matter has been resolved by the ICO following a complaint FS50510429. They managed to find the link I was looking for.

Here is my reply to them:

-------

I have reviewed the link which you sent describing the "National Security Council" that was established in 2010 by the new government.
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

This Council does indeed appear to fit the description of the agency whose identity I had requested of the MoD.

Having reviewed the small number of reports by the Joint Select Committee on the National Security Strategy concerning the operation of this Council, it is debatable as to whether it has actually addressed the issue of enumerating the vital national interests that would warrant a nuclear response, though it would clearly fall within its remit.
http://www.parliament.uk/business/commit...

Even though the government webpages have undergone a radical reorganization, I am quite embarrassed that I did not discover this page myself in time. I am also a little surprised that the MoD was not able to direct me to it when I requested the information.

I am therefore content for you to consider this case closed.

Thank you for your attention to it.

Yours sincerely,
Julian Todd