The Public Interest Declassification Board congratulates the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its member nations for its work in declassifying the Cold War historical retrospectives of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and posting them on its website. The histories detail the origins of SHAPE and document its activities and decisions as a consolidated command structure opposing the Communist alliance forming during the Cold War. Under the orders of Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1951, historians in SHAPE began to research and draft these classified histories, drawing on the wide range of Top Secret and Secret documents that had been collected and preserved by the SHAPE Historical Office and SHAPE Central Records Office.
These histories also shed important new light on the origins, development, and implementation of NATO’s nuclear weapons policies. While NATO has taken important steps to declassify its nuclear weapons history, the U.S. effort lags behind. U.S. nuclear weapons information, including storage locations, is classified as “Formerly Restricted Data” (FRD) by the Atomic Energy Act. Under the 1954 Act and its implementing regulations, this information is not subject to automatic declassification and, once classified as FRD, remains classified until such time as the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DoD) agree to declassify the information. Although the Cold War ended over a decade ago, DoD and DOE have done little to declassify information on our nuclear weapons history and its role in winning the Cold War. It is our hope that the Departments of Energy and Defense can learn from NATO’s efforts.
We believe the cooperation and excellent work undertaken by the member nations support our recommendation to the President in our Transforming the Security Classification System report that the Departments of Defense and Energy take steps necessary to allow for the systematic declassification review of obsolete FRD information that would provide citizens and historians new perspective on US Cold War policies. We believe the declassification of the SHAPE histories can serve as a model for achieving this goal.