Saturday, September 15, 2012

25 July 1980 - Nuclear Targeting Directive PD-59 Declassified

Jimmy Carter's Controversial Nuclear Targeting Directive PD-59 Declassified
Designed to Give President More Choices in Nuclear Conflict than "All-Out Spasm War"
White House Officials Envisioned Prolonged Nuclear Conflict Where High-Tech Intelligence Systems Provided a "Look-Shoot-Look" Capability
Leak of PD-59 Exposed White House Exclusion of State Department in National Security Decisions
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 390 - Posted - September 14, 2012

click graphic for full pdf view

Washington, D.C., September 14, 2012 – The National Security Archive is today posting - for the first time in its essentially complete form - one of the most controversial nuclear policy directives of the Cold War. Presidential Directive 59 (PD-59), "Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy," signed by President Jimmy Carter on 25 July 1980, aimed at giving U.S. Presidents more flexibility in planning for and executing a nuclear war, but leaks of its Top Secret contents, within weeks of its approval, gave rise to front-page stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post that stoked wide-spread fears about its implications for unchecked nuclear conflict.

The National Security Archive obtained the virtually unexpurgated document in response to a mandatory declassification review request to the Jimmy Carter Library [See Document 12]. Highly classified for years, PD 59 was signed during a period of heightened Cold War tensions owing to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, greater instability in the Middle East, and earlier strains over China policy, human rights, the Horn of Africa, and Euromissiles.

In this context, the press coverage quickly generated controversy by raising apprehensions that alleged changes in U.S. strategy might lower the threshold of a decision by either side to go nuclear, which could inject dangerous uncertainty into the already fragile strategic balance. The press coverage elicited debate inside and outside the government, with some arguing that the PD would aggravate Cold War tensions by increasing Soviet fears about vulnerability and raising pressures for launch-on-warning in a crisis. Adding to the confusion was the fact that astonishingly, even senior government officials who had concerns about the directive did not have access to it. read more>>>

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