James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

FOIA Friday: AP report finds disturbing security failure at missile silo

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: May 23, 2014 - 1:48 PM

Public records freaks like myself think of the end of each week as "FOIA Friday," the day we bombard government agencies with requests to hand over their records. I have been waiting since April 14 for a list of troubled housing authorities from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The HUD web site indicates that on May 12 it was "assigned for processing." I received a letter on April 30, with my correct name and address, but with the heading, "Dear Ms. Donaldson." The letter indicated that within 20 working days of the request, the Department would make a determination. I'm still waiting for that, or maybe Ms. Donaldson is.

A report obtained by the Associated Press through a FOIA request described a disturbing hole in nuclear weapon safety: In a training exercise that simulated the takeover of a nuclear missile silo by terrorists, an Air Force team failed to recapture the site. The exercise took place last summer at Malmstrom Air Force Base, which is near Great Falls, Montana. As the AP's Robert Burns reports:

The failure was one of a string of nuclear missile corps setbacks revealed by the AP over the past year. The force has suffered embarrassing security, leadership and training lapses, discipline breakdowns and morale problems. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered two reviews, still underway, to address his concern that the lapses could erode public trust in the security of the nation's nuclear weapons.

This is why we have FOIA.

Workers remove the upper section of an ICBM missile at a Montana missile site. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, John Parie)  

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