News and Notes

Welcome to

by Alex Wellerstein, published November 7th, 2011

Nuclear secrecy is a special kind of secrecy, because the atomic bomb is a special kind of bomb. Just as the atomic bomb has been treated as something above and beyond any other category of warfare, so has its secrecy. In the United States, nuclear weapons related information has a separate and parallel structure from other types of state secrets, one that in many ways rests on a very different epistemological foundation than military, diplomatic, or political secrets. When the bomb was thrust upon the consciousness of the world, again and again it was emphasized that it was built by science and by secrecy. In the years since the Manhattan Project, this connection between secrets and security, between nuclear technology and nuclear knowledge, has continued, although it has not been constant, nor evinced the same responses.

Shot Greenhouse Item — the "question mark" is natural and un-retouched, as is the turquoise glow. Source: NARA, Still Pictures Division, RG 326, 434-RF-12.

This blog takes its name from legal definition of American nuclear secrecy, as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.1 For me, “Restricted Data” represents all of the historical strangeness of nuclear secrecy, where the shock of the bomb led scientists, policymakers, and military men to construct a baroque and often contradictory system of knowledge control in the (somewhat vain) hope that they could control the spread and use of nuclear technology.

It is these sorts of matters that this blog is concerned with: the history of nuclear weapons in general (in particular from an epistemological, or knowledge-centric, point of view), and the history of nuclear secrecy in particular. It serves as an outlet for some of the interesting documents, stories, and observations that I’ve come across in my research (both for my Ph.D. dissertation on the subject, Knowledge and the Bomb, and for the subsequent book am I writing).

For more about me, visit the “About me” page. I should say up front that I do not have, nor have I ever had, nor have I ever sought or desired, any kind of security clearance. Everything on this blog was posted in good faith with regards to its classification status, and I am perfectly happy to trade certainty for the ability to speak and speculate.

  1. Atomic Energy Act of 1946, Sect. 10(b)(1). []

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One Response to “Welcome to”

  1. […] November 7, is the first anniversary of the launching of this site. It’s gone by pretty quickly for me. I think I am allowed to do […]