As you would expect, there are significant numbers of protocols and procedures that must be followed for soldiers put in charge of nuclear weapons and the nuclear capability of the United States. There are multiple protocols that soldiers have to know in and out without needing to resort to using manuals or notes. Some soldiers have reportedly relied on numerous flashcard apps available for various smartphone platforms.
Unfortunately, some secrets surrounding the United States nuclear arsenal have reportedly been leaked by these apps. Reports indicate that the flashcards discovered on these apps reveal not just the bases where the nuclear weapons are stored but identify shelters on the base with “hot” vaults that presumably contain nuclear weapons. The flashcards reportedly leak highly classified details such as security protocols, position cameras, frequency of patrols around the vault, secret duress words indicating when a guard is being threatened, and unique identifiers that badges require to enter restricted areas.
A publication called Bellingcat says that by searching terms online known publicly to be associated with nuclear weapons, it was able to discover cards used by military personnel serving at six European military bases that are reported to store nuclear weapons. The publication claims to have approached experts that said the findings were serious breaches of security protocols.
One researcher said that while the existence of the flash card was a flagrant breach of security practices related to US nuclear weapons in NATO countries, secrecy about nuclear weapons deployment in Europe isn’t to protect weapons but to protect politicians and military leaders from answering questions about if nuclear-sharing arrangements makes sense today.
Bellingcat says that some of the flashcards discovered during its investigation had been available online since 2013. Some sets reportedly detailed processes being learned by users as recently as April 2021. Whether or not details in the flashcards have been changed since then is unknown. The flashcards have reportedly now been taken down from the learning platforms.