According to the investigative website Bellingcat, US servicemen responsible with guarding nuclear weapons in Europe utilised popular education websites to make flash cards, disclosing their exact locations and top-secret security processes.
The military produced digital flash card sets on apps like Chegg Prep, Quizlet, and Cram to familiarise themselves with topics like which bunkers in various places held “hot” vaults with live nuclear bombs, security patrol schedules, and identification badge data.
“By simply searching online for phrases publicly known to be related with nuclear weapons, Bellingcat was able to uncover cards used by military personnel stationed at all six European military bases alleged to hold nuclear devices,” stated Bellingcat’s Foeke Postma.
On Chegg, they discovered a set of 70 flashcards named “Study!” that detailed the exact locations of nuclear weapons shelters at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands.
“How many WS3 vaults are there on Volkel ab,” one virtual flash card’s question side asked, alluding to the military designation for weapons storage and security systems.
On the answer side, it said “eleven (11).”
Five of the eleven vaults were “hot” with nuclear weapons, while the other six were “cold,” according to another card from the same set, which also specified which vaults were “hot.”
On the Cram flashcard site, a set of 80 cards described the hot and cold vaults at Aviano Air Base in Italy, as well as how a soldier should activate them based on the varying levels of alarms they receive.
Secrets were revealed at bases in Turkey, Belgium, and Germany thanks to other cards. Some supplied the locations of surveillance cameras, while others revealed the secret “duress words” that a soldier, potentially kidnapped, would utter over the phone to signify he had been kidnapped.
The flashcards uncovered by Bellingcat were publicly available as early as 2013, and some were still being utilised in April 2021.
After contacting NATO and the US military for comment before publishing its article, Bellingcat said those it had seen appeared to have been erased.