Back in 2006 the Air Force mistakenly shipped "four electrical fuses for nose cone assemblies for ICBMs" intended for Minuteman missiles to Taiwan thinking they were helicopter batteries. They had originally been mis-labelled in 2005 during a transfer between two USAF bases, then sent on to Taiwan the following year. The items have now been returned to the U.S. but the breach of nuclear security and threat to non-proliferation was deemed serious enough that SecDef Gate's number two - Ryan Henry - described it as "intolerable" and said Bush had been personally briefed. The Pentagon are stressing that no nuclear materials were involved rather than that top-secret technology was sent to another nation and that the U.S. still wouldn't have known if the Taiwanese hadn't sent the damn things back!
"Pale Rider" and Blue Girl" at the Blue Girl, Red State blog have done a great job tracking down this story and have all the details. Blue Girl writes:
Without saying anything that I shouldn't - my husband spent his career working on electronics systems of ICBMs, so please believe me when I tell you this...it isn't about the nuclear material, and stressing that fissibles were not compromised, move along, nothing to see here...is a headfake.So which careers are ending? None, so far, although the Pentagon are investigating. Congress might be too, after Blue Girl spoke to Senator Levin's staff on the Armed Services committee and got them to understand the seriousness of this security breach - especially after revelations a few months back about the Air Force blithely flying nuclear weapons around the country without knowing it. The SASC staffer said "I can assure you something will come of this."
These fuses are not what civilians think of when they hear the word "fuse." They are top-secret components in the electrical systems of ICBMs. The warhead is the easy part of a missile system. The hard part is the delivery vehicle - you don't deliver a nuclear payload by oxcart, you know. Compromising the electronics is possibly providing the final piece of information to a rogue state like North Korea that is openly developing missile technology to allow them to finally have a weapon that will reach the west coast. This is a big god-damned deal, and careers need to end over it.