Oppenheimer had his security clearance wrongfully revoked, US says

WASHINGTON– The Biden administration has reversed a decades-old decision to revoke the security clearance of Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist called the father of the atomic bomb for his leading role in the World War II Manhattan Project.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Atomic Energy Commission’s 1954 decision was made using a “flawed process” that violated the commission’s own regulations.

“As time passed, more and more evidence came to light of the bias and unfairness of the process to which Dr Oppenheimer was subjected, while evidence of his loyalty and love of country did not than be assertive,” Granholm said in a statement. Friday.

Oppenheimer, who died in 1967, led the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The theoretical physicist was later accused of having communist sympathies and his security clearance was revoked after a four-week closed hearing.

In stripping Oppenheimer of his clearance, the Atomic Energy Commission did not allege he disclosed or mishandled classified information, and his loyalty to the country was not questioned, according to the order. of Granholm. The commission, however, concluded that there were “fundamental flaws” in his character.

Years later, an Atomic Energy Commission attorney concluded after an internal review that ‘the system has failed’ and ‘substantial injustice has been done to a loyal American’, according to the secretary’s order. .

Granholm said the commission’s decision was prompted by his political leaders’ desire to “discredit Oppenheimer in public debates about nuclear weapons policy.”

“Such political motives should have no place in our personnel security process,” she wrote.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont applauded the reversal, saying the 1954 ruling followed a “grossly unfair and unethical hearing that would today be resoundingly condemned.”

“This decision reaffirms that government scientists, whether renowned as Oppenheimer or a technician doing their daily job – including those who wish to raise security concerns or express unpopular opinions on matters of national security – can do so. freely and that their cases will be fairly considered on the basis of facts, not personal animosity or politics,” Leahy said in a statement.

The decision comes as Oppenheimer’s story heads to the big screen. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is set to hit theaters in July. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer”, and stars Cillian Murphy in the title role.

ABC News

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