The Biden administration on Friday reversed a 1954 decision by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to revoke the security clearance of Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb” for his work on the Manhattan Project.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a written order that the since-dissolved AEC acted out of political motives when it revoked Oppenheimer’s security clearance nearly 70 years ago. Oppenheimer died in 1967.
“The Oppenheimer matter concerned a man who, not long before, had played an indispensable and singular role in the war effort, a man whose loyalty and love of country were never seriously questioned,” Granholm said in the written order.
“More troubling, historical evidence suggests that the decision to review Dr. Oppenheimer’s clearance had less to do with a bona fide concern for the security of restricted data and more to do with a desire on the part of the political leadership of the AEC to discredit Dr. Oppenheimer in public debates over nuclear weapons policy,” she said.
Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, headed the top secret Los Alamos Laboratory, which was established under President Franklin Roosevelt as home of the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb during World War Two.
He oversaw the first atomic bomb detonation in the New Mexico desert, code-named “Trinity,” before the weapons were used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Following the war, Oppenheimer opposed nuclear proliferation and development of the hydrogen bomb, stances that Granholm suggested in her order led the AEC to revoke his security clearance.
“I commend Sec. of Energy Granholm for vacating the AEC’s flawed 1954 decision to revoke Robt Oppenheimer’s security clearance,” Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said on Twitter.
“He was a loyal American who was subjected to a gross miscarriage of justice, and this action was long overdue.”