latest leak coming from the U.S. government may not be what
you think. No, Wikileaks hasn't found some shadowy new
source to pass it government secrets. Rather it is the U.S. government
itself that unintentionally exposed itself.
I. Government Leaks Plans for New Defense Building
Department of Defense (DOD) has been hard at work on a large office
complex located in the Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia, the building is
almost complete and will house 6,400 DOD personnel by the end of the year.
The Reuters news organization was surprised to discover a document
detailing the building's bomb resistance posted on the Army Corps of Engineers website.
The Corps is responsible for designing a variety of government buildings
as well as combating natural disasters like flooding.
The document bore the stamp "For Official Use Only", meaning that it
was an unclassified document, but not meant for the public or government
officials not involved in the project. The 424-page document open with a 30-page narrative, followed by hundreds of pages of technical material.
Reuters warned the DOD about the document. But the DOD
struggled to figure out how to remove its own document it posted.
The report could be found on the Corps' public website nearly 24
hours after Reuters advised the Corps and top Pentagon officials that it had
been publicly posted. Even after the Pentagon said the document had been taken
down from the public website, a version could still be accessed in a Google
Curry Graham, a spokesperson for the Army Corps commented, "You can pretty
well tell it's an official document, 'for official use only,' from a contractor
back to Corps officials. It looks like it was inadvertently published or put on
our public site."
II. New Building -- Apparently Not Very Bomb Proof
Why is the leak troublesome?
Well the document reveals that the new building is designed to withstand up to
the equivalent blast of 220 pounds (100 kg) of TNT, detonated on the building's
While this might sound impressive it really isn’t. In fact, bombers in
the U.S. have used far bigger payloads in the past. For example,
the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center used a 1,336 lb (606 kg)
urea nitrate–hydrogen gas enhanced device. The power of urea nitrate
bombs is similar to that of trinitrotoluene (TNT) [source;
PDF]. In other words, the Mark Center's tolerance would be overwhelmed by
a factor of approximately 6 in a similar bombing.
Another famous U.S. attack, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal
building in Oklahoma City used a mixed explosive bomb that was equivalent to
almost 5,000 tons of TNT [source;
An attack of either magnitude would likely destroy or seriously damage the
crucial new Department of Defense office building. In other words, the
building isn't very bomb-proof.
It is unclear why the DOD opted for this particular design, but the department
is quite upset that the secret is out. Ken Wells, Army Corps
spokesperson, states, "This should not have happened. We take it very
Michael Greenberger, a former Justice Department lawyer who heads a Homeland
Security institute at the University of Maryland, stated in the Reuters interview,
"[The document is a] recipe for an attack. It should not be on the
Tom Thurman, a former FBI bomb disposal expert who now teaches security and
emergency management at Eastern Kentucky University says that not only does the
document let would-be attackers know that the center isn't overly-bomb
resistant. It also contains explicit details about the bomb-proofing
measures that attackers could use to pinpoint the weakest spots in the
He states, "If you know what all the defenses are, you plan the attack
around those defenses. It's not something that should be on any unsecure
government website whatsoever."
He called the leak "inexcusable".
Inexcusable, perhaps, but the leak is hardly surprising. After all, the
U.S. government has shown a shocking lack of capability and preparedness when
it comes to properly maintaining its presence online and defending
the nation from cyberthreats.