“Ninety-nine red balloons Floating in the summer sky Panic bells, it's red alert! There's something here from somewhere else! The war machine springs to life Opens up one eager eye Focusing it on the sky When ninety-nine red balloons go by”
Why am I quoting song lyrics at you, you ask? Dear reader, I do this to make a very simple point: people can, and do, make very silly mistakes involving nuclear weapons.
Now I direct the reader’s attention to Exhibit B: Quizlet. What do Quizlet and nuclear weapons have to do with each other, you ask? Ideally, nothing, but the news is so rarely ideal.
To put it simply, US soldiers in Europe were asked to memorize important information about US armaments, such as the locations of nuclear bases, passwords, secret codes, and information about security. As City students studying for exams know, memorizing arbitrary information can be difficult, and Quizlet is helpful. As, I suspect, most City students also know, Quizlet sets can be marked as either “private” or “public”. Quizlet sets marked as public can be viewed by anyone on the internet, anywhere, anytime. “Public” is the default option.
US soldiers memorizing classified nuclear information apparently did not know this second fact.
So it was that, while they have since been taken down, for a brief time, US nuclear secrets could be found and studied by any Quizlet user. To be fair, this is an easy to mistake to make, and not one anyone will make twice. It’s just extraordinarily bad luck for those involved that this particular incident reached such dramatic heights. This is not a hard news piece, so I will sign off with this brief but potent moral to the story: if you think taking exams is stressful, imagine having to explain to the NATO commanders how you accidentally leaked the nuclear codes to the internet.