The National Security Archive today filed a FOIA lawsuit to compel the Defense Intelligence Agency to release documents likely containing a letter from former DIA director Leonard Perroots, warning of the danger caused by the 1983 NATO nuclear exercise Able Archer 83. The Archive filed suit after receiving no substantive response to the FOIA request six months since filing the request and being told our “unusual” request is 1,133rd within the DIA’s glacial and growing queue.
As the Archive’s pro bono attorneys, John S. Guttmann and Hilary T. Jacobs of Beveridge & Diamond, state in the complaint, “If Plaintiff’s request can be described as ‘unusual’ in any way, it is only ‘unusual’ in how easy it makes it for DIA to efficiently respond to its request by seeking only three pre-located boxes.”
The letter in question was written by Lieutenant General Leonard Perroots, who served as the Assistant Chief of Staff of Intelligence at Ramstein Air Base during Able Archer 83 (see links in left column). According to a declassified President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board report, Able Archer 83 tested new procedures for releasing nuclear weapons, including “pre-exercise communications that notionally moved forces from normal readiness … to a General Alert.”
In response to the exercise, the Soviet military initiated a “major mobilization” of their forces, including placing Soviet nuclear-capable air forces in Germany and Poland on heightened alert, conducting over 36 intelligence flights, and transporting nuclear weapons from storage sites to launch pads by helicopter. According to the PFIAB report, the Soviet response was “unparalleled” and had only previously been observed “during actual crises.”