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The U.S. Nuclear Presence in Western Europe, 1954-1962, Part II

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National Security Archive

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[Development of PALs for U.S. Nuclear Weapons: Excerpt from Video A discussion of policy and plans to deploy Permissive Action Links (PALs) to NATO nuclear bases during 1962, excerpted from a section of the Sandia Laboratories documentary "Always/Never" on "A Nuclearized NATO-- Extended Version ]

JFK Wondered Whether Control of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Assigned to NATO Allies "Actually Conformed to Law"

Italian Government Wanted "Control in the Use" of Any Nuclear Weapon on its Territory

U.S. Sought Permissive Action Links [PALs] to Prevent "an Ally Seizing a Weapon" or "a Psychotic Attempt to Fire One"

Washington, D.C., September 16, 2020 - The NATO nuclear stockpile arrangements that have persisted since the Cold War were initially negotiated during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, facilitating the controversial nuclear sharing arrangements with the allies. The deployments, begun in part as a deterrent against East-West conflict, involved the assignment of hundreds and then thousands of nuclear weapons, and currently some 150 weapons, to NATO allies. To prevent unauthorized use of the weapons, since the 1960s they have been safeguarded with Permissive Action Links (PALs). [1]

The Kennedy administration decided that PALs should become standard operating procedure in part because key members of Congress raised troubling questions about the initial deployments, including the danger of accidental detonation and vulnerability to seizure by coup plotters. A report by the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy was so troubling to the newly inaugurated president, that, according to a meeting record prepared for top Navy officials, published today for the first time, John F. Kennedy wondered "whether our weapons control actually conformed to law."

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