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Energy secretary says Oppenheimer wrongly stripped of security clearance

Oppenheimer Security Clearance
Posted at 10:19 AM, Dec 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-19 13:19:39-05

In 1954, the man who led the project that created the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II had his security clearance revoked by the Atomic Energy Commission after being accused of having communist sympathies.

Almost 70 years later, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that the AEC's decision to revoke Robert Oppenheimer's clearance was made through a "flawed process that violated the commission’s own regulations."

"As time has passed, more evidence has come to light of the bias and unfairness of the process that Dr. Oppenheimer was subjected to while the evidence of his loyalty and love of country have only been further affirmed," Granholm said in a news release.

During the 1950s anti-communist hysteria, the AEC conducted a hearing and investigated Oppenheimer for his "left-leaning personal associations and on his resistance to developing the hydrogen bomb," according to the Energy Department's Office of Scientific and Technical Information website.

In a written statement, Granholm said the AEC's decision to strip him of his clearance wasn't because he revealed or mishandled classified information or that he wasn't loyal to his country but because the AEC concluded that his character had “fundamental defects.”

In 1959, an AEC lawyer conducted an internal review and found that “the system failed," and a “substantial injustice was done to a loyal American," according to the secretary's order.

Granholm added that the agency's decision to reverse what happened is because "the Department of Energy has been entrusted with the responsibility to correct the historical record and honor Dr. Oppenheimer’s profound contributions to our national defense and the scientific enterprise at large."

The Energy Department's decision comes as a film about Oppenheimer, who passed away in 1967, is set to hit the big screen, the Associated Press reported.