On April 11 the Washington Post ran a piece asserting that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had "opened the door" to the possible use of nuclear-tipped interceptors in a national missile defense system. The story cited comments made by William Schneider, Jr., chairman of an influential Pentagon advisory board, who told the Post that Rumsfeld had encouraged the panel to examine nuclear interceptors as part of a broad missile defense study.
The article kicked off the first public discussion of nuclear interceptor missiles in many years. Opponents thought they were dead and buried after a nuclear system, called Safeguard, was briefly considered in the 1970s. Military planners found them too risky because their use against even a handful of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles would blind American satellites and sensors, increasing the likelihood that subsequent ICBMs would hit their marks.
This article was originally published with the title Nuclear Reactions.