The document, published Wednesday by the Washington-based National Security Archives, shows that until 1968, the US had a protocol in place by which it would engage in a full-blown nuclear attack against the two powers at the time regardless of the fact that which one initiated the attack on the United States and without consideration as to whether only conventional arms were used or if it came as the result of a mere accident.
The reckless policy, codenamed ‘Furtherance,’ remained in effect towards the end of 1960’s, when the administration of then President Lyndon Johnson ordered a review of the policy, geared towards a more measured reaction, in a bid to avert a disastrous atomic confrontation during the Cold War era.
The recently declassified information is documented in an October 1968 meeting between President Johnson and his national security team, during which both military and civilian advisers unanimously recommended revising the ‘Furtherance’ protocol in an effort to lessen the likelihood of a nuclear confrontation.
Johnson’s advisers recommended two key revisions to the policy. Firstly, they urged a nuclear response only against the state that targeted the US, and, secondly, they called for the enforcement of a ‘no first-use’ policy, directing nuclear commanders to respond to a conventional attack by a conventional force.
The record of the meeting, marked “Eyes Only for the President,” was released to the National Security Archive in late November 2012 under a Mandatory Declassification Review appeal to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), nine years after the filing of the original request.