Biden admin says US wrongly revoked Oppenheimer's security clearance in 1954

Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, headed the top secret Los Alamos Laboratory, which was established under President Franklin Roosevelt as home of the Manhattan Project.

 The mushroom cloud of the first test of a hydrogen bomb, "Ivy Mike", as photographed on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, in 1952, by a member of the United States Air Force's Lookout Mountain. (photo credit: Photographic Squadron/File Photo)
The mushroom cloud of the first test of a hydrogen bomb, "Ivy Mike", as photographed on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, in 1952, by a member of the United States Air Force's Lookout Mountain.
(photo credit: Photographic Squadron/File Photo)

The Biden administration on Friday reversed a 1954 decision by the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to revoke the security clearance of Robert Oppenheimer, known as the "father of the atomic bomb" for his work on the Manhattan Project.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a written order that the since-dissolved AEC acted out of political motives when it revoked Oppenheimer's security clearance nearly 70 years ago. Oppenheimer died in 1967.

"The Oppenheimer matter concerned a man who, not long before, had played an indispensable and singular role in the war effort, a man whose loyalty and love of country were never seriously questioned," Granholm said in the written order.

"The Oppenheimer matter concerned a man who, not long before, had played an indispensable and singular role in the war effort, a man whose loyalty and love of country were never seriously questioned."

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm

"More troubling, historical evidence suggests that the decision to review Dr. Oppenheimer’s clearance had less to do with a bona fide concern for the security of restricted data and more to do with a desire on the part of the political leadership of the AEC to discredit Dr. Oppenheimer in public debates over nuclear weapons policy," she said.

Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, headed the top secret Los Alamos Laboratory, which was established under President Franklin Roosevelt as home of the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb during World War Two.

 A mother and son look at a picture of the mushroom cloud atomic bomb blast as they visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima August 5, 2002, the eve of the 57th anniversary of the bombing of the city. (credit: REUTERS/FILE PHOTO) A mother and son look at a picture of the mushroom cloud atomic bomb blast as they visit Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima August 5, 2002, the eve of the 57th anniversary of the bombing of the city. (credit: REUTERS/FILE PHOTO)

He oversaw the first atomic bomb detonation in the New Mexico desert, code-named "Trinity," before the weapons were used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Opposition of nuclear proliferation

Following the war, Oppenheimer opposed nuclear proliferation and development of the hydrogen bomb, stances that Granholm suggested in her order led the AEC to revoke his security clearance.

"I commend Sec. of Energy Granholm for vacating the AEC’s flawed 1954 decision to revoke Robt Oppenheimer’s security clearance," Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont said on Twitter.

"He was a loyal American who was subjected to a gross miscarriage of justice, and this action was long overdue."