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J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance posthumously restored

J. Robert Oppenheimer has had his security clearance restored nearly 70 years after it was revoked by the Atomic Energy Commission. File Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy/UPI
J. Robert Oppenheimer has had his security clearance restored nearly 70 years after it was revoked by the Atomic Energy Commission. File Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy/UPI

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as "the father of the atomic bomb," has had his security clearance posthumously restored, U.S. officials announced.

The move comes nearly 70 years after Oppenheimer's clearance was revoked by the Atomic Energy Commission during the anti-communist fervor of the mid-1950s led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

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Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm issued the order Friday.

"Today, I am pleased to announce the Department of Energy has vacated the Atomic Energy Commission's 1954 decision in the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer," she said in a statement.

"As a successor agency to the Atomic Energy Commission, 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," she added.

Oppenheimer had faced allegations of being too close to communists since the 1930s. His wife Kitty's first husband was killed fighting for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain and many of his associates fell under FBI surveillance. The FBI believed that a friend tried to make overtures to Oppenheimer during World War II on behalf of Soviet intelligence but was rebuffed.

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Regardless of government suspicions, Oppenheimer was given a security clearance to work on America's atomic program in 1943.

During the post-war era, however, Oppenheimer expressed dismay with the American project to build a thermonuclear "super" bomb, or hydrogen bomb, and was accused of trying to discourage scientists from working on the project.

"If super bombs will work at all, there is no inherent limit in the destructive power that may be attained with them. Therefore a super bomb might become a weapon of genocide," Oppenheimer and other scientists wrote in a 1949 letter to the Atomic Energy Commission.

In 1953 the former head of Congress' Joint Atomic Energy Committee, William Liscum Borden, wrote a letter to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover alleging, without real evidence, that Oppenheimer was most likely a Soviet agent.

In December 1953 his security clearance was temporarily revoked and in May 1954 a board of the Atomic Energy Commission voted 2-1 to revoke his clearance permanently.

"In 1954, the Atomic Energy Commission revoked Dr. Oppenheimer's security clearance through a flawed process that violated the Commission's own regulations," Granholm said in her statement.

"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," she asserted.

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