INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) – Video used in a secret government exercise centered on a hypothetical nuclear attack has been released publicly for the first time.
The 1986 video, which takes the form of a fake news broadcast, concerns a nuclear bomb going off in downtown Indianapolis.
According to the Digital National Security Archive, the video is part of Mighty Derringer, a multi-agency training exercise on how different branches of the federal government would work together during a nuclear attack.
The video was obtained by tech site Gizmodo via a Freedom of Information Act request.
What you see in the video
In the nearly two-minute clip, a news anchor named “Jeff Schwartz” for the fictitious Channel 9 Eyewitness News addresses viewers.
“We are now in day four,” Schwartz says. “You know that few details are available. But this much we know: A large portion of downtown Indianapolis remains evacuated. Now, reports are sketchy at this point, but we do know that apparently there are terrorists holed up in the downtown part of our city with nuclear devices.”
Schwartz says a federal response team has been sent in to neutralize the threat before tossing to reporter “Ann Miller.” Miller gives her reports while video of downtown Indianapolis — as taken from “Chopper 9” — is shown to viewers.
Miller describes the streets of downtown, which would normally be full of morning rush-hour traffic, as being relatively empty except for police “down there in the streets making sure everyone stays out of town.”
The feed to the chopper is then interrupted, with Schwartz commenting, “Can someone get on a two-way radio and see if they can contact Ann and see what’s going out there?”
The clip ends as Schwartz cautions the audience before he is interrupted by a booming sound outside of the news studio.
He looks up and says, “Oh, my God,” before the feed goes to black.
Why the video was made
In 1974, the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) was created. Its mission was to respond to plausible threats of nuclear terrorism or extortion. As part of is work, NEST created the Mighty Derringer project.
In 2012, documents were released on Mighty Derringer and referenced the Joint Special Operations Command and Delta Force. The National Security Archive called it the “most extensive set of declassified documents on any nuclear counterterrorism exercise, covering every phase of the response, from concept to critiques.”
According to those documents, the fictional country of Montrev was behind the simulated terrorist attack on Indiana’s capital. The country is largely believed to be based on Mexico.
Planning sessions for the drills were held at both Camp Atterbury in Indiana and Area A-25 of the Energy Department’s Nevada Test Site.
During the fictitious attack, the NSA says Indianapolis experienced a 1 kiloton nuclear detonation that resulted in “total devastation over a 20 square block area.”
According to Gizmodo’s report by Matt Novak, actual “radioactive material was hidden around Indianapolis in order to give the teams something authentic to look for during their exercise.”
The Mighty Derringer was largely seen as a success, but a DNSA report labeled a range of potential problems, including “bomb detection, interagency coordination, containment of contamination, general ‘confusion.'”