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Emergency Destruction of Documents

Emergency Destruction of Documents

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Published by Ken Connor

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Published by: Ken Connor on May 16, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/26/2013

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for
F ' e l e a ~ ; e
l)'!-2007
FCJIA.
Case
#
Emergency
Destruction
of
Documents
BYL.E.
SHINN
~ ' l ! J ' i t k J V t i a l
Theproblemoffielddestruction
of
document»topreventcaptureis
d
familiarone.Recently,forthefirsttime,areliablemethodhasbeendevelopedand
is
nowbeingmadeavailabletoUnitedStatesforces.It
is
basedupontheuseofsodiumnitratetopromoterapid.burning.
Theproblemofdestroying
Classified
paperinaminimaltimeinthefaceofimpendingcapturehasbeen'anawkwardoneforaslongasintelligencehasbeenafactor
in
warandmanhasbeenabletowrite.Withthecomplexityofmodernwartheamountofclassifiedpaperhasbecomeareal
IIltlUlLCC
andthedaywhentheproblemcouldbesolvedbythecourier'sswallowingthenoteshaslongsincepassed.Thisproblem
is
onewhichafflictsNSAincommonwiththeMilitaryServices...Theconventionalprocedureonlandhasalwaysbeendestructionbyfire.Thereisnodoubt
but
that
thiscanbehighlyeffective.Asanyonewhohasattempted
it
knows,however,paperburnsslowlywheninquantityandparticularlywhen
in
theformofbooksandpamphlets.Evenamodest-sizedbookcanbethrowninthemiddleofafireandyet,afteranhour,remainmorethanhalfreadable.Theproblemislargelyoneofadequateoxygen.Burningismerelythecombinationoftheoxygenoftheairwiththecarbonofthepapertoconvertthelattertocarbonmonoxideordioxide..Theremainderofthepaperislostaswaterandasashwhichistheproductofmineralimpuritiespresent.Thesereactionstakeplaceonlyathightemperaturebut.produceinturnatemperaturewhichissufficientlyhightobeself-sustaining.Therateofburningisgovernedbythequantityofburnablematerialandoxygenwhichareable
to
comeincontactatanygiventime.Obviously,illthecaseofabookorpackedpaper,thisislimitedtothesurfaceandedges,andtheburningrateislow.Forthisreason,destructioninanopenfireishighlyinefficientfromthepointofviewofspeed.Similarly,theformationofashthoroughlyandrapidlyinsulatestheburnablematerialfromfurtheroxygensupply.Therearetwoapproachestotheproblem.First,bycontinuousmechanicalagitationfreshmaterialcanbeexposed.Second,ahighconcentrationofoxygencanbesuppliedtocounterthedelayingeffects.Thefirstsolutionischeaplyimplementedbyanenlisted
man
69
COtJFI9HfFIAL
 
EONFleEtHIAL
DESTRUCTIONOFDOCUMENTSL.E.SHINN
EotmSEtHIAL
withapoker,
but
undercombatconditionsthereisgreatrisk
that
thereaction
willhe
broughttoarapidclosebythedeathoftheagitator.Thesecondsolutionholdsmorepromise.Therearemanywaysofsupplyingexcessoxygen.Somearequiteefficient,andsomelessso.Someareexpeasive,somecheap,some
'>ulky,
someprohibitivelybulky.Thechemist,toavoidtheobviousproblemsinherentinusingoxygengas,naturallygravitatestotheideaofanoxygendonor;thatistosay,achemicalcompoundcontainingoxygenin
excess
ofitsownrequirements.Therearemanypossibleeffectivecompounds.Thefirsttocometomindaretheperoxides,chlorates,andnitrates.Costmilitatesagainstthefirsttwowhichalsohaveanunhappypredilectionforexplosivereaction.Nitratesontheotherhandarecomparativelysafe,cheap,andreadilyavailable.
Of
thecommonnitrates,thesodiumcompoundwouldhavetheedgebothoncostandefficiencyperpound.Furthermore,asacommonagriculturalfertilizermaterial,itcanbefound
almost.
everywhere.Mixturesofpaperandsodiumnitrate,which
IS
asubstanceresemblingordinarysalt,should
burn
rapidlyandfiercelyand,ifthepropertionsareright,undergocompletedestruction
in
averyfewminutes.
An
addedbenefitisapparentevenbeforeexperimentaltests.'rheendproductoftheburningwillconsist
la.rgely
ofsodiumcarbonate.Atthetemperaturesencounteredthiswillbealiquidandshouldactuallydissolvetheash.
In
thiswaythedangeroftextbeingrecoveredasghostsonthewhite
:flaky
ashiseliminated.Thereis,ofcourse,nothingnewabouttheconcept.Anychemistwouldautomaticallyarriveatthesameideaifhehadoccasiontofacetheproblem.Infact,longafterexperimentationbegan,rumorscametolightwhichindicated
that
thesameorasimilarprocesswasemployedbytheJapaneseEmbassy
in
Washington
at
theoutbreakofthelatewar.
If
so,theyneverextendedit,as
OUI
manycapturesinthe
field
amplyattest.Probably,as
in
ourownServices,therewasasimplefaith
in
theefficiencyofgasoline,whichisactuallyofsomewhatlessthannovaluesincetheburninggasolineconsumessomuchoxygenthatnothingelsehasachance.Theproblemaroseactively
in
thepost-warperiodwhentheuestionofthefilesofourownCOMNTunit
......
--
......
----,......,.....---,..1
noters
0W.
cwereeasilytakenyparaop,cametoeconsidered.Therequirementwasclearlyforacheap,workabledestructorwhichcouldbeusedbyuntrainedmenwhohadless
than
30minutesto
finish
thejob.'Iwoex-chemists,Shinn
andrlof
PROD,tookonthejobduringtheirlunchperiods,and,with'IieiP1rom
RID,
workedoutapracticalsystelIl',usingtheback
lota.t
ArlingtonHallasatestground.AtthesametimetheArmyChemicalCorpswasconsultedandstarted
in
thesamedirection.TheywerealreadycarryingoutsomewhatsimilarworkforCIA.
It
isacomparativelyeasymattertocomputethetheoreticqusn-tityofnitraterequiredforagivenweightofpaperbutitis
a.
f o r e ~ o n e
conclusionthatthereactionwillneverbe100percentefficient.Theexperimentalperiodwasthereforedirectedatprovidingacheap,quickandpracticaltechniqueandascertainingtheactualchargerequiredunderthecircumstances...Thefirstproblemwasthecontainer.Sinceatmosphericoxygenwasnolongertobedependedupon,therewasnoneedforadraft.Hence
11
simplecanorpitwasprobablyadequate.
In
fact,thedesiretousethemoltenslagtodigesttheash,andthefactthatthenitratewouldrapidlymeltand
run
tothebottom,requiredsuchadesign.Probablynothingismorecommon
in
aforwardareathanemptygasandoildrums.Withoneendcutout,theyarethe
G1
hold-allforeverythingfromtrashtoequipment.Nobettercontainerforthereactionhasbeendevised.Secondtherewastheloadingproblem.Howmuchadmixturewasessential?Obviouslythesimplerthestepsthebetter.Experimentshowedthatathinlayerofnitrateonthebottomwasnecessarybut
that
otherwisetheloadingwasfarfromcritical.Thesequencefinallyadoptedcalledforloadingthedruminalternateincrementsofone-fifthofthenitrateandone-fourthofthepaperinturnso
that
thefinalone-fifthofnitrateformedthetoplayer.
It
wasfurtherfound
that
therateandcompletenessofthereactionwasimprovedifthepaperwas
in
theformofbooksorpackagesinsteadoflooseorcrumpledsheets.Thesolidbundlesofpapersankreadilyintothemoltensaltwhiletheloosepaper,ifpresent
in
largeamount,tendedtofloatabovethemostreactivezone.Thiswasagreatadvantagesinceitmeant
that
loadingcouldbeatmaximumspeedwithnodelayrequiredforbreakingup
folder's
andbooks.Thethirdbasicproblemwasoneofignition.Actuallythiswasnoproblematallsinceitwasimmediatelyfound
that
amatchappliedtoawadofloosepaperandnitrateinthetoplayerwassufficient.Furthennore,theinitialspeedofreactionwassuch
that
theoperatorcouldverysafelyusethesamematch.tolighthiscigarettebeforeturningandwalkingaway.
It
wasfound,however,
that
afewpreciousminutescouldbesavedbyspeedinguptheinitialphase.
In
thefinaltechnique,asmalligniterchargeofnitrateandwoodflourwasthrown.ontopandfiredwithasmallpyrotechnicfirestarter...Thefourthproblemdevelopedinthecourseofthetests.Theviolenceoftheburnatitspeakwassuch
that
partlyburnedpaperwasthrownout,sometimesasmuchas
20
feetintheair.Asimple
ib)
i3)-P.L.
86-36
70
ib)
ill
ib)i3)-50
usc
403
ib)
i3)-18
usc
798
ib)
i3)-P.L.
86-36
71
eOUfl9mU'AL

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