A former conservative talk radio host and naval intelligence officer who suggested dropping nuclear bombs on Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks now works on arms control issues at the State Department, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
Frank Wuco, a senior adviser at the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, came under scrutiny last year when his past comments involving the promotion of far-right conspiracy theories surfaced.
Some of those included debunked claims that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, former CIA Director John Brennan converted to Islam, former Attorney General Eric Holder had been a member of the Black Panthers and former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
When a CNN investigation unearthed the remarks last year, Wuco was working at the Department of Homeland Security. A spokesman for the agency defended him at the time, saying the comments had "no bearing on his ability to perform his job for the American people."
Now Wuco works at the State Department, though some arms control advocates have questioned his suitability for the area of arms control given his past remarks.
The State Department declined to comment.
During an exchange on the Dougherty Report radio show in 2016, Wuco was asked why the United States doesn't turn Syria and Iran "into glass already."
"I don't think it's been our policy really to just start nuking countries," Wuco said. "I think if we were going to have done that, my preference would have been to have dropped a couple of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons over Afghanistan the day after 9/11 to send a definite message to the world that they had screwed up in a big way."
Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and a former Obama administration official, said the comments are troubling given the challenges the department faces.
"Wuco's bureau is busy dealing with the aftermath of the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, emerging technologies that could upend long-standing theories on nuclear policy, the strategic threats posed by a militarizing China and the uncertain future of the New START accord," she said. "It cannot afford distractions connected to a senior adviser who once casually mused about nuking Afghanistan."
It is unclear when Wuco transitioned to the State Department from DHS, where he worked last year. One State Department official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the issue, said Wuco has been working at State since at least August.
Last week, a State Department social media account tweeted that Wuco traveled to Bucharest recently for meetings at Romania's Ministry of National Defense.
President Donald Trump himself raised the idea of "using nuclear" in Afghanistan, though he dismissed the possibility because "I'm not looking to kill 10 million people.'
Trump also promoted the false "birther" conspiracy that Obama was not born in the United States.
Wuco gave oxygen to the idea in August 2011 when he hosted Jerome Corsi, the author of "Where's the Birth Certificate: The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President" on the Frank Wuco Radio Show.
Wuco said the book "laid it out in very significant detail, not just why it's important that [Obama] present better credentials on his status as a natural-born citizen but a lot of the things that surrounded it, and where it is important as to the constitutionality of just being able to get your name on the ballot," according to audio of the broadcast.
In 2013, Wuco brought on a former FBI agent, John Guandolo, and elevated the unsubstantiated claim that Brennan converted to Islam.
"According to contacts, friends of yours within the FBI, they were stationed with John Brennan in Saudi Arabia when Brennan was there. And at that time, Brennan converted to Islam," Wuco said.
"If true, it sort of fits the pattern of a guy who seems to be really almost uncontrollably attracted to political winds shifting," Wuco added.
In a 2013 broadcast of his show, Wuco said Holder was a Black Panther member in the 1970s despite no evidence that this is the case.
"I firmly believe that this is much of what motivates this man. As a college student in the 1970s, you do not join the Black Panther movement unless you are angry about things, and unless you feel that there has to be some sort of action," he said.