Bill Clinton 'lost vital White House nuclear codes'

From today's Torygraph:

For several months during Bill Clinton's administration, a former top military officer says the White House lost the card with a set of numbers for opening the briefcase containing the codes for a nuclear attack. Gen Hugh Shelton, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, said in his new memoir, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior" that "the codes were actually missing for months. That's a big deal -- a gargantuan deal."

A similar claim was made by Lt Col Robert Patterson, a former aide, in a book published seven years ago. He was one of the men who carried the briefcase, known as the "football", and he said that the morning after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke that he made a routine request of the president to present the card so that he could provide an updated version.

"He thought he just placed them upstairs," Lt Col Patterson recalled. "We called upstairs, we started a search around the White House for the codes, and he finally confessed that he in fact misplaced them. He couldn't recall when he had last seen them."

He said the President lost the card holding the codes, which is known as the biscuit, in 1998, but according to Gen Shelton, the card went missing in 2000.

Former president Jimmy Carter was rumoured to have once left the '"biscuit" in a suit that was sent to the dry cleaners.
And we have just agreed that we can't go to war without these people. Makes you feel safe doesn't it!!!


Book Reviewer
They're probably in the same wardrobe as the spunky dress.
Noo-kyoo-lurr codes...impeachment...all in a day's work.
David E. Hoffman in FP reckons this story is suspect in What's missing?
f Shelton is to be believed, then, due to some White House error, Clinton didn't have the essential codes for command and control of the nuclear weapons for months, and, even though these codes are absolutely critical to the security of the nation and the world, he lost them and didn't even know that he had lost them, because it was an aide who lost them. Oh, the Pentagon didn’t know either.

It doesn't add up.

The president does not possess the actual codes to authorize the launch of nuclear weapons. What the president does carry (or an aide) is a small laminated card which is used to authenticate the president's identity in the event of an emergency. The cards contain date-time groups and alphanumeric codes in columns and rows, according to Bruce Blair, president of the World Security Institute who has written several books on nuclear command and control. In an emergency, a president would use this laminated card to verify that he is the commander in chief making decisions.

Is this the "code" that the Pentagon checker was looking for, and was somehow lost? Well, if Clinton misplaced one, or an aide did, then it would not have been difficult to replace -- immediately, not months later. The Defense Department was the custodian of the system.

Were things so confused in the Clinton White House that an aide could lose the authenticator card for months, keep the military in the dark, and keep the president in the dark too?

No question, if the card was lost for months, that's reason for worry. A nuclear alert would involve intense decision-making stress, and potential chaos; this is one glitch that no one would want to see in a system that must be fail-safe. That's why I find it hard to believe that the card went missing for months.

If the president could not authenticate in an emergency, then the military commanders would speed dial to the vice president, and down the list of successors, according to Blair. But in a sudden alert, this process is guaranteed to get confused.

In addition to the laminated card, the president is also accompanied by a military aide carrying the "football," the briefcase which contains war plans and decision guides for a president in the event of an alert. The football is carried everywhere a president goes. It is a symbol, and a potent one, of the nuclear age. Shelton knows about the football, and describes it earlier in his book. Is this what he means by the lost codes? The device is a critical link in our system of command and control, is handled by a military aide, and if it were missing, I am certain it would have been noticed -- immediately, not months later.

So, what was actually lost? Shelton may have a story to tell here, but so far, it does not hold together.

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