Security leaks not only among u.s. Scientists

Clinton loves nuclear suitcase at NATO summit

President Bill Clinton at the weekend left the suitcase containing the activation and deactivation codes for nuclear missiles at the NATO summit. For 45 minutes, the American president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces was separated from the most important luggage in the world. The President left the International Trade Center prematurely by the state limousine, without taking with him the attendant who always carries the suitcase. The officer, who always stays in the immediate vicinity of the president, was left behind in the hustle and bustle of the summit after a NATO conference ended early and had to walk the 1.5 km back to the White House to Fub.

The Pentagon’s White House Liaison Office is responsible for the security of the briefcase and thus for communications between the President of the United States and the nuclear forces.

The briefcase – which has the military joke name "Fubball" The case – which contains the president’s handbook and an instruction manual – is carried by the president. With the help of cartoons, the available nuclear options and their consequences are presented in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.

As a rule, each president is instructed in the use of the case when taking office. Since the 1980s, however, this has not always been seamless, and according to a former director of the White House Liaison Office, the president does not even know how to open the briefcase. "Should the officer carrying the ‘fubball’ have a heart attack or die in an assassination attempt, the damn thing would have to be blown open", the director said in an interview.

Likewise, the "Single Integrated Operational Plan" (SIOP), which contains over a thousand programmed nuclear missile targets, is revised almost annually. As a result, it is not always ensured that the president or his legal successor as commander in chief of the nuclear forces is aware of the nuclear options and can command the nuclear weapons in case of emergency.

In addition to the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Commanders-in-Chief of the nuclear forces will each receive a copy of the. The latter usually hand down command authority in the event that the military elite is eliminated or the command structure is disrupted in the event of a nuclear attack. A number of other non-military persons who are to be designated as successors to the President under U.S. law, such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the Senate, and the Secretary of State, are not provided with the manual.

For example, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Vice President Johnson had given the authorization codes to the NSA. Kennedy in 1963 unaware of the existence and contents of the suitcase introduced during the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s.

Contrary to popular belief, the suitcase does not contain the detonator or launch button for the nuclear missiles. In addition to the SIOP manual, the suitcase contains the personal codes that the president needs to identify himself to the commanders of the nuclear forces. Only in this way can the President authorize the use of weapons. Authorization codes are created by the secret National Security Agency (NSA), but they always remain in the military’s possession. In addition to the President, the National Nuclear Forces Commands at the Pentagon and commands around the country have authorization codes. The military and the commanders in the field, however, do not need the personal codes of the president to activate and ignite the missiles in case he cannot identify himself. The Pentagon thus technically keeps open the possibility of firing the missiles even without the authorization of the President.

The problems with the security of identification codes are not new. In the past, the codes have been moved many times before. After an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, the suitcase first disappeared and only reappeared after several hours.

The spokesman of the Weiben House said to the youngest breakdown only: "We are sure".


Olivier Minkwitz is editor and co-publisher of antimilitarismus information (ami) in Berlin and currently works for the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) in Washington, DC.

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