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US Presidential Nuclear Codes 'Lost For Months'

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the dropping-the-football dept.

Government 322

Martin Hellman writes "Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, has dropped a nuclear bombshell, metaphorically speaking. Shelton's recently released memoir Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, asserts that an aide to President Clinton lost a card containing key phrases needed for ordering a nuclear strike, and that the codes were missing for months. This confirms a similar allegation, made in 2004 by Lt. Col. Robert Patterson, a military aide who frequently carried the 'nuclear football' during the Clinton presidency. Unfortunately, human error within the nuclear weapons complex is a frequent and dangerous occurrence."

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322 comments

Time to take the men out of the loop ... (5, Funny)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986230)

Turn the decision making over to a computer. I'm sure it can't find the launch codes.

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (4, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986260)

Would you like to play a game of tic tac toe?

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (2, Funny)

thepike (1781582) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986386)

A Strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986596)

A Strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Later. Right now, let's play [introversion.co.uk] Global Thermonuclear War.

Which reminds me, it's time to see how Subversion is coming along.

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986802)

I knew there was something I forgot to do this week! It helps pad out now to the inevitable announcement that Black Mesa [blackmesasource.com] has been cancelled.

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (0, Redundant)

TideX (1908876) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986292)

Ever seen the movie wargames?

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986474)

No, OP just came up with exactly the same plot on his own.

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986510)

ever have a joke go over your head?

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986782)

BREEEEEOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!

That's the sound of a radio-controlled pterodactyl buzzing your head.

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (2, Insightful)

gagol (583737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986838)

Ever seen movie Colossus : The Forbin Project ?

Re:Time to take the men out of the loop ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986594)

Turn the decision making over to a computer. I'm sure it can't find the launch codes.

Nah, just outsource it.

Quick someone set us up teh BOMB! (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986256)

This is the sort of human error that gets my vote.

Quick - any way we can "export" this "technology" to the rest of the world?

-- Barbie

Re:Quick someone set us up teh BOMB! (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986336)

Actually that has got to be one of the dumbest ideas ever.
I hope you are joking but that kind of error makes a nuclear war more likely than less.

Re:Quick someone set us up teh BOMB! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986392)

Mr Anderson, how can you drop the bomb, if you cannot ... speak?

Re:Quick someone set us up teh BOMB! (4, Insightful)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986788)

Mod parent up. Many people detest the idea of MAD but so far it has worked. In practice, nukes are primarily a weapon of influence rather than destruction.

I think the continued existence of United Nations and its various agencies can be attributed in part to nuclear weapons, which made open conflict an existential risk for the superpowers, and created a need for a different way of resolving disputes. At this point, UN could probably survive without nuclear weapons, but its creation would not be possible without them.

I think that regardless of any ideology, nuclear disarmament is very unlikely on the grounds of simple game theory - it's essentially a prisoner's dilemma where the temptation to defect is extremely large (the last remaining nuclear power can blackmail the whole world) and punishment for mutual defection is small (the cost of producing and maintaining the weapons).

awesome (2, Insightful)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986290)

Nice! It doesn't really matter if nukes work or not anyway; they are not intended to actually be used, and this just helps them stay that way.

Re:awesome (1, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986338)

We, as the developed world (US, Russia, China, India, UK, EU, etc.) might not develop them but chances are, North Korea and Iran would use them given the chance.

Re:awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986398)

North Korea already has a few nukes.

Re:awesome (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986526)

We, as the developed world (US, Russia, China, India, UK, EU, etc.) might not develop them but chances are, North Korea and Iran would use them given the chance.

Yeah, and?

Let's just say they do use them and nuke something. Should we retaliate and put more radioactive crap into the atmosphere? For a small test case, see what happened with Chernobyl. Yeah, it wasn't a nuclear bomb but never the less, it released so much shit into the atmosphere that it affected all of Northern Europe - and that was just a conventional explosion.

And of course there's Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the results of that.

Am I saying that if we're nuked we shouldn't retaliate with our own nukes? Yep. If we retaliated, we'd just be getting much of the fallout back.

I would argue that a preemptive conventional strike against military nukes in those countries mentioned would be completely warranted, though. Especially North Korea. I see them using nukes because they really don't have much to lose and that makes them very dangerous.

Re:awesome (0, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986748)

Yes, we should retaliate and put more 'radioactive' crap in the air.

Next question.

Chernobyl was MORE radioactive.

Hiroshima wasn't nearly as bad as people thought it would be.

That said, we should not tell another country what they can and can not build until it effects things outside their border.

Re:awesome (5, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986536)

North Korea and Iran would use them given the chance.

You mean like if some country were to attack them without justification? You mean use nukes (if they had them) in self defense?

What kind of nonsense is that? Who would ever want to retaliate after being attacked?

The fact of the matter is, Iran, when they get nukes, will not use them unless they are attacked, and even then that's an iffy proposition. Both (or more) of the countries involved know what will happen when the nuclear genie is used. And it ain't pretty.

Look at India and Pakistan. Two countries at each other's throats for decades after they gained their independence, yet the moment the two got nuclear weapons, suddenly hostilities ceased.

North Korea, for all their bravado, won't use them. They'd rather sacrifice their military personnel and claim they are great warriors for going against the Western devils than shoot a nuke from a distance.

Nukes are used for two things: deterrence and final retribution if the end is near. Go read The Sampson Option about Israel's nuclear weapons program.

Re:awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986746)

The fact of the matter is, Iran, when they get nukes, will not use them unless they are attacked, and even then that's an iffy proposition. Both (or more) of the countries involved know what will happen when the nuclear genie is used. And it ain't pretty.

Who says they won't? And maybe it won't be pretty, but Israel will be gone. I mean, that's about 80% of Ahmadinejad's platform, isn't it? You think they're too afraid of retaliation to do something like that?

Re:awesome (3, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986998)

I often wonder if Iran would nuke Israel if they obtained/developed nuclear weapons. I'm sure they'd threaten it left and right and use it as a bargaining tool, but would they press the button? Remember that a lot of the sites in Israel that are holy to Christians and Jews are holy to Muslims as well. (One of the big reasons for the whole fighting over the land thing. If Muslims didn't care about that stretch of land, there would have been peace long ago.) If Iran nuked Jerusalem, they'd be destroying spots considered holy in Islam (e.g. Dome of the Rock). On one hand, the extremists would be happy that Israel was gone, but on the other hand, they'd blame Iran for desecrating the holy sites. Actually, I think all Muslims (whether extremist or moderate) would be upset over the loss of the sites (whether or not they mourned the deaths). Iran would find itself ostracized, if not outright attacked, by Christian and Muslim nations alike.

No, I think they'd love to have the bomb and would use it as a negotiating tactic and threat, but I don't think they'd actually launch it.

fact? (1)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986842)

The fact of the matter is, Iran, when they get nukes, will not use them unless they are attacked, and even then that's an iffy proposition. Both (or more) of the countries involved know what will happen when the nuclear genie is used. And it ain't pretty.

I think you're right about Iran. The nuke program is more about prestige and internal politics than about an actual desire to use 'em. But we're certainly well into the realm of speculation about matters of human motivation and judgement, and pretty far afield from facts.

Re:awesome (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986872)

There is a difference between two countries that are otherwise fairly sane who have a (even very heated) dispute lasting decades or even longer... and crazy or religious idealogues in control of a countries nuclear arsenal.

North Koreas leader has shown a tendancy to be outright nuts, and doing crazy unpredictable things. He's said a lot of really really agressive things and we really don't know what to expect from someone like that. As such, allowing them to have nukes of any consequence (they have already shown to have nuke capaibility, but no real way to deliver it or any stockpile) would also be unpredictable.

Iran has a slightly less crazy ruler, but he is a religious idealogue. If he thinks god told him to nuke someone, it could very well happen. Or worse, he might have to live up to his hyperbole or risk the rath of his own people.

Re:awesome (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986994)

The fact of the matter is, Iran, when they get nukes, will not use them unless they are attacked, and even then that's an iffy proposition. Both (or more) of the countries involved know what will happen when the nuclear genie is used. And it ain't pretty.

That's extremely iffy logic at best. Democratic nations who assign high value to life are extremely unlikely to use the nuclear option unless in some form of retaliation. Any nation with nukes which do not fall into the above category is a huge question mark.

Now combine nukes with a totalitarian nation ruled by zealots with a well known blood lust for ideologies foreign to their own, and its a complete crap shoot. Made worse, are the empowered zealots with direct control over such weapons. Frankly, your odds are likely to match that of a coin toss, given the right geo-political and economic environment. Any other assessment is hippie-flower-power speak at best. Which is exactly why the majority of the world very much does NOT want Iran to become a nuclear nation.

Basically, anything short of being against Iran become a nuclear power is just short of being pro-nuclear war.

Re:awesome (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987018)

I believe and hope to whatever god there might be that NK will work like that - but to be honest, I'd prefer not to find out how they handle nukes :)

Oh piss off (5, Interesting)

linumax (910946) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986724)

If North Korea and Iran were to use any WMDs they would have used chemical weapons which they both had for decades. Hell, for eight years, Iran didn't use chemical weapons against Saddam even in retaliation. Maybe if you stop watching Fox News, you'd notice the leaders portrayed as demonic figures bent on bringing hell on earth are actually very pragmatic people and that's exactly why they manage to stay in power.

Re:awesome (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986974)

We, as the developed world (US, Russia, China, India, UK, EU, etc.) might not develop them...

I can remember a time when most of the world outside the US was seriously worried that the US president (who was already gaga) might push the button simply because he didn't get enough whiskey on his granola one morning.

Re:awesome (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986434)

During the warmest parts of the cold war, if this became known to the opponent's spies, it would likely destroy the world.

At that time, for USSR simply knowing that it has a unique chance to do a first strike without fear of retaliation would be enough to press the red button right then and right there.

Re:awesome (5, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986616)

Maybe, but despite all of the posturing and rhetoric, I like to think that none of our world leaders have ever been insane enough to actually launch a nuclear strike. Diplomacy is a strange game, nice guys tend to finish last and it often pays to project a slight air of crazy, which ordinary people unfortunately believe, even if the actual diplomats/politicians don't.

This is also important to remember in the modern age, especially when dealing with Iran or North Korea. Behind the scenes nobody wants a nuclear war, even if they got a clean "first strike", it's a world sized can of worms politically, economically, and socially. It's no good being the last nation on earth if your own people revolt and overthrow your government.

Remember, the only time nuclear weapons have ever been dropped in anger, it caused an end to the largest war in the world's history and caused every person on earth to stop and wonder if we had gone too far.

Re:awesome (5, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986740)

The first time we dropped a nuclear bomb, it wasn't enough to convince Japan to surrender. Only dropped a second, and the threat of dropping uncountably more (which we didn't have - but they didn't know that) actually brought the war to an end.

The firebombing of Tokyo killed more people than the atomic bombs - the impact of the bombs was the perceived threat of complete, quick destruction, not the amount of damage they caused. Nuclear weapons aren't really that special; they're just really big compared to conventional ones.

Finally, the political fallout would only happen the first time they are used. As more small and unstable states acquire them, we *will* eventually see a nuclear exchange. The world will not end, and it will eventually become a "normal" part of war, subject to similar rules. I don't think you'll ever see a major power level a city, but if two ocean-going states are at war, it is perfectly reasonable to expect nuclear weapons to be employed in wiping out battle groups.

Re:awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986804)

Not true. there were (and probably still are) contingencys in place such as bomber/subs/bases who's standing orders were to nuke pre determined targets if they ever lost contact with Washington.

Also the summary at least mentiones a "card" the actual nuclear launch orders are one or more breefcases full of such cards each of which is the codes for a perticular nucliar deployment pattern. Just because the codes to say: Nuke Moscaw, Bejing, and for some reason London got lost doesn't mean the "Nuke all of the USSR" codes also got lost.

Re:awesome (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986982)

Launch codes aren't nearly as important as Hollywood makes them out to be.

IN the end, they simply act as a way of saying "These two dumb asses are the ones who authorized the use of nuclear weapons, have their heads, not ours."

Re:awesome (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986476)

Nice! It doesn't really matter if nukes work or not anyway; they are not intended to actually be used, and this just helps them stay that way.

But they are intended to have the potential to be used, otherwise they lose their power as a deterrent.

Launch codes are so 1980... (3, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986298)

"They were immediately replaced."

Seriously, who is going to launch a nuclear weapon anyway? It's like committing suicide.
We are all better off losing them and to keep pretending you are going to use them if necessary.

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (5, Interesting)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986442)

>Seriously, who is going to launch a nuclear weapon anyway? It's like committing suicide.

Ignoring WWII, lets look at the cold war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the Politburo and high-level party members were clamoring for war with the US to the point where Khrushchev made loud patriotic pro-war statements in public to appease them and privately with the US was doing his best to avoid a nuclear war. Turns out a group mentality can culminate into in irrational act like nuclear war. Not to mention the US was considering a pre-emtive strike early during the cold war with the assumption that it could wipe out the USSR but only lose half its own cities.

Consider smaller modern powers like Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea. If felt like their regime was going to collapse and their leaders killed or sent to the Hague, why not launch for revenge? Its not like dictators or theocrats are known to be especially rational or compassionate. Most likely we'll see nuclear war in the mideast sooner than later. I'd be willing to bet within 20 years.

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (4, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986628)

more likely to happen in Korea. N. Korean gov't appears to be teetering and all it would take would be for them to lob a weapon at Japan or S. Korea and the U.S. would be forced to respond in kind. The recent torpedo incident seems to indicate the central government there isn't completely in control.

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986738)

The recent torpedo incident seems to indicate the central government there isn't completely in control.

Or given who is in control, it seems to indicate they are in control. Realistically, I doubt anyone knows if this was a rogue captain or a lawful order from an idiot named Kim. Given the country, flip a coin.

You need to keep in mind, North Korea constantly provides false navigation signals to aircraft in hopes of creating an international indecent. They constantly attempt to incite troops. And occasionally, they do have weapon malfunctions which seem to land in the general proximity of troops located in the south. No shit and no exaguration.

Given Kim's several decades of doing exactly this type of shit, it would be far from surprising to learn it was ordered. Then again, given the environment and known internal conflict for power, it may have been been a rogue captain or higher up in the military. Who knows.

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (2, Interesting)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986852)

I predict once North Korea sees a regime change they're going to open up dramatically and all their rhetoric will finally come to an end. North Korea is a pariah and has nothing to gain from launching a strike. Even merely having a nuclear weapon doesn't necessarily improve their position.

Iran, on the other hand, does have a lot to gain by having a nuke. And they might even have an incentive to launch it, even if it resulted in Iran's obliteration. Likely, they'd bring down Israel with them, turn the region into chaos and almost certainly spark a real war. And some might actually consider Ahmadinejad a hero.

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (1)

linumax (910946) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986846)

Consider smaller modern powers like Iran, Pakistan, or North Korea. If felt like their regime was going to collapse and their leaders killed or sent to the Hague, why not launch for revenge? Its not like dictators or theocrats are known to be especially rational or compassionate. Most likely we'll see nuclear war in the mideast sooner than later. I'd be willing to bet within 20 years.

You just managed to contradict yourself in those two lines. The fact that North Korea and Iran are not attacked is exactly because of their power to defend themselves. Hint: Iraq and Afghanistan among couple of dozen countries that have experienced the "peacekeeping" and "democratizing" forces of the US in the past 5 decades. You can't take the leaders of nuclear power to Hague either, because you can't get their hands on them. So it never comes the time when the need to use such weapons.

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986484)

So far the pretending is working:

Number of world wars in first 50 years of 20th Century: 2

Number of world wars in last 50 years of 20th Century: 0

Re:Launch codes are so 1980... (4, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986524)

"They were immediately replaced." Seriously, who is going to launch a nuclear weapon anyway? It's like committing suicide. .

I'm sure there were a lot of people who thought no one would strap explosives to themselves either.

But more to the point: the reason it's suicide is because it's mutually assured destruction. If it's not mutually assured, then it's less likely to be suicidal.

I'm sure they changed the codes immediately (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986300)

That's the sort of thing that'd be changed daily as a matter of course, and there must be other authentication factors besides just codes.

Not much to worry about here.

Re:I'm sure they changed the codes immediately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986352)

They were changed every 4 months and they only checked to make sure he had the correct ones once a month.

Re:I'm sure they changed the codes immediately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986924)

It wasn't the actual Nuclear Codes, it was the combination lock to the "Football", which is the briefcase system that can be used in conjunction with the challenge/response codes to initiate a nuclear launch.

Probably a good thing. (1)

Fibe-Piper (1879824) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986312)

There are already too many ways for us to destroy the planet.

Who cares if Clinton or Putin didn't have access to the codes? At least half the planet would survive.

This is Clinton we're talking about (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986322)

Would Clinton really nuke anybody anyway? He didn't retaliate after the WTC, the US Embassy, or USS Cole attacks.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986404)

>He didn't retaliate after the WTC, the US Embassy, or USS Cole attacks.

[citation needed]

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (3, Insightful)

CronoCloud (590650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986414)

He most certainly did retaliate...with anti-terrorism activities. You don't send divisions of soldiers to fight terrorists, you send cops, spies and agents who knock on their doors in the middle of the night and make them disappear...without fanfare. You don't give terrorists press, you don't let them know you're coming with armored brigades tearing up the wilderness.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (1, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986538)

His "anti-terrorism activities" sure stopped Bin Laden from beginning the plans for 9/11 in 1998.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986670)

The Clinton administration had plans which were promptly ignored by the new Bush administration.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (3, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986950)

Well duh.

Democrats are unamerican, and strategerizing like that just hurts the thinkbone.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986620)

He most certainly did retaliate...with anti-terrorism activities. You don't send divisions of soldiers to fight terrorists, you send cops, spies and agents who knock on their doors in the middle of the night and make them disappear...without fanfare. You don't give terrorists press, you don't let them know you're coming with armored brigades tearing up the wilderness.

Right.

You do that, maybe launch a few cruise missiles, maybe even go out of your way to create procedural barriers to interagency cooperation against terrorism (got the nards to Google "Gorelick's wall"?), and thereby you give the impression that's all you'll do when a few airliners are hijacked and used to kill thousands.

Ooops.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (5, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986658)

He also ordered missile strikes against training camps and alleged chemical weapons factories. The Republicans complained that he was playing politics however and demanded that he stop.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986450)

yes he did! he lobbed some million dollar cruise missiles at training camps. scary, that.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986644)

Of course that was after he informed a couple of countries sympathetic to OBL so the terror camps were given plenty of warning before the strike.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986498)

Actually, he did eventually retaliate, but by most measures it was pathetic, and in doing so, both missed Bin Laden and struck a chord with Bin Laden's follows of just how ineffectual the US is as responding to serious terrorists threats. Basically, he emboldened Bin Laden and his followers. As such, you can literally draw a line connecting Clinton's inept response to the 9/11 attacks.

Re:This is Clinton we're talking about (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986522)

Duh! He didn't retaliate because he lost the codes. By the time he found them in his other pair of pants, he had been impeached already.

So what? (4, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986330)

Are these the cards you keep in your wallet, picking one of the sequences (which one not being indicated on the card) to confirm your identity in case you're called upon to satisfy the two-man rule for authorizing a nuclear strike?

First, someone would be guessing randomly as to which sequence to use.
Second, someone would have to convince the guy at the other end of the phone--or in person--he was the right person. In DC, that can be tricky, because everyone knows everyone.
Third, You'd need a SECOND person to help.
Fourth, when it goes missing, surely you could call NORAD and say "Yo, I'm missing my card."

Oh, I skimmed the article. The problem isn't that they were missing, it's that President Clinton's aides were afraid to say they'd lost them. They should have been fired or arrested, putting their pride ahead of a fairly important--though hopefully unneeded--element of national security like that.

Re:So what? (1)

ppattis (467703) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986648)

What would NORAD have to do with Nuclear Weapons?

Re:So what? (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986794)

What would NORAD have to do with Nuclear Weapons?

They are in charge of making sure the missiles don't accidentally hit Santa Claus.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986874)

What would NORAD have to do with Nuclear Weapons?

If they can track Santa I'm sure they can find a measly index card.

Not a comedy of errors (3, Informative)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986362)

TFA heavily implies that the aid knew the codes were lost but covered up the mistake until the mandatory code change rather than cop to it and get the codes replaced. It seems to me this would be a court-martial offense at the very least.

That the people checking on such an important document did not communicate with each other or follow up with the President is also appalling.

Re:Not a comedy of errors (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986702)

Because then it would of got out, and even thought they aren't really needed, the risk of a confrontation escalates. The cold war is about that game.

Re:Not a comedy of errors (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986916)

I find it highly doubtful that the President was unaware the codes were missing. They are HIS codes. I don't know what would be worse, that the president knew the codes were missing and asked his aids to cover, or that the President himself didn't care enough about the launch codes to KNOW where they were at all times. Either way, somebody should have been court martialed.

Re:Not a comedy of errors (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987048)

Yes, that occurred to me also, but I was not going to accuse Clinton of losing the launch codes. There are all kinds of tawdry jokes one could make about that, but hell, he's out of office, he'll never be President again, and we're all still in one piece. Let it go.

But aids, especially military ones, tend to stick around between administrations, and I find that thought a little frightening.

Human Error? (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986364)

If you lose your library card, that's human error.

If you lose a nuclear strike card, we need a new term.

Not really an issue... (1)

topham (32406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986380)

Not really an issue, they were probably the default codes anyway; i mean, why not, that's what they used at the minuteman silos anyway.

Safer than the 60's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986420)

If you saw the film The Fog of War, you may remember Robert McNamara admittion that when he attempted to force the military to implement a secure command and control system, they set the code to 0000 0000 and left it that way, against orders from the Commander in Chief. The code was an open secret within all the 'Top Brass' allowing anyone with the appropriate rank to fire at will.

By comparison, would have felt safer believing that no one had the ability to arm and fire nukes for a period of time than believing that any one of the top bullet-heads were able. I have little faith that military minds accept the notion that nuclear warfare should be considered utterly off-limits.

To me, the nuclear ATM card sitting at the bottom of Clinton's sock drawer is little more than a humorous historical anecdote, if it's true at all.

Well, they better fix this... (4, Insightful)

thestudio_bob (894258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986444)

Our government better fix this and fix it quick. As a U.S. citizen I demand our elective officials overblow this issue into some kind of national security problem and require anyone flying, driving, walking, bicycling, chartering a bus or taking a taxi while entering, leaving or just site seeing our country to be detained, strip searched, beaten (especially if you one of those pesky journalist) and have your personally belongings seized.

And due to the fact that this lost nuclear activation card can be scanned and uploaded to nefarious websites, we need to completely shut down the internet, restrict television and radio to RIAA and MPAA approved content and revoke all library cards immediately.

The government needs to be reminded that us citizens are in control, dammit.

Re:Well, they better fix this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986598)

This was actually funny, in a morbidly terrifying I-just-shit-my-pants sort of way.

So what the worst that could have happened? (0, Troll)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986458)

The codes were found by some idiot wannabe cowboy in Texas? Wait, the supreme court did exactly that in 2001, and we still survived.

Gee, and I thought Bush was the dumb boob (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986468)

Reality.

Blowing up the /sheep political dreams.

Good. (0, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986490)

I always thought it was foolish for the US to counterstrike, and extinct the human race.

Obviously it was meant as a deterrent, but the wiser course if Russia attacked would be to say, "Oh damn," and do nothing. The eastern half of the world would fall to Communism, but Homo sapiens would still be alive. And no government lasts forever. Even if it took 500 years eventually the communist empire would bankrupt itself, collapse (as happened with Rome), and a new civilization would arise to fill the gap.

Re:Good. (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986604)

Every president supplies (maybe supplied?) sealed orders for the nuclear submarines under the north pole ice as far as what to do if the US is nuked into oblivion. Allegedly, at least a few presidents' orders were to stand down in such a situation, and a lot more were to seek out any surviving allies. So at least a few people in positions of power probably agreed with your assessment.

Re:Good. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986666)

Maybe, but you can never, ever, state that opinion, to anyone. Otherwise the house of cards falls down and a real risk of launch can occur. I mean, if you know your enemy won't retaliate there isn't much to stop you. But if both party knows that, and both parties know the other know that both parties know. Then you have a situation where you build them, and every knows there won't be a launch. But if you don't build them, then someone else will and the house of cards collapses.

It's weird.

Absurd idea to begin with (1)

sosaited (1925622) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986558)

The whole idea of having a "football" accompanying a person who can order a Nuclear strike anywhere is just stupid to say the least. When it comes to a weapon that can destroy whole cities without any regard for innocent lives that will be lost, there should be a well planned out and thorough discussion among other Government officials, majority of which should not be military men. In some rare cases, where they think that immediate nuclear strike was the only way to go, it is pretty much a given that the person with the most power will be emotionally distressed and his decisions would not consider anything beyond his mere order.

Re:Absurd idea to begin with (0, Flamebait)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986784)

Loserboy nerd, the reason that football is here in the first place is to enable the President to react swiftly in the worst-case scenario. The worst case scenario, loserboy nerd whose arms I happily twist, is a nuclear strike launched by a foreign power through ICBMs: the time to impact is measured in minutes, and if SLBMs are involved it's a very tight race. No time for planned and thorough discussion. By the way, the President can't order a strike by himself, the order must be validated by another member of the National Command Authority, you loserboy nerd whose head I gladly smash against walls. Now, loserboy nerd on whose face I joyfully defecate, think back to the last time you've been beaten up: how much time did pass from early warning to first kick in the groin? I'll tell you: 2 seconds and a half. How much time from that first kick to having your scrawny neck grabbed and your head bashed into a locker's door? 1 second and a half. From this to arm twisting, less than 3 seconds. It's another 5 seconds or so until brown swirling. Another 10 seconds until facial defecation. When exactly did you have time to react, huh? Nowhere. Not enough to have a planned discussion on what to do. And now that I think of it, I'll think next time I'll leave you exactly the time for that, before I laugh in your face, kick your teeth in and have the rest of the football team stomp on your twisted spine and urinate on your quivering remains. Dismissed, loserboy nerd.

Clinton wouldn't have pushed the button (2, Interesting)

dtjohnson (102237) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986568)

Obviously Clinton had decided he would never push the button and didn't much care about the button's whereabouts. If Russia had decided to launch 500 nuclear warheads at the U.S., there wouldn't have been much point in pushing the button anyway, other than, perhaps, for some sort of twisted revenge. Nuclear weapons are the kind of weapon that gives Iran's Ahmadinejad an Islamic hard-on...just thinking about nuking Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and...perhaps New York and Los Angeles...and...even better...thinking about the massive amount of fear that the the intended victims will experience in the time leading up to the actual nuking. Fear...it's all about fear. Clinton was not someone who wanted anyone to be afraid anywhere...more of an anti-fear President.

This is UNIX... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986570)

I know this!!!

Not a good thing, but nobody was in danger. (1)

gimmebeer (1648629) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986590)

Those are just part of the authentication process to initiate something like a launch. Still, it looks bad on those who lost them.

It's not really that dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986600)

You can't just call someone up read them the codes and then they all launch.

Also, you don't actually need them to launch. If you think about it, it makes sense. Otherwise you could conventionally kill the president, then we wouldn't be able to retaliate.

There are many checks an balances, and it is a well trained and tested process with no single point of failure.

The worst part is that FE Warren sucks.

Not lost (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986634)

Just mixed up with all the phone numbers on cocktail napkins and bar coasters.

Too bad it was 2004... (3, Funny)

mjs_ud (849782) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986808)

If it were more recent they probably would have been backed up on wikileaks.

The real reason Monica was on her knees (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986824)

she was helping him look for the launch codes

Shamelessly stolen from Fark

One day in the oval office... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33986854)

Bill: Here sweetie, take my number, feel free to call me for anything.
Monica: Sure, Bill. But isn't this piece of paper important? It looks like there are some passwords on here and launch instructions...
Bill: Don't worry, baby. Say, come over here and I'll show you a launch.
Monica: ...

Timing of the book is suspicious (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986986)

obviously it's not a good thing the codes and it's a bit freaky codes were lost... but why now? the story is very old... and how come this book is coming out around time of elections, depicting a democrat in a bad light?

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