Missing codes

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - By ALEX SPIL­LIUS

IT is a mis­take any busy per­son could make. Change a jacket or trousers, lose a credit card and even fail to no­tice it is missing.

Only in the case of Bill Clin­ton, the small plas­tic rec­tan­gu­lar card con­tained the codes needed to launch a nu­clear weapon.

Ac­cord­ing to a new book by Gen­eral Hugh Shel­ton, a for­mer chair­man of the joint chiefs of staff, the for­mer US pres­i­dent lost the card, ref­ered to as “bis­cuit”, for sev­eral months in 2000.

The re­tired gen­eral said: “The codes were ac­tu­ally missing for months. That’s a big deal – a gar­gan­tuan deal.”

The blun­der was de­scribed in Shel­ton’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy With­out Hes­i­ta­tion: The Odyssey Of An Amer­i­can War­rior.

The “bis­cuit” card – so named ap­par­ently be­cause of its shape and golden hue – is sup­posed to be kept close at hand at all times by the US pres­i­dent. The codes are used to iden­tify the pres­i­dent to mil­i­tary com­man­ders in the event of the US launch­ing a nu­clear at­tack.

Clin­ton may have been guilty of the ab­sent-minded of­fence on more than one oc­ca­sion. A sim­i­lar claim was made by Lt Col Robert Pat­ter­son, a for­mer aide, in a book pub­lished seven years ago.

He said that the morn­ing af­ter the Mon­ica Lewin­sky scan­dal broke in 1998 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,” 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.”

Pat­ter­son was one of the mil­i­tary aides re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing a brief­case known as the “foot­ball”, which was re­port­edly named af­ter an at­tack plan co­de­named “Drop­kick”. It con­tains in­struc­tions for launch­ing a nu­clear weapon. The White House spokesman, Joe Lock­hart, con­fessed in 1999 that Clin­ton had once left a Nato sum­mit in such haste that he left be­hind his per­sonal brief­case which con­tained the codes.

The for­mer pres­i­dent, Jimmy Carter, was also ru­moured to have left the “bis­cuit” in a suit that was sent to the dry clean­ers. – © The Daily Tele­graph UK 2010

Now where did I leave those codes? For­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton may have been guilty of los­ing on more than one oc­ca­sion the codes to launch nu­clear weapons when he was pres­i­dent.

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