Streetwise Professor

October 23, 2010

To Err is Human: to Cover Up is Malign

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:03 pm

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written in his memoirs that President Bill Clinton lost the codes necessary to launch American nuclear weapons.  For months–maybe more than a year:

Bill Clinton lost the secret codes that would be used to authorise a US nuclear strike during the last year of his presidency, a new book has alleged.

General Hugh Shelton, who served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under Mr Clinton, says the codes were lost for months, leaving the US unable to launch its nuclear weapons.

“This is the one point in the system where there is no backup and it failed,” he says in his book, Without Hesitation. “Without [the presidential authorisation codes] it doesn’t matter if we’ve got a thousand missiles verified inbound to the US, we would be unable to launch a retaliatory strike.”

The allegation about the frailty of the world’s biggest nuclear deterrent – the US retains more than 5,000 operational warheads – comes after a 2007 incident when a B52 bomber flew across the country with six nuclear weapons accidentally on board.

Gen Shelton adds that the loss of the codes only came to light “around the year 2000”, when they were due to be replaced by a new set. For months beforehand, he says, defence department officials had tried to verify that the codes were still in place, only to be fobbed off by Mr Clinton’s staff, who said he was in a meeting and had the codes on his person.

One can understand losing them.  Carter supposedly did.  What is inexcusable is the failure to acknowledge and correct the situation, and even worse, the persistent lying and stonewalling.  For months.

Maybe Monica wasn’t a legitimate impeachable offense, but such extreme cavalierness towards the most vital national security issue, all as part of a CYA, seems like one to me.  It also reveals a lot about Clinton, by showing the lengths he would go to in order to spare himself from embarrassment.  Indeed, it is a piece of the mindset that caused the whole Lewinsky scandal to metastasize.  What could he possibly have been thinking?  Of himself, and himself only, of course.

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  1. You can imagine the reaction if Bush had lost the codes.

    Comment by Tim Newman — October 24, 2010 @ 6:36 am

  2. Boy, you will believe anything.

    It suffices to say that keeping track of the codes is not the President’s job.

    Comment by rkka — October 25, 2010 @ 6:41 am

  3. Not his job, which leaves us to presume his staff was conducting the offending cover-up without his knowledge?

    Comment by Ken — October 27, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

  4. Not his job? How do you possibly figure that? He is the *only* person who is supposed to have the codes. They are his responsibility, period. How would staffers know that there was anything to cover up? Wouldn’t they assume that he had them?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 27, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

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