A closer look at the ‘nuclear football’

Can anyone stop a nuclear order?

(CNN) – Donald Trump has expressed concern about the security of U.S. nuclear weapons, but he’s also voiced a willingness to use them.

Critics – including Hillary Clinton – say Trump can’t be trusted with nuclear weapons, meaning the command codes and communications devices that are always carried by a military aide accompanying the President.

Just a few feet from the president, no matter where the commander-in-chief happens to be, a military aide carries a briefcase. It’s nicknamed the ‘football’. And the power this satchel can unleash is legendary.

Kingston Reif from the Arms Control Association says, “Immense, unprecedented power. The United States currently, right now deploys approximately 900 nuclear warheads that are on the order of 10- to 20-times more powerful than the weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

For three-years, as a young Marine major, Pete Metzger carried the nuclear football for President Reagan. Five military aides – one from each branch of the armed forces – work in a rotation, carrying the football.

Metzger says, the responsibility can be nerve-wracking. “I wouldn’t say I was on-edge, but I was very, very focused on what I was going to do. I mean, the time is so short between alert and execution, you have to be ready anytime for any moment. And that’s why one of us was always in very close proximity to the President.”)

Metzger says there’s a separate football for the vice president, if the commander-in-chief becomes incapacitated. Inside the case, he says, there’s communication equipment. Metzger won’t discuss the other contents.

But Bill Gulley, a former director of the White House military office, described in his book four crucial components inside:

  • a so-called ‘black book’, listing strike-options for retaliation, if the U.S. is attacked with nuclear weapons.
  • a book listing bunker locations where the president can be taken in an emergency.
  • a manila folder, listing procedures for the emergency broadcast system.
  • and a small card with authentication codes– to verify it’s the president ordering a nuclear launch.

Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump doesn’t have the right temperament to be trusted with the nuclear launch codes. “Anyone who can be provoked by a tweet shouldn’t be near nuclear weapons.”

Trump has vehemently refuted that.

Metzger says to carry the football, he had to undergo rigorous background checks by the military, Secret Service, and FBI. It included extensive psychiatric screening. “The result of the decision the President would make is so grotesquely horrible – so grotesquely horrible – it would change the face of the Earth. It would change humanity. It would change mankind. And I guess when you’re on duty you try not to think of the import of that. But you’re fully prepared to do so if you have to.”

If the President decides to use the football and launch a nuclear strike, is there anyone in the chain of command who can stop that order?

The White House won’t comment on that.

But Metzger and other experts tell us: unless there’s a full-on mutiny, no one can stop that order.

Copyright 2016 CNN

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