Who has the nuclear briefcase? Is about a suitcase of about 20 kilos of black leather that always accompanies the president of the United States and that contains the necessary protocols to launch a nuclear attack anywhere in the world.
Normally, the transfer from one president to another of the briefcase (known as a “nuclear ball”) occurs on January 20 before the steps of the Capitol: when the new president takes office, the suitcase passes from one soldier’s hand to another, appointed to assist the new head of state.
It is a discreet act, destined to go unnoticed; but, of utmost importance to US security.
Who has the nuclear briefcase? It is a suitcase of about 20 kilos of black leather that always accompanies the US president and contains the necessary protocols to launch a nuclear attack anywhere in the world (AP).
In a 2013 documentary, former Vice President Dick Cheney (2001-2009) described that moment: “You have the ceremony going on there in front, but more or less behind one of the big columns, two guys are standing there in his military uniform and, at the right moment, one approaches to hand it over to the other. “
And, when that military man accepts the briefcase, “the new president is the one who has control of the nuclear assets.”
TRUMP WASN’T AT THE CEREMONY TO DELIVER THE “BALL”
This time, however, when the new US president, Joe Biden, was sworn in, his predecessor, Donald Trump, I was already 1,600 kilometers away in sunny Palm Beach, South Florida.
Was the first time in 151 years that a president did not attend the inauguration ceremony of his successor. The last to do so was Andrew Johnson in 1869, but then the US did not have one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world.
Fortunately, there is no single “nuclear balloon” and there are at least three, such weapons expert Stephen Schwartz explained in a recent Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation podcast.
When Trump left the White House, he took the briefcase with him; and as soon as he took office, Biden’s new military assistant received one of two other “nukes” (Jonathan Ernst (Reuters)).
That way, when Trump left the White House, he took the briefcase with him; and as soon as he took office, Biden’s new military assistant received one of two other “nukes.”
Few details of that crucial moment are known, as the Pentagon refuses to provide information; But shortly before the inauguration began, a group of reporters was able to see a man enter the Capitol with the characteristic black briefcase, reported The Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis on Twitter.
THE “COOKIE” THAT VERIFIES THE IDENTITY OF THE PRESIDENT
However, to launch a nuclear attack, the most important thing is not the briefcase, but a small laminated card known as “cookie” or “golden code” and that serves to verify the identity of the president, revealed Schwartz on the podcast.
Contrary to what the movies show, the head of state it doesn’t have a red button to fire the missiles and the “cookie” does not contain the secret nuclear codes either.
Those codes are kept up close and personal at the Pentagon, so if the president wants to launch a nuclear attack, the first thing he should do is use a special telephone that he has his military assistant and that connects him with command officials in charge of the missiles.
To launch a nuclear attack, the most important thing is not the briefcase, but a small laminated card known as a “cookie” or “gold code” and which serves to verify the identity of the president.
Then, the president would have to verify his identity using the alphanumeric codes of the “cookie”, for example “DE-5”, and only then would the launch process begin, Schwartz said.
When Trump went to Florida he also took the “cookie” with the code that allowed him to confirm his identity, but that key was canceled as soon as Biden took office.
“A MENU” WITH ATTACK OPTIONS
According to Schwartz, the “nuclear ball” does not hide sophisticated military technology, as Hollywood has portrayed on the big screen, but a lot of papers, including instructions for a broadcast system that would allow the president to speak to the public in the event of an attack.
It also contains a list of places on land, sea and air where the president could take refuge in the event of an attack and a filing cabinet with all the options for an offensive and which, according to Schwartz, looks like a “Chinese food menu” with icons to show the different possibilities and specify the damage that each one causes of them.
When Trump went to Florida, he also took the “cookie” with the code that allowed him to confirm his identity, but that key was canceled as soon as Biden took office (DPA).
According to the official magazine of the reputed Smithsonian Institution, the origin of the nuclear briefcase is classified for safety reasons, but was President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), who created the protocols for that system after the Cuban missile crisis.
The “nuclear ball” and the “cookie” carry a great responsibility and have already been surrounded by controversy in the past.
For example, in 1981, during the chaos that followed the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), for a moment it was not known where the “cookie” was with the codes: the doctors took off his clothes to treat him and the card, which was in his jacket, It ended up in a plastic bag.
For its part, Bill clinton (1993-2001) lost the card with the codes for several months, causing great alarm among his advisers as soon as they found out.