minuteman nuclear missile lock code was 00000000

Discussion in 'Politics' started by fxtrading, May 27, 2004.

  1. pulled this off of fark

    Armageddon Almost Not Averted

    By Matt Bivens To Our Readers

    The mental image we all have of a near-nuclear war scenario goes like this: A threat is detected; military men dutifully begin working their way through a crisp and precise set of protocols; maybe it even gets as far as the authorities ordering missile launch officers to break open those little squares of hard plastic we know from the movies, the ones that hold the launch codes.

    But the threat is defused, or revealed to have been false -- and then everyone stands down from Armageddon in the same crisp, orderly fashion as they had ramped up for it.

    It turns out that it's nothing like that.

    Consider, for example, a fun Cold War-era fact from Bruce Blair, who is president of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information (home of Johnson's Russia List).

    Blair was a Minuteman nuclear missile launch officer in the 1970s, and regularly ran through simulations in which he and his colleagues launched up to 50 missiles at the Soviet Union.

    To launch a Minuteman in those days, one had to "unlock" the missile by dialing in a code -- the equivalent of a safety catch on a handgun. However, Blair reports, the U.S. Strategic Air Command was worried that a bunch of sissy safety features might slow things down. It ordered all locks set to 00000000 -- and in launch checklists, reminded all launch officers like Blair to keep the codes there. "So the 'secret unlock code' during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War," Blair says, "remained constant at 00000000."

    Blair recently buttonholed Robert McNamara, the former U.S. defense secretary best known for overseeing the escalation of our war in Vietnam.

    It was McNamara who ordered that safety locks be put on Minuteman missiles, and he spoke with great pride of this as a reform crucial to preventing accidental nuclear war. So when Blair told him the code was fixed at a line of zeros, he flipped.

    "I am shocked, absolutely shocked and outraged," McNamara said. "Who the hell authorized that?"

    Hmmm. Now, how could anybody be shocked -- shocked! -- to find we weren't in control of our nuclear arsenals?

    Over the decades we've lived with thousands of hair-trigger-launch nukes, there have been four major false alarms (that we know of): in 1979 and 1980 (both American false alarms), in 1983 (a Soviet false alarm) and in 1995 (a Russian false alarm).

    And yet the United States and Russia in 2004 -- just as in the 1970s, '80s and '90s -- still have thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at each other and poised to be launched in minutes.

    Candidate-for-president George W. Bush back in 2000 talked about de-alerting the U.S. missile fleet -- reducing the launch protocols from mere minutes to hours or even days. Sadly for us, he dropped that once in office.

    And so we are left to be protected by the ad-hoc freelancing of men like Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, who was honored on Friday in Moscow by a relatively obscure American peace group. Why? Because he did not do his job -- and, frankly, for no real good reason.

    Nineteen-eighty-three was, in retrospect, a terrifying year. Ronald Reagan was pushing a nuclear buildup, talking about "winnable" nuclear wars and a "Star Wars" missile defense shield, and putting missiles in Europe; the Soviets were responding with the "dead hand" nuclear launch system and other grim moves to counter a surprise attack.

    In June of that year, we had the idiocy of the "Farewell Dossier" -- a recently revealed Cold War episode in which the Reagan team engineered a massive explosion at a Siberian pipeline (one that reportedly had startled U.S. war planners thinking a nuclear exchange was under way). In August, the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines 007, killing all 269 people on board.

    Weeks later, on September 26, 1983, at a half-hour past midnight, Petrov was watching horrified as a warning system he had helped create reported five U.S. missiles launched and headed toward Soviet territory.

    Blair says this was the closest we've ever come to accidental nuclear war. "By all rights we should have blown ourselves to bits by now, but good luck and good judgment up and down the chain of command have spared us this fate ... so far."

    All the data checked out; there was no sign of any glitch or error. Yet Petrov says, "I just couldn't believe that just like that, all of a sudden, someone would hurl five missiles at us." And: "I imagined if I'd assume the responsibility for unleashing the Third World War -- and I said, 'No, I wouldn't.'"

    Petrov declared it to be a false alarm -- not because he had any evidence of that, but because he wanted it to be false.

    And then, he says, "I drank half a liter of vodka as if it were only a glass and slept for 28 hours." Which is what I feel like doing every time I'm confronted with our complacence about this system we've built.

    Matt Bivens is a former editor of The Moscow Times.
  2. msfe


    A Real Nuclear Danger

    Published: May 28, 2004 - NY Times

    While the Bush administration has been distracted by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it has neglected the far more urgent threat to American security from dangerous nuclear materials that must be safeguarded before they can fall into the hands of terrorists. That is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from a new report that documents the slow pace of protecting potential nuclear bomb material at loosely guarded sites around the world.

    The report — prepared by researchers at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard — does not directly blame the invasion of Iraq for undermining that effort. It simply notes that less nuclear material was secured in the two years immediately after the 9/11 attacks than in the two years before. That is a sad turnabout, given that President Bush has spoken vigorously of the need for greater nuclear security and that the United States had done more than any other government to address the threat.

    The most plausible explanation is that the administration has focused so intensely on Iraq, which posed no nuclear threat, that it had little energy left for the real dangers. Indeed, the Harvard researchers said that if a tenth of the effort and resources devoted to Iraq in the last year was devoted to securing nuclear material wherever it might be, the job could be accomplished quickly.

    Fortunately, the administration has begun accelerating its efforts in at least one critical area. This week, the energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, announced a $450 million campaign to retrieve nuclear materials that the United States and the Soviet Union had sent around the world for research purposes. Highly enriched uranium is scattered at some 130 research reactors in more than 40 countries, often guarded by little more than a night watchman and a chain-link fence. Dozens of these sites have enough material to make a bomb. The accelerated retrieval effort has rightly been praised by groups seeking to control nuclear proliferation, but many experts warn that more needs to be done to speed up a process that will take years to complete.

    The biggest danger point remains Russia, where huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials usable in weapons became vulnerable to theft and smuggling with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the United States and Russia are cooperating on a program to safeguard dangerous materials and have fixed some of the most glaring vulnerabilities, only a fifth of the dangerous nuclear material not in weapons has been protected by comprehensive security upgrades, an appallingly sluggish performance. The effort has been slowed by clashes over American access to critical sites and arguments over who would be liable in an accident. Meanwhile, an ambitious campaign begun by the G-8 nations to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction has been slow to get off the ground, despite pledges of $10 billion from the United States and $7 billion from other nations.

    Faster progress will require the sustained, personal involvement of Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin, who have the power to sweep away bureaucratic obstacles. They need to make the issue a priority when the G-8 meets next month.
  3. more leftist pinko garbage.

    the military does no wrong, bush does no wrong. period. and if you say otherwise, you're a terrorist-loving cocksucker. just ask pabst.
  4. dav10


    Madison,The military does no wrong it,s who control,s them that does wrong when you are in the army you join an institution.(END OF STORY) . you are not under civil command.Referance Mr Bush all of his kinfolk has made money out of OIL.I am not dissing you but you seem to have a political agenda to a lot of your view,s and i think you are on the wrong web site. Please give me some feed back,on what you doing here??????