“Nuclear football” procedures to be reviewed after the January 6 incident

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Inspector General will assess policies and procedures around the presidential emergency satchel, also known as “nuclear football,” in case it is “lost, stolen or compromised,” according to an announcement from the DoD IG office .

“Nuclear football” always remains close to the president. There is a back-up “football” that stays close to the vice president in case the president is unable to fulfill his nuclear launch responsibilities. The briefcase contains decision-making materials and documents that the President or, in the event that the President is unable to do so, the Vice President needs to authenticate orders and launch a nuclear strike.
The review was largely rushed by concerns in Congress following the events of January 6 on Capitol Hill, when rioters approached within 100 feet of then-Vice President Mike Pence and the accompanying military aid carrying the “football” relief, according to several defense officials.

“We took various factors into consideration, including, but not limited to, the interests of Congress, when deciding to launch this project,” the ministry’s inspector general spokesperson told CNN. from the Defense, Dwrena Allen.

“I’m not aware that such an assessment has ever been done before,” Stephen Schwartz, a non-resident senior researcher at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, told CNN. “A violent domestic insurgency was almost certainly not part of the DOD and Secret Service threat matrix until six months ago, and it is the only recent known event putting ‘football’ in significant potential danger to cause that level of concern. “

Images of rioters approaching Pence and military aid carrying relief “football” were released during former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial in February and raised concern among several members of the government. Congress.

“As the rioters reached the top of the stairs, they were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were a few steps from one of the doors to that room. “said delegate Stacey Plaskett, one of the impeachment officials, explained at the trial. In one video, the crowd can be heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they stand in front of an open door of the Capitol.

The Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and National Security Reform Subcommittee, Representative Stephen Lynch and the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee on Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Representative Jim Cooper, applauded the decision of the DoD IG to assess proceedings around “football” after which occurred on Jan. 6, the two men said in a joint statement.

“The insurgency on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 was not only an unprecedented attack on our democracy, but it also put our national security at grave risk,” they said. “According to public reports, as Vice President Pence rushed to safety with military aide carrying his emergency satchel, or ‘nuclear football,’ Pentagon officials were unaware that football was potentially seconds away. to fall into the hands of a crowd without faith or law. “

“It is imperative that we fully understand the processes and procedures in place to protect the presidential emergency satchel, especially when its guardians may be in danger,” they added.

The military officer was able to maintain control of the backup “football” while he was with Pence at all times on January 6, a defense official said. When the rioters approached Pence, Trump was in the White House. Even if the rioters had obtained it, they would not have been able to use any of the information due to security checks on the system, the official said.

A previous incident occurred with the president’s “football” in 2017, during Trump’s state visit to China. During this trip, a fight broke out between Chinese and American officials inside the Great Hall of the People. It included military aid carrying the nuclear suitcase, although the satchel was never compromised.

Although “football” was not compromised in either incident, both raise questions as to whether the policies and procedures around the suitcase are effective and secure.

The Inspector General’s assessment “will determine the extent to which DoD processes and procedures are in place and adequate to alert DoD officials in the event of a loss, theft or compromise of the presidential emergency bag,” said the announcement.

It will also determine “the adequacy of the procedures that the DoD has developed to respond to such an event,” according to the announcement. The evaluation will start in July.

This story has been updated with the reaction.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.


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