Every US president since John F Kennedy has been equipped with a nuclear biscuit and a nuclear football. It’s what the US president does with them that decides whether the rest of us should plan for tea or armageddon.
The so-called nuclear biscuit is a credit-card-sized piece of plastic containing the codes the president needs to order the launch nuclear weapons. The president is supposed to carry the biscuit at all times, though there are reports that in the 1970s Jimmy Carter inadvertently lost his when a suit was sent to the dry cleaners.
One of Ronald Reagan’s aides even carried the nuclear football across Red Square during a presidential visit to Moscow. In principle, Reagan could have ordered a first strike on the Soviet Union at that moment. In any case, Reagan’s Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, was also accompanied during the visit by a military aide holding a very similar bag, known in Russian as the chemodanchik, or “little briefcase.”
Now, long after the end of the cold war, the man bag still shadows the president on his or her travels. There are in fact three nuclear footballs – one kept near the president when they leave the White House, another for the vice-president and a third kept in storage in the White House. The nuclear football is not handcuffed to aides, as some have claimed, but has a leather cinch strap that can be looped around the wrist.Read More: The Guardian