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White House lost nuclear codes during Clinton's reign

A former top military officer says in a new book that former president Bill Clinton's White House lost the codes needed to launch nuclear missiles.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2010 08:01 IST

A former top military officer says in a new book that former president Bill Clinton's White House lost the codes needed to launch nuclear missiles.

Retired general Hugh Shelton writes in his just published memoir, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior", that the card containing the codes were missing for months before an aide finally admitted it was misplaced, according to media reports Thursday.

The card, known as the "biscuit", holds the code required to open the briefcase holding another set of codes needed to launch nuclear missiles. The briefcase is commonly referred to as the "football" and is always accompanied by a military officer and kept close to the president.

Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recalled that the event took place sometime in 2000.

The card is supposed to be updated with new codes periodically. On two occasions, Shelton says, the military was told by White House aides that the card could not be changed out because the president had it, was in a meeting and could not be disturbed. An aide later admitted it had gone missing for some time.

"At one point during the Clinton administration, the codes were actually missing. That's a big deal, a gargantuan deal," Shelton wrote.