Senators express concerns over checks and balances for US-launched nuclear attack
15 November, 2017, 03:31 | Author: Benny Bass
Amid growing anxiety that President Donald Trump's heated rhetoric could trigger a war with North Korea, lawmakers on Tuesday debated for the first time in 40 years a USA president's authority to launch a nuclear strike.
"And the decision to use nuclear weapons is the most consequential of all".
Feaver, who served as a security adviser under President George W. Bush, appeared before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was holding a hearing on the Presidential "Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons". Under current rules, a president could launch a nuclear strike by entering codes into a device known as "the football" - a briefcase that always travels with the president - and is not obligated to consult other government officials.
"Once that order is given and verified, there is no way to revoke it", said the committee's chairman, Senator Bob Corker, who described the hearing as the first since 1976 to focus on presidential authority over nuclear weapons.
Corker told reporters Tuesday his committee will also soon address the president's authority to terminate agreements with other countries - a subject with particular relevance for the future of the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has decried as "an embarrassment", refusing to certify last month that Tehran was in compliance with its terms.
Mr Trump has recently been taunting North Korea and vowed to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" on the rogue nation if its nuclear armament program was not pulled back. And days after calling on Kim to enter peaceful negotiations, he spoke before South Korea's parliament and listed a litany of alleged human rights abuses against the North Korean leader, calling him a "deranged tyrant" presiding over a "cult".
The escalating war of words has alarmed U.S. lawmakers.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., still likened the process to simple technology.
"I think hard cases make bad law, and I think if we were to change the decision-making process in some way because of a distrust of this president, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent", said Brian Mckeon, former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the Obama administration.
Cardin doubled down on his questioning of Kehler asking, "If you believe that this did not meet the legal test of proportionality, even if ordered by the president of the United States to use a nuclear first strike, you believe that because of legalities you retain that decision to disobey?"
Retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously headed the U.S.'s command that would be in charge of the nuclear arsenal during a war, said while the US military is obligated to follow legal orders, it is not duty bound to adhere to illegal ones.
"The U.S. military doesn't blindly follow orders", Kehler said in his opening remarks.
Trump has repeatedly made public statements aimed at foreign leaders, particularly North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whom Trump has named "rocket man".
Kehler acknowledged, however, should the military reject a nuclear strike order that would result in a "very hard conversation".
"I don't know", Kehler admitted, to nervous chuckles in the chamber.
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