Moviegoers may recall the scene late in Return of the Jedi where the rebel fleet transmits a stolen security code to get through the defensive perimeter surrounding the new death star, and the communications officer on the imperial battle cruiser says, “It’s an old code, but it checks out.”
This line came back to mind with the news this morning that one of the items supposedly sought in the Mar-a-Lago raid were the nuclear launch codes that Trump carried in his pocket while president, and which as an ex-President he probably should have surrendered upon leaving office, though I don’t know what the actual procedure is.
This story seems highly suspicious, to say the least. The details of the command-and-control systems for our nuclear and other advanced weapons systems are highly classified, and are one of the most difficult problems of defense management in a crisis. It’s one thing to have nuclear weapons systems, but it is another thing to communicate and authenticate command orders in wartime conditions, when the enemy will be hacking and disrupting communication chains. This was a major problem even before the rise of the internet. It was a major concern, for example, back in the early 1980s when the United States deployed Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe. Some declassified accounts of the command-and-control challenges of that era make for harrowing reading.
Regardless of the complexity of C-and-C, it defies common sense to suppose that an ex-President would have live launch codes in his possession. Surely the codes are changed when a new president takes office, and in any case Trump wouldn’t have access to the “football’—the mobile communications device used for a president to send out launch instructions that travels everywhere with the president. Does anyone think Trump is going to call up some manned missile silo or ballistic submarine commander thinking that an old code will “check out”? This is too stupid even for George Lucas.
The only remotely possible difficulty is if it is supposed that our enemies could learn valuable intelligence about our command and communication structure if Trump deliberately or inadvertently allowed access to old codes and related documents about their use. If the Biden Administration has evidence of this, they ought to produce it immediately. And even if this unlikely scenario is correct, it wouldn’t justify the kind of sensational public raid that took place.
This is starting to sound like a re-run of the Russia Hoax, and by the very same people who are using the same old Code Red they sounded in 2016. But that old code doesn’t check out. It’s almost as though they want Trump to run and win again. Good for business at FBI headquarters.