[Cryptography] "U.S. Has Made ‘Dramatic Change’ in Technology Used for Nuclear Code System"

Phillip Hallam-Baker phill at hallambaker.com
Fri Oct 21 00:08:38 EDT 2022

On Mon, Oct 17, 2022 at 9:02 AM Peter Gutmann <pgut001 at cs.auckland.ac.nz>

> Jerry Leichter <leichter at lrw.com> writes:
> >Apparently something about the whole presidential approval system for
> nuclear
> >war has been completely changed very recently
> Maybe the timing of the change is just coincidence, but perhaps the
> prospect
> of a president ordering a nuclear strike on a hurricane motivated a top-to-
> bottom revamp of the authorisation process.  I would imagine that a
> convenient
> side-effect of this tech upgrade is that it's now a lot harder to do
> anything
> without adult supervision.
> Peter.

No, this has been in the works for over a decade. The Air Force was upset
that their launch computers used 8" floppy disks with the attendant parts
supply issues for the CPU.

While this is a different system, it is likely part of the same

Besides the computing issue, there is an issue of the warhead having to be
remanufactured every so often as certain bits decay. The history here is
that after the Soviet Union collapsed, the US agreed a deal with Russia in
which the other former Soviet states gave their warheads to Russia which
then dismantled them, diluted the uranium isotopes back to reactor grade
and sold them to the US for fuel. This is the reason that Russia became the
major source of uranium to fuel its nuclear reactors.

The original plan was that the US and Russia would then agree to reduce
from their current ~2000 warheads each to more like 250. This would in turn
mean China would not need to get into a nuclear race with either. Which of
course fell apart round about the invasion of Iraq and the ascension of
Putin. The Obama Russia reset was never expected to work but was done to
demonstrate that the US had made a good faith offer. Since then Putin has
been boasting about a large array of weapons that the experts I have talked
to considered to be 'pure bullshit' long before we found out how well
Russian equipment really works in Ukraine.

We know quite a bit about the contents of the football. The options it
presents are deliberately limited because of the cognitive overload issue.
Reportedly, Carter ex sub vet, was the only President to really study the
issue really hard and had the staff provide simplified options etc. They
rehearse use under high fidelity conditions etc. I think we can be
absolutely 100% certain that the target options do not include
hurricanes and never have.

While it is called the 'nuclear' football, the retaliation options are not
limited to nuclear. The options are described as 'rare', 'medium' and 'well

Weight is 45lbs and as far as I can tell, it is the 6" deep version of the
Zero Halliburton briefcase. So it seems that there is more than just two
books and a manilla folder.
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