Friday, 17 November, 2017

U.S. lawmakers question Trump's nuclear authorities

Protesters clash with anti-riot police officers as they try to march towards the US embassy in Manila Philippines ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA REUTERS Protesters clash with anti-riot police officers as they try to march towards the US embassy in Manila Philippines
Kenny Thornton | 15 November, 2017, 02:58

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". The committee's Republican chairman, Bob Corker, accused President Trump last month of setting the United States "on a path to World War III".

"This continues a series of hearings to examine these issues and will be the first time since 1976 that this committee or our House counterparts have looked specifically at the authority and process for using USA nuclear weapons", Corker, who is from Tennessee, said in his statement.

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Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from CT, said Tuesday that he believes President Trump is so unstable he may launch an ill-advised nuclear strike. He said those comments are fueled by Trump's statements about North Korea, including his remark in August that the USA could respond to Pyongyang with "fire and fury like the world has never seen". "So let's just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment and the discussion that we're having today". "That is frightening. And as the chairman pointed out, based on my understanding of the nuclear command and control protocols, there are no checks - no checks - on the president's authority". The system requires the president to work with military aides and give orders that must be followed down a chain of command.

Mr Corker, the Tennessee senator who chairs the committee, last month engaged in a Twitter spat with Mr Trump, likening the White House to "an adult day care center". "A presidential order to employ US nuclear weapons must be legal". And during his recently concluded visit to Asia, Trump called Kim "short and fat" after the young dictator reportedly called him old.

But "because even a single nuclear detonation would be so consequential and might trigger an escalatory spiral that would lead to civilization-threatening outcomes, we must also have a high assurance that there would never be an accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons", Feaver added.

Military experts testifying before the committee noted that, while presidents have ultimate authority to order nuclear strikes, there are safeguards in place to ensure those orders are considered first.

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"If we saw they were preparing to do so and it was imminent, I could imagine it".

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 USA military is obligated to follow legal orders, it is not duty bound to adhere to illegal ones.

The witnesses described teams of legal advisors working for the Commander of Strategic Command General John Hyten and in the office of the Secretary of Defense James Mattis who would advise the chain of command on the legality of a hypothetical order to use nuclear weapons.

Mr Kehler admitted: "I don't know".

"The president would not make this decision by himself", said Brian McKeon, a former acting undersecretary for policy with the Department of Defense.

"But you'd have a real constitutional crisis on your hands", McKeon said.

"Our adversaries are watching", said Senator Marco Rubio, warning against steps that raise any doubts about USA presidential authority in a conflict.

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