During the Clinton administration, the codes used by the president to launch a nuclear strike were lost for months, the former highest-ranking US officer has said.
Gen Hugh Shelton, ex-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, made the claim in a new book.
Usually, an aide who remains close to the president holds the codes. But Gen Shelton said there was an incident where an aide said the codes had been lost.
They were immediately replaced and an internal inquiry was conducted.
According to Gen Shelton the incident had taken place “around the year 2000”.
Under the procedures, an official was sent every month to check the codes, which were replaced with new codes every four months.
In his book, Without Hesitation, Gen Shelton said that an official had gone to check one month and been told by the aide that the codes were on the president’s person but that he was in an important meeting and could not be disturbed.
A month later a different official went to do the same check and was told a similar story. When the time came to change the codes, an aide admitted they had been missing for months.
Gen Shelton said it was apparent that the president had not had the codes and that he had been unaware that an aide had lost them.
The general called the episode as a “comedy of errors”.