Monday, 20 November, 2017

US Senate Holds Hearing on President's Nuclear Authority

Bryce Vickmark  ZUMA RomoloTavani  iStock Bryce Vickmark ZUMA RomoloTavani iStock
Bennie Garza | 15 November, 2017, 00:12

Congressional approval is required for the use of conventional military force, but nuclear powers have remained within the president's authority since the dawn of the nuclear age.

"We are concerned that the president is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear-weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national-security interests".

"This is a system controlled by human beings ... nothing happens automatically", he said, adding that the USA military does not blindly follow orders and a presidential order to employ nuclear weapons must be legal.

The hearing was called by the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Sen.

The panel's Republican chairman accused President Trump last month of setting the U.S. "on a path to World War III".

Brian McKeon, former acting under secretary for policy at the Pentagon during the Obama Administration, told the committee that the president would have to come to Congress for approval in the event of a first strike, but not in the event of a retaliatory strike.

Mr Kehler said if he were uncertain about its legality, he would consult with his own advisers.

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

Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, who previously served as the commander of US Strategic Command under President Barack Obama, explained that there are layers of safeguards within the current system created to ensure any order is both legal and proportionally appropriate.

The actual launch of a nuclear missile is a classified process. The Tennessee Republican, who said he won't seek re-election next year, has had a public feud with Trump, calling the White House an "adult day-care center" and saying the USA secretaries of state and defense are "the people that help separate our country from chaos".

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.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he's been receiving "more and more questions" during town hall meetings with constituents about whether the president can order a nuclear attack without any controls.

Two Democratic lawmakers, Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Ed Markey, each have submitted legislation that would prohibit the president from ordering a preemptive nuclear attack without a declaration of war by Congress.

Despite rallying 13 co-sponsors in the Senate, the measure has no Republican support and has gained little traction. Indeed, a military aide shadows the commander in chief day and night, carrying the black briefcase commonly referred to as the "nuclear football", packed with attack options and other information needed in a national emergency. Mattis was asked whether the president could launch a first strike with nuclear weapons, without consulting Congress, against another nuclear-armed country preparing to attack the U.S. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries.

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