Do you know which briefcase the President of the United States never leaves his side?

6 mins read

It contains symbols and plans. Wherever he goes, one person takes this bag with him to the Master of the White House

The black bag, called a ‘nuclear football’, may not seem important in terms of appearance. But it accompanies the US President wherever he goes and is always carried by a military personnel. The briefcase contains codes and plans that allow the US President to authorize nuclear strikes, allowing him to choose from a list of targets anywhere in the world.

There is a Situation Room in the White House where the US President can order war and communicate with military leaders.

But when Joe Biden flew to Puerto Rico, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Maryland for several days in October, he traveled with his usual ‘soccer ball’.

Biden believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened the use of nuclear weapons when he hinted at an ‘apocalyptic war’ against Ukraine.

If that happens, the US response could come from inside the limousine known as ‘The Beast’, or from Air Force One, or from a secret bunker, or indeed anywhere the President and the ‘soccer ball’ are together.


The ‘soccer ball’, officially known as the ‘Presidential Emergency Kit’, has only been seen a handful of times since it was photographed being carried by an attendant behind President John F Kennedy at his family’s seaside home in Hyannis Harbor, Massachusetts in 1963. One of those moments was when he accompanied US President Ronald Reagan on Red Square during his summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988.

There is another secret ingredient that is important for starting a nuclear war. This component is known by the nickname ‘biscuit’.

If the ‘football’ contains the list of war plans, then the ‘biscuit’ contains the ‘golden tokens’ with which the President can identify and direct himself. Each of these is the size of a credit card that the President must always have with him.

The two pieces are highly secretive and heavily guarded. But for each of them there is the possibility of bad luck.

Bill Clinton believes the biscuit was misplaced when it was accidentally thrown into a plastic bag in the hospital with his clothes when Reagan was undressing to prepare for surgery after being shot in Washington in 1981.

When supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence had to flee to safety with a military staff member who always carried the President’s ‘soccer ball’ behind him.

Chain of command

The command hierarchy is legally very short. According to the Congressional Research Service, the US President is the only person with the authority to authorize the use of nuclear weapons.

The President should identify himself with the symbols of the ‘biscuit’. He can discuss options with senior military commanders and most likely will do so.

Even if Presidents ‘seek advice’ from members of the military, the Congressional analysis said, these advisors must transmit and carry out orders authorizing the use of nuclear weapons.

The command then goes through the military ranks to the officers who operate the switches in silos, on submarines or in the air.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, explained in a memorandum sent to Congress in 2021 that even he is not in the ‘chain of command’, but only in the ‘chain of communication’.

Depriving the President of his powers

The president doesn’t have a big red button to push and all his orders have to go through groups of people before they become reality.

US military personnel should not follow illegal orders. In 2017, Stratcom Commander John Hyten was quoted by Independent Arabia as saying: “We think a lot about these issues. If it’s illegal, you know what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, this is illegal,’ and you know what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What’s legal?’ We will come up with various options and capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is. So the situation will occur and there will be no complications.”

In more dangerous situations, the government could theoretically step in and strip the President of his powers by enacting the 25th amendment into law. This has never happened despite various reports of high-level discussions on the issue during Trump’s chaotic presidency.

However, there could be a much less serious change in the chain of command in relation to planned medical procedures. In this regard, November 19, 2021 was an unprecedented day. Biden was given anesthesia for a colonoscopy. Thus, his deputy, Kamala Harris, became the first woman in the United States to assume commander-in-chief duties as a ‘biscuit’ and ‘soccer ball’ gatekeeper for 85 minutes.



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