Several conservative news sites and blogs are claiming that during the third and final presidential debate on October 19, 2016, the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, leaked classified information about U.S. response window for launching nuclear missile attacks.
The Democratic presidential candidate committed the alleged disclosure of classified information about U.S. nuclear response protocols during the section of the debate about the country’s relations with Russia and allegations that the Russian government was trying to influence the 2016 presidential election, apparently in favor of the Republican candidate Donald Trump.
In related remarks, Clinton argued that Trump was not fit to be president because he had allegedly been “cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons” and suggested that other countries, including Japan, Korea and “even Saudi Arabia” could own and use them.
“The bottom line on nuclear weapons is that when the president gives the order, it must be followed,” Clinton said. “There is about four minutes between the order being given and the people responsible for launching nuclear weapons to do so.”
Clinton also tweeted similar remarks after the debate, saying that a response window “can take as little as four minutes.”
After Clinton stated during the debate on Wednesday that the response time for launching nuclear missiles was only about four minutes, Twitter came alive with claims that she had given away classified information, with many alleging that she had demonstrated once again, following her mishandling of classified emails by using a private server, that she was not fit to be president.
“Once again Hillary proves she can’t handle classified information. Gives away America’s nuclear response time to the World. What an idiot!”
Allegations that the former Secretary of State had “mishandled sensitive information” about the nation’s nuclear response time were also made by several conservative news sources and blogs, including Fox News.
According to Fox News, Clinton’s revelation that it takes four minutes for nuclear missiles to be launched from the time the president gives the order raises questions once again about her fitness to hold the country’s nuclear codes.
Fox News reported that multiple official intelligence sources said the information Clinton revealed was a state secret.
The network quoted Dan Maguire, a former strategic planner with AFRICOM, saying that “anything having to do with response capability is generally classified.”
But senior Clinton campaign officials dismissed claims that the presidential candidate had revealed classified information, Fox News reported. Clinton campaign officials cited multiple published reports containing details of the decision-making process from the moment an incoming hostile missile is detected to the moment the president gives the order to launch, and finally, the time interval during which the order is implemented.
The Clinton campaign, according to Fox News, cited a Bloomberg news article by Bruce Blair, a former Minuteman missile launch officer and national security expert, that revealed details of the process from the time the president gives the order to the launching of nuclear missiles.
“About five minutes may elapse from the president’s decision until intercontinental ballistic missiles blast out of their silos, and about fifteen minutes until submarine missiles shoot out of their tubes,” Blair wrote. “Once fired, the missiles and their warheads cannot be called back.”
But intelligence experts Fox News interviewed insisted that the fact that an article or an academic paper gives details of the nuclear response protocols does not authorize a government official who may have had access to classified information to also do so.
Tony Shaffer, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Operations at the London Center for Policy Research, told Fox News that as long as confirmation does not come from high-level officials, claims by sundry sources remain only informed speculation or assumptions, and thus, the Department of Defense can maintain a level of uncertainty about the actual response time.
The Daily Caller also attacked Clinton for having “appeared to reveal at least some sensitive information about the country’s national security.”
The news site quoted retired Army Lt. General Keith Kellogg, former director of communications for U.S. forces with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying “It is foolish to talk about any nuclear command control timing decision.”
“It is just not done, because you just don’t give up any indications of what your windows are for decision-making — especially when it comes to nuclear command and control,” Kellog said, according to the Daily Caller.
Other news blogs, including Liberty News, reported that Pentagon officials were “dumbfounded as to why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would feel it appropriate to announce U.S. Special Access Program intel on national television.”
Liberty News claimed that Department of Defense officials speaking anonymously said Clinton likely violated at least two U.S. Special Access Program (SAP) protocols by announcing the nuclear launch time.
One unnamed high-ranking intelligence official said that before Clinton’s statement, time frames on various publications were “merely… an educated hypothesis” given the fact that there had been no relevant leaked official documents or other breaches.
True Pundit quoted a high-ranking DOD intelligence official saying that Clinton’s statement proved she is unfit to be commander-in-chief.
“What she did compromises our national security,” the alleged source said. “She is cavalier and reckless and in my opinion should be detained and questioned so we can unravel why she did what she did.”
According to True Pundit, the information Clinton divulged was top secret intelligence under SAP known only “to a handful of individuals outside top military brass.”
But a few sources disputed the claims that Clinton had disseminated a state secret.
Joe Cirincione, a national security expert, refuted allegations that Clinton had divulged state secrets in two tweets (see below). He argued that it was not possible to say that information about nuclear protocols that was already available to the public was classified information.
“No, @HillaryClinton did not reveal any secret about how quickly we can launch?. This is widely known, often cited.”
Other sources, including the fact-checker Snopes, argued in the same vein, saying it was not possible to say that information already known publicly was a classified state secret.
Snopes referred to an article published on August 5, 2016 by the Foreign Policy magazine that cited multiple sources saying that the president has four minutes to decide whether to order a nuclear attack from the time he is informed about an incoming nuclear missile, and four minutes for the missile to be launched after the order has been issued.
A piece published on Politico reports an incident in 1979 when an early warning hub in Colorado gave a false warning of a “large-scale Soviet missile attack.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, then President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, received an alert in the middle of night of imminent massive nuclear strike on the U.S. But before he could call President Carter, he received another call saying it was a false alarm caused by a human error after training tape simulation of a Soviet nuclear attack was confused with a real early warning alarm.
[Featured Image by John Locher/AP]