The nuclear football is a well known icon of the atomic age. Given the requirement of maximum reliability, there is a tendency for military computer systems to lag their civilian counterparts. Even the latest version of the football lacks a modern GUI with self documenting displays, complicating unauthorized use.
A simple football was compatible with retaliation described by MAD (mutual assured destruction.) In 1980, the options became more complicated. Quoting Wikipedia,
The original US MAD doctrine was modified on July 25, 1980, with US President Jimmy Carter‘s adoption of countervailing strategy with Presidential Directive 59. According to its architect, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, “countervailing strategy” stressed that the planned response to a Soviet attack was no longer to bomb Soviet population centers and cities primarily, but first to kill the Soviet leadership, then attack military targets, in the hope of a Soviet surrender before total destruction of the Soviet Union (and the United States).
With the emergence of non-state actors that may influence nuclear states, or which may gain their own nuclear capability, the nuclear arsenal has acquired a menu of plan books that require more presidential education than the simple end-of-the-world directive of original MAD. With requirements of simplicity and reliability, the plans are on paper.
This is likely what was retained at Mar-a-Lago. It may include
- Plans, on paper.
- Meeting minutes, or addenda useful to an adversary to divine actual intention.
- Launch Codes corresponding to each plan, which as sparse block codes, prevent unauthorized activation of the deterrent, and would otherwise be indecipherable to an adversary.
The plans are of significant value to an adversary in
- Deployment of air and missile defense resources. Some anti-missile systems are highly mobile.
- Survival of their leadership.
The search and seizure is justified by the critical need to recover the materials. But absent criminal intent, justice has been lenient in recent cases. Trump is preceded by Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, and John M. Deutsch, all of whom have continued their public lives without prejudice.
This affair threatens to unnecessarily occlude the serious events of January 6, 2020, unless it comes to this: