Live

Watch CBSN Live

Oops! Did Pres. Clinton Misplace Nuclear Codes?

Updated 10:17 a.m. ET

No, it's not the plot of a Tom Clancy book or a Steven Segal movie. Bill Clinton lost the card containing launch codes for a nuclear strike for "months" during his presidency, according to a top military leader's memoir.

Gen. Hugh Shelton, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Clinton, makes the claim in his new book "Without Hesitation," ABC News first reported Thursday.

"At one point during the Clinton administration, the codes were actually missing. That's a big deal, a gargantuan deal," Shelton writes in the book.

Shelton is the second military leader to make the startling claim. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Patterson released a memoir in 2003 in which he said that the launch codes went missing in 1998. Shelton's book says the code card - known as "the biscuit" - disappeared for a period in 2000.

It is unclear whether they represent separate incidents or differing accounts of the same incident.

There are a few other accounts of "the biscuit" going missing. ABC says that President Jimmy Carter once left it in a suit that went to the dry cleaners.

The biscuit is replaced every four months and is not itself sufficient to launch a nuclear strike; in fact, it would likely be meaningless in the hands of anyone but the president and a few other top officials. The biscuit is used to open the briefcase - known as "the football" - that contains launching orders and communication equipment.

Clinton is on the road this week stumping for Democratic candidates ahead of the Nov. 2 elections.

View CBS News In