- Tuesday, November 14, 2017 7:10 PM
Washington, 14 November 2017 (MIA) - For the first time in over 40 years, Congress is examining a US president's authority to launch a nuclear attack, the BBC reports.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing is titled Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons.
The panel's Republican chairman accused President Trump last month of setting the US "on a path to World War III".
In August, Trump vowed to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" on North Korea if it continued to expand its atomic weapons programme.
The last time Congress debated this issue was over a four-day hearing in March 1976.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, explained the reason for Tuesday's public hearing.
"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 US national-security interests."
Senators also wanted to know what would happen if the president ordered a nuclear strike.
As commander-in-chief, the president has the sole authority to order a nuclear attack, which can be delivered either by submarine, airplane, or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) - which make up the so-called "nuclear triad".
Under current rules, the US president could set a strike in motion by entering the codes into a device called "the football", which travels everywhere with the president.
Trump is not required to consult anyone or gain consensus from any other members of government.
His top advisers, such as Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or national security adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster play no role in the chain of command.
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.
This is because an enemy ballistic missile launched from the other side of the world could hit the US in barely 30 minutes. lk/19:07
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