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Fw: [IP] The worst case of password abuse - ever.

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  • Albert LaFrance
    Jim Innes asked me to forward this very interesting and surprising item to the list... Albert ... From: owner-ip@v2.listbox.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2004
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      Jim Innes asked me to forward this very interesting and surprising item to
      the list...


      -----Original Message-----
      From: owner-ip@... [mailto:owner-ip@...] On Behalf Of
      Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 11:31 AM
      To: ip@...
      Subject: [IP] The worst case of password abuse - ever.

      ....... Forwarded Message .......
      From: "Trei, Peter" <ptrei@...>
      To: dave@...
      Date: Tue, 01 Jun 2004 10:58:50 -0400
      Subj: The worst case of password abuse - ever.

      [For IP, if you wish]

      This is just Strangelovesque....

      What was the password which controlled the firing of America's ICBMs
      for years during the height of the Cold War?


      That's right. For *all* of them. The Permissive Action Link codes for
      all of Americas missiles provided less protection than on an average

      [It's fair to note that there were a lot of other controls, such
      as the dual key system. However, it appears that a pair of
      rogue controllers could have unleashed Armmagedon - pt]

      Peter Trei



      Bruce Blair's Nuclear Column Home Page <http://www.cdi.org/blair/>
      Keeping Presidents in the Nuclear Dark
      (Episode #1: The Case of the Missing "Permissive Action Links")
      Bruce G. Blair, Ph.D <http://www.cdi.org/aboutcdi/bruce_blair1.html>,
      CDI President, bblair@... <mailto:bblair@...>
      Feb. 11, 2004

      Last month I asked Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense during
      the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, what he believed back in the
      1960s was the status of technical locks on the Minuteman intercontinental
      missiles. These long-range nuclear-tipped missiles first came on
      line during the Cuban missile crisis and grew to a force of 1,000
      during the McNamara years - the backbone of the U.S. strategic deterrent
      through the late 1960s. McNamara replied, in his trade-mark, assertively
      confident manner that he personally saw to it that these special
      locks (known to wonks as "Permissive Action Links") were installed
      on the Minuteman force, and that he regarded them as essential to
      strict central control and preventing unauthorized launch.

      When the history of the nuclear cold war is finally comprehensively
      written, this McNamara vignette will be one of a long litany of
      items pointing to the ignorance of presidents and defense secretaries
      and other nuclear security officials about the true state of nuclear
      affairs during their time in the saddle. What I then told McNamara
      about his vitally important locks elicited this response: "I am
      shocked, absolutely shocked and outraged. Who the hell authorized
      that?" What he had just learned from me was that the locks had been
      installed, but everyone knew the combination.

      The Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha quietly decided to set
      the "locks" to all zeros in order to circumvent this safeguard.
      During the early to mid-1970s, during my stint as a Minuteman
      launch officer, they still had not been changed. Our launch
      checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check
      the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that
      no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the
      panel. SAC remained far less concerned about unauthorized launches
      than about the potential of these safeguards to interfere with the
      implementation of wartime launch orders. And so the "secret unlock
      code" during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War
      remained constant at 00000000.

      After leaving the Air Force in 1974, I pressed the service, initially
      by letters addressed to it and then through congressional intermediaries,
      to consider a range of terrorist scenarios in which these locks could
      serve as crucial barriers against the unauthorized seizure of launch
      control over Minuteman missiles. In 1977, I co-authored (with Garry
      Brewer) an article ( reprinted below
      entitled "The Terrorist Threat to World Nuclear Programs" in which
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