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The exterior, silver case with the Presidential seal on it containing the leather-cased nuclear football

The nuclear football was the black leather briefcase which contained the daily nuclear launch codes and a "playbook" of Gold Codes that mapped out the options to launch a variety of nuclear attacks. The briefcase enclosed a control board to activate these codes.

Before Day 4[]

The nuclear football was outfitted with various forms of security to keep it from being improperly used. In addition to having a global positioning system transmitter embedded in the case to keep track of its location, the case itself is password protected. The code for the device during Day 4 was *76114.

Department of Defense programmer Fred Laughton was a key member of the group which wrote its software.

Day 4[]

In Day 4, Air Force One was shot down with an air-to-air missile fired from a stolen stealth F-117A attack jet, piloted by Mitch Anderson, which inflicted enough damage to leave a trail of debris, including the nuclear football. CTU sent a helicopter with Jack Bauer in it to recover the device. A couple camping, Jason and Kelly Girard, was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of the explosion and came across the device in the debris of the crash. Finding the presidential seal on a part of the plane, the couple called the police and were put on with Jack.

Jason noticed headlights approaching: the terrorists were tracking the football. Jack instructed Jason to destroy the tracker and head to a nearby power station and hide. Once the hostiles arrived at the building, Jack told Jason to separate the two parts of the football. Jason was captured first with the booklet and shot twice by the terrorists to try and discover the other part. Kelly gave the other part over when she saw her husband in pain. Habib Marwan escaped, but air support disabled the Jeep driven by Steve Simmons, who had the football. Jack investigated only to find that the "Red Section", containing warhead location and activation codes, had been taken in Marwan's vehicle.

Fred Laughton, a DOD programmer who wrote some of the code for the football, was sent in to the location and reconstructed the stolen materials for Jack, who reported the news to CTU Los Angeles.

It also included a book of retaliatory options, a book of classified site locations for the president, a manila folder of Emergency Alert System Procedures (allowing the President of the United States to address the US within ten minutes), and a card of authentification codes.

Background information and notes[]

  • In reality, the procedures and systems needed to operate the football and initiate the launch of a nuclear warhead are much more complicated. If the President decided to order a nuclear strike, he would be taken aside by the "carrier" and the briefcase would be opened. Then a command signal, or "watch alert" would be issued to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president would then review strike options with his aide and decide upon a nuclear strike plan. The aide would then make contact with the National Military Command Center beneath the Pentagon, airborne command posts,and/or nuclear-armed submarines. The President must be positively identified using a special code issued on a plastic card. The order must then be confirmed by the Secretary of Defense. Once all the codes have been verified, the military would then issue orders to the proper units, which re-verify the orders. There are three footballs: one travels with the President, one is at the White House, and the third is with the Vice President of the United States. In real life, the football also contains a book of retaliatory options, a book of classified site locations, a card of authentification codes, and a manila folder of Emergency Alert system Procedures that allow the president to address the US within ten minutes.