McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Breaking News

Features

August 15, 2013

Hot Line: Even without a Cold War, the Washington-Moscow link is still up

WASHINGTON — At 7:15 on the morning of June 5, 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reached for a handset, one connected to a secure telephone line to a military switchboard at the White House. He asked the operator to ring the Air Force sergeant on duty outside President Lyndon Johnson's bedroom.

"Sergeant, this is Secretary McNamara, and I want to talk to the president."

"He's asleep, sir."

"Hell, I know he's asleep, but wake him."

After a few minutes, Johnson came on the line.

"God----it, Bob, what are you calling me for at this time in the morning?"

"Mr. President, Prime Minister Kosygin's on the Hot Line. How do you wish to respond?"

"What did you say?"

Walt Rostow, Johnson's national security adviser, had already awakened the president that morning at 4:35 with news reports of Israeli military attacks on Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Johnson also had spoken with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, but Alexei Kosygin's attempt to reach him was a surprise. The Hot Line had never been used before.

"What do you think I should do?" Johnson asked.

"I will respond and say that you'll be down in the Situation Room in 15 minutes. In the meantime, I'll call Dean and we'll meet you down there."

"Fine."

Fifty years ago this month, the Washington-Moscow Hot Line was established, forged by the heat of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Despite the mythology, there has never been a red Hot Line telephone on the president's desk; the line is a data-only link. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan all used it, and it proved to be a useful crisis-management tool during the Cold War.

I say this with confidence as a former director of the White House Situation Room and with the benefit of conversations, since 2001, with just about everyone who had used the Hot Line. That list includes McNamara and Rostow, who told me about that June 1967 morning.

Technicians in the Pentagon sent the first test message on the Hot Line - or MOLINK, Pentagon-speak for "Moscow link" - on Aug. 30, 1963, marking a seminal moment in Cold War history. The communicators sent a rather pedestrian message, one that tested all of the alpha-numeric teletype keys: "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back 1234567890."

The circuit hasn't been used in a crisis mode since 1982, according to declassified sources. More routine voice communications, a sign of better relations, now dominate U.S.-Russian "situations." Hot Line foot-stomping has generally gone the way of the Berlin Wall.

Nevertheless, Pentagon personnel continue to test the circuit hourly to ensure instant availability. They work hard at maintaining this reminder of crises past, however anachronistic and unused it may be.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Features
Seasonal Content
AP Video
House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways
NDN Video
Famous Internet Cats Help Big Cause With Viral Video Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.