recommended reading

No Red Phone Ever Connected the White House to Moscow

President Barack Obama has a regular phone in the Oval Office.

President Barack Obama has a regular phone in the Oval Office. // White House

If there's one symbol that conveys the power, secrecy, responsibilities, and brinkmanship of the modern presidency it's the red phone, the direct line of communication from the White House to Moscow. Funny thing though: It's a myth. There never was any red phone.

Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which messages traveling between the two superpowers could take half a day to reach their destinations, American and Soviet leaders agreed that they needed a faster and more secure way to communicate. In a memorandum from June 1963, the two powers agreed that "for use in time of emergency the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" ought to "establish as soon as technically feasible a direct communications link between the two Governments." But the result was not a red phone. As Tom Clavin writes at Smithsonian:

The use of the word "direct" in the memo's title was a bit misleading; there was no red phone involved. Messages sent to the Soviet Union on the wire telegraph circuit were routed on a 10,000-mile-long transatlantic cable from Washington to London to Copenhagen to Stockholm to Helsinki and finally to Moscow.

Still, it was a start. Soon after the agreement, four American-made teletype machines were flown to Moscow and installed in the Kremlin. An equal number of machines manufactured in East Germany were shipped to the Soviet Embassy in Washington. They were delivered not to the White House but to the Pentagon, which has remained home to the "hotline" ever since. The two sides also exchanged encoding devices so that the Americans could translate received messages into English and the Soviets could translate messages into Russian on their end.

The hotline was up and running by the end of August of 1963. John F. Kennedy, assassinated just three months later, never had cause to use it.

Read the full story at TheAtlantic.com.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.