Title: InSIDer's View of History: Onboard Air Force Two Bound for Moscow

Release Date: 2016-12-07

Document Date: 2004-04-16

Description: Author shares an anecdote about how being in the right place at the right time skyrocketed his career.

Document: DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL

(U) InSIDer's View of History: Onboard Air Force Two Bound for
Moscow
FROM: Bob Blackwell
Assistant Deputy Director for Analysis and Production (S2)
Run Date: 04/16/2004
FROM: Bob Blackwell
Assistant Deputy Director for Analysis and Production (S2)
(U//FOUO) Sometimes an unforeseen event
happens that sets a person up for future success.
Such an incident happened to me fairly early in my
career. The year was 1982, and the long-time leader of the Soviet
Union, Leonid Brezhnev, had just died. At the time I was the chief
of the Domestic Politics Division in the CIA's Office of Soviet
Analysis, so suddenly my area of expertise was the hottest topic.
(U//FOUO) President Reagan asked his Vice President, George
H.W. Bush, to represent the U.S. at Brezhnev's funeral. V.P. Bush
was traveling in Africa at the time, so plans were quickly made to
fly him to the Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport in Germany, and from
there proceed to Moscow. Meanwhile, Bob Gates, the CIA's Deputy
Director of Intelligence, wanted to provide the V.P. with a highly
classified intelligence report about the new Soviet leader, Yuri
Andropov. I was tapped to deliver the document to V.P. Bush and
answer any questions that he might have.
(C) A CIA courier and I hurried off to Frankfurt with the document
in hand. We stored the paper overnight at a secure facility in the
area and waited for the V.P.'s arrival the following day. On my own
initiative, I decided that I wanted to be on that plane to Moscow. I
took a few pieces of clothing from my suitcase and stashed them in
my briefcase on the outside chance that I would be allowed to
make the trip. Sure enough, my offer to accompany the V.P.'s
group to Moscow was accepted, and my briefcase and I were on
our way.
(U//FOUO) When I joined the CIA, I never imagined that some day
I'd be flying to Moscow on Air Force Two, briefing the Vice
President. But this is exactly what happened. I briefed Mr. Bush on
the contents of the report and we spent most of the remainder of
the flight discussing Soviet affairs. It was a non-stop session, and
he asked many questions. By the way, Mr. Bush was a very easy
person to talk to; he was serious, but he had a good sense of
humor and a down-to-earth manner.
(C) When we arrived in Moscow, I had to find somewhere to put
the classified report. Although the main U.S. Embassy facilities
were closed, I managed to secure the document at the "commo"
room (24-hr communications facility). I happened to run into an
acquaintance at the Embassy, and he found a place for me to stay.
(I had been in Moscow twice before, in 1976 and 1981, so I knew
some of the people there.)
(U//FOUO) The next day, we watched the funeral on television
from the Embassy. I provided a running commentary for the State
Department folks who had been in Africa and explained who was
who, since the Soviet Union was not their area of expertise. During

SERIES:
(U) InSIDer's View of
History '04
1. InSIDer's View of
History ... A Lesson
in Personal
Accountability
2. InSIDer's View of
History : How a Four
Star General Once
Waited for a Lowly
Captain to Finish
Eating Lunch
3. InSIDer's View of
History : In SHAPE,
In France
4. InSIDer's View of
History : 'Soviet
Rocket' Strikes
Chicksands
5. InSIDer's View of
History: Onboard Air
Force Two Bound for
Moscow
6. InSIDer's View of
History : Testifying
Before Congress...
Who Turned Out the
Lights?
7. InSIDer's View of
History : Resourceful
NCOs at Goodfellow
8. InSIDer's View of
History : Desert One
- The Iranian
Hostage Rescue
Mission
9. InSIDer's View of
History : SIGINT
Appearing in the
Press
10. InSIDer's View of
History : Meeting
President Reagan
11. InSIDer's View of
History : 'Local
Support' as Stress
Management

this time I got to know several people who went on to become
ambassadors later in their careers -- establishing contacts like this
can pay dividends for years to come. The next day, we flew back to
Washington.
(U//FOUO) Naturally, when I got back to work at the CIA, many
people wanted me to brief them about what happened. As I was
talking to DDI Gates, I learned that the Chief of Station (COS) in
Moscow was quote "livid" that I had arrived unexpectedly in
Moscow, and had asked what "idiot" let me go. In response, Gates
told the COS, " I am that idiot!" I don't think we heard any further
complaints from the COS on the subject.

12. In SID er's View of
History : Quite a
Welcome!
13. In SID er's View of
History : The
Adventure Continues
-- Evacuation from
Belgrade

(U//FOUO) This experience opened up all kinds of doors for me.
Since I was a known quantity, I was asked to go to Moscow in 1984
and 1985 for the funerals of Andropov and Chernenko. (There was
a lot of turnover there until the relatively young Gorbachev took
over.) I was asked to brief Mr. Bush on three other occasions, at
both the Vice President's official residence at the Naval
Observatory and at Camp David after he had been elected
President. At Camp David, the President had all of his senior
advisors in attendance, including Condoleezza Rice, and I was part
of a 4-person CIA group briefing him on Soviet affairs in
preparation for his summit with Gorbachev in Malta.
(U//FOUO) It goes without saying that to be successful in your
career, you must know your business. But some luck certainly
doesn't hurt! There were others who could have briefed the Vice
President on Soviet affairs, but I was in the right place at the right
time. I suppose the moral of the story is that when you have an
opportunity, you have to seize it... and then you just hope it all
works out ok.
(U//FOUO) Note from SIGINT Communications: There is a photo on
Mr. Blackwell's wall taken during V.P. Bush's flight to Moscow on
Air Force Two in 1982. The Vice President wrote on the picture,
"They die, we fly," which became an insider's joke on later trips Mr.
Blackwell made with the Vice President for funereal visits to the
Soviet Union.
(U//FOUO) See other editions of InSIDer's View of History :
A Lesson in Personal Accountability
How a Four Star General Once Waited for a Lowly Captain to
Finish Eating Lunch
In SHAPE, In France
"Soviet Rocket" Strikes Chicksands
(U//FOUO) Do YOU have a story to tell? We want to hear it! Please
see the kickoff article for details.

"(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet
without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)."

DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL
DERIVED FROM: NSA/CSSM 1-52, DATED 08 JAN 2007 DECLASSIFY ON: 20320108

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