Friday, March 2, 2012

The Number Station - Spy Radio

Numbers stations are a staple of conspiracy stories the world over, due to their widespread nature and esoteric purposes. They’re short band radio transmitters that constantly emit a stream of information in a variety of different codes. The name comes from the ones that send out numbers all the time, but some also do letters, words, morse code, or music. It’s pretty widely accepted that these are used by Governments to send information out to agents and spies who are in situations where they can’t easily receive data from their leaders. At the same time, it seems odd that there are so many of them broadcasting so frequently, and not being cracked. With a relatively well understood purpose, you think by now their code systems would have been busted open by savant listeners.

For more than 30 years the Shortwave radio spectrum has been used by the worlds intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of “Numbers Stations”.

Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. Spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers. The encryption system used by Numbers Stations, known as a “one time pad” is unbreakable. Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to track down the message recipients once they are inserted into the enemy country, it becomes clear just how powerful the Numbers Station system is.

These stations use very rigid schedules, and transmit in many different languages, employing male and female voices repeating strings of numbers or phonetic letters day and night, all year round.

The voices are of varying pitches and intonation; there is even a German station (The Swedish Rhapsody) that transmits a female child's voice!

One might think that these espionage activities should have wound down considerably since the official “end of the cold war”, but nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers Stations (and by inference, spies) are as busy as ever, with many new and bizarre stations appearing since the fall of the Berlin wall. 

The Number Station - Spy Radio

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