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December 2, 2017

Numbers Stations — A Cold War mystery still alive and well

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Caption for graphic above: Spectrogram of HM01. Thought to be operated by the Cuban Dirección General de Inteligencia, HM01 broadcasts a mixture of computer voice-read numbers and digital data transmissions, and is speculated to target agents in the United States and Latin America.

From Vice:

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"Numbers stations" — which you can tune into at home — are widely thought to be transmitting coded messages to spies around the world

"Numbers stations" are the mysterious coded radio broadcasts that have been transmitting in some cases for decades across the world.

The transmissions themselves have an eerie air, featuring at times clunky automated voices, at others quaintly dated human voices rambling streams of numbers that, at first, seem like ghostly gibberish.

While they're the focus of myriad conspiracies and explanations, the most widely held theory about these stations is that they are a means by which intelligence agencies can communicate with assets around the world, who can receive these coded messages securely, using nothing more elaborate than a household radio.

While on the one hand they seem to be unnerving echoes of the Cold War, these messages are also indicators of the proximity of intelligence work to our everyday lives.

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Lewis Bush's forthcoming book "Shadows of the State" seeks to visualize, locate, and expose many of these stations.

Long-documented by monitors and enthusiasts, with recordings collated by the likes of the Conet Project, Bush's book takes the wealth of research available a number of steps further using open source information, publicly available satellite imagery, and inexpensive software to give these faceless stations visual identities.

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Full disclosure: I only got interested in these stations after happening on and watching a pretty good 2013 film about them called "THE NUM8ERS STATION" [see what they did there?].

I stumbled on the movie via Apple TV's Genius function, which lets you pick a movie you like and then finds others it thinks are similar. 

Often the results are quite good.

December 2, 2017 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


Comments

I can remember when I first listened to WWV in the early sixties, I wondered if other information was encoded in the tone bursts... Now I REALLY wonder!

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Dec 5, 2017 4:01:13 PM

If you are interested numbers stations you might check out priyom.org where they keep a running schedule of broadcast times and frequencies linked to online receivers for your listening pleasures.

They are fascinating and are one of the reasons I became a licensed radio operator.

Posted by: Rick Schrager | Dec 2, 2017 2:25:47 PM

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