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Author Topic: Real spies talking about number stations  (Read 1800 times)

Offline dollydot

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Real spies talking about number stations
« on: February 07, 2022, 2056 UTC »
In this podcast, former KGB agent Jack Barsky talks briefly about cummunication via shortwave radio. The decoding was appearantly quite tedious (I thought it would be easier) and he didn't like it very much.
Mr Barsky has also a Youtube channel.

On the podcast (which starts a bit slow) the radio use is mentioned 30 minutes in (for abour 3 minutes) .

https://spyscape.com/podcast/the-illegal

Do any of you have examples of insiders talking about number stations?

Perhaps it would be nice if we share the links here.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2022, 2330 UTC by dollydot »

Offline MDK2

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2022, 2308 UTC »
Speaking of sharing links, perhaps you intended to do that?  ;)
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Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2022, 2333 UTC »
Speaking of sharing links, perhaps you intended to do that?  ;)

You are right.
Sorry.
 I added the link

Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2022, 1815 UTC »
Here's a video where Jack Barsky talks a bit more about the messages

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2nh2YrbweM&t=363s

Would be nice to know what station it exactly was (he believes that it was stationed in Cuba) and see some logs of it. The year 1988 would be particular interesting because in that year the KGB wantend him lo leave the US immediately and started sending messages every day (if I understood correctly). Otherwise emissions would be on Thursday evening at 9:15.

Offline MDK2

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2022, 2102 UTC »
Try reading the old numbers and oddities newsletters. The old (now QRT) morse signal station from Cuba was M08 (possibly just "M8" back in the day).

http://www.numbersoddities.nl/
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Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2022, 2124 UTC »
New video

Here Eberhard Fätkenheuer talks about receiving messages.
He lived in Eastern Germany and gathered military information (not from whitin) for the CIA.
Because the video is in German, I made a translation and put it here beneath the link of the video.

I also came across an old manual of a German service. The first 5 digits corresponded with the approppiate one time pad. The link of that manual (in German) is underneath the translation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk6tviWu_VA

Mr Fätkenheuer:

“They had 3 frequencies on the shortwave radio and you had to listen to them on certain hours and days.  Then you had to check whether the first number was even or uneven, and, if I remember correctly, the even ones were for me. The numbers were given in groups of 5, it could be 10 of those or 20, 30, 50 and it went like 3, 4, 8, 7, 5 and so on.  All these numbers were repeated at the end so that you could check whether you got them all right. And off course you listened to those wearing a headphone so that no one, like a neighbour, could hear you.
And then the work began. You had to add to each number another number. Only you and the operator who sent the message had those numbers.
And for example you added to an 8 a 4, but then you didn't get 12 but 2, this is a so called incorrect addition.
Then you had to look this 2 up in a chart and, I still remember, the “2” became an “N” and this way also periods, commas, any punctuation mark could be given.
This form of communication was saver than decipher machines of WW2 who could not break the code.
This was a complete random pick of numbers. Only you and he who had sent the message, knew what is was about.”

Interviewer:
“So you sat there several evenings and nights listening?”

Mr Fätkenheuer:
“No not several and not (late) in the night, but yeah about twice a week I listened in. When I was once in Hungary, and my girlfriend was a bit surprised when I took my radio and removed myself from her.”

Link manual
https://web.archive.org/web/20111010154921/http://www.simonmason.karoo.net/page527.htm

« Last Edit: February 14, 2022, 1829 UTC by dollydot »

Offline East Troy Don

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2022, 1502 UTC »
Wonderful stuff. Thanks!
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Offline MDK2

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2022, 1936 UTC »
I agree with East Troy Don, that was very informative and interesting.
Denver, CO.
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"Shortwave pirate radio is basically like a very expensive and unreliable way to podcast to a random audience of dozens of people around the world while also worrying that government agents might knock down the door." - Matt Blaze

Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2022, 2136 UTC »
Perhaps you also like this German language video. It's fiction so you see actors, but I thought it might be a nice addition to the earlier posts here.
In this West-German series from the sixties which was based on real German-German espionage, a pretty realistic portray is given of a training on how to decipher the messages received by radio.
As way of translating I try to explain it here.

Still from the video




In the video you will see 3 papers on the wall;

the one on top is the one time pad
the one in the middle is the re-useable chart
the one on the bottom is the message and the calculation done with the one time pad.

The “false addition” used is called a Chinese addition. The number of the one time pad must be subtracted from the number of the message. If the number of the message is smaller than the one of the one time pad, “10” must be added.
So below 1 -3 becomes 11 – 3 = 8
3 – 2 = 1
1 – 4 = 7

message              1, 3, 1, 6, 9, 1, 7, 8

one time pad -     3, 2, 4, 9, 0, 0, 6, 3

result                  8, 1, 7, 7, 9, 1, 1,  5

The results can then be looked up in the chart.
8 = E, 1 = R, 7 is blank, so the coordinate is the following number, in this case also 7. Then  7 (horizontal) and 7 (vertical) = W

This is where the video stops, it's only 1:20 min. long so I elaborate some more;

In the vertical line (starting point) are the numbers 9, 4, 7, 3
In the horizontal 1, 0, 2, 6, 5, 8 (correspondent)

So if we look below; 8 = E, 1 = R, 7 and 7 = W, 9 and 1 = A, 1 = R, 8 = E


result                  8, 1, 7, 7, 9, 1, 1,  5, 8


Clear text           E R W A R T E         (AWAIT)

The whole message is;
ERWARTE DRINGEND NACHRICHT
Urgently awaiting message

This is the chart used by the infamous Ana Montes


I noticed also a funny coincidence. Remember that Mr Fätkenheuer said that 2 was N, well here it is too  ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BeMdp0xaHs&t=15s
« Last Edit: March 03, 2022, 1209 UTC by dollydot »

Offline East Troy Don

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2022, 2352 UTC »
Translation : " AWAIT URGENT MESSAGE "
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Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2022, 1750 UTC »
Translation : " AWAIT URGENT MESSAGE "

If it's a literal translation yes, though urgent should then be urgently or eagerly.
Otherwise it looks like the recipient has to await a message. It's an odd example because there is an implied Ich (I), hence I'm awaiting eagerly a message.

Hope my English isn't too bad here.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2022, 1207 UTC by dollydot »

Offline East Troy Don

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2022, 2150 UTC »
 :D Your English is fine - its my German thats rusty  :D
Primary: Yaesu FRG-7700  Secondary: ICOM R75 Tertiary: Grundig  750. Tecsun PL-990X, Sangean ATS-909X . Malahit DSP SDR V3,  Alpha Delta  SWL Sloper antenna. : Also, 1940 Mantola am/sw tube. CountyComm GP-5/SSB hand held, Tecsun PL-380 ,et al.  QTH: EAST TROY WI  USA.  Sea Level: + 320 meters .  75 miles (but not far enough) NNW of Chicago

Offline fpeconsultant

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2022, 0008 UTC »
Dollydot - thanks - this is fascinating.
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Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2022, 1220 UTC »
I'm glad you folks like it.

At the moment I'm translating and editing a (Dutch) podcast. It's a half hour interview with Vavlav Jelinek, where he also mentions the radio. It's a remarkable story. Jelinek was a Czechoslovak spy who operated under the name Erwin van Haarlem.

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38261956

Hope to post the interview and audio file here soon.

The conversation was in English, but the Dutch voice over translation, makes Jelinek most of the time inaudible. But you will be able to hear him speak.

Offline dollydot

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Re: Real spies talking about number stations
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2022, 2133 UTC »
Well it's done  :)
In my previous post I already mentioned Vaclav Jelinek and posted an article.
Hopefully this Dutch radio show, will be entertaining to English speakers. It would be a too long post to write it down here, so I post a link to the pdf file.

https://c.gmx.com/@808074188450431441/4mu4FIhMScy8sPzTiFuDMw
https://c.gmx.com/@808074188450431441/4mu4FIhMScy8sPzTiFuDMw

Hope one of those above will work. In the pdf you also find a the link to the soundcloud audio file.
At the end it gets a bid weird with the slave talking, but I assume that's the result of an earlier part of the coversation, which got edited out.

To give you a preview, I post the first page here:

This interview with the then 61 years old Czechoslovak Vaclav Jelinek aka Erwin van Haarlem, aired on the Dutch radio in 2006. The interview was in English, but Jelinek is muted most of the time while a male gives the Dutch translation.

● The parts where you can hear Jelinek speak are indicated in italics. I didn't write down 
     eveything you can hear him say in English, so you will notice an overlap with the
     translation part. 
●  The VOICE OVER, is a female giving background information or introducing the next   
      segment.
●  RESUME Johanna van Haarlem: Johanna gave here many insignificant details like
      street names, so I made a resume here.
●   On the right, here and there the time is indicated. When Jelinek, briefly, starts   
      mentioning the radio, the minutes are highlighted with a red color.

About soundcloud; after this interview, it will automatically play some other audio. If you don't like the autoplay function, you can disable it by clicking at the bottom on the right next to the heart.

https://soundcloud.com/user-817935370/jelinek-interview?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing



♪♪♪music♪♪♪

Would you like to …

VOICE OVER:
Vaclav Jelinek takes Hans Olink up to the attic of his house where he keeps the memorabilia of his spy career.

These are all my medals….

VOICE OVER:
That morning Jelinek had picked him up at the metro station with his skoda. Once arrived at Jelinek's home, Olink had to show his passport and so did Jelinek, as per agreement. Since there was reason to doubt Jelinek's identity. Then the interview begins and Jelinek speaks about the start of his career as a spy.

After the military service, my commanding officer asked me whether I would like to stay at the military...

I didn't really wanted go back to the sugar factory, where I had worked before the service. They offered me to study chemistry to which I replied that my math skills weren't sufficient. Then they offered me to become a bodyguard and I said, “You must be joking, I'm way too short for that.” And they said, “No, you are a sniper and a boxer.” And so I worked as a security guard at the Department of the Interior, and later at the Soviet embassy and the house of the ambassador. But I got bored while working as a bodyguard, so I got myself a notebook and started writing down German words to memorize them. My superior noticed this and one day, two men approached me and asked me about my future plans. I told them that I wanted to be an intelligence officer; a spy. They said, “What a coincidence, that is just the thing we want to offer you.”

I would like to be…                           2:20 min