UNID Spy Numbers Station: Summer of 1993

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Many thanks to SRAA contributor, Bruce Atchison, for sharing the following recording and notes:

This is a spy numbers station I recorded in the summer of 1993 but I forget the frequency. I used my Kenwood TS-690S transceiver and I believe the time was around 05:00 UTC.

Please comment if you can ID this numbers station!

"The Buzzer" (UVB-76) numbers station: May 13, 2018

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Many thanks to SRAA contributor, Pedro Calhau, who submits the following short recording of "The Buzzer" (UVB-76) numbers station. Pedroo included the following details:

Date of recording: 5/13/2018

Starting time: 19:25 UTC

Frequency: 4625 kHz

Receiver location: The Netherlands

Mode: AM

Notes: This was recorded using the U Twente WebSDR

1991 cassette of shortwave IDs, interval signals and numbers stations

SWLing Post reader and SRAA contributor, Frank, writes from Germany:

First let me say that I enjoy your blog a lot.

After a 2005-13 hiatus, I have rediscovered a childhood hobby and your reviews have helped me find my way to the post-Sony portable shortwave radio markets.

First, I obtained my “childhood dream” radio (Sony ICF 2001D), because at the time I made these recordings I was still in school and 1300 DM would have equaled over 1 year of pocket money, so a Supertech SR16HN had to do. I thought I got some fine results with this Sangean-Siemens re-branded receiver then, using a CB half-length antenna, a random wire, and much endurance.

I kept regular logs throughout the years, wrote to 50 international and pirate stations for QSL and compiled this cassette.

A few years before I got that trusty SR16HN, however, I recorded a few number stations (such as G3, Four Note Rising Scale etc) with an ordinary radio cassette recorder, and in 1991 I put them onto this tape as well. The other recordings are done with the same radio placed right in front of the SR 16HN.

Feel free to make use of these recordings. Most of it are the well-known international state-owned shortwave stations of the past; plus European pirates; plus number stations; and at the end, a few (off-topic) local Am and FM stations interval signals.

As I said, this collection I made shortly after the Wende/reunification period, when all former-GDR state broadcasters changed their names, sometimes more than once.

Please continue your good work on the blogs! Weather permitting I am often outside cycling and always have the tiny Sony ICF 100 with me (which I call my then-student’s dream radio of the later 90ies).

Cassette Side 1

Cassette Side 2


Cuban Numbers Station HM01

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On occasion, I hear the Cuban numbers stationHM01 on 5,855 kHz on weekday mornings.

It seems that many of the mornings as I listen, I hear HM01 making mistakes or at least experiencing “technical difficulties” (click here for a recent case in point).

Though I don’t often record HM01, I did record it on the morning of September 20, 2013––and, yet again, I heard what seemed to be HM01 tripping over its own tongue.

Instead of the broadcast starting with numbers to identify the transmission, then implementing intermittent RDFT data bursts as per usual, this broadcast begins in the middle of a data burst, then shuffles awkwardly into a “normal” broadcast.  I imagine an operative in the field scratching his or herhead…

But hear this for yourself.  Either click here to download an MP3 of the recording, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Numbers station HM01...and Ana Montes

Downloads-001Wednesday morning, I suppose I had number stations on the brain.  It was no surprise, as I had just watched The Numbers Station the previous night.  Nonetheless, I experienced a rather strange coincidence:  I was reading an intriguing article about Ana Montes, “one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history,” when my shortwave radio--parked on 5,855 kHz--suddenly began to fire out an eerie series of numbers and data bursts from the Cuban numbers station, HM01.  It was, unquestionably, the perfect accompaniment to the words I was reading. A reader sent Montes' story--written by Jim Popkin for The Washington Post Magazine--which made for fascinating reading. And as I read the account of Ana Montes' rise in the ranks of the DIA, while simultaneously becoming one of Cuba's most important spies, I remembered that it was actually Montes' case that reader Dirk Rijmenants' referred to in his paper, and that we posted earlier this year.

A "cheat sheet" provided by Cuban intelligence that Ana Montes used to help her encrypt and decrypt messages to and from her handlers. (Source: FBI)

Popkin's account of Ana Montes' life, character, promotions within the Defense and Intelligence Agency, and the sequence of events that led to her FBI investigation and imprisonment, are the stuff of spy novels. And of course, he  mentions numbers stations:

[Montes'] tradecraft was classic. In Havana, agents with the Cuban intelligence service taught Montes how to slip packages to agents innocuously, how to communicate safely in code and how to disappear if needed.[...]

Montes got most of her orders the same way spies have since the Cold War: through numeric messages transmitted anonymously over shortwave radio. She would tune a Sony radio to AM frequency 7887 kHz, then wait for the “numbers station” broadcast to begin. A female voice would cut through the otherworldly static, declaring, “Atención! Atención!” then spew out 150 numbers into the night. “Tres-cero-uno-cero-siete, dos-cuatro-seis-dos-cuatro,” the voice would drone. Montes would key the digits into her computer, and a Cuban-installed decryption program would convert the numbers into Spanish-language text.[...]

On a side note, as Rijmenants points out, using a computer to decipher a numbers station was both unnecessary and risky.

The story continues:

Ana Montes

[...]On May 25, 2001, [an FBI team] slipped inside Apartment 20. Montes was out of town with Corneretto [her boyfriend], and the FBI searched her closets and laundry bins, paged through shelves of neatly stacked books and photographed personal papers. They spotted a cardboard box in the bedroom and carefully opened it. Inside was a Sony shortwave radio. Good start, Lapp thought. Next, techs found a Toshiba laptop. They copied the hard drive, shut down the computer and were gone.[...]The documents, which Montes had tried to delete, included instructions on how to translate numbers-station broadcasts and other Spy 101 tips.[...][...]Later that day, an FBI evidence team scoured Montes’s apartment for hours. Hidden in the lining of a notebook they found the handwritten cipher Montes used to encrypt and decrypt messages, scribbled shortwave radio frequencies and the address of a museum in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she was meant to run in an emergency. The crib sheets were written on water-soluble disappearing paper.[...]

The story Popkin recounts, though, paints the picture of a very complex operative. One who, until discovered, was very successful at her craft.  She pulled the wool over the eyes of the DIA and spied for the Cuban government for many years.

The story is complex, and Popkins' account somehow maneuvers through the twists and turns.

If you want to experience what I did--if a little less coincidentally--click here to read Popkin's full article, and meanwhile play this recording I made of the Cuban numbers station HM01, below:

Note that the year Montes listened to the Cuban numbers station on 7,887 kHz, it only contained numbers--unlike the recording here of HM01 (Hybrid Mode 01) which contains both voice and RDFT data bursts (which you can also decode, but not necessarily decipher).

This recording of the Cuban numbers station HM01 was recorded on April 24, 2013, at 10:00 UTC on 5,855 kHz in AM. Click here to download the recording as an MP3.

Again, click here to read Jim Popkin's full story of Ana Montes on The Washington Post Magazine website.

David Goren's numbers station installation audio

DG-Performance-ShortwaveTwo months ago, I posted that David Goren, talented radio producer and shortwave radio artist, created a Numbers Station installation in the Secret Wars exhibition at the Proteus Gowanus gallery in Brooklyn, NY. David has recently published the audio that accompanies his installation.

Take note that this is not a radio documentary--rather, it's an expansion of his original piece, and part of his sound installation at Proteus Gowanus.  Enjoy:

Cuban Spy Numbers Station HM01

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Numbers stations have always been a dark oddity that pop up from time-to-time in the course of shortwave radio listening. There is unquestionably an air of mystery and intrigue which surrounds them. With the release of the movie The Numbers Station, many non-SWLers may be enticed to explore the HF bands.  A good thing, as it may draw fresh interest to this classic radio hobby. I have heard numbers stations since I first started listening to shortwave radio broadcasts some thirty years ago, and I find that I often pause to listen (and to wonder) when I come across one on the bands.  The numbers station I hear most often, though the country of origin cannot be confirmed, is in Cuba--well, at least, we're pretty certain of that. The same female voice, reading numbers in Spanish, has been Cuba's calling card in the spy numbers world for some time.

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning between 10:00-11:00 UTC, I captured the Cuban spy numbers station widely recognized as HM01 (Hybrid Mode Number 01) on 5,855 kHz. HM01 broadcasts a mixture of AM voice and digital file transfer modes intermixed within the same transmission. The voice heard is the familiar Spanish female voice described above; the digital portion of the broadcast uses a mode called RDFT, a differential phase shift keying mode that has never become popular or standard in the ham radio world. If you're feeling adventurous, the Windows software DIGTRX (download here) can decode RDFT.  Let us know what, if anything, you discover...

You can click here to download the entire HM01 broadcast as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Numbers Stations: The English Man came back

Two weeks ago this Friday, I caught and recorded the numbers station often referred to as the English Man. He was found in the pirate radio watering hole (of 6,925-6,990 kHz) on 6,949 kHz. After sifting through more spectrum recordings taken the following evening by the Microtelecom Perseus, I realized that I caught him once again at the exact same time and frequency. I have his full transmission in the recording below.

Note: The English Man was broadcast in AM, but I had to dig the signal out of the noise. I used a tuning technique I referred to last year in a post--click here for more info.

Finding the "English Man" numbers station while scanning for pirates

While listening for pirate radio stations last night, I recorded a numbers station. I found it on 6,949 kHz at 1:30 UTC, 26 May 2012. It was broadcast in USB for almost exactly ten minutes. The ID was sent for a full four minutes of that time. I have a full recording below. With a quick check on SpyNumbers.com, I'm pretty sure this is a station called, the "English Man."

If you're not familiar with numbers stations, check out this previous post where Shortwaveology author, David Goren, explores numbers stations.

If you have trouble listening to the embedded player below, simply click here to listen to the mp3 file.