Category Archives: Numbers Stations

Was Morse Code the smoking gun for this spy with no name?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares this story from the BBC News via Matthew M. Aid‘s blog:

[…]It was a cold Saturday morning in April 1988 when a van full of detectives arrived outside the North London home of Erwin van Haarlem. The self-employed art dealer, 44, lived alone in sleepy Friern Barnet, a smattering of brick homes beside the grim North Circular ring road.
The Dutchman’s apartment building on Silver Birch Close had become the centre of an investigation led by the British intelligence agency MI5. It suspected that Van Haarlem – whom neighbours described as an “oddball” – was not in the art business at all, but a sinister foreign agent.

Inside, Van Haarlem was hunched over a radio in his kitchen. He was still wearing his pyjamas, but his hair was parted neatly to one side. He was tuned in, as he was every morning, to a mysterious “number station”. In his earpiece, a female voice recited numbers in Czech, followed by the blip-bleep of Morse code.

At 09:15 detectives from Special Branch, the anti-terror unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, crashed into his apartment. Van Haarlem tried to lower his radio’s antenna. It jammed. When he pulled open a drawer and grabbed a kitchen knife, an officer tackled him, and yelled: “Enough! It is over! It is over!”

Hidden among his easels and paintings, detectives discovered tiny codebooks concealed in a bar of soap, strange chemicals, and car magazines later found to contain messages written in invisible ink. Investigators suspected Van Haarlem was not really from the Netherlands, but was a spy for the UK’s Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union.

[…]Mrs Saint, 61, who co-ordinated the local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, said she telephoned the police in November 1987 to report strange noises and a “Morse code” interference which affected her television reception every night at 21:20.[…]

Click here to read this fascinating in0depth story on the BBC Magazine website.

Numbers Stations and the two Koreas

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(Source: 38 North via Mike Barraclough)

A little after midnight, early on the morning of July 15, as most of the Korean peninsula slept, were North Korean spies up late listening to the radio?

This was the big question after a strange sequence of numbers was read out on a North Korean radio station. It sounded a lot like the coded messages previously used to relay instructions to spies during the Cold War and perhaps that was the point.

The broadcast began at 12:45am, according to the Joong Ang Ilbo.

“From now on, I will give review work for the subject of mathematics under the curriculum of a remote education university for exploration agents of the 27th bureau.”

It continued, “On page 459, question number 35, on page 913, question number 55, on page 135, question number 86, on page 257, question number 2,” and so on. It lasted for 14 minutes.[…]

Continue reading…

The 38 North article also included YouTube clips of Korean numbers stations, including this one from South Korea (2011):

Click here to view on YouTube.

North Korean numbers station in the press

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I’ve been offline and off-grid this week and have accumulated quite the backlog of email.

One news item that caught the attention of a large number of readers (thanks to all for the tips–!) was North Korean spy numbers. I’m very curious if any readers have logged and recorded this station–if so, please comment and consider sharing your recording!

The news was featured on at least two prominent news sites:

(Source: The Guardian)

North Korea’s radio broadcast of string of mysterious numbers is possible code

Numbers read on state radio may be cold war-era method of sending coded messages to spies in South Korea – or an attempt to wage psychological warfare

North Korea’s state radio has recently broadcast strings of indecipherable numbers, according to officials in Seoul, in a possible resumption of a cold war-era method of sending coded messages to spies operating in South Korea.

A female announcer at the radio station read numbers for two minutes on 24 June and 14 minutes on Friday, according to Seoul’s unification ministry and national intelligence service (NIS). A copy of those comments provided by the ministry included phrases such as “No 35 on Page 459” and “No 55 on Page 913”.[…]

(Source: BBC)

North Korea is criticised by South Korea for ‘spy broadcasts’

South Korean officials have criticised North Korea after it apparently resurrected a Cold War-era method of contacting spies.

In recent weeks, mysterious strings of numbers have twice been broadcast over the radio from the North.

A spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry said it couldn’t be sure about North Korea’s “hidden intentions”.

But it urged the North to “desist from such outdated practices”.[…]

London Shortwave: numbers station on top of VOT broadcast

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SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, just published an interesting post on his blog. He begins:

I have been regularly recording the small spectrum window containing the endangered stations I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Three days ago I noticed something strange: a morse code transmission superimposed onto the Voice of Turkey’s signal on 9460 kHz.[…]

Click here to read his full post and listen to the audio clip.

Psst, Buddy! Wanna Buy a Spy Radio?

This unusual Ebay posting is one of the most interesting I’ve seen in a long time: a genuine, new spy radio transceiver!

Given its rarity and new condition, the $1,900 asking price seems reasonable to me for what a well-heeled collector might pay. The set is referred to as a “FIELD SET MODEL FS-5000 SHORT WAVE SPY RADIO”.

It comes as one carton containing four larger fiber boxes and three smaller fiber boxes, all containing modules that are combined to make a digital radio transceiver system.

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The seller says that the equipment (complete with shock-absorbing transit containers) bears no manufacturer marks, but was likely made in Germany by Telefunken. The various components look to be extremely well made, and the seller has provided these links for more information on this unusual 0.5-30 MHz transceiver:

http://www.cryptomuseum.com/spy/fs5000/index.htm

http://www.tuberadio.com/robinson/Information/FS5000/

http://www.prc68.com/I/FS5000.shtml

Be sure to check out all the clear photos provided by the Ebay seller of this fascinating transceiver.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.