Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Zack Schindler, who writes:
I have been watching a series on the Science Channel called Spycraft. It is about the “business” and history of modern spycraft and is quite interesting.
The most recent episode (3/8/2022) was called “the Perfect Recruit” and was about spies inside US agencies. One case was about Ana Belén Montes who worked for the DIA and was spying for Cuba. In the story they showed that she used a Sony 2010. Per the article below she was listening to a Cuban Numbers Station on 7887 kHz. A number of other cases are mentioned in there too that involved a Sony 2001 or 2010.
Thanks for sharing this, Zack! I do believe I remember the Sony being mentioned back when Ana Montes was arrested. Fascinating stuff!
These days, I bet spies would turn to the super compact and durable Belka series receivers!
I have all the Sony pocket shortwave from manual Sony ICF-SW20, and the digital inputs SONY ICF-SW1, ICF-SW100, and the ICF-SW07 all are great but sometimes when you try to listen to weak station the larger speaker does it it better on the ICF-2001D/2010 and also the air band which most the old one doesn’t have, the sensitivity of the radio with the built-in antenna which is fabulous, for strong station on SW I don’t even need to extend the telescope antenna, it just work wonder, such as CGTN radio, BBC etc..You don’t how much it different until you own one.
But these get bulky, and you can’t spy if theytake away your radioor jail you.
The Sony SW-1 isn’t for cw/ssb, but it sure is smaller
If I was one, I’d go for SDR. More compact, light, easy to conceal, wire antenna, maybe a Raspberry Pi. But then again, a small good quality portable SWR would be more ubiquitous and draw less attention.
I have “smuggled” SDR’s into North Korea as part of the discovery and data collection phase of my project “Behind The Curtain”.
A fun little side note was that for some work I used an AirSpy Discovery SDR. I hid the actual SDR PCB inside another innocent looking device as the SDR actually has the word SPY prominently displayed on it’s enclosure!
Don’t forget the small County Comm radios. Simple to use, simple to power, built-in antenna. The latest version with the numerical key entry is nice.
Over the years I upgraded my portables, one after the other, and finally could afford an ICF-2010. I the 2010 really is the most popular radio in the sky community, it makes sense. Unlike many radios, it’s performance via the whip alone is superb, perhaps even unrivalled in radios that also have single sideband and sync. The only caveat is the coarse sideband increments, meaning it’s hard to perfectly dial in a USB or LSB transmission. But numbers stations are usually not SSB, so maybe it isn’t as critical.
It makes me wonder: what’s the ultimate spy radio from the modern era? The Belka DX perhaps, with it’s compact design, excellent performance and ability to easily interchange antennas? Or would spies work on laptops or phones / tablets with a pure SDR?
Most spys hide in plain sight and are seen to be living a normal life in a normal community. In that case I expect anything that looks like a hobbyist or DX radio would be the worst choice! Thats what models like the Sony ICF-2001 etc were popular, they provided good performance but were also “regular” radios used by “regular” people back in the day.
I would think an innocent looking Chinese made multi band radio would be preferred to a hobbyist SDR. If you had an SDR and external antenna you would be just drawing attention to yourself – and would certainly raise suspicion when your home is being searched or monitored by a rival intelligence agency.