Tag Archives: Spy Radio

The Intercept: The US Spy Hub in the Heart of Australia

(Source: The Intercept via Dan Robinson)

A SHORT DRIVE south of Alice Springs, the second largest population center in Australia’s Northern Territory, there is a high-security compound, code-named “RAINFALL.” The remote base, in the heart of the country’s barren outback, is one of the most important covert surveillance sites in the eastern hemisphere.

Hundreds of Australian and American employees come and go every day from Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, as the base is formally known. The official “cover story,” as outlined in a secret U.S. intelligence document, is to “support the national security of both the U.S. and Australia. The [facility] contributes to verifying arms control and disarmament agreements and monitoring military developments.” But, at best, that is an economical version of the truth. Pine Gap has a far broader mission — and more powerful capabilities — than the Australian or American governments have ever publicly acknowledged.

An investigation, published Saturday by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in collaboration with The Intercept, punctures the wall of secrecy surrounding Pine Gap, revealing for the first time a wide range of details about its function. The base is an important ground station from which U.S. spy satellites are controlled and communications are monitored across several continents, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.[…]

Continue reading at The Intercept…

The TAR-224 CIA Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, @K7al_L3afta, who suggested I post photos of the TAR-224 Radio. Obviously, he knows I’m a fan of this sort of rig!

He discovered the TAR-224 on the excellent CIA online museum where they give a brief description of the unit:

A compact, high-frequency, paramilitary transceiver, the TAR-224 enabled communications with field agents operating behind enemy lines. It saw service in Vietnam as well as during Operation EAGLE CLAW.

31 cm x 18.3 cm x 12 cm
(L x W x H)

A much better description of the TAR-224 can be found at the CryptoMuseum:

TAR-224 was a very compact, self-contained spy radio station, developed by AVCO Corporation in Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) around 1970 for the CIA. It was intended for communication with field agents operating behind enemy lines, and can be seen as a successor to the ageing GRC-109 (RS-1) of the 1950s. It was used for many years until it was phased out in the late 1980s.

The entire unit is completely waterproof, with all switches and controls at the front panel properly sealed, allowing the radio to be stored under harsh conditions for an extended period of time. A plastic lid can be placed over the controls to protect them against dust and dirt. It is held in place by three metal latches at the edges.

[…]The radio coverages all frequencies between 2 and 24MHz. The receiver has a Variable Frequency Oscillator (VFO), allowing continuous tuning of all 4 frequency bands, whereas the transmitter is crystal operated. The unit can be powered by an external 12V source that is connected to a 3-pin socket at the front left, or by a special 12V battery pack that is installed behind a watertight panel at the front left. A plastic grip, at the left of the radio, allows the unit to be carried around easily.

[…]Most TAR-224 units were used by the CIA on special (overseas) missions, but the radios were also used by intelligence services in Europe. It is known to be used on a mission in Angola in 1975. According to CIA communication specialist Teddy Roberts, the TAR-224 was still being used in operational context in 1983, when he trained a unit of US Army Green Barets on its use.

Continue reading…

Evidently, the TAR-224 is quite rare and I was not aware of it. Thanks for sharing, @K7al_L3afta!

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.

eBay find: The Mark 328 British Spy Radio

SpyRadio

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader Cap, who writes:

This little gem just popped up on eBay UK, it’s working and looks to be in very good condition and is also open to offers:

Click here to view on eBay.

[More info about the Mark 328 (a.k.a. MK.328) can be found here.]

This follows on from the FS5000 spy radio you posted about in April.

If I had a respectable amount to offer this Seller, I think I would.

True–by today’s standards–the Mk.328 isn’t a high-performance receiver. It’s single conversion and probably not über-sensitive.

Spy-Radio

Still, it’s a working piece of Cold War history and, back in the early 70s, probably packed the biggest punch for the size. I bet it’s over-engineered and will probably outlive most of us.

Mighty tempted to make an offer. I should probably distract myself about now.  Thanks, Cap! 🙂

Cold War Spy Radio: Videos of the FS-5000

FS-5000-Spy-Radio

In response to Guy Atkin’s recent post, Psst, Buddy! Wanna Buy a Spy Radio?, @Cipherguerrilla comments via Twitter with the following videos of the FS-5000:

Click here to watch the FS-5000 being unpacked and assembled, and here to watch the FS-5000 in operation. I’ve also embedded both videos below.

Many thanks for sharing these videos,@Cipherguerrilla! The FS-5000 is certainly a fascinating purpose-built radio.  I’d love to have one.