For more than 45 years the Shortwave radio spectrum has been used by the worlds intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of “Numbers Stations”.
Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. Spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers. The encryption system used by Numbers Stations, known as a “one time pad” is unbreakable. Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to track down the message recipients once they are inserted into the enemy country, it becomes clear just how powerful the Numbers Station system is.
These stations use very rigid schedules, and transmit in many different languages, employing male and female voices repeating strings of numbers or phonetic letters day and night, all year round. The voices are of varying pitches and intonation; there is even a German station ‘The Swedish Rhapsody’ that transmitted a female child’s voice!
One might think that these espionage activities should have wound down considerably since the official “end of the Cold War”, but nothing could be further from the truth. Numbers Stations, and by inference, spies, are as busy as ever, with many new and bizarre stations appearing since the fall of the Berlin wall.
Why is it that in over 45 years, the phenomenon of Numbers Stations has gone almost totally unreported? What are the agencies behind the Numbers Stations, and why are the eastern European stations still on the air? Why did the Czech republic operate a Numbers Station 24 hours a day?
How is it that Numbers Stations are allowed to interfere with essential radio services like air traffic control and shipping without having to answer to anybody? Why did the “Swedish Rhapsody” Numbers Station use a small girls voice?
These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.
Now Irdial-Discs is releasing The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations / 1111, a special edition of the legendary and first ever comprehensive collection of Numbers Stations recordings to be made public, now augmented and updated with a new 5th CDs worth of previously unreleased recordings, all 176 Songs, 5 Hours, 51 Minutes, available for the first time on iTunes.
The Conet Project is an important historical reference work for research into this hitherto unreported and unknown field of espionage. Many of the stations on the CD have ceased operations, and can no longer be heard. The latest package consists of the 4 original Conet Project CDs containing 150 recordings of Numbers Stations spanning the twenty years up to the release of the original set in 1997, an 80 page, perfect bound booklet, 4 post cards, plus a new 5th CD of 26 previously unreleased recordings of bizarre ‘Noise Stations’, and a new 8 page booklet accompanying the 5th CD.
In 1997, the time of the first pressing of The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations, we really had no idea about how it would be received or how best to get it into the public view. We took every opportunity to try and expose it to the public, including the contact below.
“the UK’s only permanent exhibition devoted to UK espionage”.
Naturally, we imagined that the Imperial War Museum might like to stock some ‘SOR’ copies of The Conet Project, as it dovetails nicely into the exhibition. All we would have to do is show it to them, and they should be sold on the idea.
‘SOR’ means ‘Sale Or Return’ — this is how it works. We deliver a box of seven or fourteen copies of TCP, they put them on display in their shop. If they sell, they pay us, if they do not sell, they return the copies to us at our expense.
There is no money up front, no security deposit, no account needed; we trust them to pay us, and there is no risk to them whatsoever.
We delivered a sample copy to them with a letter about TCP. You can imagine how we laughed when we received this reply from The Imperial War Museum Shop:
Now, the paranoid would say that someone made a phone call and nixed The Conet Project being stocked. The cynical would say, “they just didn’t get it”, and others will say, “It is just as stated”. Either way, it struck us as rather bizarre that something as germane to a comprehensive espionage exhibition as TCP is, an exhibition featuring amongst other things, ENIGMA machines, short wave radios, spy equipment of all sorts etc. would be dismissed in this very odd way.
One listen to The Conet Project should have been enough to convince them to stock it. The idea of The Conet Project seems very dry on the surface, but the fact of it is very different. Once you listen to it, it is instantly clear that The Conet Project is the polar opposite of a remote and inaccessible, ‘specialised’ release.
Which of the above three reasons do you think stopped them from stocking TCP? Your guess is as good as ours.