Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Shortwave Number Ladies

One of the more mysterious things to experience while listening to Shortwave radio are the numbers ladies (also known as Number Stations).  Basically, a young (sounding) woman reciting numbers.  I heard them once when I had a shortwave radio.  Some people report excerpts of music and sometimes letters to go along with the numbers.  Despite the international nature of shortwave broadcasts the numbers are usually pronounced in English though people have heard the numbers in other languages.  No government, company, or individual has ever come forward admitting to owning a numbers broadcasting station.  Recently the phenomena made it way into mainstream culture on an episode of the FOX sci-fi show Fringe, which featured a numbers being broadcast on a radio.

So what is going on here? According to the The Conet Project, a group dedicated to studying and recording the number broadcasts this form of coded messages goes back as far as World War I and and prove quiet useful during the Cold War.  It’s still ongoing today because it's a simple and highly effective method of transmitting coded dispatches.  And to whom?  Quite possibly intelligence agencies sending coded messages to their operatives in the field.  Other possibilities include drug traffickers and corporations using number stations for sending out secret communications.  Some people just write it off as geeks playing a hoax.

One good explanation I heard a few years ago come from a caller to the now defunct Rollye James Show.  Now, anybody can call in a talk show and say whatever they want to, but this man seemed to clearly define what is going on.  He made a lot of sense.  Basically, the numbers are related to a page in a book, then a sentence on that page, followed by a word in the sentence and then finally, a letter in the word.  The book could be anything, fiction, non-fiction, the Bible, Moby Dick, whatever. However, both parties must have the same book.  (And you'd better start listening at the top of the broadcast or else the sequencing is thrown off.)

The man ended his call when he stated he had probably said more than he should have and hung up.

If this is true, and even if it isn't, then it's a good source of coding messages that we should all consider as the government grows larger, more tyrannical and more intrusive in our daily lives and business.  A massive surveillance state is underway with equally massive data centers being built to process and document everything we say and do from our phones to our emails.  The 4th Amendment is history and warrantless searches are common place.  It's high time we The People acquire such a coding system to send messages to one another that the government can't read as they grow more oppressive and tyrannical.

Yes, it's a slow method of encryption.  But it works and has been useful for nearly a hundred years.  And you don't need a radio to broadcast numbers.  You can email them, snail mail them, publish them on a web site, read them over Skype or a phone call.  You can most likely find a dozen different ways to use this coding method.  If there is ever a civil war, or a revolution, this might come in very handy.

The Conet Project
To download audio samples go here:

More info on Number Stations:

NSA whistleblower William Binney:  The FBI has the e-mails of nearly all US citizens.