Numbers Station Radio
Numbers stations (or number stations) are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually female, though sometimes male or children’s voices are used.
Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are used to send messages to spies. This usage has not been publicly acknowledged by any government that may operate a numbers station, but in 2001, the United States tried the Cuban Five for spying for Cuba. The group had received and decoded messages that had been broadcast from a Cuban numbers station. Also in 2001, Ana Belen Montes, a senior US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, was arrested and charged with espionage. The federal prosecutors stated: “Montes communicated with the Cuban Intelligence Service through encrypted messages and received her instructions through encrypted shortwave transmissions from Cubaâ€. In 2006, Carlos Alvarez and his wife, Elsa, were arrested and charged with espionage. The U.S. District Court Florida stated: “defendants would receive assignments via shortwave radio transmissionsâ€. In June 2009, the United States similarly charged Walter Kendall Myers with conspiracy to spy for Cuba and receiving and decoding messages broadcast from a numbers station operated by the Cuban Intelligence Service to further that conspiracy.
It has been reported that the United States uses numbers stations to communicate encoded information to persons in other countries.
Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s.