New Enhancements at Cuba’s Primary Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Base Suggests Improved Targeting of United States 1

Image Credit: Victor Robert Lee & Digital Globe

Satellite Images: A (Worrying) Cuban Mystery

The new radome in Cuba is unprecedented. Who is behind it?

By Victor Robert Lee, The Diplomat.com

Satellite images from February and May 2018 show a newly constructed radome on the signals intelligence base near Bejucal, Cuba. Its protective dome and elevated mounting make it the first of its kind among the numerous long-standing SIGINT antennas at Bejucal, which have been used to intercept electronic communications from the United States.

The new steerable parabolic antenna and its spherical enclosure (together called a radome) were erected on a site adjacent to other known Cuban surveillance antennas south of Havana near the town of Bejucal between March 2017 and February 2018. The functions of the new antenna are not discernible from the current satellite images, but similar antennas have been employed for signals interception, missile tracking, satellite uplinks and downlinks, radio communications, tracking of objects in space, and in some cases to disrupt satellite communications. The radome, approximately 6-7 meters in diameter, sits atop a square building approximately 11-12 meters wide. If the antenna can be tilted to horizontal – a common capability – its elevated position could also enable direct communications with vessels at sea or other signal sources on the horizon.

The Bejucal signals intelligence site had a relatively static number of parabolic antennas –approximately two dozen– from 2010 until 2016, and only one of them, considerably smaller than the new radome, was covered, although such coverings are common in many other nations, particularly at facilities with military or intelligence functions. Such specialized coverings can protect from weather and wear, but another advantage is that they conceal the orientation, and thus the possible purposes, of the antenna within.

Satellite images of the signals intelligence base near Bejucal also show that two smaller steerable parabolic antennas were installed in April-May 2017, the same period as the beginning of construction of the new radome. These antennas, located 460 meters south of the newly constructed radome, are linked by above-ground conduits to two other antennas installed as recently as May 2016.

Feature continues here: Cuban SIGINT

 

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The Stupidly Simple Spy Messages No Computer Could Decode 1

Numbers station_The Daily BeastEvery day, hour after hour, the world’s spies send top secret information you can easily listen in on.

By Shan Harris, The Daily Beast

When I was 10 years old, I found a shortwave radio in a crumbling old leather trunk where we kept family photos and other memorabilia. As I spun the dial, tinny, modulating noises, like the song of an electronic slide whistle, emanated from the radio’s small speaker. Staticky cracks and pops competed for airtime. The sounds swished and swirled, unintelligible and unremarkable. But then, emerging through the clamor, was a voice.

I might have run right over it with the dial, but the voice’s rhythmic, steady pacing caught me up short. It wasn’t a deejay. Nor a commercial. And he wasn’t singing. He was just speaking. The same line, over and over again.

“7…6…7…4…3.” Pause. “7…6…7…4…3.”

I don’t remember if those were the exact numbers. But they were numbers. A repeated sequence which had no obvious meaning, and was entirely devoid of context. To find him here, amidst the screeches and howls of the shortwave frequencies, was like coming upon a man standing in the middle of a forest, talking out loud to no one.

How long had he been here? Who was he talking to? He had that officious tone of the recorded telephone operators who chastised you for dialing a wrong number. “Please hang up, check the number, and dial again.” And the same distracting static I’d heard in those messages filled the background. I wasn’t sure if he was speaking live, or if he’d been recorded and set loose to play into the air.

But there was an urgency to his tone. And a purpose. As if he were talking to me. Imploring. Listen. Hear me now. 7…6…7…4…3. Did you get that? 7…6…7…4…3.

I was simultaneously terrified and captivated.

I never touched the radio again. My curiosity was suppressed by a feeling of dread that I had heard something not meant for me. But I never stopped thinking about it. The voice became a character I passed around with friends during late-night ghost stories. The Bell Witch. The Killer in the Back Seat. The Numbers Man.

Article continues here: Numbers Stations