Theremin’s Bug: How the Soviet Union Spied on the US Embassy for 7 Years

The man leaned over his creation, carefully assembling the tiny pieces. This was the hardest part, placing a thin silver plated diaphragm over the internal chamber. The diaphragm had to be strong enough to support itself, yet flexible enough to be affected by the slightest sound. One false move, and the device would be ruined. To fail meant a return to the road work detail, quite possibly a death sentence. Finally, the job was done. The man leaned back to admire his work.

The man in this semi-fictional vignette was Lev Sergeyevich Termen, better known in the western world as Léon Theremin. You know Theremin for the musical instrument which bears his name. In the spy business though, he is known as the creator of one of the most successful clandestine listening devices ever used against the American government.

The creation of Léon Theremin’s bug can be attributed to the success of his instrument. Theremin, the man, was a scientist by training. Theremin, the instrument, uses the player’s hand proximity to a pair of antennas to generate electronic sound. As a young student, Theremin was an aspiring physicist. World War One saw him enter military engineering school for radio operations. After the war, he worked on experiments as diverse as a device to measure the dielectric constant of gases and hypnosis.  Léon even did work in Ivan Pavlov’s lab.

In 1920, while working on his dielectric measurement device, Theremin noticed that an audio oscillator changed frequency when he moved his hand near the circuit. The Theremin was born. In November of 1920 Léon gave his first public concert with the instrument. He began touring with it in the late 1920’s and in 1928, he brought the Theremin to the United States. He set up a lab in New York and worked with RCA to produce the instrument.

Theremin’s personal life during this period was less successful than his professional endeavors. His wife, Katia, had come to America with him and studied medicine at a school about 35 miles from the City. For much of this time, Léon and Katia lived apart, seeing each other only a couple of times a week. While at school, Katia became associated with a fascist organization. The Russian Consulate caught wind of this and summarily divorced Léon from Katia. They couldn’t risk their rising star being associated with the Nazis.

Theremin eventually remarried, this time to Lavinia Williams, a ballerina. Lavinia was African-American and the couple faced ridicule in American social circles due to their mixed race. However, the Soviet Consulate did not have a problem with their relationship. In 1938, with the Nazi threat growing stronger, Theremin returned to Russia. He expected to send for his wife a few weeks after his arrival. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case. Léon and Lavinia never saw each other again.

Upon arrival in Leningrad, Theremin was imprisoned, suspected of crimes against the state. He found himself working in a laboratory for the state department. This was not an unusual situation. Aircraft designer Andrei Tupolev and missile designer Sergei Korolyov were two of many others who faced a similar fate.
It was during this time as a prisoner that Theremin designed his listening device.

Placing the bug

greatseal-frontThe date was August 4, 1945. The european war was over, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima was only two days away. A group of 10 to 15 year old boys from the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union arrived at the US embassy carrying a hand carved great seal of the United States of America. They presented the seal to W. Averell Harriman, the US ambassador to the Soviet Union. The seal was given as a gesture of friendship between the US and Soviet Union. Harriman hung the plaque in the study of his residence, Spaso House. Unbeknownst to Harriman, the seal contained Theremin’s sophisticated listening device. The device, later known as “The Thing”, would not be discovered until 1952 — roughly seven years later.

Discovered!

sealandbug-cutawayThe discovery of the great seal listening device is an interesting one. British broadcasters reported hearing American voices on the their radios in the vicinity of the American embassy. No Americans were transmitting though, which meant there had to be a bug. Numerous sweeps were performed, all of which turned up nothing. Joseph Bezjian had a hunch though. He stayed at the embassy pretending to be a house guest. His equipment was shipped in separately, disguised from Russian eyes. Powering up his equipment, Bezjian began a sweep of the building. With his receiver tuned to 1.6 GHz, he heard the bug’s audio, and quickly isolated the source in the great seal. Close inspection of the carving found it had been hollowed out, and a strange device placed behind the eagle’s beak. No batteries or wires were evident, and the device was not powered through the nail which had been hanging the seal. Bezjian removed the device from the great seal and was so cautious the he slept with it under his pillow that night for safe keeping. The next day he sent it back to Washington for analysis.

Theory of Operation

Bug-mountedThe great seal bug quickly became known as “The Thing”. It was a passive resonant cavity device, containing no batteries or other power source. It consisted of an antenna and a small cylinder. One side of the cylinder was solid. The other side consisted of a very thin diaphragm, obviously some sort of microphone. Passive resonant cavities had been explored before, both in the US and abroad, but this is the first time we know of that was used for clandestine purposes. In his book Spycatcher, British operative Peter Wright claims that the US came to him for help determining how the device worked. However he is not mentioned in other accounts of Theremin’s bug.

Regardless of who figured out the device, the method of operation is devilishly simple. The Soviets would sit outside the embassy, either in another building or in a van. From this remote location they would aim a radio transmitter at the great seal. The bug inside would receive this signal and transmit voices in the room on a second, higher frequency. It did all of this with no standard internal components. No resistors, no tubes, no traditional capacitors, or the like. There were capacitive properties to the mechanism. For instance, a capacitor is formed between the diaphragm and the tuning peg of the device.

scientific-am-bugReceive tuning (if it can be called such) was achieved by the precisely cut antenna. The RF carrier transmitted by the Russians would be received at the antenna and travel into the body of the device which was a resonant cavity. That resonant chamber was capacatively coupled to the thin conductive diaphragm which formed the microphone.

Sound waves would cause the diaphragm to move, which would vary the capacitance between the body and diaphragm, forming a condenser microphone. It is important to note that the bug didn’t transmit and receive on the same frequency. According to Peter Wright, the excitation frequency used by the Russians was actually 800 MHz. The cavity would resonate at a multiple of this base frequency, producing the 1.6 GHz output seen by Bezjian.

While bugs of this type have fallen out of favor, the idea of “illuminating” a device with an external transmitter lives on. Check out [Elliot’s] description of the RageMaster bug from the ANT catalog here. Resonant cavities have found common use as well. Every microwave oven or radar system with a magnetron uses one.

A Political Pawn

lodgeThe great seal bug disappeared for a number of years. The Russians knew we had caught them, and moved on to other espionage devices. It finally reappeared in 1960 at the United Nations. During the Gary Powers U2 incident, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. presented the seal as concrete proof that Russia was spying on the Americans.

A replica of the great seal is on display at the NSA National Cryptologic Museum.

Afterward

thermogLéon Theremin was released from his camp in 1947. He married Maria Guschina. This time the state did not intervene, and the pair had two children. In 1964, Theremin became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He lost his job after an article published in the New York times was read by the assistant director of the conservatory. The assistant director stated “Electricity is not good for music; electricity is to be used for electrocution” before throwing Theremin and his instruments out of the establishment. Through the 1970’s, Theremin worked in Moscow University’s Department of Acoustics. While there he built a polyphonic version of his instrument. Stored in a back room, the instrument was looted for parts by students and professors. Meanwhile, Theremin’s instrument was returning to vogue in the western world. Electronic music was hot, spawned by instruments such as the MiniMoog, and the Arp Kitten.

Theremin finally visited the United States in 1992, reuniting with old friends. He performed in a concert at Stanford and was interviewed by Robert Moog, who considered him to be a hero of the electronic music world. After filling in many of the blanks of his story, Theremin asked Moog and co-interviewer Olivia Mattis to be responsible when writing up their story. “But if you write that I have said something; against the Soviet government and that I have said that it is better to work elsewhere, then I shall have difficulties back home [ironic laughter]”. Even then at the twilight of his life, with the fall of the Soviet Union underway, Theremin was still looking over his shoulder, worried about what the government might do if he offended them.

Theremin passed away in 1993. The unlikely master of this spy-gadget was 97 years old.

167 thoughts on “Theremin’s Bug: How the Soviet Union Spied on the US Embassy for 7 Years

  1. Yes and he also is the undocumented inventor of the laser window bug. He had a handful of ex-NAZI scientists working for him after WW2. Many of the Wonder Weapons that DID NOT go to USA with Von Braun and his Paper Clip NAZIs went to Theremin in Soviet Union. It’s a wonder how Hughes Aircraft’s Dr. Ted Maiman took credit for the solid state laser when the NAZIs allegedly already had one operational and the size of a big pencil. One wound up at Pentagon under General Nathan Twining FTD division around 1947. It has been under wraps for 6-decades now. Battery operated and can cut opaque objects. Funny how every now and again science takes BIG leaps with hardly any evolutionary explanation on the back-story of said invention. Many wondrous inventions were made in Germany before WW2 but little is heard about them. The atomic bomb was actually invented by a German woman. However, she got out of Nazi Germany in time. Imagine if Hitler got a hold of her and exploited her and her partners ideas about fissionable materials. Einstein knew who she was so he could not take credit for it. Her name was Lise Meitner.

    Here’s another NAZI German gadget you probably never knew existed: LiSpr80, Lichtsprechgerät 80/80 (on Youtube at /watch?v=vR4N6MTx_vw )

      1. A battery operated laser the size of a pencil that can cut opaque objects. I mean wow, it’s almost like technological development has just been faked to get the public used to technology we inherited from dying aliens.

        1. Marvin – Kinda’ sorta’ but not really. Huh? OK IMHO visiting ET aliens are actually faked. Yes there are probably other civilizations out there in deep space but I’ll bet they have no clue we are even here. If so they aren’t allowed to travel here as we are toxic culturally and medically. Look what Columbus did to his New World. Also space travel might be unique just by us because of the circumstances leading up to it (NAZIs thought this up Wehner Von Braun). We in USA never thought of space travel until we met this NAZI who helped start NASA. If you’re happy on your little advanced planet out there in Sagittarius Constellation, why would you want to leave it on a space ship to God knows where?

          Phillip Corso said like a “pencil”. But he was prone to exaggerate a lot. He probably saw a ruby-crystal laser inside of a flash lamp conduit the size of lets say a very large cigar. Maybe the size of a medium sized telescope. The battery part was probably exaggerated too. The NAZIs did have a secret night-vision scope that enhanced star-light and they used it for night time snipers. We used them in Vietnam. It had a tiny motor-generator that could produce thousands of volts required to make the laser flash lamps work. The mirrored ends are a no-brainer. Hence you have a cutting laser. Dr.Maiman’s device was pretty much the same and could cut dark stuff. That was 1960’s. This gadget was at the Pentagon for almost 20 years before they decided to seed the technology on defense contractors like Hughes Aircraft. Have no idea where it is now. maybe at NARA?

          Now others in USA were working on LASERS before this. But they were GAS lasers or MASERS. And they could not replicate a solid state LASER yet. A Ruby Crystal was a gem stone and required HV flash lamps to work. The MASERS where very complex and really couldn’t achieve cutting power I think. Dr. Maiman was NOT qualified to think this type of gadget up. He was nothing more than a glorified TV repairman. That was even his nickname at Hughes. His family today would resent that remark though…

          1. JD – Yes Goddard beat Von Braun with rocketry but the NAZIs came up with the idea to go into space. They envisioned going to Moon and Mars one day. They even had a working plan to put up a variable focus solar mirror in orbit near last days in 1945. The Allies stopped any progress they may have made but eyewitnesses said they were only about 12-months away from finishing it (Heliobeam https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_gun). Von Braun already had a working rocket that would go to edge of space and come down on a Allied city. I think it was called the A4B Bastard. But it had to be towed to launch site on a ocean-barge towed by a submarine (U-Boat). It never saw action but that was the rocket they would have used for the solar mirror and other future projects.

          2. sonofthunderboanerges you might want to rethink you history. The NAZI’s were not the one’s who thought up space travel or rocketry. The idea of space travel was around a lot longer that the idea of the NAZI’s. Ever heard of Jules Verne’s and a 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon and it 1870 sequel Around the Moon? It was pretty popular in the states at the time. A Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in 1903 was the first to come up with the idea that you would need a multistage chemical fuel rocket to get to space. Wernher von Braun came to rocketry from a paper that Hermann Oberth wrote.

            BTW, I like the name, but I guess you know that boanerges means sons of thunder.

          3. AFAIK the principles of lasers/masers were put together in detailed and accurate theory by a few different folks, starting decades before one was actually built. No massive leaps of intellect were required to build the first one, just the right information reaching the right people, with adequate funding, tools, and motivation. And then to be recognized for it, to submit the right documentation. It’s possible there were undocumented lasers built even before you or I suppose.

          4. Annie – Very interesting. However, I think even Ptolemy dreamed of space travel. However, Herman Oberth and Wernher von Braun actually almost did it during WW2. The HELIOBEAM project was only 12-months away from initiation when Allies invaded Penemunde. If it had been successful these two Nazis would have put men into orbit to aim a foldable solar mirror at Allied cities from orbit. I don’t think they envisioned microgravity, meteorites, radiation, muscle atrophy, and hypoxia. Also EVA suits would have been far beyond Nazi technology as it is today. I assume they knew it would be a 1-way mission too.

          5. spoeden says:
            December 8, 2015 at 6:27 pm

            sonofthunderboanerges you might want to rethink you history. The NAZI’s were not the one’s who thought up space travel or rocketry. The idea of space travel was around a lot longer that the idea of the NAZI’s. Ever heard of Jules Verne’s and a 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon and it 1870 sequel Around the Moon? It was pretty popular in the states at the time. A Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in 1903 was the first to come up with the idea that you would need a multistage chemical fuel rocket to get to space. Wernher von Braun came to rocketry from a paper that Hermann Oberth wrote.

            BTW, I like the name, but I guess you know that boanerges means sons of thunder.

            Yes I’m familiar with Jules Verne. However, like Ptolemy, Verne, Tsiolkovsk, and Leitch they were ALL theoretical. Hermann Julius Oberth and von Braun were 12-months away from actually building one in 1945.

            Yes the moniker sonofthunderboanerges is a mixture of English and ancient Aramaic of the same word “sons of thunder” – in my case singular. It was expressed by Jesus of Nazareth at Mark 3:17 to James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James, because they were hot-heads and a bit of loud mouths. That pretty much describes my personality too. I seem to never know when to STFU I guess… (LOL)

            I do like to chat it up. I try not to flame people though (like call somebody a “tin-foil hat” 8-/ )

    1. “It’s a wonder how Hughes Aircraft’s Dr. Ted Maiman took credit for the solid state laser when the NAZIs allegedly already had one operational and the size of a big pencil. One wound up at Pentagon under General Nathan Twining FTD division around 1947. It has been under wraps for 6-decades now. Battery operated and can cut opaque objects”

      And you know this, how? Details, please.

      1. Antron Argaiv – You’re not going to find all these details in one place like on WIKIPEDIA. You have to take desperate tiny details from differing sources and analytically build a bigger picture. In this case you have to read stuff from Nick Cook from Janes dot com. He wrote the book THE HUNT FOR ZERO POINT. You have to read (or skim) Phillip Corso’s book THE DAY AFTER ROSWELL. You have to pick the brains of NAZI experts who knew about the secret SS programs called V-Weapons. You have to listen to concentration camp survivors who actually worked on these gadgets and some how survived the US/USSR rescue. Watch documentaries, movies. TV shows, etc. If you can filter out the B.S. and you have an analytical mnd you might arrive at these details too.

        Our country (USA) has told some big whoppers over last 60 years. They prefer if you just remain clueless as it makes it easier to do stuff under your radar.It’s amazing that they let Edward Snowden get away with what he did. But if he didn’t we wouldn’t know how big the whoppers really where. or is Snowden only revealing the ICEBERG? Time will tell…

        1. Ok man, I know that US has a lot of connections with the German research in WW2, but you are taking it a bit too far. There were quite a few inventions that originated in the US, without major European etc. influence. Transistor and proximity fuse come to mind.

          1. Actually about the transistor, it is true that it originated in US, but you would find it surprising that was not at the AT&T Bell Labs but in Uta and it was not 1947 but the 192-1929 by a virtually unknown engineer named Tomas Henry Morey. Morey who did had a Ph.D degree in electrical engineering from University of Uppsala (Sweden), invented the principle implemented in a device called “the Moray Valve” when working on on his energy generator. Which later was examined, strangely by the same scientists from Bell Labs that alter “invented” the transistor.
            Strange world ha …

          2. Miroslav – According to Corso they found solid-state devices too. He said they found fiber optics, transistor like devices, and even integrated circuit like thing. You know they were NOT ET aliens. Von Braun was stationed at Roswell for a while. It amazes me what the US is copying and reverse engineering and calling it their own technology. The latest NAZI tech-transfer is the KAMAN HELICOPTER robot copter called K-Max. They don’t even hide the fact that it was NAZI tech. They even put it in their adverts!

            Did AT&T’s Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain actually invent the transistor? Or did they get seeding from US Pentagon at the right moment? Look at the date of it’s development: 1947. Coincidence? Oskar Heil was working on FET in 1935.Werner Jacobi of Siemens patented the first IC in 1949 but had the idea farther back during Hitler’s reign. Manfred Börner of Telefunken (a company that dates back to WW1) developed the first working fiber-optical data transmission system in 1965. Makes one wonder where Manfred got the idea from earlier. Maybe someone from Telefunken during WW2 had the glass fiber idea and allowed Manfred to evolve it to his invention.

            As Shakespeare said: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

      1. Jacques1956 – Well the part about Theremin was from WIKIPEDIA. The part about the laser pen found in 1947 comes from Lt Col Phillip Corso. He worked for General Twinging at the Foreign Technology Desk of the US Pentagon. He was told it was ALIEN technology but to lie and say it was from France. They evidently were lying to him as the gadgets found at Roswell NM were NAZI German not ET alien technology. Yes that even includes the secret circular LTA air ship the NAZIs called Haunebu after an ancient culture in Asia. They had other LTA air ships but it was all thrown under the cover of alien UFOs to hide the fact that the OSS (et al) had illegally smuggled NAZI scientists to Ohio under POTUS Truman’s nose under the Operation Overcast/Paperclip black op. Truman made an Exec Order banning that but OSS and it’s child agency disobeyed this EO and is still liable for it today; HENCE the continuing UFO crap to continue the C.Y.A. (cover your arse) scenario.

        So yes you are to believe it. Do some background research and prove it to yourself…

          1. Gavin Greenwalt- I think it does because Lt Col Corso described it so well in his book and during a TV Show interview before his death. And a U-boat (U977) commander who escaped the US NAVY at the end of the war was later interviewed and he mentioned it too. With all of the work the MASER scientists were doing how can anyone believe Dr. Maiman was the real discoverer of the ruby-crystal cutting LASER. Why weren’t the MASER people even close to a solid state LASER? Maiman certainly wasn’t qualified to design one. And Corso said these gadgets were seeded out to the US Defense Industry with fake back-stories. Carl Ziess and IB Farben were doing amazing technology for Hitler. Not to mention Zeppelin, Siemens, and IBM too. Yes it’s all speculation but informed speculation.

    2. Lise Meitner.was austrian rather than german. And the Nazis had people working on an atomic bomb, although Hitler wasn’t enthusiastic about it, then the allied bombed their source for nuclear material and they just scratched the project.
      Einstein was at first against making nukes but then after he feared the germans were making one pleaded for the US to make one BTW.

      Also Meitner was Jewish from family, and when she did research in Berlin (where she went because that was the hotspot in nuclear research in the first place with very notable scinetist) she had to wear a yellow star at some point, then when things go too bad she fled germany in 1938.

      So in conclusion: The germans didn’t need her for nukes, the germans worked on nukes,m the germans abandoned nukes, and Hitler wasn’t a fan of nukes.

      1. Oh and the concept of a nuclear bomb wasn’t a big secret, in fact it was publicly discussed in newspapers before it was developed.
        Many people think because the manhattan project was so top secret that the whole concept was unheard of and secret too, but it wasn’t.

      1. Yup. If you read the internet, there are a large number of people who will tell you that the Germans had the best weapons, the most advanced technology, the fiercest soldiers, that most Germans weren’t nazi’s, that mass murder of innocents didn’t take place, and so on, ad nauseum.

        It’s almost as if they secretly admire them.

        1. I personally don’t admire the Nazis. However, there were many Americans who did support them but were never prosecuted for it. One was a famous US Senator from Connecticut. He arranged to send light arms to Hitler before the war. He had a asbestos brakes factory in CT to retask for rifle assembly and smuggled the rifles to Hitler. He made sure his son served in the Pacific theater of war in US Navy to avoid getting a “golden BB” from one of his own weapons. That son not only allegedly fatally abandoned his men during an incident he went on to become a Texas Congressman, Ambassador to China, Director of CIA, VPOTUS, Then POTUS. Then his corrupt son was “elected” POTUS too. The senator was brought up on charges for DEALING WITH THE ENEMY but some how used his Wall Street clout to wriggle out from under it. This senator even tried to spearhead a coup d’é·tat of the FDR White House (Google THE BUSINESS PLOT). It appears that then and even in 2007 the head of our military powers (JCoS in 2007 and Smedley Butler in 1935) prevented a global disaster instigated by this American crime family STILL with US today! One of this alleged criminals is running for POTUS 2016.

          What was the one single thing that help US/UK win the war against the Axis powers? I hate to be so blunt but a genius and homosexual who helped build the first digital computer COLOSSUS and our unbreakable voice encryption machine SIGSALY. The Nazis never had a clue about either device. That applies to the Italians and Japanese too. Of course we never told the SOVIETS anything. But they had THEREMIN the Russian Edison. They didn’t need our gadgets as they had their own.

          We didn’t need the nuclear bomb. What good was it? Truman destroyed Japan’s infrastructure with it but never once thought of using it on the Nazis who already had plans to use a Deuterium Bomb on NY and Washington. The Japanese would have relented eventually with our strategic use of SIGSALY and our breaking their CODE PURPLE and the Nazi’s ENIGMA. I believe in God. I think He helped us a little back then. The Nazi’s got help too but I think from that ‘other’ guy – 8-/

        2. First I am German – but I’m absolutely not proud of what happened during ww2.
          The Germans had some very bright people, with a government that financed them and pushed them. How else could such a small country, with so little resources gain such momentum?

          It’s not admiration, but a fascination of the things that were developed back then.
          Also during/after the war USA did gain a lot by getting some of the scientists from nazi Germany. All over the planet nazi people got a clean history, and disappeared somehow.

          When it comes to advantages, moral disappears “for the greater good”.

          1. “How else could such a small country, with so little resources gain such momentum? ”

            Small? 81 million people, you’re quarter the population of the entire US. That’s not small.

          2. @Dax – Actually Germany before WW2 was at 67 million and USA was at 130 million. So they were about half the size of USA. But their amazing shot into military technology was not solely their own doing. They stole technology from USA inventors like Alexander G Bell, N. Tesla, J.P. Holland, et al. They stole the amazing enigmatic encryption technology from Poland. Very little of their own brain trust was originally from them. They may have done an outstanding feat of reverse-technology but little else. Even some of their ideas were stolen from Jewish people like the atom bomb they were very close to having.

            Some esoteric types accredit their before-its-time insight from the ostensible metaphysical world with personalities like Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Arguably Blavatsky (et al) gave them insight into high-tech ideas and innovations no one was even thinking about in mid 20th century. Then miraculously German wonder gadgets popped up that are STILL not fully documented or even evident in history books today (i.e. FSO communications, etc.).

            They even stole their one handed NAZI salute from US – (The early Pledge of Allegiance before the one you are familiar with today) – https://goo.gl/jQpA8h (USA schools and USA Boy Scouts performed it before Hitler did)

    1. wethecom – Yes not so much unlike it. The Moscow US EMBASSY SEAL Bug was what is called a “cavity resonator”. There is a tuned circuit inside tuned to a microwave frequency. It has a diaphragm attached to it that picks up audio in a room. The diaphragm vibrates in synch with the sounds it picks up. It causes the tune circuit to react accordingly. A microwave transmitter is aimed at the cavity from across the street. The reflected signal is capture into a receiver and demodulated much like how the laser window bug works. RFID is a parasitic device too but that’s were it ends. RFID does not capture room sounds. It only responds to the transmitter with a code number.

      The side effect of the Moscow bug was mental disorientation and possible cancer from the beam if you were in the path of it. I still don’t know how the US Embassy discovered it as that technology is still kinda’ sorta’ way over some of our pay grades. I’m still astonished that someone thought this up. Was it Theremin? Well that figures with all of his ex-NAZI lab technicians.

      1. Why should this make “mental disorientation and possible cancer”? I am sure, they did not use that much power. Otherwise the people in the embassy would have become suspicious very fast. The 800MHz excitation frequency is in the same range as cellphone communication. Only very few, very crazy people get negative effects from cellphone towers and this is not by the radio signal itself. It is only a psychosomatic reaction (nocebo effect, the opposite of the well known placebo effect). It is triggered by the sight of the the tower and diffuse fear of it, not the radio emission. Which can be proven, as sometimes people claimed negative effects, when a new tower was built even before any technical equipment was installed :-)
        But when I read your comments I would not wonder, if you wear a tinfoil hat yourself.

        1. Martin – Whose to say what can and cant cause cancer? Those cell phone studies were obviously biased. The small tumors in a persons head were probably caused by the cell phone being held to close to your head. Ask your doctor if he uses a Bluetooth or ear buds. I’m sure he isn’t buying the propaganda either. I never once suspected a cell phone tower. Where does that come from?

          The US Embassy employees complained of such things during the THINGS use. You know the Russians don’t care about LIMITS to public safety. Read my posting about the Wikileaks story about the THING. Some actually heard the side-lobe signal on their UHF receivers. That has to mean the Russkies were pumping power to overcome side wall materials like masonry and steel at the embassy. That’s how embassy employees got suspicious that something strange was up. They overheard the ambassadors conversations on their radios.

          Why is it that when someone offers a non-standard point of view that does not fit into their personal world view of believing strategic propaganda designed to keep the masses like mushrooms, they invariably play the “tin hat” card as if that really means anything?

          Mushrooms: They are kept in the dark and fed manure...

      2. You apparently didn’t know that RF is non-ionizing and doesn’t cause cancer, although high levels can cause other issues. Now you know.

        Also, re your comments in general, you realize that if these various inventions and claims of insane Nazi (it’s not an acronym, btw, stop capitalizing each letter) tech were actually substantiated by analysis of multiple disparate sources they would BE in places like Wikipedia. As it is, you’ve spouted mostly fringe theories that are fringe theories PRECISELY BECAUSE there is no known credible evidence supporting them, in the public domain.

        1. blowtorch – All I know is that US EMBASSY employees in Moscow complained of mental disorientation and some developed small brain metastasis. Prolonged exposure to microwaves directed at you can not be healthy. I know what the abbreviation NAZI stands for. I CAPITALIZE so to make the word standout so it doesn’t look like I’m inadvertently using a similar word. I rather like the coincidence that NASA was helped along by a infamous NAZI.

          Regarding my Internet screed about such topics. I am not the only one professing these theories. I actually got them from someone else who is a highly credible source. The secret unknown Nazi stuff was from Ken Arndt who is a prolific Internet Nazi-phile, I also have met Jewish concentration camp victims and once one of their Wehrmacht captures (who has since disappeared – he was an old man anyway). Then there is the journalist and consultant to JANES (dot) COM.You must give them the proper respect for being military experts as they are. His name is Nick Cook. He is more prolific with Nazi stuff you never knew than I am. His book THE SEARCH FOR ZERO POINT is amazing. He’s done many other books too,

          He started his own company and website now: Dynamixx. He had left Janes due to what I think was his constant meddling in America’s alphabet soup agencies. They were getting a bit annoyed by his constant nosiness about the USA-NAZI apparent collaboration. We’ve had two presidents and one US Senator (all related by family) that were/are pro-Hitler. And you can not escape the fact that two US federal agencies can thank their early inception to two infamous Nazis: Von Braun and Gehlen.

          Google Search on NICK COOK: http://tinyurl.com/go6cszt

        1. Annie – Not so much sure you could get a microphone in one of them. But just so you know: WALMART considered using those door opening cameras from STANLEY in CT for video surveillance of customers. The idea was allegedly shot down for being TOO big-brother-ish. Just think if someone from Ken Sensor’s old agencies got the bright idea to feed the Stanley cameras to a cloud-based facial recognition program? Talk about person-tracking as everybody goes to WALMART!

          1. This seems like a long shot to me. Even in the best case, where the tag is still in the “armed” state and the two strips are repelling each other from their magnetic bias, what you’ve got are two antennas of slightly different lengths, separated by just a couple millimeters of air space. Most likely these would be coupled to each other sufficiently to just act like a single antenna. But the worse news is that for tags that have been “disarmed”, the two strips attract each other and so act as just a single strip antenna. I don’t see much opportunity there for modulation.

          2. @Annie: Yes, it would make the space vary. But they are designed to keep a stable frequency in spite this influence. They mechanically vibrate along their length through electromechanical coupling (magnetostriction).

        2. Annie – Go to BrightBlueJim’s HaD reference page up there. The YouTube video shows an amateur scientist taking one apart. I think he shows that there is a piece of metal strip just under that plastic. I think the thicker you make a diaphragm the less likely it will be acoustically sensitive. If you stretch a rubber balloon over a coffee can you can feel the acoustic sensitivity as you talk into it. An RFID tag would be hard to turn into a parasitic bug. But a clever idea if someone could pull it off.

          I personally like a new idea to resonate your teeth or mastoid bone from a remote location and listen to you talking in the return signal. Not sure any one is working on that yet. Don’t know what band would work either. You’d only be able to hear just that person not the guy standing next to him.

          1. Annie – Yes that’s William McGrath’s idea. He did it for NASA. His idea bounces off you thorax in your upper chest area and he can listen to you through a wall talking. If you put a bit of aluminum foil in the room you can hear everything in the room. My idea resonates your head and reflects back your voice. Another inventor has perfected a device that picks up what your about to say and decodes it to a loudspeaker. NASA is looking into it as well. It’s like almost reading your mind and picks up what you were about to say a microsecond before you say it. You don’t even need to move your lips. It monitors the inner throat muscles and decodes their movement when you speak. You have to were a neck transducer though. The SDK is $2500 USD and only works on MAC right now. I saw it demo’d on TED Talk. TED is a great resource for monitoring new innovations and cutting-edge ideas.

  2. Harmonics: how do they work?

    “According to Peter Wright, the excitation frequency used by the Russians was actually 800 MHz. The cavity would resonate at a multiple of this base frequency, producing the 1.8GHz output seen by Bezjian.”

    Not really.
    According to the label in the third small drawing, the whip antenna is tuned to 330 MHz. 1800MHz is approximately 6x 330MHz.

    1. There isn’t a hard source as to the transmission and reception frequency of the bug. The sources say 330MHz, 800MHz, and even one or two others. Similarly, some sources say the antenna was 1/4 wave, while others say 1/2 wave, and a few even say full wave.

    2. Regardless of which harmonic was being monitored (anything producing a second harmonic is quite likely to also produce 3rd, 4th, and 5th harmonics), the device needs more than what we see in the diagram to make it work. Simply putting a variable capacitor across the antenna could amplitude modulate it, but that would just generate sidebands around the carrier, regardless of what that frequency was. In order to get harmonics, you have to put a non-linear device, such as a diode, across it. It’s quite possible that there was such a device, but it didn’t look like a component at all. A blob of some semiconducting compound across the insulator could have rectifying properties that the investigators did not notice. I remember seeing copper oxide rectifiers in some ancient solid-state car radios that just looked like a piece of copper sheet spot-welded to the chassis. These were used as reverse voltage crowbars to prevent destroying the radio if the battery was installed backwards – if power was connected backward, the radio fuse blew instead of all of the transistors in the radio. Point is, I would not have known I was looking at a rectifier, except that it looked like they had the incoming +12V connected directly to the chassis!

      About the frequency disputes, a 9″ half-wave antenna would be resonant at 656 MHz, but there’s also some loading on that by the cavity, so it would be somewhat off from that, and a quarter-wave would be half that, or 328 MHz, again with some adjustment for the loading. So either ~660 MHz (which could generate harmonics at ~1300 MHz, 2000 MHz, and 2700 MHz), or ~330 MHz, which would generate all of those and also 660, 990, 1650, and 2300 MHz, would work. If the retransmission was detected at 1.6 GHz, this was most likely the 5th harmonic of 320 MHz.

      I’d also like to note that even though The Thing was detected at 1.6 GHz, this does not mean that this was the frequency the spies were listening on. As I said, a device that produces one harmonic is likely to produce others as well.

  3. I’m surprised by the high frequency used by the gadget. I was under the obviously mistaken impression that UHF radio was still a pretty new thing and that microwaves were all but unheard of. I was unaware that anyone at that time had radios that could listen at 1.8 GHz. Perhaps I need to re-read my radio history, it seems that I have forgotten some of it.

    1. RADAR was a big field of research and development during ww2 and the magnetron and klystron, both using resonant cavities to make high-power microwaves, both hail from that time. Suitable receivers also had to be developed, at first using tiny “acorn” vacuum tubes with direct connections to tiny miniaturized internal elements.

        1. There is an implicit assumption that as electronics technology advanced, the frequencies available increased steadily. What this assumption leaves out is the importance of amplifiers. Very early RF experiments were done before electronic amplifiers were available at all, and Hertz’s experiments took place in the gigahertz regime. In those days, microwaves were easier to deal with, due to short wavelengths, than medium or long-wave transmission. But these experiments didn’t lead to anything practical BECAUSE there was no amplification of the signals. When vacuum tubes came into the picture, these became the high-frequency limiting factor, due to the time it took electrons to physically traverse the distance between the cathode and anode within the tube. But even then, this was going on in the context of wars, where an important application was communication with aircraft, where small antennas (and correspondingly high frequencies) drove the development of higher and higher frequency amplifiers.

          In the development of RADAR, the frequencies involved also needed to be very high because the directionality of antennas is proportional to the ratio between the antenna aperture and the wavelength, so especially for airborne RADAR, extremely high frequencies (tens of GHz) made possible antennas that could scan with reasonably high angular resolution, and still be small enough to put into the nose of an aircraft. The earliest microwave devices – magnetrons – were essentially diodes with resonant cavities coupled to them, such that sending a pulsed current through the diode excited oscillation in the cavities, so there was no high-frequency modulation of the electron beam at all. On the receiver side, there were no RF amplifiers for these frequencies, so the first stage of a receiver was a crystal (typically point-contact germanium diode) that mixed the RF with a local oscillator (either magnetron or reflex klystron) in order to bring the frequency down to something reasonable. The intermediate frequencies produced (generally well under 100 MHz) could then be amplified with relative ease using amplifier triodes, tetrodes, and pentodes developed concurrently.

          So getting back to THIS application, the illuminating transmitter may have used a reflex klystron or even a “lighthouse tube” or “acorn tube” triode oscillator as the RF source, then used that same source to mix with the received signal using a crystal mixer. Any required amplification would then be done at voice frequencies. All well within 1945 technology.

    1. Harmonics were in the transmitted signal. No radio signal is perfectly pure sinusoïd. The cavity was designed to resonate at second harmonic. By the way the numbers giving here don’t match. The second harmonic of 800Mhz ist 1.6Ghz not 1.8Ghz. Something wrong with theses numbers.

        1. Predielis – You could keep the transmitter and receiver out of phase with each other or use the pulse modulation like radar does. That way the transmitter is off for a split second while the receiver captures the signal and demods it. The pulse rate would have to be higher than voice band,

          I like that guy’s work at the website you quoted. GBPPR. He is a radio electronics genius. He knows all the latest bugs and eavesdropping equipment because he has an interesting back-story. However, his politics are a bit shaky as he is more into the old German’s political order than is healthy for a US citizen. I still admire his work though…

          1. The pulse method you propose has some promise – that’s how early Bell Telephone speakerphones worked – they switched between talk and listen rapidly to prevent feedback. However, at the distances involved – a few hundred feet at most – this would require switching at sub-microsecond intervals, which would have been difficult in 1945. Difficult but not impossible, so I wouldn’t rule this out.

            The phase method I think would be unreliable, since people moving around the room would reflect the signal and change its phase. But then again, Theremin IS credited with the later invention of the laser-bounce-off-a-window method, which DOES rely on interferometry (i.e., phase cancellation) for detection of the same frequency that is being transmitted. This is essentially the same device, only the laser version uses optical instead of microwave frequencies, and the subject of surveillance provides the diaphragm himself. So it’s entirely likely that Theremin had the phase interference principle already developed in 1945.

        1. Point contact diodes are real diodes, not a random poor electrical connection. It would have been depicteded in the drawing. The same drawing at the top of this page which says “reradiated modulated radio signal”. No mention of frequency conversion.
          It is just a cavity which goes out of tune, Adam should correct the post.

          1. I think you’re right. With the cavity properly tuned (and the remote transmitter set precisely to its resonant frequency), it would reflect back a large fraction of the signal, while any detuning (due to movement of the membrane) would reduce this, providing a relatively high signal gain. Perhaps the guys analyzing it guessed that a harmonic was used, when really, it’s just because that was what they detected.

      1. Very nice find. It looks like the investigators went through pretty much the same thought process that we did here as a group. The nonlinear device part appears to be mostly conjecture, as in “they MUST be receiving on a harmonic, and therefore there MUST be a nonlinear device”, rather than finding any actual evidence of such a device. However, they may have just dismissed detection at the fundamental frequency as being too difficult to separate from the “illuminating” signal. I think [Predielis] has proposed an adequate solution to this difficulty in the comments here. Additionally, the article indicates that there is considerable loss in converting the illuminating signal to increase its harmonic content (“A small fraction of this signal is converted to the 3rd harmonic and reradiated by the antenna.”). Still within the possibility of detection, depending on the illuminating power, but again there was no evidence found of any nonlinear device that could have been relied on. The suggestions – oxide layers between conductors, microdischarges across voids, and dirt and metallic particles on metallic surfaces – are all too unreliable. Anybody who’s built a crystal radio using a galena crystal (or a razor blade) knows how finicky such random effects can be. Keep in mind that this device was built in 1945.

        The linked article does show how the illuminator can take advantage of the sharp frequency response curve of a high-Q resonator (and this design is a classic cylindrical resonator with central stub, which is known for its high-Q properties), by tuning to a frequency just off the peak but on the sharp slope of the resonator’s response curve. This is a technique similar to “slope detection” of an FM signal, but in this case it’s not the signal that’s changing frequency but the center frequency of the resonator, which essentially puts the constant-frequency transmitter signal at varying points on the resonator’s response curve depending on the diaphragm position.

        It might be fun to build one of these, using a piece of metalized Mylar as the diaphragm, just to test this sort of thing, but I don’t currently have access to the equipment required (RF generator in the 500-2000 MHz range, RF spectrum analyzer or UHF receiver, etc) to do this easily. The design could be scaled up, which would put the resonant frequency lower and make this somewhat easier, but still outside of what I have available.

        Thanks for finding this and sharing.

        1. I agree with you. Also the IEEE paper, in typical Academia style, does not even have a thought about why the Russians didn’t install a proper diode, if it was needed. And it was needed, since the device was supposed to work for a long time and servicing was out of question.
          Moreover, at the end of the lengthy article, they dismiss in a few lines the non-harmonic explanation, because
          “the signal from the bug would have been swamped
          by echoes from the building and surrounding foliage”
          without quantifying how much of these foliage echoes is modulated in the 300 -3000 Hz range. I suppose not so much.
          Then, if this were a real problem, the Communist devils could exploit the fact that the device was the only High Q resonator in the path. Like modulating the carrier to have two signals some MHz apart, receive and AM demodulate both frequencies, subtract the results so the frequency independent echoes cancel out. It does not need SDR to do this and was completely possible at the time.

          1. Foliage will vibrate to environmental sound/noise. So the echo will have a strong components in this range. But what me wonders is that as the “great seal” was x-rayed at the beginning they did not find the thing in it. At least I would get suspicious, finding a metallic structure without any obvious reason or use in a piece of wooden artwork.

          2. I think the concern about foliage is that leaves moving in the breeze would introduce reflections changing at a random rate, adding a great deal of noise to the received signal. The article shows the area of coverage that they ASSUME the illuminating & receiving antennas would cover, but this is COMPLETE speculation, since at 1600 (or 1800) MHz it’s not that hard to make an antenna with a 5 degree angle of coverage. Mounted in the back of a wood-sided truck, a vertically-oriented parabolic reflector would make a horizontal fan beam that could easily exclude foliage.

          3. @ Martin:
            Not at all. Foliage would move back and forth for only a minimal distance because of sound, this will not significantly modulate the reflection. Modulation is somewhat strong in the bug just because sound detunes a high Q cavity. Leaves and masonry don’t do this.
            Thinking about the IEEE paper: Russians never pursued stealth technology in planes, and stated that they are perfectly able to detect such planes from the Free World. Maybe it’s time for us too to send our scientists in research camps in Alaska and apply some pressure on them. Less Powerpoint, more focus.

          4. Predielis – Just to add to what you said… I posted a WikiLeaks article here from a Moscow US Embassy Security Director who knew about the THING. He said initially they had a listening post at the embassy. The receivers were capable of receiving UHF frequencies. One day a LP technician was just tuning around and stumbled on the reflection and heard the ambassadors voice. This is what started the ball rolling. This means the reflection was quite strong and a bit omnidirectional. I think this could be exploited to send back a fake RF UHF signal in same band with fake audio of the ambassador dictating old letters into a tape recorder. This would give hem time to take the thing down and reverse-engineer it and put it back.

    2. Perhaps “harmonics” isn’t the right word. AIUI, and I’m well prepared to be wrong, but this thing was more a resonator. The variable capacitor formed partly by the mic, changed the resonant frequency. So, through the antenna, it’d resonate back a small fraction of the “illuminating” power, with the exact frequency depending on the mic membrane’s position as it moved in response to sound.

      I’d guess that, since you have the transmitter there in the van with you, you’d just need to pick up the resonated signal, then subtract the transmitted signal from it. The result should be sound. Might end up being FM-modulated, not too sure about that, so you’d need a stage for that too.

      It doesn’t need a diode, since it’s input, output, and operating method, all use RF energy. The capacitor is the bit that modulates the signal. Like a variable tuned-circuit. Similar to the larger tuned-circuit tags some shops use on products, but variable.

      It’s the sort of thing you might be able to make at home from a coil + condenser mic, might be interesting to see what we could learn, I wonder if anyone’s tried investigating this since the CIA or whoever back in the day.

      1. The catch here is that a passive, linear component like a capacitor can’t change the frequency of a signal generated somewhere else. All it can do is change the amplitude it gets reflected at. This is why all of the discussion of using harmonics and therefore the need for a nonlinear device like a diode. Without something to change the frequency, the argument is that there are too many other things that would be reflecting the signal from the illuminator back to the receiver.

        As for other people investigating this, that’s what the article linked by [Adam Fabio] above is – this article was published in 2013, by a pair of researchers from Australia and Colombia who analyzed what was known about the device to try to explain how it worked.

        As I said earlier, RFID tags are more complicated, and that’s what you’d be doing if you used a condenser mic and other electronic components. The beauty of The Thing, is that being of such a simple design, there’s very little that can go wrong with the device itself. It doesn’t need any power, and is simple enough that it would be usable for many years without any maintenance.

        By the way, it IS possible to detect a device such as this even when it’s not being illuminated, just by using a “grid dipper”. (See the recent HAD article: http://hackaday.com/2015/11/30/the-grid-dip-meter-forgotten-instrument/) This would still be tricky, since you have to be fairly close to a resonant circuit to detect it, and sweep over the resonant frequency slow enough to notice the dip in the meter. The calculations in the analysis article predict that the bandwidth of the cavity is slightly less than 1 MHz, so you’d have to be tuning pretty slowly to catch this if you were sweeping over a range of several GHz.

        What’s curious is that one of the articles I read about this (sorry, don’t remember which), claims that as standard procedure for gifts from the host nation, the Great Seal carving was X-rayed. This really should have caught it, since copper should show up clearly in an X-ray.

        1. BrightBlueJim – I’d say it depends who is doing the X-Raying. Was it a “loyal” US Marine Security Guard like Sergeant Clayton Lonetree at that same US Embassy in 1980’s? Look it up and discover how such a thing could be missed during an X-Ray. All KGB needs is “leverage”: and they gotcha’! Lookup Aldrich Ames etc. Of course that copper cavity resonator showed up like a big RED flag! (pun intended).

      2. Greenaum – “I’d guess that, since you have the transmitter there in the van with you,..”

        Yes I think a VAN sounds very KGB-ish. A hotel or office is too easy to catch red handed (pun intended). There are enough alleys, lanes, and roads around Spaso House to pull it off too. Easy get away when embassy security shows up. Moscow Police are no problem as they know when to back off when their brother KGB (or GRU) are operating in town. Plastic side panels would help with the microwave dish too, Low profile was key. Probably said Moscow City Telephone Network (or Московская городская телефонная сеть) on the side panels to help with the deception.

  4. Not sure if a typo my misunderstanding of radios: You said that Bezjian discovered The Thing “with his receiver tuned to 1.6 GHz” and then you said that the resonant cavity produced “the 1.8GHz output seen by Bezjian.” Is one of these numbers wrong?

  5. “The bug inside would receive this signal and transmit voices in the room on a second, higher frequency.”

    Are we sure about this? Maybe the receiver was tuned to the same frequency of the transmitter but located on the other side of the RF path, behind the bug. The change in resonance caused by the microphone was enough to modulate the amplitude of the received signal. This would explain the lack of any diode in the circuit.

  6. An even better position for the receiver would have been on one side of the bug, out of the transmitter’s RF beam. The receiver would get as little as possible of the directional unmodulated RF, but most of the bug’s omnidirectional modulated retransmission.

    1. You make a good point, and while it is difficult to isolate a receiver from a transmitter on the same frequency, this would help. What also might help is using a direct conversion receiver – using the transmitter signal as the LO for the receiver, so that the transmitted signal is canceled out in a well-adjusted double-balanced mixer. Follow that with a bandpass filter that cuts off everything below 300 Hz or above 3 KHz, and you’re there.

  7. The one part of the story that I don’t get is why they did not leave the bug in place and use it to feed misinformation to the USSR? The only thing more harmful than getting bugged is being fooled into believing that your bugs are providing you with useful information.

    1. Dan – I read somewhere they did leave it in place until 1987. Not sure where OP is getting 7 years from. Nothing can beat the shenanigans we did to them in Washington DC. They are good as they found every one of them. Even the plumbing bug which was really unique. I’m amazed at the one they developed for our State Dept conference room in the 1990’s. Still can’t get all the details how this thing worked and how they got it in the conference room. The FBI caught him in the park across the street downloading the room audio. He got busted due to visiting that park bench too many times and looking down at his gadget. Of course I’m talking about the Stanislav Borisovich Gusev incident in 1999. He hid it in a baseboard heater and could toggle it on/off and it would do store and forward audio MPG. It had a limited range but could reach the street below,

      1. The article states that it was placed in 1945 and discovered in 1952. The discovery wasn’t brought to the attention of the Russkies until the Powers incident in 1960, so that’s eight years of mis-information the US COULD have been taking advantage of. Although there must have been some time while they were studying The Thing, when its operator would certainly have noticed that it was no longer working. Even if it then started working again later, any information gathered after the gap would have been suspect. The article states that Bezjian took the device home and put it under his pillow, and sent it to Washington the next day. No telling how long THAT took, but if that’s true, then by the time it could have been returned the opportunity was lost for sure.

      2. If I recall correctly the head of the british secret service turned out to be a russian spy they found out after a long long time. so with so many spying and cross references I’m not sure you would have much success in fooling them.
        Plus who wants to act all day when he’s not an actor? I mean the thing listened all the time, so you’d constantly would have to act like nothing changed and thus have a long stream of lies to not have them know you are on to them. And that would be quite a project. And everybody would have to be in on it, every caller and visitor.

        1. Are you talking about KIM PHILBY? Yeah that was a kick in the head. And then we had James Angelton (The Kingfisher) pointing his finger at everybody here in the US for being a commie double-agent. Not sure he ever actually found any – but who knows?

          That ACTOR thing you speak of? You do know what denizens exist at US EMBASSIES worldwide? There are people who are tasked to such things. The SVR/FSB (former KGB) is really good at what they do but they are not all knowing as they like to appear. You forget we have double-agents in Moscow too. They are constantly trying to find them and only do when one of them gets careless. However, MI6 is more careless than the Americans. Read this article about a MI6 bungle(s) (a GOOGLE search for MI6 PDA ROCK): http://tinyurl.com/gshch92

        2. Whatnot – I saw a JAMES BOND 007 movie (I forget which Bond) recorded a very long tape recording of him talking to a friend. He played it in front of the bug while he went off to do something else. It seemed to work as the listeners were enthralled. The same scenario could have been used with THE THING. I don’t think there was a window for the bugger to actually SEE what was going on. The reason for using microwaves was probably so it could go through wood and plaster walls without being seen sitting across the street at the hotel with a parabolic dish pointed at the US Embassy.

          My gut feeling is that we are not getting the full story. I’m still incredulous about this TSCM expert with two ways to pronounce his name actually just found this THING. My theory is that an “asset” probably discovered its existence via HUMINT and told his handler. Could have even been the actual KGB bugger trying to make a defection deal. I can imagine that they really wanted to keep secret the British spin-off device called SATYR from being known. The Americans use it too. I don’t think SATYR made it to the museum at NSA nor Langley. Why? Because it’s not retired yet…

          1. This tape would have to be a full day’s work long, and would have to contain the voices of the regular staff of the office, including the ambassador and whichever other important people. As well, visitors to the office who the Russians knew were coming.

            It’d take a full day, every day, to record the fake information. When would they be able to do their real work?

            There’s only so much use in feeding lies to the enemy anyway, they have other sources of information to correlate with. The whole gigantic effort, when the Russians had already noticed their signal disappearing for a while after the Americans found the bug, really wouldn’t have been worth it. Much better to just have it disappear, make the Russians sweat a bit, then drag it out years later when you needed the propaganda benefit.

          2. Greenaum – What you say appears to be true. However, the ambassador actually found some old documents that would be appealing to the KGB operators. He sat his secretary down and she typed while he dictated the old letters to her. Whether the KGB bought it is another story. The technician did think the disturbance he caused when examining the THING may caused things to go sideways. Evidently it did not as the illumination signal showed up again. The KGB may have just thought somebody bumped into it by accident and knocked it to the floor making the signal drop out. Also people walking in front of it also probably caused signal fading too. When no one sent embassy security over across the street to investigate they must had thought “Hmmm oh well maybe the Americans did not discover it yet… Let’s try again…”

            Some how the Brits got a hold of it to reverse-engineer it into today’s SATYR is also a mystery. Maybe the Americans figured out a way to send back fake return signal complete with fake audio while the technicians photo’d it and examined it really good and then put it back. Remember there was no view of it from any windows so the KGB could not see what was happening to it.

            I don’t think the KGB operatives where as smart as you may think. They probably only reported up the line when something really interesting was said. Also they probably were asleep or drunk on Vodka most of the time. What a boring job!! It was probably only a one-man scenario with relief every few hours. Most was taped on a old Russian reel-to-reel recorder. They had to go to bathroom and eat too. So the headphones are probably not on all the time. They might have known the CIA technician was called in but only then had rapt attention to the Spaso Office.

            There are so many buildings around the embassy and some of them high-rises. It stands to reason they were stationed at least a few hundreds of metres away. Hotels seem likely but apartments (flats) are indicated too. Maybe even an vacant office too.

    2. One of the articles that goes into greater detail (sorry, don’t know which) says that when [Bezjian] detected the modulated signal, he tried to track it down, and thinking the bug was in the wall behind the Great Seal, moved it to a nearby chair. The signal went away for a bit and came back (possibly because the agent operating it had to re-adjust his antenna). When he then narrowed it down to the Great Seal itself, he accidentally banged something against the carving, and the signal went away and never returned. If that account is true, then the operator was convinced that the device had been discovered, and beat feet to avoid being discovered himself. After that, there would be no point in trying to use the device to send disinformation.

      1. BrightBlueJim – Yup that tracks with the download I supplied here from WikiLeaks from an Embassy Security official. The way this THING got in the Embassy was so cute (vintage KGB trade-craft). It appears the ambassador got it as a gift from some Russian kids in 1945 (when we were friends?). They allegedly made it for him in wood shop or something. He kept it in storage for a long time. Then put it in his Sapaso House office. Then the KGB operator activated it from across the street, How the heck he knew he had hung it up after YEARS of storage – I dunno… There is a theory that the embassy cleaning crew and maids were all Russian so that may explain it.

  8. “Even then at the twilight of his life, with the fall of the Soviet Union underway, Theremin was still looking over his shoulder, worried about what the government might do if he offended them.”

    Except Russia is still exactly like this today. What a horrible place to be. For instance, I remember this little tidbit to do with Russia: http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/7/5690410/putin-signs-law-forcing-bloggers-to-register-with-russian-media-office, among many others, especially concerning how they treat gay people (a personal interest of mine).

    1. Well, you must excuse them a bit. Huge territory with relatively small population with respect to size, and foreign powers always ready to take a swipe at them (Napoleon, Kaiser, Hitler, …). So their paranoia is grounded in rather painful experiences (tens of millions of dead). From the USA guarded by seas, and “militant” Canadians and Mexicans at the borders, it is difficult to understand this.

      1. In this case, it’s fairly obvious Putin wants to suppress dissent from his own citizens, not foreign spies. You don’t make such bold laws as that to deal with spies, why would a foreign agent need to be in Russia to start a blog?

        It’s the right of citizens in a democracy to voice dissatisfaction with their government, it’s their right to protest and complain. But Putin’s an old KGB man, and they really didn’t use to think like that. It’s pretty evident that they still don’t.

  9. It’s interesting that the various leaks on US spying revealed that they now use electronic versions, the devices are activated by an external signal and then create a signal on top of that.

    And it’s also odd that the US uses that to spy on.. germany.

    While germany spies on everybody in europe for the US.

    Mad world.

    1. Whatnot – Yeah they call it “5 EYES”. In the latest Bond movie they call a new one “9 EYES”. We (USA) spy on Mrs. Merkel as she is obviously up to something bad. The NSA wants to find out what. If she’s so stupid to talk on her cellphone or discuss it on the Internet than shame on her. I’m sure her boys a BND can scare up a good device to cloak her shenanigans from the Americans. However, I personally believe there is a vote of no confidence among the BND for their leader.

      That Russian device in 1999 at our State Dept by Mr. Gusen sounds very much like the one you are describing. It’s a shame that the Russians are always 5-10 years ahead of US on listening devices and we have to reverse-engineer their gadgets after the fact. Like the Joker says in BATMAN: “Where does he get such wonderful gadgets?” Maybe we should ask Mr. Putin to train our DS&T Geeks? Yeah right! :-D

      Said in cartoon-character Boris Badenov voice: “I train yer’ geeks… however…you must promise to not use on us… deal?”

    2. It’s illegal for the CIA etc to spy on their own citizens without authorisation. So they get their allies to do it. In return, they spy on the British and the rest, on behalf of our own intelligence who also aren’t allowed to do it themselves.

      So responsibility for the actual law-breaking falls outside the country’s borders, and can be excused, that is, ignored completely, as a matter of “national security”. You’ve even less chance of getting foreign, allied, spies in court than you have of getting those from your own country.

      1. Greenaum – True. However, John O. Brennan uses the FBI for that CONUS stuff. They have something called CARNIVORE. However, Mike Rogers (DirNSA) uses 5-Eyes for CONUS work. In either case it helps the “plausible deniability” factor when summoned before Congressional Oversight Committees. In that Will Smith/Gene Hackman movie ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) the AsstDirNSA (Jon Voight) tells his assistant to “Write it up as a FBI training op…” When he said that you could hear all the off-duty PHOEBE’s in the audience cough, chuckle, and say WTF!!!?? The late Tony Scott sure knew a lot of trade-craft to be a British citizen and Hollywood director. It’s a shame what happened to him. I just hope his brother Ridley could follow in his footsteps and keep up the really interesting plot angles like EOS. I just watched Bond movie SPECTRE. Very interesting and kinda’ sorta’ topical.

        1. While I’ve heard of CARNIVORE, it’d be good of you to explain some of the other codenames as you use them. Looking up what a PHOEBE actually is now, though I can guess from the context.

        2. Greenaum – I need to correct myself. The boys & girls at Langley DO use 5-Eyes from time to time as they use the NSA and the NRO. The NSA guys may not want to admit it as their sister agency tends to have a split-personality ever since a past POTUS was their Director. Ex-Senior Intelligence Service old timers refer to it as TEAM A and TEAM B (from the old Cold War days). Suffice it to say the TEAM A folks are still loyal patriots living up to their solemn oaths. But the late Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) seemed to think Team B was/is not so much… http://tinyurl.com/z8a3qme

          1. There are far more agencies than just NSA and CIA (and FBI), there is amongst other also military intelligence and SIGINT (which I think is sharing the building with NSA) and still others.
            And who knows if we the public know about all of them in the first place?

  10. The History Channel aired a documentary ‘CIA Secrets’ which spent the hour talking about Léon Theremin and his achievements. I cannot locate the video online, but I have a VCD of it the I made about 15 years ago when it was broadcast. The man rates right up there with Nikola Tesla.

      1. I took the liberty to just take a snippet in English the pertinent parts of Martijn’s DUTCH document. Just the part about Theremin…

        In recent months we have learned a lot about The Thing and its operation. The inventor was the Russian Lev Sergeyevich Termen
        (1886), a magician with electromagnetic waves, the world famous namesake of one of the world’s first electronic musical instruments, the theremin.
        In the spring of 1939 he was asked to create an ultramodern eavesdropping device. Wireless. Without a microphone. Undetectable. The client was none other than the man whom Stalin once jokingly “our own Himmler ‘is called Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria,
        The dreaded chief of the Russian secret service.

        In one of the secret laboratories of the Gulag, where Russian scientists forcibly worked on technology projects for the motherland, developed Terms The Thing. The most advanced interception system of that time, it did exactly what Beria wanted and that would hang seven years in the residence of the US ambassador.

        A few months Become for our visit to Noordwijk, The Thing and the US response to it again a highly topical story. Documents from Edward Snowden, the former employee of the US Secret Service since June 2013 is not on the front pages to turn down, namely that the technology of The Thing is not only a highlight of the historians book of higher eavesdropping art, but still continues to play a role in the international interception circuit.

        In December 2013 published Der Spiegel catalog of surveillance technology that the National Security Agency (NSA), in collaboration with the CIA, used to target areas and objects for monitoring.
        The Snowden documents showed that Americans use these products at several foreign embassies in Washington. The devices have names in the catalog as LOUD CAR and ANGRYNEIGHBOUR and work in various ways, but the core of the technology is still the same as that of The Thing: they are controlled remotely with radar waves. “These are pretty much direct successors of The Thing, ‘said eavesdropping expert Peter Buy us.

        Yes, the story is not averse to irony. Descendants of a device that the Soviet Union built to monitor its Western enemies are more than seventy years later, in an internal brochure from the American secret services.

        The notes Gerhard Prince seem to reveal how America developed a reply by the Netherlands in The Thing. Therefore, the notes of Prince be so spicy. But we need to get it confirmed his allegations and that does not float.

        About Dutch Radar Research Station consists, for example hardly any public information – a few references in newspaper articles, on websites and in outdated books aside. Utterly amazing is that, although information about the founder Joop van Dijk is to be found, but that is rather meager. The way of life of this man, his impact on the front. mid- and post-war Netherlands, earn at least one strong biography by tophistoricus. Instead, we must make do with short passages in texts on others.

        In the book Juliana & Bernhard Cees Fasseur can read that Van Dijk a “personal archive” Fasseur would have had access to via Rudy Andeweg, professor of political science at the University of Leiden. As we approach Andeweg asking to be allowed to show in this archive, he denies owning it. After frequent insistence he admits he has a manuscript of Van Dijk, but “you do not get.” The professor mail us that the document is related to the Greet Hofmans affair – the issue that the Dutch royal family early fifties shook and where Joop van Dijk, it turns out, even played in a key role.

        We have no other choice but to continue looking for the personal archives of Van Dijk that, if we think, is a potential gold mine for our story.

        (If we are nearly a year later tell the daughter of Joop van Dijk that Mr. Andeweg a manuscript of her father’s property, surprised her because she was under the impression that she was the only part of her father’s memoirs possession. We have Andeweg mailed the daughter of Van Dijk would like to receive the manuscript. Andeweg has not responded to this question.)

        While the rain clatters on our umbrellas, we discuss the villa how our research is progressing. Our hope for direct witnesses of surgery Easy Chair is as good as gone. Gerhard Prince mentions in his notes four names of colleagues involved. Two of them, Van Dijk and a certain Admiral, are deceased, like Gerhard Prince himself. Another colleague, Hoekstra, according to Prince late sixties’ from one day to another “disappeared and presumably, given its birth in 1920, already deceased.

        A few weeks ago I managed quite easily to our surprise to trace the last by Prince said employee involved, mugwort. According to the notes of Gerhard Prince which was “due to cooperation difficulties’ the project ‘removed’. But in our email exchange with this 88-year-old engineer who lives in the United States, soon turned out that he just wanted to talk on the record as concerned their intelligence dossiers on Easy Chair had given freely. In other words, we do not get to see him.

        Ed Admiral, the son of one of the employees mentioned in the letter from Gerhard Prince, who, like his deceased father At Admiral for Dutch Radar Research Station is going to work, refuses to cooperate same reasons our story.

        The chance that we get to speak directly involved, seems lost.
        We also have lines strung to some old hands, former employees of the Internal Security Agency and Naval Intelligence. But they did not talk or could remember anything. We have, therefore, of other sources.

        On the relationship between Dutch Radar Research Station and The Thing, surgical Easy Chair and the CIA is found not public information. The only indirect reference in open source, we read in Molehunt
        David Wise, a 1992 book about the quest of the CIA to a Sovjetmol in their own ranks. “The attempt to the Soviet apparatus that was in the Great Seal found at Copying, codenamed EASY CHAIR was given by the CIA. The actual study was conducted in a laboratory in the Netherlands. ”

        Wise justify this remark; We therefore do not know where he gets it. In his book he relies heavily on interviews with Peter Karlow, high CIA’er who was responsible for EasyChair. Our hypothesis is that Karlow shared this information with Wise. Karlow is dead, Wise does not respond to our requests.

        Shortly before has Spycatcher, An international bestseller in 1987 by Peter Wright, a former employee of the British agency MI5, put ourselves firmly in confusion. Peter Wright writes that the Americans, after the discovery of The Thing in the US embassy in Moscow, ‘desperate’ British service where he worked called for their help. No word on the Dutch service or a Dutch company.

        Now it can not be excluded that the Americans have bet on several horses at once, it is strange that Wright writes that he managed effectively on behalf of the British to make after The Thing, soon after it was asked. Not only that the Americans would also have ordered twelve replicas and “somewhat brutal copied the drawings and still have twenty.”

        But Spycatcher by connoisseurs not seriously taken. The author outlines in many ways a very one-sided view of history. So when we all known facts put a row and combine with a ruling of the aforementioned CIA man Peter Karlow who says Wright is lying and that the CIA in 1959, seven years after the discovery, still had no idea of how The Thing, we dare to put Spycatcher beside us down.

        In the National Archives in The Hague, we have extensively searched archives of ministries and politicians and officials from that era. No results. The secret cooperation between Dutch Radar Research Station and the CIA, where the BVD was involved in, is expertly kept off the books. Or at least, out of the books that can be consulted by everyone.

        Pretty good read…


        Leon Theremin at Red Square in 1993

          1. Greenaum – True. The Gray Cardinal even said that too. He wants to bring back Communism. Doing a great job of it in Ukraine and Syria. And he is not slouching on his CONUS SVR assets either. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2015/06/11/how-an-american-slacker-caught-a-russian-spy-at-a-new-jersey-hooters/

            It seems NJ is turning into a frickin’ hot-spot for bad guys. There was that Russian safe house in NJ recently, And now it looks like TRUMP was not wrong about the Mosques in NJ. Camden is turning into a frickin’ recruiting hub. I’m glad head-Phoebe (James Comey) “appears” to be on top of everything… 8-/
            (If he’s not I’m sure J.O.B. will help out… Where’s “Baz” these days? We need him! He’s not fully retired yet either.)

          2. Yeah yeah, propaganda is also in full swing, and as always the US population is utterly defenseless against it. It’s some national ailment. they are unable to shake off.

          3. Whatnot says:
            December 13, 2015 at 8:19 am

            Yeah yeah, propaganda is also in full swing, and as always the US population is utterly defenseless against it. It’s some national ailment. they are unable to shake off.

            Yeah it’s been an American problem for quite a while though… Just look at the guys here at HaD who accuse me of “tin-foil” affliction. I guess when something is “outside the box” (which I like to call ‘extra-paradigm’) the first knee-jerk reaction is to play the tin-foil card. Sometimes that can be attributed to the general naivete of the general public or in worse-case scenario could just be the social-media “sockpuppets” (i.e. Operation Earnest Voice) spouting off to keep the mushrooms completely covered in manure. You can thank Richard Hollis Helms from Ntrepid for that. Guess where he used to work? Yes… that was his father too,

        1. The dutch are deeper in this shit than GHCQ, but they are always flying under the RADAR (pardon the pun) for some reason. But they are involved with almost any shady thing you hear about.
          So whenever you hear something happening in the news, look if they mention a dutch connection, if not you can assume there’s a hidden one not yet revealed and you should hold out analysis until you hear about that part.

          1. I met an off-duty GHCQ guy relocated to USA once. Very nice guy and very smart. Still has some wonderful gadgets in his house. We had fun talking about stuff and things… However, it appears you are correct about the AIVD… They are worse than our Puzzle Palace (NSA). They say if you need a AIVD agent just pick up any phone in Netherlands and ask for one (may actually be true %-> ). But to be fair to them, they are pretty much working with their big sister here in USA. They admitted to that in 2005 when they got in trouble for letting Khan go back to Pakistan with their nuke secrets back in 1976. Guess who they implicated back in USA… Yup!

  11. Ambassador Kennan suggested they leave it in place for misinformation but Joe Bezjian wanted to capture the technology as it was operating at a frequency that was normally out of range and the community wanted to see if the Soviets had something new. They did.
    Another item is that it was found in the Ambassador’s residence Spaso house – not the Embassy or Chancery. They are approximately 1/4-1.2 mile apart. The residence was staffed by Russian personnel who could have easy access to the device.

  12. OK from Ken Stanley, the former chief technology officer at the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service
    from 2006 to 2008, we finally get a REAL nitty-gritty details behind the THING and how it was really discovered. A Sean Nonaan captured Ken’s article “A Trojan Seal” in the April 2010 issue of Security Management before it got sanitized. He sent it to WIKILEAKS and here it is: http://tinyurl.com/jo8eeuo

      1. Predielis – Yup Joe Loritz is one of the best in the biz… He is the go to guy for stuff like this. That is his link. Here is the base web page http://www.qsl.net/n9zia/ and he has a Facebook page at the bottom there. I swear he was once one of those “geeks” I was making fun of up there somewhere, That would explain his detailed knowledge of the THING. I think he got discharged from the “company” due to his radical political beliefs… but I’m only guessing.

    1. It looks like [SOTB] wins the prize! According to the Russian article, the illuminator used pulsed power at 330 MHz. This was probably already rich in harmonics, and the illuminator could have had a relatively wide beam. Receiving on a harmonic (the 5th harmonic would be 1650 MHz), would allow the receiving antenna to have a much narrower beam, allowing it to be very directional without being overly large. But the critical thing is that the transmitter was pulsed. Each pulse would cause the cavity to “ring”, causing it to re-radiate (at an amplitude varying according to the detuning of the cavity by the position of the diaphragm) for a short period after the illuminating pulse ended. The receiver would be gated on only for a short time after the illuminating pulse ended, thus provding isolation from other reflections (i.e., anything NOT coming from a high-Q resonator).

      Great find, [EDViNS].

  13. Took me a while to find SPASO HOUSE on Google maps. It is 1.2 km (0.74 miles) SE from the US Embassy. Its a 16 minute walk. If you want to fly around Spaso House on Google Street View go here: http://tinyurl.com/zl679rd

    You will see that a VAN would be problematic on the front entrance as there is a guard post there. The side street to the south is a good candidate but there is a 10 foot yellow masonry wall there. That would effectively block any UHF RF signal. The rear end is surrounded by buildings. Actually it is surrounded by high to low rise buildings that would make good candidates for the THING illumination parabolic reflector aimed out a window through a fabric curtain. That would put them above that masonry wall.

    If you want a noce video tour of the interior go to YouTube and enter this url suffix: /watch?v=9xnOlQ0AY-g
    Turn down the volume if you don’t understand Russian.

    1. There’s also a lot of deciduous trees and evergreens. The evergreens don’t present a “leaf” challenge to the RF signal. But if you have a parabolic reflector you can avoid a lot of leaves. Also a DSP like filter (or LC tuned passive audio filters back then) could eliminate any low-frequency audio anomalies from the leaves. The pulsed nature could be used to desense the transmitter from the receiver. However, the Embassy Security director said that their listening posts initially picked up the UHF signal from the sides of the THING. So maybe a concurrent KGB receiver was set up in a van or another building off to the sides. The two KGB stations probably coordinated via walkie-talkies? There is a medium-rise building to the south that is a university or high school (GBOU srednyaya obshcheobrazovatelnaya shkola № 1231 im. V.D. Polenova). This would be a likely place for an electronic listening post for KGB agents spying on the ambassador.

    2. Here is a map of the SPASO HOUSE campus: http://tinyurl.com/j86eo3r

      All buildings mark with 10c(x) are SPASO HOUSE. The other numbers are adjacent buildings not necessarily associated to the US Embassy. That makes them all likely candidates for KGB listening posts. Do you think they are still there listening? Today they would be called FSB or GRU not KGB. Maybe they have invented something so amazing we will never find it again!

      “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” – Sophocles [in this case Russians]

    3. Yes, there IS a guard post at that side of the building. What was there in 1945? And even if there was a guard post there, there’s a nice little park with street parking all around. The Russians had no way of predicting where the Thing would have been placed, so I’m sure they had contingencies for monitoring it from all sides.

      One of the articles about it said something about it having been put in a storage room during Ambassador Harriman’s tenure, and left behind by him because it was too large to send home with his personal goods. Only then was it brought out and hung up in the next ambassador’s office. Probably, somebody on the staff was tasked with alerting someone if and when it ever got taken out of storage, but it’s also possible that for a couple of years they had some poor flunkie listening to the inside of a storage room.

      1. BrightBlueJim – You are right Jim. The park is right in front of the guard shack replete with park benches. And Russians do like spying from park benches as was evident by Mr. Gusen at our Dept of State in D.C. in 1999.However, it is indicated that for the illuminator to be effective one would not use an omnidirectional antenna nor a Yagi Uda. A parabolic dish would be an excellent focusing device. Parabolic dishes are hard to disguise by a person on foot. A mini van or adjacent building office or suite would be perfect. However there is no where to park in that park and parking in the visitor’s area or the only side street I could find on the south side would just get you a US Marine knocking on your window asking what your business was here.

        I thought of a perfect method to get that THING off the wall, reverse engineer it, then put it back for some disinformation campaign: The conversation in front of the THING might have gone something like this. All names are just made up by me: “Uh Miss Perkins can you please come in here? Yes sir Mr Ambassador what can I do for you? I’ve been thinking, when was the last time we totally cleaned my office, you know like take all the things off the wall and dust ans/or wipe down the walls and everything else? I don’t know sir probably never? OK Miss Perkins schedule the cleaning crew to do just that tomorrow morning. Yes sir.”

        Then the SEAL would be taken down, the RF signal would drop, It is taken down to the SCIF room in the basement and carefully pulled apart and photographed and tested, then returned to the ambassador’s office for more disinfo shenanigans for the Russians to listen to. They probably scheduled at least an hour of this craziness every day until they realized the Russians just lost interest when the illumination signals just stopped completely. All REAL meetings where held in the SCIF from then on to this day.

        SCIF is an area, room, or building, where sources and methods, including Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), is stored, used, processed, or discussed. Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities. They are not hard to make. The POTUS (President of the United States) has a portable one he brings with him on trips. All you need is all-metal chicken wire cage and entirely ground it to a cold water pipe. It’s called Faraday shielding. However, your cell phone, GPS, walkie-talkie, etc. will not work inside it.

        1. There’s a lot they could have done if the operator didn’t catch on that they’d been caught. First of all, remember that the beauty of The Thing was that it didn’t radiate at all unless being illuminated. Well… that also means that you can tell exactly when you’re being listened in on, by the presence of the illuminating signal. But this is all moot, since according to the report, once they took The Thing down from the wall and messed around with it a bit, the illumination went away and never came back.

        2. …”The POTUS (President of the United States) has a portable one he brings with him on trips. All you need is all-metal chicken wire cage and entirely ground it to a cold water pipe. It’s called Faraday shielding. However, your cell phone, GPS, walkie-talkie, etc. will not work inside it.”

          Visions of the Cone of Silence.

  14. OK after I said what would be the next THING like device someone might think up, I had this flash of an idea. OK it may have already been invented but here goes anyway. Ideally we at HaD have been talking about VLC stuff and it dates back to the 19th century with Alexander Graham Bell’s Photophone. What if you were to get the building contract to replace all the light-bulbs in the Russian Embassy or some where else? Then in the critical rooms you screwed in these light bulbs instead? They still give off proper illumination but they also flicker at high-speed in accordance to room audio. The flicker is hardly noticeable or not at all.

    You would not even need a direct window to view it with your telescope and photo-diode pair. You could catch the VLC signal from ambient reflections from an indirect window and even through curtains. The victim would have to turn the lamp off to defeat it but then he could not see the papers or people he is looking at. An examination of the room by bug sweepers reveals nothing. If you put a RF remote control in it you could really make it undetectable,

    If the flicker rate gets to be too noticeable then some sort of PCM configuration could be employed to make the VLC frequency too high to notice any flicker rate. Just an idea. Maybe HaD hackers can expand on it?

    1. You can’t really use incandescent bulbs for this — they have very poor frequency response because the light output is proportional to the filament temperature, and you can’t make the temperature change very quickly. Anything over 100 Hz gets pretty much lost.

      With LEDs, maybe, but I expect they don’t allow any electronic items into the building that haven’t been inspected, and with both LED and compact fluorescents, there’s enough circuitry in them, they would probably only use ones they’ve brought in via diplomatic pouch.

      Furthermore, since the inception of laser devices for eavesdropping (thanks again to Mr. Theremin), security sweeps probably now include optical as well as radio bands.

      Here’s two cents’ worth of off-the-top-of-my-head, though: if you want to protect against being eavesdropped using the laser-off-the-window trick, mount a piezoelectric element on every window, and feed them wideband noise. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to move the glass a significant fraction of a wavelength of infrared light. You probably couldn’t hear it unless you were right up next to the glass.

      And as long as we’re all brainstorming, keep in mind, the KGB got ideas for a lot of their stunts by watching James Bond movies…

      1. BrightBlueJim – “And as long as we’re all brainstorming, keep in mind, the KGB got ideas for a lot of their stunts by watching James Bond movies…”

        That is true about life imitating art. The boys and girls of Langley learned about rubber face masks from old episodes of Mission Impossible. That movie with Ben Affleck ARGO (2012) was actually about the guy (and his wife) who devised convincing rubber masks.- Tony Mendez. The actual ARGO idea was Tony’s idea as he had strong connections with Hollywood. Ben Affleck and his ex-wife Jennifer Garner are their (i.e. Langley) go to guys for Hollywood projects. She does most of their recruiting videos. Or she used to.

  15. I see an RF delay line, where part of the return path’s aperture is modulated by the vibration of the diaphragm.

    If the delay line is 1/4 wavelength RTT, then it is also a frequency doubler.

    The output is therefore AM-modulated at twice the illuminating signal’s frequency, and has a very bad SNR (but so did everything else back then).

    Tuning isn’t a big deal: At the illuminating end, one can just wind the frequency up and down slightly until the best return values are found, which is always trivial with analog gear.

    In other words, I don’t see a capacitive function at play here, as every instance of TFA seems to indicate should be the case. I see an RF path whose aperture is physically modulated by a vibrating diaphram, and a pair of cavities with one antenna (aka a delay).

    Unless varying the aperture causes frequency distortion as well, and then the output might also be detectable as FM (unlikely given then-current tech).

  16. News: CIA collaborated for decades with Dutch company to produce advanced listening devices

    From 1952 until the end of the Cold War, the CIA turns out to have worked closely with a small technology company from the Netherlands. The Dutch Radar Research Station (Nederlands Radar Proefstation), based in Noordwijk on the Dutch coast, clandestinely produced high-tech audio surveillance equipment for the Americans during this period. This previously unknown collaboration, called Operation Easy Chair, was prompted by one of the biggest surveillance scandals from the Cold War era: the discovery of the Thing — an ultra-sophisticated listening device — in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1952.

    Dutch online journalism platform The Correspondent has discovered that the CIA approached the Dutch company in 1952 and commissioned a copy of the Thing. Technology and Surveillance Maurits Martijn worked with internationally renowned intelligence expert Cees Wiebes for a year and a half to investigate this never-before-reported episode from the Cold War. They obtained access to files from the relevant U.S. and Dutch agencies and spoke with a number of those involved, including former spies.

    During the height of the Cold War, the CIA then used this Dutch equipment to bug the embassies of Communist countries. The Correspondent discovered at least two bugging operations in the 1960s, which targeted the Russian and the Chinese embassies in The Hague.

    And recent revelations by Edward Snowden show this technology is still being used by U.S. intelligence agencies. “The equipment in the Snowden documents are virtually direct descendants of the methods developed by the Soviets and the Dutch Radar Research Station,” says eavesdropping expert Peter Koop (of the blog electrospaces.net).

    Today, The Correspondent published the English translation of this story, Operation Easy Chair, or how a little company in Holland helped the CIA bug the Russians. The disclosure was big news in the Netherlands, with considerable coverage in the national news media when it was published in September.

    Note for the editor
    Read the full story here:
    https://decorrespondent.nl/3789/Operation-Easy-Chair-or-how-a-little-company-in-Holland-helped-the-CIA-bug-the-Russians/116534484-2a3d7f11
    For more information, contact journalist Maurits Martijn:
    maurits@decorrespondent.nl

    1. Good posting but we covered it already back around December 9th 2015. Just press on your keyboard [Home] then [Ctrl] [F] then type to Noordwijk… The British MI6 got the thing (or photos) shortly after the incident and they reverse-engineered it. I would venture a guess they did it at their Vauxhall Cross or outsourced it to Netherlands.

  17. Initial versions used a planted resonant cavity, then the Russians learned that with enough RF power they could get audio modulation from common office equipment (i.e. metal cabinets) . This is why they were illuminating embassies with high-power CW. Many thought it was for “mind control.” LOL!

    Modern versions can detect the micro-vibrations directly off the target’s larynx. Using a mm-wave version fitting in the palm of you hand you can “listen” to two targets talking out in a field – while they stand next to a running lawn mower… You can also “listen” to a target in a vehicle in front of you while trailing them. Track down “A Ka-Band Low-Power Doppler Radar System for Remote Detection of Cardiopulmonary Motion” for more info.

    State-of-the art systems are completely passive and can detect the mm-wave radiation (+95 GHz) emitted by the human body. You use a diode detector and standard amplifiers. Just like the airport scanners, but audio demodulation instead of pictures. Sit outside the target’s house and “listen” to any noise generated by a human body…

    1. Actually it’s a lot older than you think. They have been bouncing microwave and ultrasonics off of the metal foil tape on windows used for burglar alarms. However, people don’t seem to be using the window tape any more. It does work. But I don’t think metal cabinets are audio resonate enough for this sort of bug. The larynx thing is quite real however I don’t like your proposed frequency of operation as it is used by the US military ADS system. It tends to cause a burning effect on the upper epidermal layers. Furthermore, you can bounce off of the mastoid bone or teeth to hear people talking. There is an amazing new system that NASA is planning on using for astronauts that detects the micro-muscle movements of your tongue and throat muscles and can detect what your going to say before you actually say it. However, it has to be mounted on your throat: Subvocal Speech – https://youtu.be/spFIBtTVtAA

        1. BrightBlueJim – No your safe. Subvocal Speech system can only speak what you where GOING to say anyway. You are actually saying it without actually moving anything in your mouth or throat. It’s like a super-quiet whisper only your dog would hear. I didn’t like the cell phone demo as the time delay was way too long. Remember that movie where Clinton Eastwood stole that Soviet top-secret jet fighter/bomber that used mind control to handle weapons fire-control? But you had to think in Russian though.

          What “u_know_who” was quoting was a typo by Mr. DS&T (at GBBR(dot)org) “It is even possible to directly illuminate the larynx of the target person you are trying to listen to. The raw audio output sounds very muddy (and rectified), and you will also hear some human “internal noise,” but the [convenience] of remote stand-off operations more than makes up for any disadvantages… You’ll also like to know that state-of-the-art devices of this type can receive the “modulated” 95 GHz radiation your body naturally emits. That means their operation is completely passive, no transmitters to detect!”

          Mr. DS&T (n9zia Joe L) knows what he is talking about due to who he used to work for before his B.N. But I think Joe meant 24 GHz not 95 GHz the ADS crowd control frequency. But I don’t think 24 is correct as the human NATURAL frequency is in the THz region not GHz. But he could be right as he is “go to the man”.Like Q (007) only more radical/subversive.:)

    2. You had me going with the radar-to-the-larynx thing for a while. All you would get this way is the vowels. Plosives and sibilants are made by the tongue, lips, and teeth, and would not be detected.

      But you’re way off in woo-woo land with the self-emitted 95 GHz signals. And no, that’s not how airport scanners work. Those use X-ray backscatter, which is essentially radar with X-rays, which are very much not passive.

        1. Good ol’ Bobby Baer… I really enjoyed his movie he consulted on – Syriana (2005). ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365737/http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365737/ ) – LOOSELY based on true events Bobby was part of. He doesn’t really die in the end (LOL)

          Yeah he would know all types of trade-craft on listening devices. Mr. DS&T up there has a great write up on shotgun mics. You can view it at his little private hole in the wall at tinyurl(dot)com/hyjwpvw They are much better than parabolic mics. Very directional and no (or very little) side-lobe detection.And you can tune them for voice bandwidth with several tube lengths. Easier to disguise too. Parabolic mics can be disguised in a large burlap bag but a SG mic can be hidden in a contractor truck’s PVC storage tube or an umbrella – or be imaginative as you want.

          I haven’t read Bobby’s book yet. I’m just trying to slough through Col Fletcher Prouty’s book – ugh I hate reading books with little to no pictures.

        2. One thing at a time:

          In the IEEE paper by Lin, Chang, Chang, and Lin, what is described is an alternative to acoustic microphones for picking up the vowels in human speech at close distance in a high-noise environment. Figure 12 clearly shows that many of the speech components – particularly higher frequencies associated with sibilants – are missing, and the article even points out that the system misses modulations made by the vocal tract, tongue, lips, and jaw, which is pretty much what I said. Furthermore, figure 10 shows the experimental setup, which has the subject holding the antenna either in contact with or very close to the larynx. Since this was done at 925 MHz, it would take a very large aperture antenna to be able to focus in on a person’s larynx at any appreciable distance. This is due to the Rayleigh criterion and is a fundamental characteristic of electromagnetic waves, not open for negotiation. The conclusion states that in comparison with acoustic microphones, this system is very good for determining the PITCH of speech. It makes no claims about the intelligibility of the signal.

          The second IEEE article appears to be concerned with cardiopulmonary detection using radar. I’m not sure what your point in including this article is, since nobody here was talking about picking up heartbeats and breathing patterns.

          The Wikipedia article mentions both X-ray backscatter and millimeter-wave radars, so you’ve got me there, BUT, aside from the fact that it mentions that there is such a thing as passive millimeter-wave radar, it does not elaborate on this – the rest of the article is concerned with active radar. Of the three footnotes indicated at the end of the only sentence in the article that mentions passive millimeter-wave, the first is a presentation by a company that is attempting to get acceptence by the TSA for their passive system for detecting currency and explosives hidden on the body under the clothes. Attempting. The system has not been shown to be effective. The second reference is dead – the page it goes to is not relevant. The third reference is to an abstract of a paper also about detecting objects hidden under clothes. I don’t see mention in any of these of being able to detect voices, or to detect ANYTHING at a distance.

          I think your claims are stretching things FAR beyond the state of the art. Detecting the pitch of speech with a palm-sized antenna held less than an inch from the larynx is a far cry from “Using a mm-wave version fitting in the palm of you hand you can “listen” to two targets talking out in a field – while they stand next to a running lawn mower…”

          Your claims fall into the same class as those of TV and movie screenwriters who depict zooming in on security camera images by insane amounts to identify people, license numbers, and so on. It just doesn’t work that way in the real world.

          1. How about when Hollywood pans zoom tilts a stationary gas stations CCTV or sconvenience store? I love when they claim they have access to atm.bank.and store CCTV cams. No not that simple. It involves a lot of phone calling and foot work if they aren’t demanding warrants. And the resolution sucks on traffic cams and resolution can not be improved all that much. Maybe some depixilating.

      1. Mr. DS&T has a really cool method of irradiating a modern telephone (with electronic amplifier) or any audio device remotely using a 10.5 GHz gunnplexer (automobile radar gun) and a demodulating stage added to the radar receiver. Just so happens HOT WHEELS (toy company) made one of those that actually works on real cars too. You can find them at thrift stores for next to nothing. You can use it to listen to a company’s older PBX system or modern cordless phones and all cell phones at a distant. However, it’s very narrow beam-width so you have to know where your target is and be close to it. He shows how to increase RF power too. He uses a real radar gun not a toy one though. You can tell when someone is using it on you by leaving a cheap car radar detector running in your house. Same thing with laser mics just aim a IR camera (Sony HandyCam) at your windows.

        The FBI had an old bulletin from the 1950’s warning it’s offices of an old ultrasonic exploit used against AT&T 500 sets (standard POTS still used today). Apparently you can irradiate these phones from a distance at 100 KHz and if you are close enough you can detect the reflection off of the carbon mic or something. They were aware of it as far back as 1940’s but no one thought it was a critical problem. Apparently you can still do this against people who refuse to upgrade their POTS.

        Also baby monitors running at 49 MHz or even the latest ones at WalMart should be pulled out immediately. They also broadcast your voices from the kitchen, living room, etc. Most old one are analog and not encrypted. The latest ones are digital, encrypted, and spread spectrum. They are more secure but not against somebody determined like Mr. DS&T. He’s a private contractor now. How else can he pay his bills? Or buy surplus gadgets at Ham Fests and thrift stores? Just sayin’

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