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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Old stuff still works....

When I joined the intelligence racket back in 1988, computer networks were just coming on line and we still worked on maps, reference books and a lot of other hard copy. Beginning the in the 1990s, computers and this new thing called the Internet (I think the ALGORE invented it), and we started the online revolution if you will.

Now there is some pushback. I've complained that many rookie officers can't handle a map, even the veterans. Most of use old dudes (Damned I can't believe I'm calling myself that!) learned on a 1/50k map (if you don't know, Google it) and I will not allow them to use an iPhone or other system because the need to know how to handle themselves when the technology goes down. The Navy recently began to teach navigation by the stars to their officer candidates to insure they can navigate when technology fails. In a recent book I've read, Ghost Fleet, one of the themes is the overuse of computers.

Well, it's not like they had overdue of computers before, but the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is bring back some old technology.
Intelligence: Oldies From The 20th Century

August 14, 2016: On July 15 North Korea activated, for the first time since 2000, a “numbers station.” This is a special radio station that uses a specific shortwave radio frequency that periodically (on pre-arranged dates and times) broadcasts sequences of numbers. These broadcasts often last a few minutes then that channel goes silent.

Numbers stations were a popular 20th century technique for sending secret messages to agents in foreign nations or combat zones. It began during World War I, with Morse code used instead of a spoken voice. Given the frequency used and the strength of the signal the audience for these new North Korean messages was in South Korea, China or Japan. Analysis of the audio indicated that the North Koreans were using Cold War era Russian (Soviet) broadcast equipment. Apparently this gear was put in storage in 2000 and revived for the new broadcasts.

Since the Cold War ended few nations still use numbers stations, most notably Cuba, China, Taiwan, Israel and, until 2000, North Korea. For nations with international Internet access (and this does not include North Korea) there are more effective Internet based methods for sending secret messages. North Korea is known to have used these Internet based method so it is a mystery as to why they have revived their numbers station broadcasts. Then again it could just be another ploy to frighten their enemies (which is just about everyone, especially South Korea, the United States and Japan.) These three nations do not appear alarmed by the broadcasts, but that could be said for most North Korean threats.

When I was a second lieutenant in Korea, back in 1988, one of the best lessons I learned was the answer to the question, "Where are we?" I was in the armored vehicle and couldn't see anything. A captain responded, "You got a map, tell me!" And I went out, looked at the map, looked at the terrain features and in fifteen minutes was able locate our new position. A good reason learned for a very green officer.

Good to know the basics.

Thanks to Darren at RotLC for the link.

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