PMC2 - Numbers Station
The Art of Espionage
The word "espionage" comes from the French word, "espionner," which means "to spy," The word "spy" stems from various older words meaning "to look at or watch," such as the Latin "specere" or the Anglo-Norman "espier." Success to espionage is, technically, a game of hide and seek.
When secret information is passed from a spy to its intended recipient, it must be hidden so that the enemy doesn't suspect anything. This could ruin the spy's cover, or lead the enemy to deliberately supply misinformation. A great deal of espionage revolves around secret codes. Until the early 20th century, spies resorted to invisible inks to hide messages between the lines or on the back of non-suspicious correspondence. Sugar solutions or lemon juice are invisible until heated. Other chemicals don't appear until the paper is painted with a specific reagent.
One time-tested method for relaying information is a dead drop. Many times the receiver of the message would never even meet the man who stole the sensitive documents. The spy would use an agreed upon predetermined destination often referred to as a “dead drop”. A dead drop is a secret hiding place somewhere in public (sound familiar?). It could be behind a loose brick in a wall at the city park, or in a water tight container hidden under a wood pile off a beaten forest path. When a spy has a message to send, he goes about his daily business, perhaps picking up some dry cleaning or walking his dog on a regular schedule. Deviating from his usual routine while in the public eye would surely arouse suspicion. He passes by the dead drop and deposits the message casually. The spy then has to leave a signal to let the intended receiver know there is a message to be retrieved. A yellow smiley face on a beam 30 feet above the river, or even a cryptic message on a public website are just a couple of examples. Only the intended receiver knew the correct signs to watch for.
Spy controllers can use one-way communication to issue instructions to spies. The mysterious Numbers Stations in operation around the world are used for this purpose. A Numbers Station is a government operated radio station broadcasting intermittently on the short-band frequencies. A certain song or announcement will mark the beginning and end of each broadcast, which consists solely of a voice, possibly altered electronically, reciting a long series of numbers. Numbers are used as they are the international language. Every language known to man has some form of number system. These numbers are coded messages which requires deciphering by the intended recipient. These number strings are usually decoded using a virtually unbreakable cipher known as a one-time pad.
The acquisition and transmission of secret information is meaningless if the information isn't properly analyzed and acted upon. Many spy missions have the sole purpose of obtaining a device used to encode and, in this case decode a message. Sometimes the device can be very hard to come across such as a working Enigma machine. Other times the device can be a common household object. Decrypting the data is only the first step to data analysis. Proper data analysis will fully develop an overall picture of strategies. Spies spend as much time feeding false information to their enemies as they do gathering information. This allows plenty of room for miscalculations. History is blunder-riddled with acting upon such offal. Proper data analysis is pertinent in determining distinction between valuable and invaluable correspondence. For these reasons a crypto-linguists work must be very detailed, well organized, and carefully worded.
Holman was a spy for an Eastern Bloc country. Which country exactly remains classified to this day. Holman was good at what he did. He knew how to execute a plan successfully on every level. Thinking ahead was how he always kept his edge. He was very knowledgeable. The things he didn’t know he learned and always retained that knowledge. As a result of years of hard work, practice, and a little trial and error, he could easily tell the good correspondence from the bad. He never let himself become confused between his spy operations and his public cover. He made an art out of intertwining these two sides together.
Circa mid-1960’s the US was about to participate in a major foreign conference. The F.B.I. had intercepted international correspondence from a Numbers Station using a short-wave radio. They felt this was valuable information that needed decoding prior to the upcoming peace conference. The F.B.I. had been aware of Holman’s decoding abilities and started working with Holman’s wife trying to get him to defect. Holman would agree to defect only after he had assurance that his children, who were to remain in his homeland, were to be kept safe.
The F.B.I. succeeded in convincing Holman to abscond. Holman the intelligence operative becomes Holman the defector. To keep Holman protected from the country he abandoned, a bombing was staged at a nightclub leaving behind a badly burned body believed to be Holmans. The head of the Bureau tried to convince Holman’s homeland that he was dead.
This is where you come in. Due to Holman’s absconding, you are now needed to locate and interpret the correspondence for us. Holman hid a copy of it prior to leaving for the US of A. Only Holman knows where it is and how to decode. It is your mission to retrieve the secret document and solve it's mysteries. In the interest of our security you must discover how to go about this task on your own. Do not try to contact Holman. The F.B.I. has him in protective custody. Once the message is properly decoded you can proceed to the dead drop locale it provides you. Find what was left for you there and do not misplace it as you will need this newly acquired correspondence on a future secret mission, specifically Dossier #XXX2 . In addition you will need to sign the enclosed log by your handle and date to prove you were there.
Penalty for Failure
Capture is not an option so avoid your government’s agents. I believe such Bureau agents in your country are commonly referred to as “muggles”. Finally and most importantly: turning double agent by means of sharing any of your acquired information, sharing Holman’s secret location that holds his Numbers Station transmittal, disclosing decoding device or procedures to others, or sharing the dead drop locale with anyone is punishable by death. This is the standard penalty for such treasonous acts..
A job well done is certainly its own reward. Completion of this mission is imperative. This mission is only one small component to a greater contrivance, a device of many intricately detailed working parts. To achieve the desired outcome of this mission is prodigious. Therefore to the one who earns the distinguished FTF will be rewarded with, in addition to bragging rights, a one-year subscription to geochaching.com premium membership. If you already have ownership of this privilege, an additional year will be added to your current subscription. Teams that find this cache together will need to collectively agree on who’s caching handle will receive this reward.