Tradecraft Meets Twitter?

I might have discovered the Number Stations of the 21st Century.

You know about Number Stations: Those weird, random and unexplained short-wave radio broadcasts of un-credited music followed by unidentified voices chanting off numbers. I’ve read reports that they date back to World War II. Many people assume Number Stations are a perfectly obscure way to send intelligence around the world without risking agents and couriers being caught making contact.

Now, I think, Twitter could be used the same way.

I titled my new book ICE COLD KILL and I use a service to troll Twitter every day looking for that title. Turns out, I didn’t do a great job of it, and the service looks for the three words (Ice, Cold, and Kill) randomly.

So almost every single day, I get from two to a dozen Tweets with those words. Here’s the take from one day this week:

• Would literally kill for a jug of ice cold fanta.

• I could kill for an ice cold fosters right now!

• Would kill for an ice cold kopperberg or a cocktail right now

• would kill for a glass of ice cold Iron Brew!

• Would kill for a ice cold bulmurs now

• I’d kill for an ice cold mixed fruit kopparberg right about now

• I’d kill for some ice cold fresh watermelon right now

• could kill for an ice cold cocktail

That’s from one day.

OK, so maybe a dozen people do use the same clichéd line (“…would kill for … ice cold …”) each and every day. I’ll buy that. But wouldn’t that be the perfect way to hide intelligence communications in plain sight?

Say you had an asset on the ground in, oh, Cairo. And let’s say you needed your asset to ignore, follow, beat, or kill someone. You establish a dozen Twitter accounts and toss out a meaningless cliché like, “Wouldn’t turn down a refreshing (fill in the blank) today!”

For “blank,” substitute:

Ingore = Ice Cream

Follow = Fruit Punch

Beat = Brew

Kill = Kegger

And, voila: A Number Station for the digital age.

About danahaynes

Dana Haynes is the author of ICE COLD KILL (2013), BREAKING POINT (2011) and CRASHERS (2010) from Minotaur and St. Martin's Press.

Posted on June 5, 2013, in Blog and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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