"How The Soviets Are Bugging America"

                 By Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

                From Popular Mechanics, April 1987

      Soviet agents may be listening to your personal telephone 
  conversations.  If you're involved in the government,  in the 
  defense  industry or in sensitive scientific activity,  there 
  is a good chance they are.  

      In  fact,   a  recent  unclassified  Senate  Intelligence 
  Committee  report  on counterintelligence indicates more than 
  half of all telephone calls in the United  States  made  over 
  any  distance are vulnerable to interception.  Every American 
  has a right to know this.  

      You should also know that the Reagan  administration  has 
  recognized this threat for a long time now,  but so far,  the 
  bureaucratic  response  has  been  piecemeal,  and  at  times 

      Consider  this as background:  In 1975,  when I was named 
  permanent U.S.  representative to the  United  Nations,  Vice 
  President Nelson Rockefeller summoned me to his office in the 
  Old Executive Office Building.  There was something urgent he 
  had to tell me.  The first thing I must know about the United 
  Nations,  he said,  is that the Soviets would be listening to 
  every call I made from our mission and from the  ambassador's 
  suite  in  the  Waldorf  Towers.  I  thought this a very deep 
  secret,  and treated it as such.  Only later did I learn that 
  Rockefeller had publicly reported this intelligence breach to 
  the  president  in June 1975.  The Rockefeller "Report to the 
  President on CIA Activities Within the United States" notes: 

      "We believe these countries (communist bloc) can  monitor 
  and  record  thousands  of  private  telephone conversations.  
  Americans have the  right  to  be  uneasy  if  not  seriously 
  disturbed  at  the  real  possibility that their personal and 
  business activities,  which  they  discuss  freely  over  the 
  telephone,  could  be  recorded  and  analyzed  by  agents of 
  foreign powers." 

      The  Soviets  conduct  this  eavesdropping   from   their 
  "diplomatic"  facilities  in New York City;  Glen Cove,  Long 
  Island;  San Francisco;  and Washington.  By some  estimates, 
  they  have  been doing so since 1958.  President Reagan knows 
  this well.  He sat on the Rockefeller Commission  and  signed 
  its  final  report  concluding  that  such  covert activities 

      If we had any doubts  about  this  eavesdropping  effort, 
  Arkady  Schevchenko  dispelled them when he came over in 1975 
  and subsequently  defected  in  1978.  As  you  will  recall, 
  Schevchenko  was,  at the time,  the second-ranking Soviet at 
  the  United  Nations  and  an  up-and-comer  in  the   Soviet 
  hierarchy.  He  describes the listening operation in New York 
  City in his book "Breaking With  Moscow":  "The  rooftops  at 
  Glen  Cove,  the  apartment  building  in Riverdale,  and the 
  Mission are bristled with antennas for listening to  American 

      But  we have to worry about more than just parabolic dish 
  antennas tucked behind the curtains in the Soviet "apartment" 
  building in Riverdale, New York.  

      There are also those Russian trawlers that travel up  and 
  down  our  coast.  They  are  fishing,  but fishing for what?  
  Communications.   And  now  the  Soviets  have  taken   their 
  eavesdropping  a  step further and have built two new classes 
  of AGI,  or Auxiliary Gathering Intelligence,  vessels.  From 
  the  hull  up,  these  new  vessels are floating antennas,  I 

      Most dangerous of all,  perhaps,  is the Soviet listening 
  complex  in  Lourdes,  Cuba,  just  outside  of Havana.  This 
  facility  is  the  largest  such  Soviet  listening  facility 
  outside  its national territory.  According to the president, 
  it "has grown by more than 60 percent in size and  capability 
  during the past decade." 

      Lourdes allows instant communications with Moscow, and is 
  manned by 2100 Soviet technicians. 2100!  

      By comparison,  our Department of State numbers some 4400 
  Foreign Service Officers - total.  

      Again,  to cite the recent Senate Intelligence  Committee 
  report:  "The  massive  Soviet surveillance efforts from Cuba 
  and elsewhere demonstrate ...  that the  Soviet  intelligence 
  payoff  from  the interception of unsecured communications is 
  immense."  Intelligence  specialists   are   not   prone   to 
  exaggeration,  they  do  not  last long that way.  You can be 
  assured that "massive" and "immense" are not subtle words  as 
  used in this context.  

      There are, however, two things you should know.  

      First,  our  most  secret  government  messages  are  now 
  protected  from  interception  or  are  scrambled,   and  all 
  classified  message  and  data communications are secure.  In 
  addition,    protected   communications   zones   are   being 
  established  in  Washington,  San  Francisco  and New York by 
  rerouting  most  government  circuits   and   by   encrypting 
  microwave links which continue to be vulnerable to intercept.  
  But   there   are  still  communications  links  which  carry 
  unclassified,  but sensitive,  information that  we  need  to 

      Second,  it  is  a  truism in the intelligence field that 
  while bits of information may be unclassified,  in  aggregate 
  they can present a classified whole.  The Senate Intelligence 
  Committee  informs  us,  "Due  to  inherent  human  weakness, 
  government  and  contractor   officials,   at   all   levels, 
  inevitable fail to follow strict security rules ...  Security 
  briefings  and  penalties were simply not adequate to prevent 
  discussion of classified information on open lines."  If  the 
  Soviets  CAN  piece  it  together,  you must assume they WILL 
  given the resources they invest toward this effort.  

      But the intelligence community needs no reminder that  we 
  are up against a determined and crafty opponent. In 1983, for 
  example,  a  delegation  of Soviet scientists were invited to 
  tour a Grumman plant on Long Island.  No cameras.  No  notes.  
  All  secure,  right?   Wrong.  The  delegation  had  attached 
  adhesive tape to the soles of their  shoes  to  gather  metal 
  fragments from the plant floor for further study at home. The 
  Soviets  are pretty good at metallurgy - probably the best in 
  the world - and we don't need to help them any further.  

      But concern  is  not  always  translated  into  budgetary 
  action, at least not in the realm of communications security.  
  Let us take a look at the technical problem confronting us.  

      As  you  know,  there  are  two  basic  ways voice can be 
  transmitted over telephone media: digital and analog.  Analog 
  refers to voice waves which are modulated (amplified) up to a 
  very high frequency (HF).  That is,  they  are  increased  in 
  speed  from  hundreds  of  cycles  per second to thousands of 
  cycles  per  second.  This  facilitates  their  passage  over 

      Nevertheless, because analog radio waves diminish rapidly 
  over  distance,  it's  necessary to periodically amplify,  or 
  boost,  the signal either at a microwave relay tower repeater 
  or   satellite  transponder.   (Actually,   the  signals  are 
  diminished in frequency to voice  quality  and  then  brought 
  back up to high frequency.) 

      Digital transmissions are voice or data vibration signals 
  which are converted into a series of on-and-off pulses, zeros 
  and  ones,  as  in  a computer.  Like analog telephone calls, 
  digital  calls  go  through  a  process  of  modulation   and 

      For  the  purposes  of  this  discussion,  we  need  only 
  remember two things about analog and digital telephony.  

      First, analog telephony is fast being replaced by digital 
  telephony because it  better  translates  computer  language.  
  But,  more  importantly,  after a high initial overhaul cost, 
  it's possible to send thousands of  digital  calls  (bundles) 
  over  a single conduit.  Therefore,  as we expand our digital 
  capacity,  we must ensure that both our  analog  and  digital 
  communications are protected from Soviet eavesdropping.  

      Second, sending bundles over a single conduit is the base 
  block  at  which  we  introduce  the  encryption I am talking 

      When you place a long-distance telephone call from  point 
  A  to  point  B,  there  are  three communications paths,  or 
  circuits,  over which  your  call  might  travel:  microwave, 
  satellite or cable.  

      Cable  is  the  most  secure.  However,  it  is the least 
  practical and economical method for  bulk  transmission  over 
  long distances.  As a result, 90 percent of our long-distance 
  telephone traffic is sent by microwave or satellite, and that 
  which is in the air can be readily intercepted.  

      As  your signal travels along the cable from your home to 
  the local switching  station  and  then  on  to  a  long-haul 
  switching station,  it is combined (stacked and bundled might 
  better describe the process)  with  as  many  as  1200  other 
  signals trying to get to the same region of the country.  

      This  system  of  stacking and bundling signals is called 
  multiplexing and it's  how  the  telecommunications  industry 
  gets  around  the problem of 7 million New Yorkers all trying 
  to call their senator at the same time  on  the  same  copper 
  wire or radio frequency.  

      If  you  use a common carrier,  that is,  if you have not 
  rented a dedicated channel from a telecommunications company, 
  a computer at the long-haul switching station will select the 
  first available route to establish a circuit over which  your 
  call signals may travel.  

      Therefore,  calls  that the caller believes to be on less 
  vulnerable circuits may be  automatically  switched  to  more 
  vulnerable ones. All this takes place in 1 to 3 seconds.  

      So  let's follow your call as it goes by either microwave 
  or satellite.  

      If your call goes  via  microwave,  it  will  be  relayed 
  across the country as a radio wave in about 25-mile intervals 
  from  tower  to tower (watch for the towers the next time you 
  drive on an interstate route) until it eventually  reaches  a 
  distant switching station where it is unlinked from the other 
  signals,  passed  over cable to your friend's telephone,  and 
  converted back into voice.  

      The problem with this system: Along these microwave paths 
  there is what we  call  "spill".  This  measures  about  12.5 
  meters in width and the full 25 miles between towers. This is 
  where  the  microwave  signal is most at risk.  Using a well-
  aimed parabolic dish antenna (located, let's say,  on the top 
  of  Mount  Alto,  one of the highest hills in the District of 
  Columbia,  and the site of the new Soviet  embassy)  you  can 
  intercept  this signal and pull it in.  And that is just what 
  the Soviets are doing.  

      My solution: Throw the bastards out if they are listening 
  to our microwave signals.  Nothing  technical  about  it.  On 
  three  occasions  I have introduced legislation requiring the 
  president to do just that,  unless  in  doing  so,  he  might 
  compromise  an  intelligence source.  On June 7,  1985,  this 
  measure was adopted by the Senate as Title VII to the Foreign 
  Relations  Authorization  Bill,   but  it  was   dropped   in 
  conference with the House of Representatives at the urging of 
  the administration.  

      Nevertheless,  I  think  the  administration accepted the 
  simple logic behind the proposal when at the end of  October, 
  55  Soviet  diplomats  were  ordered  to  leave  the country, 
  including,  The New York  Times  tells  us,  "operatives  for 
  intercepting communications." Now,  let's not let the Soviets 
  just replace one agent with another.  

      The process is much the same for  a  satellite  telephone 
  call.  Today, approximately eight telecommunications carriers 
  offer  satellite  service using something like 25 satellites.  
  Let's  suppose  your  signal  has  traveled  to  a  long-haul 
  switching  station  and  all microwave paths are filled.  The 
  carrier's computer searches for an alternative path  to  send 
  the  signal  and  picks  out  a satellite connection.  At the 
  ground station,  your call is sent by a transponder up  to  a 
  satellite and then down again to a distant ground station.  

      Using  an  array  of  satellite  dishes  at Lourdes,  the 
  Soviets can seize these  signals  from  the  sky  just  as  a 
  backyard   satellite   dish   can  pull  in  television  (and 
  telephone) signals.  High speed computers then  sort  through 
  the  calls  and  identify  topics  and  numbers of particular 
  interest.  And if  the  information  provided  is  real  time 
  intelligence,  the  Soviets  have  the ability to transmit it 
  instantaneously to Moscow.  And yes,  the  Soviets  have  the 
  range at Lourdes to grasp our satellite transmissions as they 
  travel from New York to Los Angeles or Washington to Omaha.  

      Here,  too,  there  is  a  solution:  Develop and procure 
  cryptographic hardware for use at  the  common-carrier  long-
  haul  switching  stations.  This  hardware  will  encrypt the 
  multiplexed telephone signals (that  is,  approximately  1200 
  calls  at  a time) before they are transmitted as radio waves 
  from ground station to ground station,  a technique analogous 
  to  the cable networks scrambling their signals.  This can be 
  done for under $1 billion.  If we start  by  encrypting  just 
  those unclassified signals we categorize as sensitive,  those 
  having greatest impact on the  national  defense  or  foreign 
  relations of the U.S. government, it would cost us about half 
  as much. It would cost us so much more not to do so.  

      Communications security has no constituency.  There is no 
  tangible product and the public can never really be sure that 
  we  have  done  anything.   But  National  Security  Decision 
  Directive 145 says it is a national policy and  the  national 
  responsibility  to  offer assistance to the private sector in 
  protecting communications.  It's time to make  communications 
  security  (ComSec  in  the  lingo)  a  true national security 
  priority supported with resources as well as  rhetoric.  This 
  was   certainly   the   conclusion   of   the   comprehensive 
  Intelligence Committee report.  

      I agree,  and have suggested a way to get on with it.  If 
  someone  has  a  better  idea  - if you have another idea - I 
  would be happy to know it.  The important thing  is  that  we 
  stop  this  massive leak of sensitive information and protect 
  your privacy.