The War On Privacy Hits You In The Pocket Book!


Why does the FBI and other select government agencies pay over $4,000 for a 
pocket tape recorder? One of the most important elements in an electronic 
surveillance operation is the tape recorder. Whether hidden in one's pocket 
or recording information from a wiretap or bug, the tape recorder can be the 
key to success or failure.

The FBI had a need for a specialized recorder, so they contracted with the 
U.S. subsidiary of a Swiss company, Nagra Magnetics, Inc. to design a 
recorder that met their needs. The result being the Nagra JBR subminiature 
recorder and PS-1 playback system.

When asked whether the unit was named after Jim B. Reames, an FBI employee 
who helped design the recorder, a Nagra spokeswomen refused to say, but 
pointed out that the initials were in fact the same.

The design and manufacture of the recorder has been so secret and important 
to the FBI (and two other unnamed government agencies who are supposedly the 
sole users of the recorder) that any public availability of information on 
the recorder would ``make the machine extinct,'' according to an employee of 
Narga who refused to provide any details on the recorder in a telephone 

It is also interesting to note that in the literature obtained by Full 
Disclosure from the NATIA show, several of the companies made mention of 
Narga tape recorders, but not the JBR model.

A freelance reporter who contacted Nagra in August, 1990, was informed that 
someone from the Justice Department had just visited to express the 
government's desire to keep the public ignorant about the JBR recorder.

Full Disclosure contacted Nagra on September 24, 1990 and was informed that 
they received a letter from the Government ``last week'' informing them that 
they couldn't give out any information on the JBR recorder. Nagra refused to 
disclose what agency sent the letter.

The company spokeswomen, also stated that they are not allowed to advertise 
the unit anywhere, and if they did they would ``lose all government 
contracts.'' She further stated that they wanted to advertise it in 
Law and Order and could not.

Marketing is done by word of mouth and narcotics trade shows, she said. This 
seemed a little contrary to the first spokesman who said that there were only 
three customers for the JBR recorder.

Full Disclosure's investigative reporting team, was able to obtain complete 
specifications on both the recorder and playback unit.

Because of the secrecy around the recorder and its specifications, the unit 
is sole-sourced from Nagra. Inevitability when a product is available from a 
single source, there is no price competition.

The following public disclosure of the JBR specifications should serve two 

1) to open a competitive market for this type of recorder, and

2) to give the American public more information on the tools the government 
uses to spy upon. Thereby increasing the public's ability to participate in 
political process as it relates to oversight and domestic use of spy 


``The recorder is stereophonic, with two totally independent channels. A 
third central track records a reference signal of 5,461 Hz. This signal is 
used later on in the playback system as a reference, in order to correct for 
speed variations.

``The recording speed is 15/16 ips. This speed is stabilized by an optical 
encoder system. In order to save energy and to reduce radiation as much as 
possible, no erasing head is provided. For basically the same reasons, and to 
ensure that the tapes remain genuine, there is also no playback facility 
provided on the recorder.

``Special Kudelski cassettes are used to provide two hours non stop recording 
autonomy. A set of three ``N'' size batteries are used allowing ten hours of 

``Even though the detectablility is minimal, the bias frequency is of 32KHz 
and has thus the same radiation as a quartz watch. The recorder weight is 
less than 200 grams, includes its cassette and batteries, and is really 
pocket size with cover: 110.2 x 62.6 x 20.8 mm (4.34: x 2.46" x 0.82"). 
Miniature microphone and remote controls are available with different length 

So-called tape recorder detectors normally detect the presence of the ``bias 
oscillator'' in tape recorders. By using a non-standard and one that is also 
commonly used by other common devices makes detection by such a means more 

@SUBHEAD = JBR Specifications:

SIZE (L x W x H): 110.2 x 62.6 x 20.8mm, with cover: 4.34" x 2.46" x 0.82"

with cover & plugs: 110.2 x 64.3 x 20.8mm / 4.34" x 2.53" x 0.82"

Weight: Recorder with cover: 143 g, Cassette with 2 hr tape: 22 g, Batteries, 
3 pcs: 29 g, Microphones including 4' cable, 2 pcs: 30 g, Remote control, 3' 
cable:18 g. Total weight: 242 g.

Environment: Operating position: Any, Temperature: 0 C to 40 C (32 F to 
104F). Humidity: 20% to 95% non-condensing.

Power Supply: Supply voltage: 2.7 to 5V DC, nominal 4.5 V. ``Batt OK'' 
indicator threshold: 3.4V. Battery standard type: ASA ''N'', ANSI ``L20'', 
IEC ``LR1''. Current consumption - start of tape: 40mA typical, - end of 
tape: 50ma typical.

TAPE: Tape transport: without capstan, constant speed. Tape type: chromium 
dioxide in special JBR cassette. Tape width: 3.81 mm (0.150"). Tape Thickness 
(total): 9u (0.35mil) 120 min. 12u (0.48mil) 90 min. Max recording time: 2 
hours. Audio tracks: 1.20mm x 2. Control tract (center): 0.40 mm. Track 
spacing: 0.50 mm. Nominal tape speed: 2.38 cm/s (15/16ips). Tape speed 
accuracy: better than +/- 2%. Wow and flutter: typ. 2.5% peak-to-peak, NAB (= 
DIN 45507) weighted. Start time: less than 4 seconds

Inputs: 2 microphone inputs. Maximum input level: 60 mV RMS. Audio indicator 
threshold: 30 mV RMS input -3 dB on tape. Input impedance: 80 K. Microphone 
sensitivity: 10 mV/PA (1 Pa=10 ubar). Maximum SPL: 110 dB (0 dB SPL = 20 
uPa). Signal to noise ratio, unexpanded: better than 51 dB ASA A weighted. 
Frequency response: 170 Hz to 4.5 kHz +/- 3dB. Total harmonic distortion: 
less than 3%. Compression ratio: 2:1 in dB. Compressor operating range: 80 dB 

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