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Author Topic: Monitoring amateur radio transmissions  (Read 26747 times)
KD5NDQ
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Posts: 21




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« on: June 24, 2013, 09:11:55 AM »

First off, I want to make clear this is not a troll thread. I have a legitimate question that I am sure someone here can help with.  I am absolutely not trying to start any political / flame thread.

That being said I am curious about the government monitoring amateur radio communications (NSA).  I recall reading at one time or another that the US government monitors all amateur radio transmissions, and can, in fact, listened to, and probably recorded, all transmissions overseas.  Am I imagining this or is it true?

The subtext of this question is the recent kerfuffle regarding James Snowden and the NSA.  I am not sure of what to make of the entire thing but, the more I thought about it, I had wondered why it was so bristling to so many folks.  I had always thought any sort of electronic communication was already monitored anyway (see above ham radio question). 

Can someone shed some light on this?
Regards,
Robert Opalko
KD5NDQ
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AF6WL
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Posts: 142




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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2013, 09:52:50 AM »

I would take it for granted that all major global powers record spectrum occupancy in multiple locations 24-7
Any change in use patterns have historically been a key indicator to troubles ahead.
Unusual signals would be taged for follow up investigation.  

It would be interesting to see their plots for field day  Smiley

These days digitizing and caching not just spectrum power sweeps, but several 100's of MHz of spectrum for several days for post event analysis would not be difficult.

http://www.rohde-schwarz.com/en/solutions/government_security/spectrum-monitoring/spectrum_monitoring_overview/spectrum-monitoring_91082.html
http://www.rohde-schwarz.com/en/solutions/government_security/spectrum-monitoring/monitoring_stations/fixed_monitoring_stations_93337.html

Nothing to hide so why worry.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2013, 10:01:49 AM by AF6WL » Logged
AA4PB
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Posts: 12836




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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2013, 10:15:04 AM »

They certainly have the ability to monitor a certain number of radio transmissions but I seriously doubt that the government ever had the ability nor the desire to monitor and record 100% of all radio transmissions.
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3828




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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 10:18:28 AM »

Robert:  Let me shed some light on this subject.  I know whereof I speak.

Monitoring of radio (All RF modes), telephone, cellphone have been monitored for decades.  In fact radio intercept, both civilian and military, has been a fact of life since radio was first invented.

This was expanded to telephone conversations with the advent of microwave transmission for telephone communications.  (Microwave is what really made long distance telephone conversations practical and affordable)

Next came the cellphone monitoring.  This intercept/monitoring became very serious after 9/11. It became a necessity, not just an option.  This is how the bad guys communicate and intercept is the only way to get ahead of them.  

UNTIL RECENTLY this went on without much of a problem and was unknown by 99.99% of the population.  

Recent developments have thrown a glaring spotlight on this intercept practice.  It was the combination of the IRS scandal and the NSA blowup.  It became very apparent the IRS was collecting and using personal information to target various anti-administration groups and individuals.  With the NSA blowup it also became apparent that it was very possible that the NSA was doing the same thing.  Both together created a very likely "big brother" scenario.  

These two things have created a total government control situation that this country has never seen before. We are very close to losing what we have known as our unique American Freedom!

Robert, it must also be understood that we will need to continue these communications intercepts but it must be done legally and no setting government administration should be able to benefit from what is learned other than to make decisions on how to combat our outside enemies.  

Specifically, no setting administration should politically benefit from what the IRS, NSA or any other government organization learns or knows.

And like you, I don't want to hear any flaming for my comments.  




« Last Edit: June 24, 2013, 10:23:38 AM by K8AXW » Logged
KD0REQ
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Posts: 931




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« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2013, 10:25:13 AM »

lots of satellites up there are sponges.

there's a reason NSA Fort Meade is building a gigantic new server farm, and why they have consistently been one of the best customers for supercomputers a Cray or an IBM could imagine.  and it has nothing to do with games.

it would be quite naive to think open communications have not been "sampled" in the past.  it is against the law generally for government to intercept communications without warrant.  it is also easy to phone in for a warrant, judges are standing by for your call now.  for spookstuff, they even have a special "court" for the purpose.

in the ISP business, it was a well-known secret that ATT got caught with a tap on the backbone a few years ago going to who-knows-where.  it is lesser well known that there are premise desks where the coppers come to do their warranted wiretaps, and telco employees are generally advised by policy that this is a room closed to them.  have been for decades and decades.

bottom line... if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.  the occasional Snowden, visible or not, tends to keep focus on doing the legal job, not harassing the ex or whatever.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2013, 10:31:25 AM by KD0REQ » Logged
AA4PB
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Posts: 12836




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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2013, 10:47:48 AM »

Certainly monitoring radio transmissions has been done for years. However, simultaniously monitoring and recording EVERY radio transmission that occurs in the world 24/7 would be one massive undertaking. A 5W UHF HT, for example, propogates only a relatively short distance - you'd have to cover the world with receiver sites to intercept each and every transmission from each and every HT in the world. In the HF spectrum there are a lot of variable propogation to consider and that too would require a massive amount of sites to ensure that you received every HF transmission in the world. I'll bet that if I randomly pull dates and times from my log book, the government does not have a recording of my voice during most of those times  Grin
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KE3WD
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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2013, 11:08:44 AM »

All your QSO are belong to us.
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KJ6ZOL
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Posts: 359




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« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2013, 01:54:46 PM »

AXW, I think the problem is that the govt might use what it learns in monitoring to "screw" its domestic opponents, or chill their free speech. There are numerous examples of some doofus making a flippant threat against the POTUS (for example) on some obscure net forum only to find cops kicking in his door one night. He didn't think he was being monitored, he was wrong. Obama is a Chicago pol, corrupt to the core, he's gonna look for any advantage he can get. He can use govt monitoring to shut down his opponents. People are afraid that if they make pro-liberty comments online that pretty soon they'll be dragged off to a FEMA camp. "Joe Schmoe believes in the Constitution and opposes Obama, that's good enough for us, go get him." And Joe finds himself executed by the cops simply for having a different view of things than the official one. If you can be killed or imprisoned simply for disagreeing with the govt, how is that different from say Pol Pot's Kampuchea or the Soviet Union, where the slightest disagreement or slacking off got you shot?
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N6AJR
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« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2013, 02:16:08 PM »

Gettingback to the original comment.... Ham radio is "radio"  In ham radio you are specifically excluded from the ability to use cypher or hidden code  in your transmission, with the exceptions of those in common use, like CW and PSK31. You can monitor most any frequency you want just by buying a scanner and listen to almost anyone you choose. So if you are on the radio, any radio, legal or illegal, assume that some one else is listening.  Any time , Any band , any mode.  That's just how it works.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2013, 03:03:52 PM »

Absolutely, there is nothing to keep anyone from monitoring an amateur radio transmission. My reply however was in response to his statement "I recall reading at one time or another that the US government monitors all amateur radio transmissions, and can, in fact, listened to, and probably recorded, all transmissions overseas". I doubt that the US government has, or ever had, the capability to monitor and record ALL amateur radio transmissions. I assume by that he means all amateur transmissions on all frequencies, all modes, on a continuous 24/7 basis. The thing about amateur radio is that there is no single network that you can tap into to collect the information. For the most part you have to have a direct RF link to each individual amateur radio transmitter in the world. From that standpoint amateur radio might be more private than cell phones or Internet in this day and age. On contest weekends you can "hide among the trees".  Cheesy

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KE3WD
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« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2013, 05:47:46 PM »

...There are numerous examples of some doofus making a flippant threat against the POTUS (for example) on some obscure net forum only to find cops kicking in his door one night. He didn't think he was being monitored, he was wrong...

Gotta call a Correlation/Causation fowl on the play here. 

It is far more likely that someone dropped a dime after reading those threats, eh?


73
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3828




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« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2013, 09:05:18 PM »

There simply isn't enough space here to explain every aspect of communications monitoring. 

The ham bands are checked by the FCC.... simply by tuning across the bands.  It also goes without saying that they monitor frequencies outside each ham band for 'out of band operation.'  (I received an FCC QSL card on that one many years ago!)

It also should be understood that NSA isn't interested in your daily conversations.  They have a specific criteria they follow for what they do monitor....and record.  They don't record all communications as the press is presently saying.  This is BS and is used for the shock value.  The press would have you "jump on your horse and ride off in all directions at once", as Mark Twain once said.  Accuracy in reporting has never been one of the media's strong points!

Ham communications are certainly not recorded, unless there is a flagrant violation, usually preceded by a filed complaint.

I personally have no problem or concern with anything I send on the web; say on the phone or say on the ham bands.  I make sure I don't say anything threatening about the POTUS because as WD points out, someone is usually there to "drop the dime on you."

ZOL, you and I are in agreement with the agenda of the present administration.....  which is what I was trying to delicately say in my original post.  You do have a way with words!
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KJ6ZOL
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« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2013, 09:48:42 PM »

...There are numerous examples of some doofus making a flippant threat against the POTUS (for example) on some obscure net forum only to find cops kicking in his door one night. He didn't think he was being monitored, he was wrong...

Gotta call a Correlation/Causation fowl on the play here. 

It is far more likely that someone dropped a dime after reading those threats, eh?


73

You DO know that the gov monitors "extremist" forums, such as pro-2A, white nationalist, and even pro-Constitution forums, along with jihadist forums, right? They even admitted they do, and they make shill posts to "confuse and demoralize" the "enemy". Comment sections on articles such as those on MSNBC are filled with gov shill posts, and pro-liberty posters tend to be shut down and banned. Anyway, my point is that some of these far out there forums are brimming with informants, I figure by now it's like the old CPUSA where every third guy is a stooge, so if some guy makes a threat he's immediately reported.
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KE3WD
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« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2013, 12:12:36 PM »

Sure.  As well they SHOULD, in my opinion.

But that does not preclude the stuff that HS has been trying to teach the general public, as in, "See something, Say something" etc. 

And it certainly doesn't include something that is older by centuries --

the snitch


73
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WB8VLC
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Posts: 120




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« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2013, 09:49:20 PM »

If I was a NSA monitor and I had to listen and filter thru all the nonsense heard on the local repeaters I'd probably shove a knitting needle in my ears just to make myself deaf.
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