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7887 Khz, Your Home For Classic Cuban Espionage Radio

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The FBI documents that accompanied last week's arrest of 10 alleged Russian spies are alternately creepy—who knew the Tribeca Barnes & Noble was a hotbed of espionage?—and comical—turns out even foreign spies wanted to cash in on suburban New Jersey's real estate boom.

With a nod to Boris and Natasha, the accused are also said to have used short-wave radio, a 1920s-era technology that, because of its particular place in the spectrum, can bounce off the atmosphere and travel across continents.

The FBI's criminal complaint paints a picture of stateside spies hunkered down in front of their radios, year after year, in homes in Montclair, N.J.; Yonkers, N.Y.; Boston; and Seattle, furiously filling spiral notebooks with "apparently random columns of numbers" broadcast from the motherland.

Just as in the case of Cuban spies Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, arrested last summer in Washington, D.C., the clandestine Russian agents were tuning in to foreign short-wave stations transmitting strings of numbers—some in Morse code, others spoken by a recorded voice—that they then decoded into words.

From Slate
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