[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC}
When I was a kid, I had a fascination with shortwave radio. I successfully begged my parents to give me a multi-band radio that could not only receive standard AM and FM, but the aviation band and a limited number of shortwave frequencies. I dove into the world of DXing, the practice trying to pull in distant radio signals.
Late one winter night, I found my first “numbers station.”
You know one when you hear one. Usually, the transmission begins with some kind of note or sequence of musical notes. Then a voice comes on, reading what appears to be a series of random numbers. The voice might be male, female or even a child. Some even included longer musical pieces.
Numbers stations broadcast coded messages to spies and operatives in the field all over the world. On any given night, you might stumble across a broadcast meant for a CIA spook, a KGB spy or a Mossad agent. What were these messages? To whom were they directed? And what were the results of these communications?
If anyone told you, they’d have to kill you.