This is a copy of The Numbers Racket CD-ROM, which I prepared back in 1998. I am presenting it here, unedited, for historical purposes. Obviously most if not all of the information is 'out of date' today, but think of it as a snapshot of what the Spy Numbers scene was like in the late 1990s.

Like what you see here? Help support my work by taking a look at my software , and buy something of interest :) It's all available for download before purchase, so you can try it out.


The Counting Station

The Counting Station

No, it's not The Count from Sesame Street, it's the counting lady. This station is operated by the CIA, so she's been nicknamed Cynthia. (CynthIA, get it?) She's also been called The Warrenton Woman, since Warrenton, Virgina, may be her home (or one of them).

Each transmission from this stations begins with ten minutes of counting the digits: 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0. Hence the name assigned to the station - The Counting Station. Between counts, a three digit number is sent, this is believed to be the recipient of the message.

After ten minutes, ten tones are sent. Cynthia then tells how long the message will be by giving the Count, or number of five digit groups which will be sent. The message is then sent. She then repeats the message.

This station is often referred to as sending 3/2FG numbers. This is because the block of five numbers is broken up into two groups, the first is three digits, the second is two digits. Two langauges are used, English and Spanish. German stations also used to be heard, but except for some sporadic reports, they do not seem to be active any longer.

This station used to transmit traffic using four digit blocks (4FG), but during the latter part of 1995, a changeover to the 3/2FG format was made. At the same time, the "Control Transmissions" were also phased out.

Here's a typical English language transmission:

315 315 315 1234567890              Message to 315, this is repeated for ten minutes
Ten tones                           Signal that the message will follow
Count 129 Count 129                 129 blocks of five digits will be sent
983 49   394 95   273 10...         Message


Here's a typical Spanish language transmission:

015 015 015 1234567890  (rpt)       Message to 015
Ten tones                           Signal that message will begin
Grupo 186 Grupo 186                 186 blocks will follow
969 70     376 60...                Message


In the early part of 1997, transmissions from the Spanish langauge version of this station seemed
to have disappeared. In the middle of 1997, these was a sudden increase in transmissions from this 
station. Transmissions were heard every few hours, on as many as four frequencies simultaneously.
At about this same time, the Spanish langauge transmissions seemed to have resumed, although using
different frequencies. It is not known if these two events are related, or if the Spanish langauge
transmissions actually disappeared, or it simply took several months for monitors to find the new
frequencies. There is some evidence that at least the Spanish service has summer and winter
frequencies. (Which makes sense, many shortwave broadcasters change schedules with the seasons, as
propagation does depend on the local season)

Schedule (as of September 7, 1998)

==== ======= = = = = = = = ==== ===================================
0100 15478.0     X   X     SS   //16050
0100 16050.0     X   X     SS   //15478
0200 12300.5           ?   SS   //14421
0200 14421.0           ?   SS   //12300.5
0300 12300.5   X       X   SS   //14421
0300 14421.0   X       X   SS   //12300.5
0900 11580.0           X X EE   //14655
0900 14448.0             X EE   //15822
0900 14655.0           X X EE   //11580
0900 15822.0             X EE   //14448
1100 13555.0           ?   EE   //14406
1100 14406.0           ?   EE   //13555
1100 16086.0   X   ?       EE   //10863 ?
1200 10223.0     X     X   EE   //13518
1200 13518.0     X     X   EE   //10223
1200 13906.0     X     X   EE
1300 10529.0   X     X     EE   //14739
1300 13518.0           X   EE   //14739
1300 14739.0           X   EE   //13518
1300 14739.0         X     EE   //10529
1500 10597.0   X     X     EE   //7600 ?
1700 10423.0       X       EE   //12197
1700 12197.0       X       EE   //10423
1700 13450.0 X     X X   X EE   //14448
1700 13874.0   X X         EE
1700 14448.0 X     X X   x EE   //13450
1800 11072.0 X         X   EE   //13444
1800 13444.0 X         X   EE   //11072
1800 13450.0     X         EE   //14448
1800 14448.0     X         EE   //13450
1900  4640.0           ? ? EE   //5046
1900  5046.0           ? ? EE   //4640
1900 11491.0     X     X   EE   //13450
1900 13450.0 X   X         EE   //14448
1900 13450.0     X     X   EE   //11491
1900 14448.0 X   X         EE   //13450
2000 10423.0 X     X       EE   //12197
2000 10527.0         X   X EE   //12197
2000 12197.0         X   X EE   //10527
2000 12197.0 X     X       EE   //10423
2100 10263.0             X EE   //12150
2100 10583.0   X       ?   EE   //12175
2100 12150.0             X EE   //10263
2100 12175.0   X       ?   EE   //10583
2200  8125.0             X EE   //10423
2200 10423.0             X EE   //8125
Control Transmissions Until 1995, there was another transmission format, the so-called Control Transmissions. (E14) These transmissions always started on the half hour, and consisted of the ten short audio tones, followed by a short message of four figure groups, ususally two or three of them, sometimes as many as seven, which were repeated for ten minutes. These messages were then repeated many times throughout the day.

Transmissions were noted at 0730, 1330, and 1730 UTC in English, and 0030, 0230, 1030, and 1830 in Spanish. Frequencies included 5215, 8560, 11072, 12285, and 13465. Based on the frequencies used and the time of the day, and monitoring efforts, the English transmissions were most likely directed towards agent(s) in Europe, while the Spanish transmissions were for agents in Latin America.

The exact purpose of these transmissions is unknown. However, it is believed that they were used to send the transmission schedule for actual message broadcasts to agents in the field. According to one source, most CIA agents receive their schedules from their case officer. These transmissions then would have been for agents who, for various reasons, were unable to maintain routine contact with their case officer. They operated on a very fixed schedule, and repeated their transmissions often, so that the agent could be sure to eventually copy a message. Based on their short schedule, they well could have been for a small handful of agents, who now either have routine contact with a case officer, or who are no longer used.

Interestingly, the same source mentioned that the purpose for most of the messages was to give the time and location for meetings with case officers.


The Counting Station seems to be a very well run station. There have not been the major blunders so often reported with the 5FG Spanish transmissions believed to originate from Cuba.

Once noticable characteristic of these stations is that often before and after transmissions, and sometimes during, a sound may be heard on the carrier. This has been described as a "rushing" sound, sometimes called the "airy" sound. It has been described as characteristic of certain types of military microwave and satellite links. If a carrier is heard before the hour, with this sound, it may be worthwhile to see if a Numbers Station starts transmitting.

The frequencies commonly used by this station also have other interesting traffic on them. Often, an hour before a transmission, digital data can be heard on the same frequency. The data almost always is sent for exactly ten minutes. Some have suspected that this data is a preview of the upcoming traffic to be sent. Since it is believed that a large number of these transmissions are for training purposes, it is quite likely then that this is a copy of message to be sent, to be used by the instructor or student to check the accuracy of the numbers message copied. This data is sent via a 109.8 bd synchronous FSK System.

Also, several minutes before a transmission, a short data burst has been heard. This is supposedly a 2400 bps PSK (Phase Shift Keyed) System. One other possibility is that the data transmissions are for agents who are able to have more sophisticated decoding equipment, the voice system is for those agents who cannot be compromised by having any incriminating "tools of the trade" in their possession.

Many of the broadcasts have a count of exactly 215 groups. It is believed that these messages are for training or test purposes. When you consider that some of the transmissions originate from sites run by the Warrenton Training Center (sites C and D near Remington, VA), and that there exists an actual training facility in Warrenton, VA, and that many of these transmissions take place at times and on frequencies where signals can only propagate several hundred miles, this seems quite likely.

While at first glance this may seem expensive, when the students could just listen to cassette tapes, it may be desirable for them to tune in actual broadcasts on a real radio. They may also have to listen to transmissions "after hours" at their home/apartment, sort of a homework assignment.

It has been noted that when multiple transmissions are on at the same time, they are often exactly in synchronization with each other (even if they are not transmitting the same message). This would seem to imply that one central computer is producing the audio programming, which is then fed via satellite, microwave, or fiber cable to transmitter site(s).

In addition to transmitter sites in rural Virgina, The Counting Station also uses sites in countries friendly to the United States, such as Britain, Germany, Japan, Greece, and so on.

The following is a list of suspected transmitter sites:

UNITED STATES   - Remington, Virginia
FAR EAST        - Guam, Japan, Australia, Diego Garcia
AFRICA          - Morocco, Ascension, South Africa (ENIGMA has learned
                  that the CIA have now established facilities in South
                  Africa which are classed as their African HQ following
                  the demise of the Liberian operations centre)
EUROPE          - England (Barford St John, Oxfordshire), Spain,
                  Germany (Frankfurt area), Portugal, Greece (Tatoi and
                  Nea Makri near Marathon), Turkey

Listen to the station The Counting Station in English (ENIGMA E5)

Listen to the station The Counting Station in German (ENIGMA G5)

Listen to the station The Counting Station in Spanish (ENIGMA V5)

Listen to the station The Counting Station Control Transmission in English (ENIGMA E14) Recorded July 9, 1994

Copyright 1998 Chris Smolinski. All Rights Reserved.
Last Update: September 1, 1998.

This is a copy of The Numbers Racket CD-ROM, which I prepared back in 1998. I am presenting it here, unedited, for historical purposes. Obviously most if not all of the information is 'out of date' today, but think of it as a snapshot of what the Spy Numbers scene was like in the late 1990s.

Like what you see here? Help support my work by taking a look at my software , and buy something of interest :) It's all available for download before purchase, so you can try it out.