Private Sector SIGINT: Why We Train, and Practice With Our Equipment

Accompanied my wife an errand or two over at the city that’s next to us. The city in question runs a P25 Phase 2 trunked radio system. The police are 100% encrypted, but all other city services and agencies are not. Regardless, $700 for a Phase 2 capable scanner is out of the budget, so I took the trusty Whistler WS1040, and selected the virtual scanner bank named “TSCM/Bubba Detector.” It wasn’t long before I hit on a few common low-power UHF LMR channels in the business/industrial pool. The communications belonged to a few retail outlets that were nearby, and were pretty mundane.

If you go into some of these retail outlets, you will notice the employees carrying handheld radios. By noting the appearance of the radios (and maybe taking a little covert photography with your phone), you can then search images online and see what make/model they’re using, and subsequently the capabilities of the model. In another recent observation, I noted that employees of a certain retail outlet were sporting Motorola CLS1410 handhelds. Online research shows that the CLS1410 is front-panel programmable for 56 common UHF LMR frequencies. By finding and looking at the manual, you will not only find the frequencies, but also learn that they are the same as the Motorola Spirit M, GT, and S Series radios.


Regardless of the mundane nature of the communications, I am now aware of two potential caches of radios. This is important because if something happens, these radios will be probably be taken along with other material and provisions by whatever group that decides to use the place as a resupply point. Many preppers and unorganized militia types have said that they will do this. In the late 1990s one unorganized militia group in the Northeast, long since disbanded, saved about two dozen Motorola Sabers, MT1000s, and Expos and accessories from the dumpster when the factory they all worked at closed down. The MT1000s and Expos were sold to refurbish the half-dozen or so Sabers. With the aid of a sympathetic radio shop, they reprogrammed the radios for GMRS along with a couple UHF LMR frequencies licensed by a member’s relative who owned a contracting company, and added encryption. The members of the group all held a GMRS license and most of the time they used the radios on GMRS in the clear like any other mundane GMRS user. When in the field, they turned on the encryption and used their UHF discretes.

In the typical “come as you are” situation, the new users of the radios will not have time, capability, or inclination to change frequencies, and will just be happy to have a quantity of radios that all work together. Groups that are smarter than the average bear may note down and research the make/model of potential contingency acquisitions so they can take equipment from multiple sources and make it all work together. Either way, the average late-model police scanner has a search/scan speed of 50-100 channels/frequency steps per second, so going through 56 discrete frequencies is not a problem at all.

Author: Ticom

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