US bugs discovered by the Soviets
Project IKAR (Icarus) 1 was a secret investigation
by the Soviet Union (USSR), carried out between 1969 and 1978,
in which covert listening devices of the US
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were
discovered, analysed and documented.
The file was secretly shared with the security services in other
countries including Poland. It was publicly revealed in September 2022
by Zach Dorfman in an article on The Brush Pass, with scans of the
original photographic evidence .
It is likely that the file was compiled by the KGB —
the main intelligence service of the USSR.
The file, which was discovered in the archives of the Polish Ministry of
the Interior, contains 23 pages with full-colour images of a wide variety
of covert surveillance devices (bugs)
that were found in the buildings and even in the vehicles of the Soviet
mission in Washington (USA).
According to the Soviets, these devices were all planted by the Americans,
and demonstrate the scale at which America eavesdrops on the Soviet Union.
Although the American bugging efforts are indeed enormous, it is not unique
to the US.
The scale at which the Soviet Union has bugged the Americans,
it at least as comprehensive. 2
IKAR (Icarus) is the Polish name for the project. The original Russian
name for the project is currently unknown, but might have been ИКАР
(IKAR) as well.
It is known that the old American Embassy in Moscow was ridden with
bugs. Not only in the walls, but also inside office equipment.
See for example the story about the IBM Selectric Bug.
EASY CHAIR Mark V
page 4 image 5
Image 5 on page 4
shows a device that seems to be made up from two
brass pipes that are joined at the centre. Each of the pipes has a
length of approx. 10 cm and a tickness of less than 1 cm.
According to the description, it was mounted inside one of the
white tubes that are also shown. Although we don't know from what
material the white tubes were made, it seems likely that it was
non-conductive, perhaps some kind of plastic, as otherwise it would
have blocked the RF signals.
Although it is not entirely certain, it seems likely that the device
shown above, is a variant of the
EASY CHAIR Mark V Passive Element (EC V),
developed for the CIA between 1962 and 1964 by the
Dutch Radar Laboratory (NRP).
In particular the Thin PE
variant of the EC V resembles the device discovered by the Soviets.
If that is the case, it is unlikely that the righmost brass pipe
contains a power supply, as the EC V
is a passive device,
which is remotely powered by a strong RF signal.
The two brass pipes form the
arms of an open dipole antenna. At the center is a diode (crystal)
that rectifies the RF energy that is beamed at it from a nearby
location, and uses it to feed an audio amplifier.
The amplifier causes the minute reflected energy from the dipole
antenna to be amplitude modulated, with the room audio on a 120 kHz
FM subcarrier. The image on the right shows one half
of the thin variant
of the EC V.
There are however some doubts. The two brass pipes shown in the
image are each 10 cm long, which indicates a frequency of approx. 750 MHz.
The EC V devices made by the NRP however,
operated at a frequency between 378 and 420 MHz, roughly half
the frequency of the device discovered by the Soviets.
Although it is possible that the NRP made such devices for
750 MHz, there is no surviving evidence in our archives.
It is more likely that they were made by a different CIA
subcontractor, using the original NRP design as a base.
After all, the NRP was predominantly a research laboratory rather
than a manufacturer.
There are also doubts about the Russian caption at the botton of
the photograph, which claims that the device was found in the wall
of a residential appartment behind a mains outlet.
But the device is far too big to be fitted behind a mains outlet,
and the presence of power lines in the vicinity of the device
would prevent it from working, as it would short out the RF field.
Bugs that are fitted
behind a mains outlet are generally much smaller and are powered
directly from the mains. It is more likely that the white tubes,
inside which the device was hidden, were common pieces of
furniture, such as curtain rails or a rods for holding down
the carpet on the staircase.
➤ More about the EASYCHAIR Mark V bug
About the NRP
Shortly after WWII
, the Dutch Radar Laboratory
) was hired by the CIA
to investigate a novel listening
device — known as The Thing
— that was found inside
a wooden carving of the Greal Seal of the United States. The carving
was a gift from the Soviets, and the bug was used to eavesdrop on the
US Ambassador for no less than seven years.
wanted the NRP
to develop similar bugs that could be
used by the CIA
It resulted in a research contract between the CIA
and the NRP
— codenamed EASY CHAIR
that lasted more than 30 years.
It was agreed that the NRP
would develop listening devices (bugs)
and deliver the baseline documentation to the CIA
, so that the
actual devices could be manufactured by a third party in the US
In most cases, the NRP
produced only a handful of devices (prototypes),
but occasionally they also produced the bugs in quantity.
What happened to the designs once the documentation had been delivered
to the CIA
➤ More about the NRP
➤ About the EASY CHAIR research contract
Image 21 on page 13 shows a device that can be
identified unambiguously as the high-band version of the
manufactured for the CIA between 1971 and 1973 by the
Dutch Radar Laboratory (NRP).
It transmits at 1500 MHz and uses a novel modulation technique
known as Pulse Position Modulation (PPM), combined with
audio masking, that makes it difficult to find.
The image above shows the original photograph with translated captions.
According to the Russians, the set was discovered inside the wall
of one of the offices of the Soviet mission in Washington.
It consists of four pieces (which we have numbered 1 - 4).
It is probably the same set (or similar) that was
presented by the Soviets during a
press conference on 10 April 1987.
The image on the right shows a still from a news item that was
broadcast in the US after the press conference.
It shows the same four items as the image in the Soviet file,
which suggests that the four items were used as part of a
Item (1) is clearly an SRN-58 coaxial antenna
for 1500 MHz, manufacturered by the NRP. The Russians identified
it as a microwave antenna for 2 GHZ which a reasonably accurate guess.
Item (2) is identified as the modulator which is also correct.
It is an SWE-56 video encoder
which is responsible for hiding the audio by means of the
Rejected Pulse (RP) audio masking scheme.
Item (3) is an SRK-145 transmitter
for 1500 MHz. It uses Pulse Position Modulation (PPM) as a result of which
it consumes very little power. Due to the nature of PPM, the transmitter
produces a large number of sidebands, each with very little energy, which makes
it diffcult to discover it in the frequency spectrum. In practice it
can hardly be discriminated from the background noise.
➤ More about the press conference of 10 April 1987
Item (4) is a bit of a mystery. Although it clearly belongs to the same
setup, we cannot identify it unambiguously. The Russians have described it
as a 10 GHz transmitter, but this seems most unlikely as the device is entirely
made of metal. Furthermore, 10 GHz would not be a good choice for a device
that is embedded inside a wall, as its signals would have been absorbed by the wall.
It appears to have the same diameter (1 1/8") as the other parts.
It is unpainted, which suggest
that it was not made by the NRP but rather by the CIA or one of its
It might be a mains power supply unit like the
UWP-56 or (more likely) a stack of
mercury batteries. In the latter case, the device would have had a limited
life, although it might have lasted for a year.
The image on the right shows a functionally identical setup, created at
Crypto Museum from surviving EASY CHAIR parts. In this case, the mysterious
item is replaced by a UWP-56 PSU.
Another possibility is that item (4) is a contact microphone like the
CIA's SWM-25, along with an audio pre-amplifier/equaliser.
Such microphones had been developed by other contract partners and were
used by the CIA. They were suitable for listening through concrete walls
and offered very good intelligibility; in most cases equal to a microphone
present in the actual room.
In any case, the Russian assessment that it is a 10 GHz transmitter should
be dismissed as a fantasy.
➤ Full description of the SRT-56 bug
It is possible that instead of an SRT-56 bug,
it was an SRT-52, which is nearly identical
but uses a different audio masking scheme —
Triple Pulse (TP) instead of
Rejected Pulse (RP). But as
this audio masking scheme was not supported by the later receivers
used by the CIA, the SRT-56 seems a more
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 22 November 2022. Last changed: Friday, 25 November 2022 - 08:29 CET.