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Opto
Voice
CIA
  
Dahme 1 →
  
XE-2
Opto-electronic voice transceiver - not in collection

XE-2 1 was an opto-electronic transmission device for speech, developed by an unknown party for the US Army. The fully transistorised device uses (invisible) infrared light (IR). It was also used US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for covert communication between a CIA agent in East-Germany and a CIA station in West-Germany (probably in West-Berlin). in 1959, Western agent Gisela Gebhardt was arrested in the DDR (East-Germany) in possession of an XE-2 device. 2

The device is a spin-off from a US Army device that was originally developed in the mid-1950s. The development attracted the attention of the CIA's Office of Communication, who wanted to use it for cross-border agent communication.

It is fully built with transistors and measures just 420 x 240 x 80 mm when fully collapsed. With a weight of the 4.5 kg it could easily be carried in an unobtrusive suitcase or shopping bag. When mounted on a tripod, the built-in riflescope can be used to accurately aim the XE-2 at the station at the other side of the border. When correctly aligned, a range of several km can be achieved.

In 1959, Western agent Gisela Gebhardt was captured in East-Berlin whilst passing messages to a CIA station in West-Berlin using an XE-2 device. The CIA station consisted of an XE-2 unit that was installed in a van and parked under a street lamp in West-Berlin (close to the sector border). It was operated by CIA officer Olsen.
  
XE-2 unit ready for use [1]

Gisela Gebhardt appeared before an East-German court on 26 August 1959, together with the West-German agents Walter Huth and Franz Brehmer. She was duely tried and sentenced to prison. Footage of the trial, in which the equipment is shown, is held in the German archives. The East-German newpaper Neue Zeitung reported on the incident and also showed a picture of the XE-2 [4]. Even company newspapers, such as WF Sender, reported on the matter [5]. It is believed that the East-German devices Dahme 1 and Dahme 2 were inspired on the American XE-2.

In 1964, the XE-2 appeared on the German surplus market, where it was sold by FEMEG [B]. In addition, the German company Telemit – founded by former BND employee Herbert Mittermeier – offered spare parts for it [C]. It is currently unknown if there are any surviving samples.

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  1. This name is currently unconfirmed but very likely, as it was printed on the cover of the instructions that were captured by the Stasi [A].
  2. The confiscated XE-2 unit was initially part of the internal collection of the MfS, and is now held by the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin (inventory number SI 90/400).

Specifications
  • Model
    XE-2
  • Type
    Infrared transceiver
  • Year
    Late 1950s
  • Users
    US Army, CIA
  • Manufacturer
    Unknown
  • Dimensions
    420 x 240 x 80 mm
  • Weight
    4.5 kg
Documentation
  1. Instruction book, Communications Set Type (XE-2) 1
    Only the front page and an overview were recovered.
    MfS-OTS/Nr. 4086. BStU.

  2. FEMEG advert 1
    Funkschau, July 1964.

  3. Telemit spare parts catalog 1
    Undated. Page 23.

  4. Stasi analysis of the XE-2
    Undated (barely readable copy).
  1. Document obtained from BStU [2] and kindly supplied by Detlev Vreisleben [1].
  2. Document kindly provided by Detlev Vreisleben (*1}.

References
  1. Detlev Vreisleben, Personal correspondence
    November 2021.

  2. Bundesbeauftragte für die Stasi-Unterlagen (BStU) 1
    Federal Commissioner for the Stasi-Records.

  3. Louis Meulstee, Infrared I
    Wireless for the Warrior, Volume 4. Supplement Chapter 67.
    Version 1.01, October 2015.

  4. ND Zeitung, Mit Infrarot über die Sektorengrenze
    Neues Deutschland, 1959.

  5. Helmut Wille, Bill Haley und der Rias waren ihre Lehrmeister
    Betriebszeitung VEB Werk für Fernmeldewesen.
    WF Sender, Nr. 35, 11 September 1959.

  6. Progress Film, Der Augenzeuge 1959/B 72
    Retrieved December 2021.
  1. Full name: Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (DDR) — Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) — officially abbreviated to BStU.
  2. Document obtained from BStU [2] and kindly supplied by Detlev Vreisleben [1].

Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 09 December 2021. Last changed: Saturday, 11 December 2021 - 07:57 CET.
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