It’s seems that humans are destined to NOT LEARN from the PAST. But was this a Radio Communications thing? You bet your boopie it was. It was a security of communications thing. And they should have known better.
On Sunday, October 30, 1938, millions of radio listeners were shocked when radio news alerts announced the arrival of Martians. They panicked when they learned of the Martians’ ferocious and seemingly unstoppable attack on Earth. Many ran out of their homes screaming while others packed up their cars and fled.
Though what the radio listeners heard was a portion of Orson Welles’ adaptation of the well-known book, War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, many of the listeners believed what they heard on the radio was real.
* Supposedly what happened today in the Potomac River near Washing DC, The Whitehouse, and the Pentagon … also used a form of Radio Broadcast … and similarly – stupidly on a radio frequency that could be monitored by any 8 year old child with a Radio Shack (or Uniden or whatever) Scanner. Very likely the radio frequency used was a Coast Guard Exclusive “channel” within the VHF Marine Band. (Yes we know about Marine, and about Radio Frequencies and Communications here at Alan Spicer (Marine) Telecom.) See:
And although other users are forbidden by law to transmit without permission on U.S. Coast Guard Only Frequencies … that doesn’t stop anyone from listening to them. And you can bet your last dollar that news agencies and such (like CNN depicted today) certainly will scan all of the common frequencies in their area. This is how they picked up on this Training Exercise by the U.S. Coast Guard and mistook it for A Real Event. If nothing on that frequency preceded those voice communications … why would anyone think that they were not REAL COMMUNICATIONS?
Some of my readers may have seen the movie Blackhawk Down, or may even have Military backgrounds. The Military, I’m including the coast guard, surely has Secure Voice Radio Systems and Frequencies all ready to use. If they used them (?)
The following exchange occurred in that movie:
[Durant and Wolcott talk over the intercom [sic! talk over the RADIO] as they fly past each other in their helicopters]
Durant: Six-One, this is Six-Four, go to UHF secure. I’ve got some bad news.
Cliff Wolcott: Limo is a word, Durant. I don’t want to hear about it.
Durant: It is not a word. It’s an abbreviation of a word.
Cliff Wolcott: Limo is a word in common usage. That is the key phrase in scrabble, my friend, common usage.
Durant: No! If it’s not in the dictionary, it doesn’t count.
Cliff Wolcott: It doesn’t have to be in the dictionary!
Durant: It does have to be in the dictionary! Listen, when we get back to base, it’s coming off the board.
Cliff Wolcott: You touch my limo and I’ll spank you, Night Stalker. You hear me?
Durant: Yeah. Promises.
* And that usage of Secure Voice Radio in the Military and Coast Guard is no doubt very close to reality. What should have happened, I believe, is the Coast Guard should have had some preliminary communications on VHF unsecure … that anyone can monitor (and many will) laying down the fact that This is Just an Exercise. Then do the Mike Durant thing from Blackhawk down and go to UHF Secure (or whatever their equivalent is.) Then on there (on Secure Voice) they could have done their Simulated Intruder Communications – complete with the “Halt or we’ll board you, confiscate your vessel” and including the “Shots Fired” or “Bang Bang Bang” stuff that we’ve heard about today.
You see – A lot of people take security for grant it. But Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard definately should not be doing that. And they should have communications and I.T. experts as well. They should know to take that stuff (communications in a training exercise) off of Public monitorable radio frequencies.
People often leave 802.11 WiFi Access Points unsecure. They don’t turn on WEP or WPA or WPA2 security. You see this would encrypt and protect those communications. Professionals know, and tell ordinary people, to use that encryption and protection.
Someone should have already told the Coast Guard that. They should already know that.
Other civilian communications – back in voice radio land again – People think they are on a Secure Radio, for example, when they use cheap FRS (Family Radio Service) walkie talkies. They think that these radios are private/secure because the advertising and the packaging and often even the owners manuals (if the owners read the owners manuals?) fool them into thinking they have a Private Radio Channel just because they turn on CTCSS (Continous Tone Control Squelch System) commonly known as “PL Tones”, or the Digital Version DCS which serves a similar purpose. But what many people don’t realize is that those false protections only keep THEIR RADIOS from hearing others, and other similar radios using different CTCSS or DCS setting numbers from hearing them. It does NOT AT ALL stop anyone else not using those features … including anyone with a wideband ham walkie talkie or (again) a Radio Shack (or Uniden, or Similar) Radio Scanner set.
#1.) The Coast Guard should have paid attention to the CALENDAR (9/11 did anyone have to tell them that?) and Current and Planned Government Events.
#2.) The Coast Guard should have (see my advice above) (hindsight is 20/20 I know!) used Secure Voice Equipment and Methods when transmitting the cited communications today. It might have been good also to have put out a voice bulletin on VHF 16, 13, 9 and That Working Coast Guard Channel that they may have used, etc. to warn the Civilian Population of a pending exercise. The Coast Guard puts out bulletins all of the time in everyones area, Potomac River, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, wherever they are – they have Coast Groups and Radio Operators and Base Stations with big transmitters and big antennas.
But then again … it might be a good idea to keep such training exercises a secret. So do the whole thing on Secure Voice. You wouldn’t want Alqueda to have someone here taking notes on the training exercises being done.
Alan Spicer Telecom / Alan Spicer Marine Telecom
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