The Atencion Numbers Station is an easy listening catch. It broadcasts a female Spanish voice. V2a starts out “Atencion 11111 22222 33333″, and repeats that for three minutes. These numbers are 5 digit identifiers. A long message will then be read off consisting of 5 digit groups and at the end the voice will say “Finale. Finale. (pause) Finale.” There is also a V2 which is a bit harder to find, it has a different voice, and very minor format differences. V2a is broadcast by Cuba. V2a is also famous for its ineptitude. Compared to the professionally-done Lincolnshire Poacher broadcasts, V2a has a history of mistakes, a few years ago during a V2a broadcast, you could hear music from radio Havana in the background, which helped establish the origin of the broadcasts. Broadcasts of broken or skipping tapes as well as the tape suddenly rewinding to the start are not uncommon. The sound of a telephone being placed into the cradle can also be heard at the end of many broadcasts. Sometimes the transmitter is accidentally placed into LSB mode instead of the normal AM. Several times a M8 tape was broadcast instead of a V2a tape. (M8 is the V2 in Morse code). Operators have also been heard talking in the background.
Broadcasts are usualy at 1800 hrs and 1900 hrs on Monday and Tuesday, and 1900 hrs on Fridays. As far as we are aware, there have not been any reports of broadcasts outside these times.
The Atención number station of Cuba became the world’s first number station to be officially and to be publicly accused of transmitting messages to spies and agents out in the field. It was the main centerpiece in a United States federal court espionage trial after the arrests of the of Cuban spies, known as The Wasp Network, in 1998. The United States. prosecutors claimed that the accused Cubans were writing down number codes which were received from the Atención broadcasts, and using normal hand-held shortwave radios, they typed the numbers into a laptop computer to decode special instructions. The FBI testified that they had entered a spy’s apartment in 1995, and copied the computer decryption program. They used it to decode spy messages, which the prosecutors reveled in court.
United States government evidence included the following examples of decoded Atención messages.
“prioritize and continue to strengthen friendship with Joe and Dennis”
“Under no circumstances should [agents] German nor Castor fly with BTTR or another organization on days 24, 25, 26, and 27.”
“Congratulate all the female comrades for International Day of the Woman.”
At the rate of one spoken number per character per second, each of these sentences takes a minute or more to transmit.