The Hill

3 min readSep 22, 2014

It’s been more than 35 years since leaving the hill.

USM-5 covered any type of East German / Soviet government or military radio traffic which we could receive, including skip from Afghanistan.

But probably the two most important missions during the period, were the so called Branflake project, aka Violet, and another target called The Big Sig, which was an encrypted multichannel signal running 24 hours a day and connecting the GSFG HQ (Group of Soviet Forces Germany) in Zossen Wunsdorf to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow.

That was recorded, demultiplexed, gisted continuously and relayed to nsa for analysis, after we got through transcribing, flagging and tagging the interesting stuff.

The East considered what we were doing to be technologically impossible and they were not aware that very weak side-loops signals could be detected at great distances. that was their big mistake.

The actual network came into East Berlin via land line and the closest radio frequency relay tower was far beyond the distance that such signals at those frequencies were know to travel and besides that we were not in the line of sight.

The “domes” covered very large parabolic dish antennas, one of them, the largest one, pointed in a direction that was at the time considered highly classified.

The CIA onsidered the political nature of the SED party phone network quite special (i.e. the vast majority of NSA targets overseas at that time were military) and expected to read the SED dasum (daily summary of transcripted calls) every evening just like the newspaper. They got the raw transmission from us about eight o’clock every evening. They then “sanitized it” (took out what they did not want others to see) and sent it out for wider distribution in the intelligence community. The Brits were always given sanitized products because we didn’t trust them.

We left out a number of things we did not want them to know we were interested in. CANUKUS means “canadian-british-american eyes only” and NOFORN means “no foreign dissemination.”

Part of the reasoning for building the new T-Berg facility, which was referred to as the “Fillman Project,” was because of the rebelliousness of the “troops” at the field station.

Most of us were college educated, spoke either German or Russian or else were highly trained in electronics or cryptography.

We all had Top Secret Umbra with SCI (secret compartmentalized information access – that means sanctioned by NSA) and so we were not at all easy for NSA to replace. We were involuntarily extended and treated better than most in the military, but we demanded more.

Thus there began the so called “strikes,” or what we called a “nil heard” campaigns (nil is slang for “nothing”). Transcribers just suddenly became hard of hearing and all that commie radio traffic dramatically decreased in output.

This, of course, upset NSA tremendously and “Big Daddy DIRNSA” sent down orders from the top, to leave us alone about haircuts, appearances, cleaning the barracks or any of that other petty military bullshit and even turned a blind eye to the hashish smoking habits at least half the field station.

There used to be some good stuff around in the late seventies and early eighties.

Along with this new building came a new and extremely costly computer system which was to be used in monitoring the frequencies (and the behavior and performance of the radio operators) and the ultimate direction was of course was to replace the “soldier operators.”

The system consisting of very large, (now ancient antiques of course) mainframe computers along with highly funded and long awaited software designed to automate much of the traditional field station work.

They called this project, “Le Fox Green.” it started out as Le Fox Grey, was pretty much of a disaster, but later paid for itself (Poland – 1981).

NSA probably did learn a great deal from it, but at a cost of billions of dollars.

(updated 2020)




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