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 Black Boxes and Marble Memorials
Cable T. V. Snooping

An acquaintance who is involved with telecommunications recently told me that the spooks
have the ability to listen in ("two way interaction" is the way he put it) through 
some kind of "black box" in our television
>sets, via the cable hookups we invited into our homes. He went on to say
>that a friend of his working through television repair school was advised
>not to question the purpose of the black box in the set he was training
>on. Furthermore, he said that several former college roomates now
>specializing in telecommunications of various kinds WILL NOT allow the
>cable into their homes for just that reason. Obviously, we are way past
>George Orwell's wildest dreams as far as the spook-tech goes, so my
>question is not so much "can they?" but "do they?" Is the black box
>already there, in my tv, do you suppose? Is the cable set up to carry
>reverse signals, and if so, who controls the plug at the other end? I
>just thought you might know something about these things.

First off, I can confirm this as a non-rumor, but as fact. In fact, this has
been the case for over a dozen years. The 'cable-ready' set has had this
ability since the term 'cable-ready' came to be.

I worked on a joint project, between the power company, the phone company
(Southwestern Bell), and the cable-tv company, over eleven years ago. We
discussed the 'security options' that were available AT THAT TIME. (this
subject had nothing to do with the joint project, but was just something that
we tossed around for the six months that we were together -- I made sure that
the conversation came up from time to time)

The electric company had a small unit that would fit into a standard two-plug
wall box that was basically an FM transmitter. This sent a signal out over the
power lines that could be picked up anywhere that another power line went. In
fact, it was one of the 'renegades' in that effort that joined with Radio Shack
and started what we now call 'nursery monitors' -- you know, the things that
you plug into the power line that sends a signal to 'any other power plug in
the house.' Well, mom and dad, it is also sending that signal to EVERY OTHER
power plug on the ENTIRE SYSTEM. They also had a small fish-eye that replaced
the middle screw in the plug, which could send out a visual signal, but because
of it's size and the quality of the FM signal, it was limited to motion
detection. These options were currently in use in some companies in the US,
and was marketed as a security feature in certain countries, mostly in Europe.
It could not be sold in the US, because if everyone knew the potential of this
device, they would revolt. (this comment came from the power company man,
showing me that they were already aware of this attitude, and so were keeping
the possibility quite on purpose)

They (the power companies main holding company) were, at that time, working on
a small computer-like interface that went in your power-meter, that would allow
them to monitor power usage AND CHANGE POWER CONSUMPTION from a central point.
This was needed in order to allow certain places to be un-effected by 'brown
outs' we were told -- they could reduce the amount of electricity that homes
used in order to keep 'higher priority' places at full power.

Now for the cable company. This was frightening to us, even at the time. The
cable company person would not speak to us openly about ANYTHING that he was
going to tell us, but eventually even SHOWED US HOW SOME OF IT WORKED!!! We
didn't see all of what he told us, but enough to believe what he was saying.

First, all 'cable-ready' televisions have at least two components that are not
needed for the television. First is an electronic eye, which we are told is to
adjust the brightness, and second is the 'cable-ready' unit, most likely the
thing that is being referred to as the black box.

What you need to understand right off is that it is not necessary to have your
television be ready to accept the cable signal. My circa-1979 non-cable-ready
unit has no problem with cable reception (when we had it). All you need is
that connector that the cable wire plugs into and you screw onto the back of
the unit.

Scary point one: the electronic eye is a two-way unit that is sending back a
fairly high-quality picture of what is going on. The person telling us about
this had actually seen some images from it, and described a level of clarity
(remember, this is 1983-ish, so it is probably better now) that was
frightening. (his rather crude example had something to do with counting the
zits on your butt while 'doing the nasty' on the couch)

Scary point two: the speaker is also two-way. (this is one thing that we saw --
or should I say heard)

Scary point three: both are active, even if the television is turned off. Some
of them can even remain powered on (with the set unplugged) from the signal
power coming in from the cable itself. The ONLY way to protect yourself is to
remove all cable television from your house. Physically remove the connection
to your house from outside, and remove the cable and other outside connections
to your television. This is because...

Scary point four: the signal from these cable-ready units that is sent out from
your cable-ready television goes out through the antenna (sp?) connection, so
even if you disconnect your cable connection to the house, the (then
ungrounded) wire IN the house is transmitting a signal that can be picked up
from some distance away. (this is another thing that we saw -- we actually
went down the alley listening in on conversations going on in the houses we
were passing) I don't know if the visual signal is also being transmitted, but
I <KNOW> that the audio signal was going out bright and clear!

There are also places in Europe where these services are (were being) offered
on a commercial basis. The cable person made comments of agreement when the
power-company person talked about people not accepting these things in the US,
but said that nobody there had discussed these issues that openly.

I'll let others answer the second question...


Subject: Re: Re Black Boxes and Marble Memorials

>>were passing) I don't know if the visual signal is also being transmitted, but
>>I <KNOW> that the audio signal was going out bright and clear!
>	I don't doubt that this is possible, but it would help us verify it if
>you could provide a frequency. Given that, it would be a simple matter for
>many of us to independently verify it.
>	Ever the skeptic...

I don't doubt your skepticism, nor do I condemn it in the least. I just wish
that I could provide you with the answer. All I know is that the unit that he
was using was fairly standard issue, at least in that area.

Part of what we were doing, in the joint project, was taking records from the
three different organizations, and verifying their accuracy (part of a
requirement from the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which had a
person accompany us from time to time). We spent six months riding around in
company trucks going from place to place, checking on the accuracy of the
records for that place. Because of the requirements of the project, they used
people who were 'techies' instead of just installers, repairmen, etc. Each of
us were considered to be the experts in our fields. One week we'd be in an
electric company truck, one week in a cable company truck or car, another week
in my phone company car.

The power company person showed us some of the FM transmitters at one of the
companies while we were there, so I at least saw that piece of equipment. Now,
the power company was not in the business of supplying the security for this
company, they just had the listening devices installed that interfaces with
someone else's unit on-site. The transmitters, he said, were turned down
enough so that the signal didn't just go out over the entire electrical net.

The cable company guy took us into one of the local cable company central
sites, and programmed in some of the additional options (something that at  the
time he said not even the PUC knew about -- remember they were still not even
talking about this much within their own ranks) for both the central unit and
the cable-ready television that was in the break room there. Almost at once,
we started to hear noises coming from the built-in speaker on the control unit
that he was working on. Since nobody was in the break room at the time, he
went in and started talking to us in a whisper. We couldn't hear everything he
said, bue we heard enough to know that it was really working.

He made darn sure that he disabled everything and removed all of the options
from the menus, etc, that he had added.

Getting back to listening in on the conversations in the houses. We were in
the cable company truck while he was talking about this option. He pointed out
some of the various units and repeaters (something that takes a signal and
boosts it so that it can travel further) when he commented on the ungrounded
cable becoming a radio antenna. I could see how that could work, but the power
company person wanted something more than talk. So we went behind a rather
large apartment complex. The cable person called in for a listing of
registered users and services. These were compared with what was actually in
use (at the central connection for the building), with the unauthorized
services being disconnected (quite a lot of them, I might add). The cable
person then went to the back of the truck and took out a pole that exteneded
quite a ways (perhaps fifteen feet) with a dense antenna at the end. This got
plugged into a box with a speaker. There was a lot of static and noise and
stuff most of the time that the pole was being passed across the various
connections, but every once in a while, there came through a very clear signal.
Noises that were clearly from various parts of the apartment were being heard
-- a baby crying that sounded fairly far away, like from another room, etc.

We were then told that if the units were truly programmed properly, like was
done at the central office, then each signal <might> be heard a little better.
Also, that if the unit was programmed properly, that there was some sort of way
that they would be (in future tense) able to put them on separate frequencies,
but at that time, it was not possible. This future time was awaiting the
advent of fiber-optic cabling (then still mostly a theory).

This person, knowing that we were both as technically knowledgeable as he/she
was, WOULD NOT give out more details than that (notice that I have been trying
to keep my descriptions as generic as possible), so I don't know anything more.

I <did> try to contact a cable company in one of the towns in Germany that I
had lived in to see if they were aware of these things and could give me more
details, but was never able to really make them understand what I was wanting
(I don't speak German well enough, and they either did not understand English
enough, or faked that they did not understand what I wanted).

That's all that I can provide for now. I've called around here, and none of
the cable people will give me an answer, and no matter who I call (service,
cust reps, etc), I am transferred to some glibb, slick-tonged, public relations
type who tells me that I'm not even in the same solar system as reality. Not
even when I tried to fake it by saying that I was living here on a temp visa,
and wanted the same security features that I had in Ramstein...


Subject: Re: Privacy and Cable TV

<> Bill wrote:
<> I spotted this on another list and thought y'all might be interested. I do not
<> vouch for the accuracy of this info, but as a Ham and an EE, it all seems
<> technically feasible to me. Comments are invited.
<> >An acquaintance who is involved with telecommunications recently told me
<> >that the spooks have the ability to listen in ("two way interaction" is
<> >the way he put it) through some kind of "black box" in our television

[ snip ]

<> First off, I can confirm this as a non-rumor, but as fact. In fact, this has
<> been the case for over a dozen years. The 'cable-ready' set has had this
<> ability since the term 'cable-ready' came to be.

I can confirm a similar practice within satellite communications products.
I have not been involved with this for several years. But, I used to work
for a company (which no longer exists) that pioneered the development of
commercial use of mobile hand-held 2-way satcom transceivers. At the time,
the hand-held models were prototype and (at least during the company's
official existence) were never completed. The system prior to the
hand-held devices were somewhat larger devices which were typically
used on big rig trucks for tracking and 2-way communications between
driver and company HQ. Anyway, to the point, I was for about 3 years
within the heart of this entire system. As it was all a big prototype
it was quite open (internally). I was involved to the link-level of
this protocol and discovered that the manufacturer of one of the transceivers
we used had built-in "master" codes that could be used to activate or
deactivate any function of the transceiver from the manufacturers HQ,
since of course, not only the customer and us, the manufacturers had
full access within our system "for diagnostic and testing purposes".

The bottom line is, the transceiver manufacturer had absolute control
of all these devices any time they wanted to use it (of course, so
did I, but I digress). Some of these devices were being used as unmanned
communications devices monitoring and controlling offshore oil rigs,
refrigeration units on trucks, whatever. In one experiment that I
was part of, we even used these devices to download and execute new
software for various computing devices that were connected at the other
end. Meaning computers that controlled whatever, in an unmanned
remote location (wherever) could be reprogrammed and executed via
this satcom transceiver. This was 1991. I'm sure if "they" wanted
to fully develop all of there capabilities it would be done by now.

The transceiver manufacturer in this case was a Japanese company.
The stated intended use of this technology was to vastly improve
air traffic control (too much control if you ask me). When I
presented the complete proof of this capability within the protocol
and demonstrated it, I was simply told "who cares."

Just another example of what goes on behind and within the scenes.
I have been intentionally vague about the details.


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