ClandestineRadio.com Offers Anti-Government Broadcasts From Global Outlets for Political Analysis
Log onto www.clandestineradio.com and you will enter a world few people know exist – a world of “subversive radio and TV broadcasts” where the activities of everything from the U.S. government’s anti-Castro Radio Martí to the Al Qaeda-linked Radio Al Tajdeed are detailed for all to see.
Even more bizarrely, Al-Tajdeed, which recently sold cassette tapes of Osama Bin Laden on-air and online, is broadcast by European satellite into Saudi Arabia. Apparently even terrorist-linked organizations can get Western airtime, as long as they pay their bills.
Such is the strange world of clandestine broadcasting, one which ClandestineRadio.com authoritatively documents each day. “Our goal is to archive open and primary source data on clandestine broadcasting outlets, validate it and then use the information to develop analysis on the broader political context,” says Nick Grace, the site’s Washington managing editor.
“Since 1996 we have quietly landed a number of exclusives relating to Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran and a host of other countries, including audio of Taliban Radio at the moment it was blown off the airwaves, and analysis of covert coalition psychological warfare strategy in Iraq,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Clandestine Radio.com has become a popular site for journalists, propagandists and intelligence officers. Such is the quality of the reporting that ClandestineRadio.com “is a required source on the syllabus of at least two university-level communications courses,” Grace says. “Our data has directly served as background for products developed by CBC, NPR, PBS Frontline, CBS News’ ’60 Minutes’ and BBC Radio and TV.”
‘War of ideas’
The “subversive radio and TV broadcasts” tracked by ClandestineRadio.com are produced by a stunningly wide variety of sources. Some of these are created by government agencies, such as Radio Martí and Radio Free Asia. Others are funded by expatriate dissident groups – London-funded Al Tajdeed, which broadcasts to Saudi Arabia, is a good example – and broadcast into their target territories either by satellite, or using foreign transmitters that reach into the target country’s airwaves.
Occasionally, some stations take the risk of broadcasting from within the country they are targeting; while the U.S. military has even broadcast radio programs into Iraq using airborne 10 kW transmitters mounted inside converted C-130 Hercules aircraft.
What all of these broadcasts have in common is that they are combatants “waging a war of ideas,” says Grace, a Web producer and one-time shortwave radio hobbyist who volunteers for ClandestineRadio.com. It’s a conflict that goes back to the 1930s, when clandestine broadcasters pumped their views into Spain’s Civil War; one that was honed during World War II by the BBC and Japan’s Tokyo Rose, and raised to a high art form during the days of the Cold War and Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe.
Today, this “war of ideas” is raging not just on radio and TV but the Web as well, and ClandestineRadio.com is doing its best to track and report it all.
“Our data is acquired through open source research (published materials), monitoring of actual broadcasts and also interviews with participants and/or knowledgeable individuals from academic, NGO and intelligence communities,” Grace says.
The site could be called a TV Guide of subversive broadcasting. It’s an apt comparison. Click on the “Latest Schedule Matrix” at ClandestineRadio.com and you can see which clandestine stations are broadcasting into which regions, at specific times during the day.
In radio alone, the North Korean-targeted “Echo of Hope” broadcasts from South Korea daily at 0300-0559 UTC (10:00 p.m.-12:59 a.m. EDT). The Voice of Iranian Kurdistan, which wants a separate Kurd state in Iran, is on at 0200-0500 UTC. Closer to home, the anti-Castro station Foro Militar Cubano broadcasts to Cuba from Miami’s WRMI 000-0100 UTC, while another anti-Castro broadcast, Entre Nosotros, is on WRMI 12030-1300 UTC.
Add in the Voice of Tibet, Radio Free Vietnam, Minivan Radio (Maldives), Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Syria, Voice of the Democratic Path to Ethiopian Unity and the New York-based Sound-of-Hope Radio Network, whose anti-Communist broadcasts are heavily jammed in mainland China, and the world’s radio bands (mainly shortwave) clearly are jammed with clandestine broadcasts around the clock.
ClandestineRadio.com also offers a country-by-country breakdown of clandestine broadcasts – who the broadcaster is, who is behind them and which country they are targeting. For instance, as of June, the United States was being targeted by the Iranian government’s own clandestine radio station. Heard in English, its call sign is, “This is the Voice of Justice broadcast from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“The Voice of Justice also can be accessed online” at www.irib.ir/worldservice/englishRADIO/default.htm , says Grace. “Note the Voice of Justice banner with the burning WTC graphic.” But at press time that link was no longer valid.
Today, the Voice of Justice is the only clandestine station aimed at Americans, but there have been others in years past. For instance, in 2000-01 the right-wing Kentucky State Militia Radio, or KSMR, urged listeners “to ‘Take Back Kentucky’ and, if need be, secede from the United States,” says ClandestineRadio.com.
In 1962-64, the Cuban-based AM station Radio Free Dixie featured “pro-violence black activist” Robert F. Williams telling civil rights protesters to replace peaceful “sit-in” demonstrations with “kill-ins.” After his broadcasts ended, Williams subsequently moved to Beijing, where he reportedly grew close to Mao Tse-Tung.
A dangerous job?
The insightful and sometimes astounding information offered by ClandestineRadio.com doesn’t come without risk. Not only does the Web site get more than its fair share of hate mail – “people often assume that because we mention a certain clandestine station, we therefore support its views,” says Grace – but station personnel have received death threats. For instance, “in 2001 an individual who I personally interviewed that broadcast anti-government broadcasts within the U.S. and later aired threats against me wound up on the ATF Top 10 fugitive list,” Grace says.
Nevertheless, ClandestineRadio.com has expanded its activities to include a bi-weekly e-newsletter and is about to launch a regular 30-minute webcast/podcast that will be offered to broadcasters as well.
“Through the power of VoIP (Voice Over IP) our virtual recording studio will span from St. Paul, Minn., Washington, D.C. and Eisenach, Germany,” says Grace. “Confirmed guests are located in Egypt, Australia, U.S., U.K., Sri Lanka and the Gambia. Not bad for zero budget.”