Radio Chatter

Hear a Secret Service agent struggle to keep pace with attendees at a UN conference

By Marc Ambinder

Here’s the communications that took place around 2:30 p.m., September 23, 2010, as a Secret Service agent struggled to keep pace with arrivals and departures at the UN on channel “Baker.” (The service told me that I was the first journalist it had ever allowed to listen in on one of its encrypted transmissions.)

“Japan motorcade, Japan motorcade, we have imminent departure. Please make your way to the tent.”


“Georgia detail …” [A garbled transmission comes in.]


“Last unit, repeat?”


“Georgia detail. We’re departing on foot.” [This is the detail leader, reporting that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili wants to walk to his hotel.]


“Copy that. Break. Namibia motorcade, please come to the tent.”


“Namibia, copy.”


Meanwhile, on channel “Charlie,” Bosnia’s president was on the move:


“Clear one right.” [A motorcade is changing lanes, and the follow-up car is telling the limo that the right lane is clear to move into.]


“Bosnia, arrival, 43.” [43 is the code number for a specific site.]


“Bosnia, copy your arrival, 43.”


“Slovakia, arrival, 46.” [another coded site]


“Millennium CP”—this is the agent at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel command post identifying himself—“Slovakia, copy.”

And on channel “Oscar,” the frequency used by President Obama’s Presidential Protective Detail, an agent tested communication with the temporary command post at JFK airport:

“I have you five by five”—this means “loud and clear”—“How copy?”

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/radio-chatter/308385/