Compiled and submitted by an anonymous donor:
2016 RNC Cleveland, Ohio SIGINT
The Republican National Convention was held in Cleveland, OH on July 18-21, 2016. Officials began implementing the security zone and closing areas off to traffic on the evening of July 14th. Monitoring of communications began on a periodic basis on 7/14/2016 and continued until 7/21/2016.
Equipment used was a Yaesu FT2900R with an Arrow J-pole antennae, A Kenwood TM-V71A, and a Uniden BCD436HP.
The following frequencies were observed to have active traffic during this period.
136.3750 AM USCBP Air to Air clear (Two UH-60 Blackhawks relieved each other to provide constant aerial support during hours of activity, Omaha 1 and 2). Usually at around 5000′
139.875 NFM Civil Air Patrol analog Tac #1 (Constant flight operations in the TFR zone utilizing a typical search pattern flight route) Usually around 12,000′
156.120 Unknown Encrypted
160.735 Unknown Encrypted
160.800 Unknown Clear
161.025 Unknown Clear
161.8750 U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Clear
163.6250 USCBP Digital Clear and Encrypted
163.6750 USCBP NFM Analog Clear and Encrypted
164.400 Unknown Encrypted
165.2375 USCBP Tac Digital Encrypted
165.295 Unknown Encrypted
165.785 Unknown Encrypted
167.635 Unknown Encrypted
168.500 Unknown Encrypted
168.835 Unknown Encrypted
168.8375 USCBP Air #1 Encrypted
170.145 Unknown Encrypted
170.550 Unknown Encrypted
170.860 Unknown Encrypted
170.880 Unknown Encrypted
171.250 Unknown Encrypted
171.3125 USCG NET 131 USCG Nationwide VHF
172.410 Unknown Encrypted
172.900 Unknown Clear and Encrypted
173.525 Unknown Encrypted
252.1000 USAF Reserve Command Post to CAP
282.8000 AM USAF CAP
298.950 AM USAF Aerial Refueling Routes, AR-217 Entry
348.9000 AM USAF Aerial Refueling Routes, AR-206H Primary
376.0750 USCBP Air Interdiction Blue 4 Encrypted (Believed to be a digital link)
Scan of 411.000 to 419.000 revealed no traffic.
City Police Used the Regional APCO P25 system
On the ground intel units initially using an unidentified encrypted frequency later began switching back and forth to the P25 regional net. Total of 21 teams identified (“Oscar” units) that blended right in with the demonstrators.
OHP Ground and aerial units utilized their existing system throughout.
City and OHP aerial units kept below the Blackhawks
Despite all the planning many ground units were without water, food, and battery resupply for up to 18 hrs per day until nearly the end of the operation.
Encryption only works when everything is working perfectly. This operation was in a built up urban area with easily available support. In rural or rough terrain areas it would be hit or miss. Often if the units were encountering problems communicating they would break into clear mode. OTAR (over the air rekeying) effectiveness is unknown to this observer.
Optimum monitoring of this situation would have required a minimum of four trained SIGINT collectors to gather all the available communications.
County EOC (Seperate from P.D. JTOC) was manned 24hr per day with EOC operators and ARES volunteers.
A Second back-up EOC was also manned 24/7 at the American Red Cross in Akron, Ohio about 30 miles South in case primary EOC went down.
Very very slow response to potentially serious info. Example, Out of State troopers reported seeing a male sticking his head in and out of a 7th floor building where all the other windows were closed. Also reported seeing a bright green light periodically from the same window directly overlooking parade route of BLM with P.D. Foot and bicycle units flanking, tailing and leading. Almost 3 hours later before a regular zone car responded to check area.
Did not observe any use of federal or local inter-operability frequencies in the clear.
And there it is…done with simple, off the shelf equipment and good observation.