The War On Privacy Hits You In The Pocket Book!
COPYRIGHT (C) 1991 BY FULL DISCLOSURE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Why does the FBI and other select government agencies pay over $4,000 for a
pocket tape recorder? One of the most important elements in an electronic
surveillance operation is the tape recorder. Whether hidden in one's pocket
or recording information from a wiretap or bug, the tape recorder can be the
key to success or failure.
The FBI had a need for a specialized recorder, so they contracted with the
U.S. subsidiary of a Swiss company, Nagra Magnetics, Inc. to design a
recorder that met their needs. The result being the Nagra JBR subminiature
recorder and PS-1 playback system.
When asked whether the unit was named after Jim B. Reames, an FBI employee
who helped design the recorder, a Nagra spokeswomen refused to say, but
pointed out that the initials were in fact the same.
The design and manufacture of the recorder has been so secret and important
to the FBI (and two other unnamed government agencies who are supposedly the
sole users of the recorder) that any public availability of information on
the recorder would ``make the machine extinct,'' according to an employee of
Narga who refused to provide any details on the recorder in a telephone
It is also interesting to note that in the literature obtained by Full
Disclosure from the NATIA show, several of the companies made mention of
Narga tape recorders, but not the JBR model.
A freelance reporter who contacted Nagra in August, 1990, was informed that
someone from the Justice Department had just visited to express the
government's desire to keep the public ignorant about the JBR recorder.
Full Disclosure contacted Nagra on September 24, 1990 and was informed that
they received a letter from the Government ``last week'' informing them that
they couldn't give out any information on the JBR recorder. Nagra refused to
disclose what agency sent the letter.
The company spokeswomen, also stated that they are not allowed to advertise
the unit anywhere, and if they did they would ``lose all government
contracts.'' She further stated that they wanted to advertise it in
Law and Order and could not.
Marketing is done by word of mouth and narcotics trade shows, she said. This
seemed a little contrary to the first spokesman who said that there were only
three customers for the JBR recorder.
Full Disclosure's investigative reporting team, was able to obtain complete
specifications on both the recorder and playback unit.
Because of the secrecy around the recorder and its specifications, the unit
is sole-sourced from Nagra. Inevitability when a product is available from a
single source, there is no price competition.
The following public disclosure of the JBR specifications should serve two
1) to open a competitive market for this type of recorder, and
2) to give the American public more information on the tools the government
uses to spy upon. Thereby increasing the public's ability to participate in
political process as it relates to oversight and domestic use of spy
@SUBHEAD = JBR RECORDER
``The recorder is stereophonic, with two totally independent channels. A
third central track records a reference signal of 5,461 Hz. This signal is
used later on in the playback system as a reference, in order to correct for
``The recording speed is 15/16 ips. This speed is stabilized by an optical
encoder system. In order to save energy and to reduce radiation as much as
possible, no erasing head is provided. For basically the same reasons, and to
ensure that the tapes remain genuine, there is also no playback facility
provided on the recorder.
``Special Kudelski cassettes are used to provide two hours non stop recording
autonomy. A set of three ``N'' size batteries are used allowing ten hours of
``Even though the detectablility is minimal, the bias frequency is of 32KHz
and has thus the same radiation as a quartz watch. The recorder weight is
less than 200 grams, includes its cassette and batteries, and is really
pocket size with cover: 110.2 x 62.6 x 20.8 mm (4.34: x 2.46" x 0.82").
Miniature microphone and remote controls are available with different length
So-called tape recorder detectors normally detect the presence of the ``bias
oscillator'' in tape recorders. By using a non-standard and one that is also
commonly used by other common devices makes detection by such a means more
@SUBHEAD = JBR Specifications:
SIZE (L x W x H): 110.2 x 62.6 x 20.8mm, with cover: 4.34" x 2.46" x 0.82"
with cover & plugs: 110.2 x 64.3 x 20.8mm / 4.34" x 2.53" x 0.82"
Weight: Recorder with cover: 143 g, Cassette with 2 hr tape: 22 g, Batteries,
3 pcs: 29 g, Microphones including 4' cable, 2 pcs: 30 g, Remote control, 3'
cable:18 g. Total weight: 242 g.
Environment: Operating position: Any, Temperature: 0 C to 40 C (32 F to
104F). Humidity: 20% to 95% non-condensing.
Power Supply: Supply voltage: 2.7 to 5V DC, nominal 4.5 V. ``Batt OK''
indicator threshold: 3.4V. Battery standard type: ASA ''N'', ANSI ``L20'',
IEC ``LR1''. Current consumption - start of tape: 40mA typical, - end of
tape: 50ma typical.
TAPE: Tape transport: without capstan, constant speed. Tape type: chromium
dioxide in special JBR cassette. Tape width: 3.81 mm (0.150"). Tape Thickness
(total): 9u (0.35mil) 120 min. 12u (0.48mil) 90 min. Max recording time: 2
hours. Audio tracks: 1.20mm x 2. Control tract (center): 0.40 mm. Track
spacing: 0.50 mm. Nominal tape speed: 2.38 cm/s (15/16ips). Tape speed
accuracy: better than +/- 2%. Wow and flutter: typ. 2.5% peak-to-peak, NAB (=
DIN 45507) weighted. Start time: less than 4 seconds
Inputs: 2 microphone inputs. Maximum input level: 60 mV RMS. Audio indicator
threshold: 30 mV RMS input -3 dB on tape. Input impedance: 80 K. Microphone
sensitivity: 10 mV/PA (1 Pa=10 ubar). Maximum SPL: 110 dB (0 dB SPL = 20
uPa). Signal to noise ratio, unexpanded: better than 51 dB ASA A weighted.
Frequency response: 170 Hz to 4.5 kHz +/- 3dB. Total harmonic distortion:
less than 3%. Compression ratio: 2:1 in dB. Compressor operating range: 80 dB
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