NSA Field Station Teufelsberg - a late post mortem

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The NSA Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg was one of the premier listening posts of the cold war. Situated on top of the highest elevation in West Berlin - the Teufelsberg, the station had unobstructed reception of signals from all directions. And viewed from West Berlin, in all directions was "East". Situated on an artifical hill near a string of lakes, the Teufelsberg enjoyed excellent reception in most radio bands that were otherwise difficult to receive at long distances. The NSA got so far in their search for better receiption, that they prolonged the operation of a flywheel that was accidentially found to be a excellent resonator for certain radar installations deep in the east.

The station was situated in the British sector of West Berlin, so the US services were technically a guest there. Given the intense collaboration of the british and american intelligence agencies, this was only a technicallity. The British armed forces had one own building (building M aka. 1455) on the hill and a very high metal grid antenna tower (removed around 1992) for their collection antennas. How the collection and analysis efforts were shared between the two operating countries is currently not entirely clear. Obvious is the common operation of auxillary services (like power, heating, sewer, dining facility etc.). A fascinating difference between the US and British complex on the hill is that the British had three different types of toilets: ladies, normal men and officers. The US forces had to live with just the normal two toilet varieties.

The US operation on the Teufelsberg has been managed in the last years of its existence by the US Army Intelligence and Security Command INSCOM. The NSA itself had analysts, researchers and linguists based on the Teufelsberg, in different numbers over time. Detachments from other services, like the Air Force, were assigned to a number of missions, like finding ways to subvert the air defense forces of the East in case of a hot war. The Field Station contained all kinds of ELINT and SIGINT equipment, the biggest known pieces were the 40 feet (12 meter) fully rotable down to below horizon dish antennas inside the radomes left and right of the main tower. The directional microwave link networks inside East Germany were probably recorded completely, as they all converged in East Berlin and had considerable beam width and side lobes and could therefore be easily intercepted with the kind of resources installed on the Teufelsberg. New types of air defense radars could be analyzed in detail as well as satellite transmissions and radio communications intercepted and analysed. It is known that the wireless communication systems in West Berlin were also on tap, in addition to the monitoring of the wire based communication under Allied Law performed in other installations like the one in Mariendorf. Rumor has it that even relatively small radio based room bugs installed somewhere in Berlin, were receivable with the enormous antenna systems.

Below you find an overview map of the installation, photographed on a wall in building 1458. The map seems to have been made after the inteligence people left. Due to construction work (recently abandoned) aimed at building expensive appartments in the area, some buildings are no longer existing. Primarily the buildings 1457, 1456 and 1466 (right side of the map) are demolished. For the historically interested, the most promising buildings are 1475 (the US computing and analysts building), 1455 (the British building), 1425 (also called Arctic Tower or Search Tower) and of course 1458 (the main operations building with the tower and the "ball" radomes). The construction work has affected the analysts and operation floors of the tower building (1458) very much, so there are only few traces of its past use visible.

All buildings are connected by covered walkways (Verbindungsgang), except the dining facility (1453), the small Jamabalya radar tower (1465) and some minor outlaying utillity constructions.

Overview plan with building numbers

The aerial image below depicts approximately the maximum installation on the Teufelsberg. Clearly visible is the big antenna tower that was used by the British GCHQ. Also visible are the small radomes on top of the big tower and the Arctic tower main radomes. Their usage is unclear and they have been removed when the NSA left. Also visible are some smaller antenna towers with antennas that can be guessed to be part of a shortwave directional setup. Unfortunately one of the most mysterious installations, the Jambalaya tower is just outside the right edge of the image. Instead some different structures can be seen.

teufelsberg.jpg
Field Station Berlin (Teufelsberg), View from parking ground
Field Station Berlin (Teufelsberg), View from parking ground
Smaller radome on seperate tower
Smaller radome on seperate tower. This installation was called JAMBALAYA and was apparently used for special research projects. Indications are that a bunker is beneath the tower, but we could not find an entrance so far. The floor of the tower looks like relatively fresh concrete, so it is very well possible that the entrance to the bunker was permanentely sealed when the NSA left.
Electromagnetic Interference filter banks, obviously they had a lot of RF energy to shield
Electromagnetic Interference filter banks, obviously they had a lot of RF energy to shield
Type plate on the filter banks door
Type plate on the filter banks door
Type plate on the filter banks door
Type plate on the filter banks door
Motivational slogan in the entryway of the Military Police quarters in the basement
Motivational slogan in the entryway of the Military Police quarters in the basement.
Since there are also two rooms with elevated floor behind in this basement, I suspect that their purpose was internal surveillance>. "Shadow Watch" sounds also like that and the "normal" guard operations had apparently their quarters in the Platoon rooms, near the weapons storage in the entrance building.
Entrance to the MP "Shadow Watch" rooms
Entrance to the MP "Shadow Watch" rooms
The rooms behind that door are a bit wet and have raised ceilings. Either they have been retrofitted as computer rooms or the MP was running some surveillance gear here to maintain communication discipline.
Dual 110V (US) and 230V (German) power installation in a equipment / computer room
Dual 110V (US) and 230V (German) power installation in a equipment / computer room
This is in one of the rooms in the MP area
Thickwire Ethernet transceiver that had been mounted into the ceiling. The cable was of unusual shielded quality.
Thickwire Ethernet transceiver that had been mounted into the ceiling. The cable was of unusual shielded quality.
DEFCON (?) ampel
DEFCON (?) indicator in building 1437A
At least they tried to limit their power use with slogans... (sticker on some equipment related to climate control)
At least they tried to limit their power use with slogans... (sticker on some equipment related to climate control)
The tech support could be reached at 6666
The tech support could be reached at 6666. If you ever wanted to meet a NSA / INSCOM BOFH...
Lock marks on a door to a secured area
Lock marks on a door to a secured area
The door is in the communications annex. The lock installed was apparently a Sargent & Greenleaf mechanic combination lock or a Mas Hamilton X07 high-security electronic combination lock or similar model
DSCF1136.JPG
DSCF1136.JPG
Part of the vast electricity distribution / switching installations
Part of the vast electricity distribution / switching installations
Type plate on the Incinerator
Type plate on the Incinerator
Detail view of the Incinerator
Detail view of the Incinerator
Oven door of the right Incinerator
Oven door of the right Incinerator
Incinerator in nearly full view
Incinerator in nearly full view
The Incinerator was also constructed as a pair to prevent a piling up of too much secret material in case of a malfunction.
Detail of Incinerator control panel
Detail of Incinerator control panel
The control panel gives a good overview on how the machine worked. In stage one the goods were incinerated with a burner and forced air blowing in from below. In stage two eventual remaining gases and particels were destroyed by a second burner unit, probably to reduce environmental impact. The Incinerator was most probably used for magnetic tapes as well, so the gases resulting from stage 1 were toxic and needed to be broken down thermaly in stage two. Temperature for incineration was between 800 and 900 degrees celsius, according to notes on the control panel.
Complete control panel of Incinerator 1
Complete control panel of Incinerator 1
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DSCF1262.JPG
Control panel of Incinerator 2
Control panel of Incinerator 2
Small interior space between an annex and the main analysts / computer building
Small interior space between an annex and the main analysts / computer building
Document shredder
Document shredder
Document shredder pair
Document shredder pair
Since document destruction was a core process of the Field Station, all machines and systems related to it were constructed in pairs to have sufficient redundancy. The mechanical paper shredders are paired as well. Interesting to see that the shredding was only down to rather large pieces that were then water treated, pulped and pressed into blocks for incineration or Pizza packaging raw material.
Type plate of Document Shredder
Type plate of Document Shredder
Side view of Shredder
Side view of Shredder
Pipes leading from the shredders into the next room
Pipes leading from the shredders into the next room
The shredded paper pieces were blown with huge fans into the storage silos of the pulping and compression machines in the next room
Pulping and compression unit
Pulping and compression unit
Here the shredded paper was first collected in the silo, then mixed with water and compressed into pulp blocks that were then transported for further destruction or use. You can see the pipe coming from the shredder room going into the silo.