November 16, 2012

Commander Petraeus' phones

Last week, David Petraeus resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), after admitting he had an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. This led to many news reports and also many pictures on the internet.

Some of them give a nice look at the telecommunications equipment which general Petraeus used when, from July 2010 to July 2011, he was commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan:

ISAF Commander Petraeus being interviewed by Paula Broadwell
(Photo:, date unknown)

In this picture we see the following telecommunication devices:

Video conferencing screens
On Petraeus' desk we see two Centric 1700 MXP video teleconferencing screens, made by the Norwegian manufacturer Tandberg. In 2010 this company was bought by Cisco Systems, and so the 1700 MXP screens are often used by US military officials. They are equipped with a HD camera and have a widescreen LCD screen, which operates both as a video conferencing system and PC display.

Left of the personal computer screen we see a Secure Terminal Equipment (STE), made by L3 Communications. The STE is a phone capable of encrypting calls up to the level of Top Secret/SCI. This phone can be used to have a secure line to anyone with a similar device.

Right behind the chair of commander Petraeus is an Integrated Services Telephone 2 (IST-2), made by Telecore Inc. This is a so called "red phone", which is part of the Defense Red Switch Network (DRSN), connecting all mayor US command centers and many other military facilities. This is the primary telephone network for military command and control communications.

VoIP phones
In the picture above we see three of four Voice over IP (VoIP) phones: at the right end a Cisco SPA and the other three being phones from the Cisco 7970-series. It's likely each of these phones is part of a separate telephone network. Nowadays many military phone networks use Voice over IP, often with Cisco IP phone sets. These phones have no encryption capability, but their voice data networks can easily be secured with specific network encryptors.
In the picture below we can see al four VoIP phones, neatly aligned on a shelf and with an organizational chart at the left side of them:

General David Petraeus in his office at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul.
(Photo: Adam Ferguson/The New York Times, March 8, 2011)

Also in this picture we see three printers on a table at the left side of the room. Apparently there are separate printers for different computer networks, in order to keep documents of different classification levels separated.
At the upper left corner of the front of at least the first two printers we can see the colored classification labels: a green label for Unclassified materials on the printer in the foreground and a red label for materials classified as Secret on the printer in the middle. The third printer seems to have no marking, but we can assume this one is for Top Secret (orange label) or Classified SCI (yellow label) documents.

This kind of communications equipment is typical for US military commanders in similar positions. Therefore one can quite easily recognize it also on other pictures of American military commanders and command centers. Contrarily, pictures in which we can see the equipment used in Petraeus' last office, that of director of the CIA, are very rare - but we keep looking!

UPDATE February 5, 2013:

A reader of this weblog kindly noticed me of another picture of general Petraeus in his office, with clearly visible another kind of communications device. It's an HH2G Tetrapol handheld radio device, sitting in a desktop adapter, so it can be more or less used like a phone:

General David Petraeus in his office in ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan
(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images Europe, October 21, 2010)

The Tetrapol secure voice and data radio network was installed in 2004 by Cogent Defence and Security Networks, the UK operating company of EADS Defence and Communications Systems Group. This trunked Tetrapol ISAF Command Network, with end-to-end security, provides command communications coverage for the NATO Area of Responsibility in the Kabul region.

1 comment:

Robert Welain said...

You guys really think I will stop? :D

In Dutch: Meer over het wetsvoorstel voor de Tijdelijke wet cyberoperaties