In 1965, the U.S. Army Security Agency began a secret intelligence project in the Horn of Africa, about 50 miles from the Red Sea. The operation, codenamed STONEHOUSE, included a set of two 15-story parabolic antennas. They were built inside a 3,400-acre array of traditional radio receivers at Kagnew Station, a c...
All season 1 episodes
Meet Season One's Co-hosts
Virginity Lost-and-Found in the Danakil Depression
Cleopatra 2: The Mind Hug
The Earthquake That Released the Voice of God
The Groundhogs Are Coming For Our Teeth
The Farmer's Almanac Connection
The Danny Boy Killer
Father's Father Devoured by the Father of Lies
East is West. Up is Down. Grief is Love.
From Cupcakes to Landscapes to Kagnew
Bobert's Babylon by Bus
Olga Shimmers On the Sea
Stonehouse Is Stonestraw? Zero Stars!
In 1965, the U.S. Army Security Agency began a secret intelligence project in the Horn of Africa, about 50 miles from the Red Sea. The operation, codenamed STONEHOUSE, included a set of two 15-story parabolic antennas. They were built inside a 3,400-acre array of traditional radio receivers at Kagnew Station, a communications facility outside Asmara, Eritrea, then a part of Ethiopia.
Formerly an Italian World War II-era base called Radio Marina, Kagnew had been taken over by the U.S. in a 1953 deal that granted Ethiopia military assistance and training. The base’s location—several thousand feet above sea level, 10,000 miles from Earth’s magnetic poles and far from the aurora borealis—was optimal for stable military radio communications during the Cold War.
The station’s staff could transmit clear and secure signals back to Washington from the Middle East, Europe and North Africa, and could gather intelligence by listening to signals in the Middle East and Africa. Soon, recognizing a strategic surveillance advantage over the Soviets, the NSA and CIA had set up outposts at the base.
The 1960s-era state-of-the art radio technology at Kagnew Station made it possible to stabilize erratic communications with mobile underwater military systems in the Indian Ocean. By 1963, it also made possible the exploration of space and missile projects.
Officially, the Army Security Agency built STONEHOUSE’s two giant antennas to help investigate the possibilities of satellite communications. But declassified Defense Department documents show that for the next decade the antennas’ true purpose was to intercept Soviet space research data.
By the mid-1970s, most of the base’s technology was becoming obsolete, and Ethiopia’s political climate was threatening Kagnew’s survival. Months after a military junta known as the Derg overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, the U.S. decided to close Kagnew permanently. For the next 17 years, the Derg-supported dictatorship killed 2 million people.
Despite the evacuation of hundreds of Americans from Kagnew after the revolution, the NSA kept a small crew of engineers at the base to maintain STONEHOUSE until August of 1975. But as chaos and violence grew in the streets of Asmara and Addis Ababa, and despite Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s protests, the Pentagon abandoned Kagnew for good, and STONEHOUSE went dark forever.
Or did it?
Formerly the host of the syndicated radio program “Debra,” Debra is the author of *I Can’t Go for Mind Control (No Can Do): Hall, Oates and the Soviet Roots of Blue-Eyed Soul* available in free-thinking bookstores everywhere.
Hassan Gray is a Verizon Fios sales analyst and host of the “Not My Problem” podcast.