These are a few examples of telephones developed by the intelligence service to listen in on room conversations even when the handset was in its cradle. The innocuous looking phone had three wires, as opposed to our two in the U.S. I can only guess that the third wire was a microphone wire? To listen to the actual phone conversations the secret police had large panels of switchboards.
I was pulled off a flight in Vienna in 1994 and questioned about the green phone in my checked bag my friend MIrcea in Romania had given me. I said it was a “Ceausescu phone” They understood that it was not a bomb. The airport security also stabbed open my bag of Ovomaltine which was a gift for someone who served Ovaltine sodas at their restaurant. European Ovomaltine has more malt flavor than what is available in the U.S.! They figured out it wasn’t heroin.
The best description and origin story of these phones is contained in a 1987 book called “Red Horizons” by former Romanian Chief of Foreign Intelligence, Ion Mihai Pacepa. He defected to the United States in 1978. Within three years his information to the CIA decimated the Romanian secret police and stopped its major operations. There was a four million dollar bounty on his head and Ceausescu sent two squads to assasinate him, but they never found him.
He is now 91 years old and has been reunited with his family here. There is a 2011 eBook from a March 1990 update of his book which includes the transcript of the trial of the Ceausescus’. It presents a true face of the dictatorship and was used much during the trial.
Tomorrow I will quote Pacepa from his book in his description of these phones in a conversation with the Ceausescus’ -Quite interesting.-In future posts I will quote or use information from Pacepa’s book about the registration of typewriters and the espionage of Citroen and Renault to create the Romanian Dacia automobile. He also writes about how Romania secretively got the rights to color film, which by the late 80s became only available from outside of Romania.