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Hidden Conversations Throughout History

February 02, 2023 0 Comments

It seems like every day we hear another story about someone talking in their home about a need they have and suddenly getting an “ad” on social media for a product that meets that need.

Is Facebook listening? Is Alexa listening? Is the government listening?

The answer is YES.

It’s no secret that your phone could be tapped by law enforcement or that the FBI monitors social media activity.

Are your written communications (emails, text messages, posts) private?

The answer is NO.

How many criminals have been busted using digital forensics? Too many to count.

We’ve even seen stories where supposed “disappearing, hidden” messaging apps like Snapchat can be recovered.

Knowing that anything you say, write, or post can potentially be exposed, what do you do if you want to have a private conversation?

The problem isn’t new – it’s just more technologically advanced.

Perhaps the best way to communicate undetected from encroaching surveillance is to look back to history and observe hidden communication methods that successfully worked – starting with the war that led to the founding of our nation and working our way forward.

The Revolutionary War

One of the reasons for America’s success during the Revolutionary War was the spycraft involving ciphers and secret codes.

According to Mount Vernon, “In ciphers, letters were used to represent and replace other letters to mask the true message of the missive. The letter’s recipient utilized a key–which referenced corresponding pages and letters from a well-known book, such as Entick's Dictionary–to decode the document’s true message.”

In addition, letter writers often used invisible ink made of ferrous sulfate and water or crafted mask letters, which were meant to be read using a shaped template to reveal the true message.

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad functioned using a system of hidden messaging.

Since the Underground Railroad moved slaves to different safer areas, they relied on songs and terminology familiar to slaves.

Discovery Theater explains, “The famous conductor Harriet Tubman had special songs she would sing to let her passengers know whether it was safe to come out of hiding or not. […] There were a bunch of songs the conductors and passengers would use on the Underground Railroad, and each song had a different meaning. ‘Wade in the Water’ told the passengers to get into the river to walk, so they would stay hidden from view and search dogs wouldn’t be able to find them. A slave would sing ‘Steal Away’ when they were planning on escaping soon.”

In addition to songs, they also communicated using codes. For example, “bundles of wood” or “parcels” meant there were incoming slaves.


During WWI, the invention of the radio revolutionized communications.

This allowed the military to more quickly communicate than they previously could using Morse code systems.

According to Live Science, “The ‘wireless’ (as early radio was sometimes called) quickly proved invaluable to wartime efforts: Radio operators with portable transmitters, for instance, were able to warn soldiers of an attack of poisonous gas, giving them time to don their gas masks.”

However, the new radio form of communication was not without complications, so the military still used other forms of hidden communication, such as pigeon carriers and dog messengers.


It was during WWII, when radio communications were amped up, that the military recognized the need to keep communications hidden.

Radio lines could be intercepted, and secret messages could be deciphered.

Therefore, code breaking, or cryptology, became a major way to communicate private messages.

It was so popular during WWII that more than 10,000 women found jobs as code breakers.

National Geographic explains, “The women codebreakers served many roles. They listened for coded radio messages from other countries. They collected things like the names of enemy ships and commanders that could be in a coded message—and therefore could help break it. They looked for patterns—for instance, where and when messages were sent could be clues about troop movements. They even tested American codes to make sure enemies couldn’t break them.”

In addition to the female code breakers, the United States also began utilizing Navajo Code Talkers during WWII.

According to the National WWII Museum, “More than 400 Navajo Indians served as code talkers, communicating secret messages for the U.S. Marines. These Navajo servicemen were specially trained to use their own language to communicate during battles throughout the Pacific campaign. The Navajo code used their own Navajo words to stand for English words.”

The Vietnam War

The importance of hidden communication should not be underestimated.

In Vietnam, senior U.S. commanders arrogantly thought the Viet Cong and NVA were “too ‘primitive’ to make deadly use of radio intel.”

This belief was flat-out wrong.

They were able to intercept radio communications and used that information to attack American troops.

However, there is another famous example of hidden communication working well during Vietnam when a POW used Morse code to signal his distress.

After being imprisoned in North Vietnam, Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton was forced to participate in a video interview to discuss his imprisonment.

He used his knowledge of morse code to bravely blink the Morse code symbols for “torture” so that Americans would understand the gravity of his situation. You can watch the powerful video here.

Alternative Means of Communication for Today

We know what we say when using technology (or even near technology) is being monitored.

And as the thought police and culture continue to gain hold, it’s even more important we tread carefully with what we say. 

Even if you feel as if you have nothing to hide, you should still be aware of other ways to communicate in private.

There may come a time when it isn’t just something you want to do, but something you need to do.

  1. Face-to-Face Communication: The best way to ensure privacy is to have a face-to-face conversation in the right place. You must have this conversation in a space free from others and technology. Leave your phone behind and take a walk in nature.
  2. Handwritten Notes: Instead of texting or emailing, write notes that can be burned or shredded.
  3. Burner Phones: Burner phones only work to conceal communications if you follow a few rules. First, never carry the burner phone with your primary phone because your regular phone is a tracking device. Secondly, your burner phone can be tracked by the people you call. So, you will need to discard it and replace it constantly.
  4. Cryptology: Spend time learning a new code or developing one of your own.
  5. Secret Signals: Consider creating a secret signal that only your family knows. For example, my in-laws have a family whistle-tune they do when they are out and about to find one another.
  6. Morse Code: Morse code has proven useful in many emergency situations. Whether you signal Morse code with your eyes like the POW or use light signals, it can be effective.
  7. Faraday Cage: Faraday cages protect from radio frequencies and magnetic fields. These are a great choice for disconnecting your phone digitally.

Think carefully about how you share private information, friends.

In liberty,

Elizabeth Anderson

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply

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