The Spy Shop Catalog You Weren’t Supposed to See

A perv's delight: Cobham portable surveillance base station.

A perv’s delight: Cobham portable surveillance base station.

You’ve probably seen those “Spy Shop” catalogs with their overpriced, oversized surveillance gadgets, much beloved by cuckolds and small-time wannabe PIs. Well, here’s a catalog[.pdf] of the real stuff, a catalog that you were never supposed to see.

It’s the 2014 Cobham PLC “Tactical Communications & Surveillance” catalog for governments. While this is from their US subsidiary in Pinellas Park, FL (not far from SOCOM, oddly enough) and is specifically aimed at US military, police and TLA (Three Letter Agency) requirements for warrant-authorized and (shadier) warrantless intrusion and surveillance, the same company sells worldwide, including to many of the world’s greatest human-rights-abusing secret police agencies.

Hey, dollars, euros, rubles or renminbi, it’s all fungible. Cha-chingg!

They’re serious about not wanting this document to get around:

This catalog is the property of Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance and must be returned upon request. The contents of this catalog are proprietary and confidential and may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written consent of Cobham TCS. Export restrictions apply. Possession and/or use of many of these products contained in this catalog is restricted by Federal or State law. Product features and specifications are not intended to be comprehensive and may not be accurate. For up to date and comprehensive product features and specifications please visit www. or contact your Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance Account Manager.

Every page is further marked:

Cobham TCS Propriety and Confidential Information, DO NOT DISTRIBUTE WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

Sorry ’bout that, Chief.

What they say they’re offering is:

…covert audio, video, and tracking surveillance equipment built and supported by the best brands in the industry. Our aim is to supply clients with advanced surveillance technology which significantly enhances their operational capability.

Some of the capabilities are:

Video solutions offer high quality recording and sharing of images, to evidential standards

Audio solutions for covert monitoring of target conversations

Tracking, Tagging and Locating solutions, where tiny unique tags help follow or find people and assets, wherever they are

Integrated Surveillance Solutions bring together the best of Cobham’s products to deliver a complete solutions in some of the toughest locations in the world.

There’s also the IP Mesh product line, which is a robust, self-organizing and self-healing network that not only operates in a public-service context, but also can provide nodes that are in listening radio silence for clandestine operation against electronically sophisticated opponents.


Cobham’s radios don’t use frequency-hopping; instead, they escape detection (and increase live dwell time on target) by using a fixed frequency, but an extremely minute signal, easily overlooked by technical surveillance countermeasures.

There are a wide range of prefab clandestine cameras, for those lacking the in-house ability to dummy them up…










… and there’s even a dog-collar camera, and a throwable “ball camera” that rights itself on landing. Not to mention a full suite of IMSI catchers (Cobham’s version of the Harris Stingray, a covert cell phone surveillance device. IMSI catchers are widely used without warrants to develop information; rather than submit that information as “evidence,” which would (1) expose the use of the surveillance and (2) enable warrantless wiretapping to be challenged in court, the information is then used to develop the same information using legal means, a processs that the Feds call “parallel construction.”

All in all, the catalog is jammed with spy tech, any item of which can be integrated into your video/audio/RF-spectrum/etc. pervasive surveillance system.


Like a gun, these technologies are neutral. They can be sold (and from Cobham, they are) to beleaguered democracies with a strong rule of law, and ruthless dictatorships that laugh at the very idea of the law. They can be pro-civic in nature, when deployed under judicial oversight (for example, particularized and narrow warrants), and they can be totalitarian and dyscivic in nature, when deployed on warrantless fishing expeditions.

With the FBI increasingly stepping into a role as a partisan political police, and with the Bureau’s, the other agencies’, and the DOJ’s allergic reaction to the sunlight of transparency, maybe some common sense spy tech control measures need to be imposed by Congress.

Think of the children.

You can see the catalog here[.pdf on]. Should it get nuked, let us know in the comments; we’ve saved a copy.

Exit howler: Cobham Tactical Communications and Surveillance’s truly Orwellian tagline: “The most important thing we build is trust.”

17 thoughts on “The Spy Shop Catalog You Weren’t Supposed to See

  1. John M.

    “Cobham TCS Propriety and Confidential Information, DO NOT DISTRIBUTE WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.”

    Well. If you get in any trouble over this, just tell them that you had a head injury and had no idea what that meant. But that head injury in no way means that you suffer from any kind of ill health and any thoughts along those lines will be SEVERELY PUNISHED.

    -John M.

  2. BAP45

    I wonder what their reaction or response would be if one of us regular joes placed an order? Might be an interesting conversation.

  3. Keith

    Big Brother is Watching!

    Move along citizen nothing happening her, move along.

    The Tribulation coming closer every day. Are you ready?

  4. Aesop

    The follow-up posting by the original hackers needs to be the employee roster of the company, from CEO to the guy who cleans the bathrooms.
    And their home addresses.

    And a list of their sales orders would be hilarious.

    It’s a lot less fun to live in the surveillance state you create when you’re the fly instead of the spider, a lesson that frequently needs to be driven home with a nail-spiked baseball bat.

    So to speak.

  5. Noway Jose

    Much of this is old hat. Except for the networking stuff, most of this was in production by the mid 1990’s. An unnamed company I had an unspecified relationship with for 9 years produced rather similar items for unmentionable government contracts. You may have missed some of the interesting items. Magnetic field disturbance sensors that can detect things like “large handheld weapons.” At an unspecified distance. Seismic sensors that can detect footsteps for some range. And perhaps other things. like inmates digging, which may have factored in to a prison breakout attempt during a disturbance in the 1990’s.

    Of course, I can’t recall. Cough, cough, cough.

  6. Quill_&_Blade

    Call me the wannabe comedian, I guess I’m in the wrong line of work…I would LOVE to have a captive audience. It’s a two part strategy. Do personal things like scratch yourself in places, to make it appear that you’re unaware of being watched. Then, the occasional quirky behavior. The agent doesn’t know whether to laugh or call a supervisor. When life gives you lemons…

  7. Pingback: WeaponsMan: Spy Toys | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  8. James In Australia

    I actually made a few Wall Clock cameras nearly 20 years ago, they all ended up in the reception areas of Brothels (legal here).
    The thing about clocks is that people cannot help but glance at them, particularly when stressed, like when they are about to rob the place.

  9. emdfl

    Friend of mine knows the owner of the place and took me out there for an intro. Unless he knows you personally or you have the right creds, he doesn’t sell to you. At least that was the way it was. He did have some pretty neat stuff though.

  10. Anonymous

    On catalog page numbered 103, pdf page 107: “For geo-locating and tracking purposes the UMTS target phone is ‘pushed’ onto the GSM-XPZ cell and then placed into blind call mode.” Blind call mode. Sounds like the cell phone cattle ear tag can track your location if they want, even while you aren’t making a call.

    If a person carries a cell phone around all day, they aren’t serious about privacy, distancing themselves from the system, etc.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Good catch. Actually, it’s worse than that. Blind call mode connects to the cellphone from the IMSI snatcher and uses the cellphone mic to listen to whatever it can hear. Here’s a text dump from another vendor’s promotional material. Search for Blind Call Mode.

      Google, which works with NSA, sends any query about “blind call mode” a bunch of links about voice-command-enabling a cell phone so a blind person can use it.

      FBI also does a blind call mode equivalent pretty routinely with the OnStar in GM cars and probably with its equivalents in Ford, BMW, etc. They generally do this w/o a warrant and then “parallel construct” the information, sometimes with a nonexistent informant. But judges do routinely grant warrants for this kind of interception, and the in-house lawyers have ruled that they can deploy an IMSI catcher (even in blind call mode) on a pen-trace order.

      If it’s a “national security” case, they can always take it to the FISA court, which rubber stamps every application. They have literally never said no to a LE warrant or order request. FISA judges are the most overpaid notaries public in the world. But then, most judges at all levels have never refused a wiretap warrant or pen-trace order application.

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