Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spy Games: Animal Edition

From secret CIA files declassified in 2001, as written up in the Guardian:
In another snapshot of folly offered by the new files, a memo dated 1967 on "Views of Trained Cats" looks into the possibility of surgically inserting microphones and transmitters into cats and using them as walking bugs. The operation was codenamed "Acoustic Kitty" and was a resounding failure.

Having wired their first trained cat for sound, they released it near a park with strict orders to eavesdrop on two men on a bench, but the poor animal was run over by a taxi before it had taken more than a few steps towards its target.

The CIA researchers came to the conclusion that they could train cats to move short distances, but that "the environmental and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that for our (intelligence) purposes, it would not be practical."
[Hat tip to Nolo in the comments to this sad story about the use, frankly, of pig-torture to train medics shipping out to Iraq.]

2 Comments:

Anonymous John Thullen:

I love cats.

On the one hand, trying to imagine a cat carrying out a direct order is .... impossible. The movie would be called "Mission Exasperating" with long scenes of the feline spy trainees staring down their spymasters as if to say, "You talkin to me, hunh. Hunh?"

On the other hand, I know our cat is observing and listening, her ears swiveling like NORAD radar, when she "sleeps". And, sometimes she enters a room and sits with her back toward us, like she is minding her own business. But if you watch her long enough, you'll notice she opens and closes an umbrella, like she is signaling someone, even when it's not raining.

And what about those times cats sit in the window and make those little witching noises with their teeth. Most people think they are directing those noises at the birds and varmints outside, but I'll bet it's a conspiratorial code, like morse code. Something is up.

The "flat cat" incident is unfortunate. I wonder if the C.I.A. tried tying an invisible wire to the listening device-laden flat cat and dragging it to within listening distance of their subjects. I wonder, too, if the subjects noticed flat cats lying about and became suspicious.

Cats would make great double agents. Ask Siegfried and Roy about spy "assets" that turn on their masters.

It would be like the spy who came in from the cold. Except that they would want to go outside again immediately and show up minutes later begging to come back in. That could go on all day.

Pussy Galore. Sorry, but I had to bring her up.

1/25/2007 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

I can totally imagine how someone watching a cat's natural behavior--slinking and skulking--would think a cat would make a wonderful spy. I've got to admire the ingenuity of it.

From everything I've heard, though, cats are not known as the most trainable of animals. I'm a bit surprised that the first test ended with the cat's being run over by a car; I would have expected the cat to have run away or simply become more interested in a sunbeam.

And, yes, Pussy Galore--not, you will note, the most faithful of agents.

1/26/2007 01:26:00 PM  

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