Categories: animal abuse

CIA put transmitter inside cat and used tail as antenna to obtain Russian secrets

This is positively not news and it has come to my attention again today after a gap of a couple of years. It is back in the news again.

NOTE: THIS WAS NEWS ABOUT 2 YEARS AGO. I HAVE REPUBLISHED IT BECAUSE MORE INFORMATION HAD BECOME AVAILABLE. HENCE THE DATES OF THE COMMENTS, THE FIRST OF WHICH BY SARAH HARTWELL IS VERY USEFUL.

Wikipedia (the other wiki) explains: “Acoustic Kitty was a CIA project launched by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology, which in the 1960s intended to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. In an hour-long procedure a veterinary surgeon implanted a microphone in the cat’s ear canal, a small radio transmitter at the base of its skull and a thin wire into its fur. This would allow the cat to innocuously record and transmit sound from its surroundings. Due to problems with distraction, the cat’s sense of hunger had to be addressed in another operation.

The project was cancelled in 1967. A closing memorandum said that the CIA researchers believed 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. The project was disclosed in 2001, when some CIA documents were declassified”

It does not surprise me that a cat was abused and used by the CIA in this way.  The CIA implanted a transmitter and a battery inside a domestic cat. The tail contained the antenna. The cat was labelled: Acoustic Kitty.

The objective? To spy on the Russians. The year? 1966. This was during the era of the cold war between America and Russia (1947-1991).

The information about this experiment was declassified in 2001. A man named Victor Marhetti interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph said:

“They took it out to a park and put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead.”

He also said:

“They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that.”

In other words they reprogrammed the cat to make him act in a certain way.

The CIA had hoped the cat would rest up by park benches etc. and pick up conversations between Russian spies. Come on guys! What chance was there of that being achieved? This was a bad idea, a desperate idea. One problem was that the cats are not ideal candidates for training. We all know that except the CIA in 1966.

Another problem was that the equipment was relatively unsophisticated in those days.

“These bugs picked up everything,” – writes Vince Houghton in his entertaining book Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Left on the Drawing Board.

On the plus side cats would be ignored. Who’d imagine a transmitter embedded inside a cat?

I don’t have any more on this. I suppose this is enough. Cats have been used in other human endeavours such in wars and bringing drugs into prisons all of which are a gross abuses of an innocent animal.

Source: CIA put transmitter in cat and used tail as antenna to get Kremlin secrets

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • But ripping out a cat's reproductive organs to make them behave the way you want them to behave for human needs is perfectly acceptable to y'all. LOL

    • This is a big discussion but u are wrong. Cat sterilising is generally agreed to be beneficial overall in this imperfect world. Sorry.

  • OPERATION ACOUSTIC KITTY

    At the height of the Cold War, the US Central Intelligence Agency was willing to try just about anything to gain an advantage over the dreaded Communists. In the early 2000s, documents from the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology were requested under the Freedom of Information Act by Jeffrey Richelson, a senior fellow at the national security archive in Washington. Alongside other bizarre ideas, these reveal the CIA's attempts to implant bugging devices into cats that would then eavesdrop on Soviet conversations from park benches, windowsills and dustbins. Cats were selected because, like humans, their cochlear anatomy allows them to filter and focus sound. The cat was meant to stroll up to the sensitive conversations without attracting notice, and its internal bugging equipment would overhear and relay the audio to agents in a nearby vehicle.

    During this era, the CIA's animal (and human) experiments were unregulated. A CIA memo dated 1967 on "Views of Trained Cats" details the possibility of surgically inserting microphones and transmitters into cats and using them as walking bugs. The operation was codenamed "Acoustic Kitty" and had begun in 1961. According to former CIA officer Victor Marchetti, "They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally, they’re ready. They took it out to a park bench and said, 'Listen to those two guys. Don’t listen to anything else – not the birds, no cat or dog – just those two guys!' "

    Marchetti recalls, "The cat that was used for the experiments had to be cut open and have a power pack placed inside its abdomen, wires were run up to its ears, to its cochlea, its tail was used as an antenna, wires were hooked to its brain to determine when it was hungry or sexually aroused, and wires to override these urges" so the cat wouldn’t walk off the job." Former CIA technical officer Robert Wallace added to the information: "the implant could not affect any of the natural movements of the cat, nor could the cat experience any sense of irritation or the presence of the device, lest it induce rubbing or clawing to dislodge components or disturb performance."

    Thus the poor creature was wired to innocuously record and transmit sound from its surroundings and trained to listen specifically to human conversation. Surgical and intensive training is believed to have cost $15-20 million over 5 years. On the cat's first field test, the CIA drove to a Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, DC, and let it out of a parked van across the street. The cat walked into the road where it was almost immediately struck and killed by a taxi (probably a merciful end for this mutilated creature). Again in Marchetti's words "They took it out to a park and put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead." And in more of Marchetti's words, "as this poor little monstrosity waddled across the street, a taxicab came around and ran it over, 25 million dollars down the drain."

    A CIA operative recovered the cat’s remains to prevent the Soviets from discovering the sensitive and expensive listening devices in its body. Dr Richelson, of the National Security Archive in Washington, commented "I'm not sure for how long after the operation the cat would have survived even if it hadn't been run over."

    I haven't found details of how many cats did not survive surgery, training or missions in the field, but evidently a number of cats were implanted with electronic devices. Operation Acoustic Kitty was completely abandoned in 1967 after the failure of "subsequent tests". The experiment was declared a complete failure.

    Possibly due to their embarrassing nature, the documents describing Acoustic Kitty remain partially censored, however, one of the released documents does praise the Acoustic Kitty team for its efforts: "The work done on this problem over the years reflects great credit on the personnel who guided it, particularly (names censored), whose energy and imagination could be models for scientific pioneers." The memo concludes that while the use of trained cats was possible, and that researchers could train cats to move short distances, “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," or, according to Robert Wallace, "the cat wanted to do what the cat wanted to do, and not what we wanted it to do."

    • Wow, thanks for your great detail in adding to the page, Sarah. Superb. It seems like a hairbrained idea now. It should have seemed the same then. And cruel.

      • OMC. The details and diagram are horrifying. Basically these cats gave their lives for nothing. They were all lab experiments. So morally wrong.

  • This is heartbreaking. I can just imagine how much animal abuse goes on in this way. I understand employing animals for good purposes, as long as they are not physically or emotionally abused in any way, such as those used in search and rescue. However, I would classify this case as animal cruelty. That poor cat was used as an object, mistreated, and died a painful death. This is ethically unacceptable.

    • Yep, totally agree with you. Wrong on so many levels, the worst of which is that it was downright cruel. It should have been classified as a crime and been ditched before started.

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