From the Bay of Pigs disaster to the tall tale of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction,
CIA is no stranger to expensive and embarrassing blunders.
One of the most spectacular failures of all time happened in the 60’s
and was known as Operation Acoustic Kitty, a real life actual program
where CIA agents trained a house cat to become a spy.
Mission impossible? Yes!
Because it totally failed on every level.
Today we’re exploring the time the CIA tried and failed to train a cat to be a spy.
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Now it’s time to put on our spy glasses.
From aiming nukes at hot dog stands to bears in ejector seats,
the use of a feline double agent was far from the most bizarre thing to happen
in the 45 year long period where the US and the USSR were in a nuclear standoff.
Wired up with radio transmitters and microphones,
they hoped that cat spies would listen to secret conversations
from window sills, park benches, or any unsuspecting place for a cat.
无论从窗户边 公园长凳 或是任何难以察觉的地方窃听
Perhaps the CIA thought the Russians, like the Bond villains,
spilled out all of their nefarious secrets to their feline friends.
In the’60s, the US was at the height of the Cold War.
And the CIA was trying anything it could do to keep tabs on Russians in Washington, DC.
And if you consider the fact that people really do tell their cat some of their darkest secrets,
it wasn’t the most far fetched, hairball-brained idea.
Some cat owners might drop a pretty penny on their four-legged children.
The CIA even put Karl Lagerfeld to shame
when it spent a whopping $10 million, over $80 million in today’s money to train their whisker-clad spy hopeful.
其斥巨资1000万 相当于现在的8000万 希望训练出长满胡须的间谍
Some of the items on this extraordinary vet bill
included developing the equipment implanted in the cat, surgical operations,
and training the little feline to cooperate.
But don’t worry, they only used your tax dollars to pay for it.
Who needs roads or health care
when you could fund a project that sounds like a plot for…90s’ Disney movie?
Cats may be talented in the arts of self grooming and yarn play.
But when it came to expertise in the spy field,
the CIA found that cats would need some surgical enhancements to test their “hy-po-thesis”.
The CIA decided that in order to elevate a regular house cat to the level of a CIA double agent,
it would need to plant technological devices under its furry little skin.
The details of this cat-astrophically expensive and Frankenstein-esque program
came to light in a book by Victor Marchetti, a CIA officer during the Cold War.
曝光了这个灾难性的 烧钱的 科学怪人式项目的种种细节
In his book, The Wizards of Langley, Marchetti wrote,
“They split the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up.
“猫被切开 植入电池 连上电线
The tail was used as an antenna.
They made a monstrosity.”
Cats barely enjoy taking a bath.
So it’s safe to say this little guy didn’t take kindly to being cut open
and given the Inspector Gadget treatment.
Cats march to the beat of their own drummer,
which unfortunately did not mesh well with the CIA’s regimented spy cat agenda.
They found that the cat would get hungry in the middle of testing and training
and would simply wander off.
This clearly was a tad frustrating to the CIA agents training it.
But come on. Everybody’s gotta eat, even spy cats.
拜托 所有人都得吃饭 间谍猫也一样
Considering the cats couldn’t unionize and demand whenever they want lunch hour,
the CIA combated this feline attention deficit disorder with a plan:
implanting the cat with even more wires.
Why would they think further mechanizing the cat would
make them more cooperative?
As we mentioned earlier,
this project was a complete failure, dead on arrival.
And unlike its subject, it didn’t get nine lives.
Marchetti told The Telegraph about the experiment process.
“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.”
Tell the diet industry the CIA knows the secret to suppressing your appetite.
Getting wires implanted into your body
is a lot easier than counting calories, right?
The process of upgrading the Acoustic Kitty from an average playful house cat
to a sleek and all powerful CIA agent
involved a lot more than your average spy training movie montage.
The extreme spy kitty makeover involved the cat
going under the knife in a gruesome, hour-long surgical procedure.
This is a cat’s worst vet nightmare.
As outlined in Operation Acoustic Kitty by Emily Anthes,
the surgery involved “implanting a microphone” into the cat’s ear canal
and a “radio transmitter at the base of its skull”.
Some people implant a GPS tracker into their cats.
But this is taking the house pet body modification thing to a whole new level.
But hey, with a radio transmitter at the base of her skull,
at least she could listen to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS at full volume.
The invasive surgery also involved implanting an antenna wire
which stretched through the rest of the cat’s fur.
And if you thought a cat’s furry tail couldn’t be a matter of national security,
Her tail became instrumental to the process.
It strengthened the signal for transmitted recorded conversations.
If you’re going to go through all this trouble
to perform surgery on a cat,
the least you could do is give it laser vision.
Talk about a missed opportunity!
But hey, if you’re in the CIA and you’re watching this,
feel free to take our laser cat’s idea and run with it.
While the cyborg cat spy idea may have sounded like a great idea in theory,
the practical reality of half cat, half radio cyborg
didn’t quite pan out like the CIA had hoped.
Despite millions of dollars and countless hours of scientific innovation
pouring into the Cold War cat project,
the experiment went south as soon as the first live trial began.
The CIA screwed the pooch, or feline
after agents dropped the cat off in a park.
The plan was to have the cat listen to a conversation
between two men sitting on a bench
while the accompanying agents sat in an unmarked surveillance van not far away.
As soon as they pulled the cat out of the van and set her down,
she decided to do her own thing.
And sadly, that thing involved walking right into oncoming traffic and getting hit by a taxi.
而且 令人失望的是 她径直走进迎面而来的车流 被出租车撞了
And she was making her way back to the embassy
$10 million for 10 feats-worth of mission.
That’s not even counting the cost of the cat funeral.
The agents were obviously stunned when their furry co-worker lost her ninth life.
Ex-CIA agent Vincent Marchetti told The Telegraph
they were dumbfounded.
“There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials,
and the cat was dead.”
Obviously this was a stunning loss.
Imagine a sweet little cat surviving all those hours
of experimental surgery and training
only to get hit by a car on her first day of work.
Turns out curiosity didn’t kill the cat after all.
A taxi did.
While the feds tried their hardest
to make the cat intelligence agency happen,
it was clear that our feline companions were not
even slightly interested in preserving our national security.
Unfortunately, the CIA recognized this fact
only after they hemorrhaged money and wasted countless hours
training a cat who clearly had no interest in being a spy.
The program ended as quickly and unceremoniously as the cat’s life ended.
In a dry and unintentionally hilarious memo,
the CIA announced, “Our final examination of trained cats convinced us
that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.”
In other words, you simply can’t train a cat.
But dogs are just better at helping humans.
They can find dead bodies, sniff for drugs, play dead, express love,
狗能找到尸体 闻出毒品 装死 表达爱意
and they don’t even need wires in their tails to do it.
Meanwhile cats can’t even be bothered to stay in their own yard.
But you never know when a CIA cat agent might come in handy.
If US ever goes to war against a nation of mice,
Operation Acoustic Kitty could get dusted off and rebooted.
With all the secrecy that goes into the life and death of a spy,
it’s no wonder this story has multiple points of view.
It’s actually been rumored that our short lived cyborg feline
didn’t perish as quickly as some say she did.
It’s possible that instead of dying on the job,
she was actually simply fired.
According to Robert Wallace, the former director of the CIA’s Office of Technical Service,
the Acoustic Kitty never died by taxicab as described in Marchetti’s book.
Instead, she was actually fired after multiple failed test runs.
In Wallace’s words,
the project ended solely because cats are too difficult to train,
not because their spy kitty got squished.
In the book, Beasts of War, The militarisation of Animals,
Wallace gives his side of the story.
“The equipment was taken out of the cat;
the cat was re-sewn for a second time,
and lived a long and happy life afterwards.”
Hopefully, this statement is true
and not just a way to get PETA off their backs.
Though Operation Feline ended up more like operation failure,
the US military continues to look to nature for inspiration.
Some of the most cutting-edge micro drones were largely
based on hummingbirds and other tiny, fluttering creatures.
Since drones have to be small enough to go incognito,
light enough to fly,
and large enough to carry a camera and a power source,
it’s no wonder they’re plagiarizing from Earth’s cutest little creatures.
According to Popular Science,
the military came up with two solutions that proved to be OK,
but not, like, amazing.
The nano hummingbird, a 6.5-inch drone that puttered out
after 11 minutes of flight,
and the DelFly Micro, which had a wingspan of less than four inches,
but could fly only for three minutes.
It may not be a lot.
But it’s way more minutes than a cat can fly.
In 2006, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA,
made an open call to scientists
asking for innovative proposals to develop technology
to create insect cyborgs.
The truth of the matter was that drones,
like the nano hummingbird and DelFly Micro,
proved to pale in comparison to actual living, breathing, flying insects.
According to Popular Science, the DARPA pamphlet read,
“Proof of existence of small scale flying machines
is abundant in nature in the form of insects.
It might be possible to transform insects into predictable devices
that could be used for missions requiring unobtrusive entry into areas
inaccessible or hostile to humans.”
In other words, they’re turning insects into cyborg spies.
If the enemy target can avoid the impulse to squash the bug,
maybe they’ll spill their secrets to it.
One thing’s for sure,
if we ever see a bug buzzing around our house,
we’re keeping our mouths shut.
The Cold War was a strange, intense time.
But no one had it tougher than the cats
who served our country in Operation Acoustic Kitty.
If there’s anything our possibly fallen feline soldier can teach us today
it’s that you probably should look both ways
before your robot cat body crosses the street.
How would you like your pet to become a CIA spy?
Let us know in the comments below.
And while you’re at it,
check out some of these other videos from our Weird History.