CIA trained cats, dolphins and ravens as spies

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DFor decades, the CIA has been trying to train animals like cats, dolphins and birds as spies. However, according to archive documents published on Thursday, the US intelligence officials were only moderately successful. The particularly promising Rabe Do Da, who was to become a flying secret agent, was lost in 1974 on a training mission after being attacked by hostile conspecifics has been.

According to the archival documents, among other things, the CIA tried to use cats as stray listening devices and remotely control dogs via brain implants. However, these programs were not really successful. The CIA researchers put much hope in the training of dolphins. In the mid-sixties, among other things, they were to spy on the development of Soviet nuclear submarines.

The projects “Oxygas” and “Chirilogy” investigated whether marine mammals can replace human divers and attach explosives to ships. Accordingly, the dolphins should also carry out spy missions in Soviet harbors and swim alongside submarines to record acoustic signals. While dolphins and seals are still used by the American Navy, the CIA abandoned these programs as well.

Birds in the cold war

Instead, the CIA was increasingly relying on birds during the Cold War. According to the documents, ornithologists should find out, for example, which migratory birds live near Schichany on the Volga River, where there was a chemical weapons facility of the Soviet Army. The CIA wanted to find out about possible toxins in the body of the birds, which substances are being tested in Shichany.

In the seventies, more experiments with birds of prey and ravens were made. The CIA specialists wanted to teach the birds, for example, to deposit listening devices on window sills or to equip them with cameras. In the project “Axiolite” on an island off the coast of California, animal trainers taught the birds to fly miles alongside a ship. After training, the birds were to be smuggled into the Soviet Union to secretly take pictures of a radar system for SA-5 missiles.

Bustards, Uhus, a vulture and a cockatoo were trained. However, the animal trainers did not get far: according to the documents, a cockatoo was “a skilled flier”, but “possibly too slow to avoid seagull attacks”. Two hawks got sick and went in, another bird came into the moult.

The Rabe Do Da was, according to a scientist, the “star” of the project. After his loss, the animal trainers were heartbroken. “He did a lot of tricks and was loved by everyone,” they noted.

Also with carrier pigeons experimented the CIA. They were to use cameras to spy on the construction of nuclear submarines in the Soviet Union. But it was difficult to teach the pigeons to get by without a home beat. After many hours of training with hundreds of pigeons, the CIA took a mixed score: some pigeons took good shots, others lost with the expensive cameras. From the documents it is not clear whether the planned spy missions were ever implemented in the shipyards of St. Petersburg.

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