Intelligence services all over the world have gone through an amazing variety of measures through the years to spy on their enemies—or even friends. The CIA probably went too far in the minds of animal lovers when they turned an actual living cat into a walking, purring, meowing cyborg spy. Yes, seriously.
Via Wikileaks comes this report about "Project Acoustic Kitty"—which was, yes, the project's informal name. The formal name was "Views on Trained Cats [Redacted] for [Redacted] Use."
Essentially, during the Cold War the CIA investigated surgically embedding spying gear—microphone, a transmission antenna, even a power pack—in a cat that would presumably then be sent to casually hang out and knock random objects off desks in the enemy's most top-secret offices.
The NSA Archive blog Unredacted pulled a description of what actually went down when this experiment went live from the book The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA. It's a terrible combination of sad (if you like cats) and hilarious:
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 and pointed it at a park bench and said, ‘Listen to those two guys…’ They 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.
Fortunately for felines in and around CIA headquarters in Virginia, it was eventually concluded that making this completely bonkers effort into a real, ongoing program would not be the most "practical" use of the Agency's resources.
The cost for such weird, animal-abusing shenanigans? According to the Telegraph, it was a cool $15 million.
It'd be nice to think the CIA has moved on. However the Associated Press reported Friday that "someone has been taking cats and precisely shaving their underbellies or legs" in Waynesboro, Virginia.
Sure, that's more than two hours from the CIA's headquarters, but when it comes to crazy spy games, you just never know.