Covert Operations Uncovered
Have you heard the one about the CIA cats who were not so perfect spies in an operation dubbed ‘Acoustic Kitty’? It may be the most sophisticated intelligence agency in the world, but when it comes to recording sensitive information vital to safeguard the free world, the CIA’s flair for imaginative recording channels knows no bounds. And doesn’t always yield the expected results.
Operation ‘Acoustic Kitty’
In the 1960s, the CIA is reported to have spent more than $20 million on a top-secret project that used common house cats as spies. It’s true! Specially trained cats with microphones implanted in their ears and antennae and batteries surgically stitched into their tails were primed to be let loose near the Russian Embassy. Agents hoped they would be able to listen in to communist officials’ conversations, thanks to sophisticated radio equipment remotely linked to recording devices inside the innocent-looking moggies.
The costly operation was thrown into immediate doubt when the first cat released was run over by a taxi before it could record a single word. ‘Acoustic Kitty’ hit the litter tray shortly afterwards.
All that Glitters is not Gold
Operation Gold, often described as one of the most audacious intelligence operations of the Cold War period, saw the CIA partner with MI6 – with disastrous results. The mission was to hack into telephone lines at the Soviet Headquarters in East Berlin and record top-secret information. An underground telephone junction was pivotal to the mission and to reach it a 450-metre long tunnel had to be constructed. It was a huge undertaking, which took six months to complete.
When the tunnel was fully constructed and the junction box compromised in the West’s ‘favour’, intelligence agencies diligently recorded up to 50,000 telephone conversations over a period of almost a year. It then transpired the Russians had been tipped off before the tunnel was even built and had been feeding the West with fake information the whole time.
How Times have Changed
Thankfully, covert operations have come a long way since the Cold War. They are a routine and successful part of business across multiple sectors, from private detective agencies to businesses protecting their brands.
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