The CIAs Most Highly-Trained Spies Werent Even Human
By Tom Vanderbilt | Smithsonian
As a former trainer reveals, the U.S. government deployed nonhuman operativesravens, pigeons, even catsto spy on cold war adversaries
There would be a rustle of oily black feathers as a raven settled on the window ledge of a once-grand apartment building in some Eastern European capital. The bird would pace across the ledge a few times but quickly depart. In an apartment on the other side of the window, no one would shift his attention from the briefing papers or the chilled vodka set out on a table. Nor would anything seem amiss in the jagged piece of gray slate resting on the ledge, seemingly jetsam from the roof of an old and unloved building. Those in the apartment might be dismayed to learn, however, that the slate had come not from the roof but from a technical laboratory at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. In a small cavity at the slates center was an electronic transmitter powerful enough to pick up their conversation. The raven that transported it to the ledge was no random city bird, but a U.S.-trained intelligence asset.
Half a world away from the murk of the cold war, it would be a typical day at the I.Q. Zoo, one of the touristic palaces that dotted the streets of Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the 1960s. With their vacationing parents inca tow, children would squeal as they watched chickens play baseball, macaws ride bicycles, ducks drumming and pigs pawing at pianos. You would find much the same in any number of mom-and-pop theme parks or on television variety shows of the era. But chances are that if an animal had been trained to do something whimsically human, the animalor the techniquecame from Hot Springs.
Two scenes, seemingly disjointed: the John le Carré shadows against the bright midway lights of county-fair Americana. But wars make strange bedfellows, and in one of the most curious, if little-known, stories of the cold war, the people involved in making poultry dance or getting cows to play bingo were also involved in training animals, under government contract, for defense and intelligence work. The same methods that lay behind Priscilla the Fastidious Pig or the Educated Hen informed projects such as training ravens to deposit and retrieve objects, pigeons to warn of enemy ambushes, or even cats to eavesdrop on human conversations. At the center of this Venn diagram were two acolytes of the psychologist B.F. Skinner, plus Bob Bailey, the first director of training for the Navys pioneering dolphin program. The use of animals in military intelligence dates back to ancient Greece, but the work that this trio undertook in the 1960s promised an entirely new level of sophistication, as if James Bonds Q had met Marlin Perkins.
We never found an animal we could not train, says Bailey, 76, who in his career has done everything from teaching dolphins to detect submarines to inventing the Bird Brain, an apparatus that enabled a person to play tick-tack-toe against a chicken. (One is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.) Never, he repeats, as we sit in the book-cluttered living room of his modest lakefront house in Hot Springs. Never.
As I try to summon particularly challenging creaturesAlligators? Moles? Crustaceans?he asks, Do you know who Susan Garrett is? I do not. Garrett, it turns out, is a world champion trainer in the sport of dog agility. A few years ago, Bailey was teaching a course on stimulus control for her students. His stimulus was a laser pointer. One day, he was in the bathroom and saw a spider. I looked down at this spider and said, hmmm. He took out his laser, turned it on, and gently blew on the spider. Spiders dont like windit blows their web down, he says. They pull themselves down into the smallest size they can get and hunker down.
Turn on laser. Blow. Turn on laser. Blow. Bailey did this at several intervals during the day. By the time I finished all I had to do is turn that light on, he says, and the spider would go defensive. He returned to the classroom where Garrett was lecturing and announced: Youve got a trained spider in your bathroom.
Read the full article at: smithsonianmag.com
Animals Evolve Bigger Brains When Around Humans
Animal hypnosis and trances
Animals Are Moral Creatures, Scientist Argues
The Universal Consciousness - Plants and Animals, Emotions and Pain
Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings
Can Dolphins Really Heal the Sick, Or is Their Captivity Abuse?
Scientists say dolphins should be treated as non-human persons
15 Interesting Cold War Vintage Propaganda Ads
Latest News from our Front Page
Sweden to give over 8 million euros to Turkey for "refugee deal" - Europe to give three billion euros total
Prime Minister Stefan LĂ¶fven announced on Sunday that Sweden would contribute to a joint action plan agreed by nine EU nations designed to limit the number of refugees arriving in Europe via Turkey.
The deal came after the German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a surprise summit in Brussels involving the leaders of nine countries including Sweden, France and the UK.
The European ...
Swedish woman raped by "refugee" refuses to report it because she feels sorry for him
Victim sympathized with rapist's "difficult situation"
A Swedish woman who was raped by an Iraqi ârefugeeâ on a train initially refused to report the incident to police because she âfelt sorryâ for her attacker.
The incident occurred on a night train between UmeĂ„ and Sundsvall back in October. The Iraqi refugee was traveling back to Sweden because he was unhappy with the ...
ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: "Raqqa's Rockefellers," Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection
"Effectively, we have been financially discriminated against for a long time. By early 2014, when we did not receive the budget, we decided we need to start thinking about independent oil salesâ -- Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistanâs minister for natural resources
In June of 2014, the SCF Altai (an oil tanker) arrived at Ashkelon port. Hours later, the first shipment of Kurdish ...
Prosecutors ban Soros Foundation as 'threat to Russian national security'
The Russian Prosecutor Generalâs Office has recognized George Sorosâs Open Society Institute and another affiliated organization as undesirable groups, banning Russian citizens and organizations from participation in any of their projects.
In a statement released on Monday, prosecutors said the activities of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation were a threat to the foundations of Russiaâs ...
Israeli Colonel Caught with Islamic State (IS) Pants Down
This was definitely not supposed to happen. It seems that an Israeli military man with the rank of colonel was âcaught with IS pants down.â By that I mean he was captured amid a gaggle of so-called ISâor Islamic State or ISIS or DAESH depending on your preferenceâterrorists, by soldiers of the Iraqi army. Under interrogation by the Iraqi intelligence ...
|More News » |