The CIA’s Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren’t Even Human
2013 10 01
By Tom Vanderbilt | Smithsonian
As a former trainer reveals, the U.S. government deployed nonhuman operatives—ravens, pigeons, even cats—to 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 slate’s 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 animal—or the technique—came 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 Navy’s 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 Bond’s 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 creatures—Alligators? 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 don’t like wind—it 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: “You’ve 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
Google’s New Computer With Human-Like Learning Abilities Will Program Itself
2014 10 30
In college, it wasn’t rare to hear a verbal battle regarding artificial intelligence erupt between my friends studying neuroscience and my friends studying computer science.
One rather outrageous fellow would mention the possibility of a computer takeover, and off they went. The neuroscience-savvy would awe at the potential of such hybrid technology as the CS majors argued we have nothing to ...
Former Cop Headed to Trial for Raping a Child While Other Officers Watched
2014 10 30
Pharr, TX — Trial is set to begin December 1, in the case of former Pharr police officer Erasmo Mata, Jr., accused of repeated first-degree felony sexual assaults of a child.
A federal civil lawsuit filed with Texas Southern District Court back in May accused Mata of assaulting the minor five times, on five separate occasions, all while on duty. ...
It Has Been Decided; Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton in ’16
2014 10 28
NY Times: The Bushes, Led by W., Rally to Make Jeb ‘45 ’
As Jeb Bush nears a decision to become the third member of his storied family to seek the presidency, the extended Bush clan and its attendant network are largely rallying behind the prospect and pulling the old machine out of the closet.
Rebuttal by The Anti-New York ...
Putin at Valdai - World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules
2014 10 28
From Youtube: Russian President Vladimir Putin is delivering a speech at the plenary session of Valdai International Discussion Club, a forum involving the world leading experts at foreign and domestic policy.
Hillary – Says Business does NOT Create Jobs – Washington Does?
2014 10 28
We have a very serious problem with Hillary. I was asked years ago to review Hillary’s Commodity Trading to explain what went on. Effectively, they did trades and simply put winners in her account and the losers in her lawyer’s. This way she gets money that is laundered through the markets – something that would get her 25 years today.
|More News » |