Operation Acoustic Kitty: The CIA’s Spy Cats
Operation Acoustic Kitty was a 1960s-era CIA project launched by the Directorate for Scientific & Technical Affairs that sought to utilize cats for espionage missions, with plans to monitor the Kremlin and Soviet embassies and record communications between buildings in the region.
The CIA came up with the plan of using unwitting cats to spy on conversations inside the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. CIA agents hoped that they would be able to train a cat that would sit next to a foreign official.
The idea of Operation Acoustic Kitty was to train house cats to be super-secret agents to sneak past security and spy on the activities of Soviet Officials.
The project involved implanting a microphone into the cat‘s ear canal, as well as a small radio transmitter in the base of the skull, a power supply and antennae within the cat. A battery and a microphone were inserted in the cat, while the antenna was placed in the tail.
“A lot of money was spent. They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him,” according to the 2001 book The Wizards of Langley, which features an account of Victor Marchetti who was an executive assistant to the director of the CIA in the 1960s.
Acoustic Kitty First Assignment
The cat‘s first assignment was eavesdropping at a park gathering in Washington, DC. In the 1960s.
After wiring up its first trained cat to hear, the agency drove the cyborg cat to the Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C., and released it from the parked wagon across the street. The cat had strict orders to listen in on two men sitting on benches.
Not know much about the actual mission is known, except that the poor animal was hit by a cab before he could make more than a few steps toward his targets. However, this claim was disputed by Robert Wallace, a former Director of the CIA’s Office of Technical Service in 2013. Wallace admitted that the project was abandoned due to the difficulty of training cats and that “the equipment was taken out of the cat; the cat was re-sewn for a second time, and lived a long and happy life afterwards”.
Other tests also failed. The CIA has never produced a cat that performed as required. The CIA abandoned the project after the tests using that cat went terribly awry. They (allegedly) abandoned the project in 1967.
Despite the cats’ high cost and unusability in spying, a report from the CIA tried to sell the experiment as a success. It was claimed in a closing memorandum that the agency believed they could train cats to move short distances, but that “the environmental and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that for our (intelligence) purposes, it would not be practical.“
Project Acoustic Kitty was by no means the only animal experimentation done on animals by the CIA.