Skip to content

Acoustic kitty

Constantly re-evaluate a solution checking for weakness through testing

A picture of the site author Vincent Pickering

Published by
on

Failure can happen at many points in a scenario, care must be taken to constantly re-evaluate a solution checking for weakness through testing.

On occasion it is not the outcome we must evaluate, it is our original input.

During the cold war of the 1960’s planting listening devices and bugging rooms was commonplace. The CIA would listen in on the Soviet embassies in the USA. The soviets aware that their buildings were bugged would exchange Intel by walking outside and have their conversations in the street. Masked by the hustle and bustle of the city, they only needed to step outside for a cigarette, exchange the information masked in polite conversation and discreetly walk away, bug free and the perfect cover.

The CIA aware that the KGB were exchanging information out in the open away from they’re listening devices turned to the Directorate of Science & Technology who devised a cunning plan by enlisting the most unlikely spy of all, a cat.

The theory was reasonably sound, who would suspect an unassuming cat walking past two agents talking was actually listening in on their conversation?

The CIA believed they had the ideal listening tool, investing $25 million in creating the perfect “Acoustic Kitty” (That was actually the cats name).

In the 1960’s before PETA existed or the RSPCA would have had any power to intervene, the CIA cut open a cat and implanted a battery and a microphone alongside its organs, finally they inserted an antenna into its tail. This equipment would allow the cat to innocuously record and transmit from it’s surroundings while conversations took place near-by. Cats are not known as obedient animals, for good reason, directing a cat to do anything is nearly impossible. Cats pay little attention to their owners at all and certainly are not going to follow instructions. The CIA devised a way to crudely make the cat move in the desired direction using small electric impulses directed at the cats legs. Through this manner they could cajole the cat in to the path they wanted guiding it via remote control.

In 1966 the CIA was ready. The first Acoustic Kitty mission was to eavesdrop on two men in a park outside the Soviet compound situated on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, DC. The CIA agents parked on the adjacent road and discreetly released the cat, guiding it to their intended target. The accompanying agents looked on waiting with anticipation to see how effective all that research and time creating the perfect eavesdropping device would be.

The cat walked out in to the road and was hit by a cab1 .

It doesn’t matter how well an idea is planned or how much money is spent, a bad idea will always fail in the end. Test ideas to destruction, get feedback early and embrace criticism.

Avoid being blind-sided by events or circumstances not considered in the context of what you are setting out to achieve. Be mindful that we cannot control environmental situations only the factors acting within. Plan any solution to embrace the restrictions of the landscape they reside within and not to fight them.

Notes
  1. There is some debate over whether the cat was really hit by a cab or not. The former Director CIA’s Office of Technical Service, Robert Wallace made a statement that the cat could not be trained successfully to behave as needed. He claims the equipment was removed, the cat re-sewn, and the rest is an urban myth. 

Related Articles