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Project Acoustic Kitty: The CIA’s attempt to use cats as spies

The CIA is always looking to get the drop on America’s enemies. Back in the 1960s, someone managed to procure US$20 million (a LOT of money in those days) to enlist unwilling cats to eavesdrop on baddies. They called it Project Acoustic Kitty.

They found a veterinary surgeon who implanted a microphone, a tiny radio transmitter, and a battery into a cat. A wire was run from the base of the cat’s skull (the site of the transmitter) through its tail which acted as an antenna. Remember that this was in the era before microchips so the gear was big and bulky compared to anything we have today.

It did not work well. The CIA apparently was unaware of the difficulties of training a cat. When the subject feline got hungry, it would just wander off. Another implant was supposed to override that.

Finally, Acoustic Kitty was ready for a field test. A group of agents took the cat in an unmarked surveillance van to a public place. The cat was supposed to sidle over to two guys on a nearby bench to pick up their conversation. The door of the van opened, the cat jumped out, and was immediately run over by a taxi.

Project Acoustic Kitty was also declared dead shortly thereafter.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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