(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘spying

“Knowledge of means without knowledge of ends is animal training”*…

Spy vs.Spy

According to a March 1967 report entitled “Views on Trained Cats [Redacted] for [Redacted] Use,” the CIA stuffed a real, live cat with electronic spying equipment and attempted to train it to spy on America’s Cold War rivals.  The report states that Acoustic Kitty (as the project is commonly known) was a “remarkable scientific achievement.” Unfortunately, the report also states that the continued use of live cats as eavesdropping devices “would not be practical.”

According to Victor Marchetti [an ex-Deputy Director of the CIA]: “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. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally they’re ready. They took it out to a park and pointed it at a park bench and said, ‘Listen to those two guys…’ They put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead!”…

Acoustic Kitty

For more on animal training adventures in the security services, see “The CIA’s Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren’t Even Human.”

Steve Martin

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As we study subterfuge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1974 that transcripts of the audiotaped White House conversations between President Richard Nixon and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman were released to the public. Considered at the time a “smoking gun,” the transcripts confirmed Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up– and precipitated Nixon’s resignation three days later.

Transcripts of the Watergate tapes arriving on Capitol Hill to be turned over to the House Judiciary Committee.

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“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters”*…

If you sent a letter in 17th-century Europe, there was a good chance it would pass through one of the continent’s so-called “Black Chambers”—secret rooms attached to post offices and staffed by intelligence units, where mail was opened, copied, resealed, and sent on its way, with the writer and recipient none the wiser.

Nadine Akkerman, a senior lecturer at Leiden University, is an expert in 16th- and 17th-century espionage. But during her research into the Black Chambers, she ran across something perplexing—a document by Samuel Morland, a British spymaster, in which he bragged about his talent for opening and resealing letters. “Wait,” she thought to herself. “Can’t we all do that?”

It wasn’t until she met Jana Dambrogio and Daniel Starza Smith—researchers studying letters and document security during this period—that Morland’s braggadocio began to make sense. As it turns out, letters in the 1600s didn’t look exactly like letters today. Mass-produced envelopes weren’t invented until the 1830s, meaning that most 17th-century letter writers folded their correspondence in such a way that it became its own envelope—a process Dambrogio had dubbed “letterlocking.” Letterlocks could be simple, just a series of quick folds without any sort of adhesive. But they could also be incredibly complex, even booby-trapped to reveal evidence of tampering…

Postal privacy– “Cracking the Code of Letterlocking“: a tale of Black Chambers, lost correspondence, and high technology.

* Lewis Carroll

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As we muse on missives, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that the U.S. Postal Service issued the Bugs Bunny stamp– the first stamp honoring an animated character.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 22, 2021 at 1:01 am

Memento Mori…

It’s reassuring to know that one is only one-tenth as likely to die of bee/hornet/wasp sting as of air/space accident, but mildly chilling to know that a fatal tumble down stairs is five times more likely than electrocution…

From Daily Infographic, How Will You Die?

click here (and again) for full chart, enlarged

As we remember poor Yorick, we might also recall that it was on this date in 1776 that 21-year-old Connecticut school teacher and Continental Army Captain Nathan Hale was executed by the British for spying.  While Hale is credited with saying “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” the story descends from an eyewitness account by John Montresor, a British soldier who spoke soon after the execution with the American officer William Hull about Hale’s comportment.  Some scholars believe that the now-famous mot is a burnishing of the less-well-measured “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.”

In any case, executed for spying:  what are the odds?

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