Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Oh dear – even the BBC sometimes just repeats myths

I wondered if the recent tale of a ‘spy’ in the form of a ‘beluga whale’, kitted out with a GoPro and reportedly trained to approach vessels for food, would be picked up by any media sources, and it seems our very own BBC was the one lured in by this ‘honey trap’.

First rule of spying – don’t look like a spy.

The beluga whale – if that’s really its name – found in Norway’s waters can certainly tick that box.

But it appears to have committed an absolutely basic rookie sleuthing error.

The reason it’s causing suspicion among Norwegian fishermen and scientists is that it was wearing a harness and a label saying it was from St Petersburg in Russia.

Russia has denied any wrongdoing – and so far the beluga is refusing to talk.

Can’t or won’t?

Regardless of the truth, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time undercover animals have been used to spy.

It goes on to recount the tale of the now fairly well-known CIA’s ‘Acoustic Kitty’.

If there’s one thing we know about cats, it’s that they do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Admittedly, they’re inscrutable and impossible to second guess, so that’s possibly why the CIA thought they’d make excellent field operatives.

In the 1960s, it’s estimated $14m (£10.7m) was spent on a project to fit listening devices inside cats. The idea was for them to prowl around picking up vital Russian intelligence.

But it ended in failure on day one – when the cat was run over by a car outside the Soviet embassy in Washington.

Spying whales and other undercover animals

Sad to say, while that account is probably not wholly inaccurate, it’s probably also a bit of a myth.

There’s no disputing the creation and existence of Acoustic Kitty, and the chances are you can search online and find most of the story, and maybe even X-Rays of the cat showing the wiring and microphone.

And it’s probably also true to say it was a complete and utter failure, since the chances of convincing a free-roaming cat to follow instruction are at best, slim to nil.

However, I’m going to call ‘FAKE’ on the usual conclusion to the story, as given in the BBC article quoted above.

A few years ago a CIA officer published his memoirs, and these were quoted at length online, by the sort of web site that likes that sort of thing.

Acoustic Kitty came up in story.

The officer noted the project’s failure, but gave a completely different (and for its worth, far more believable account than that of the cat just happening to be “run over by a car outside the Soviet embassy in Washington.” Seriously, try working out the odds of that happening.

The officer’s account of the conclusion to Acoustic Kitty’s career was that, after the handlers found it impossible to control the cat once it was released (it went for a wander where it wanted to), they ‘recovered’ their asset, removed the radio/wiring/microphone (apparently fitted into the cat’s ear canal), and then retired it, after which it went on to live out its life somewhere more comfortable than a city.

I really wish I noted the web address of every article I read, which would make it easy to go find such items years later, but I do keep watching for this one, and if I do come across it, I WILL make a note.

Incidentally, to give you an idea of the credibility of the tale of  the cat being run over the first time it was released, I might add that the stories about this project report a cost to the CIA ranging from less than $10 million to over $120 million before it was cancelled.

Some say…

The Soviets were preparing countermeasures.

Serious Cat

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30/04/2019 - Posted by | Cold War, Lost, Surveillance | , ,

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