Overview of an American SPY Project “Acoustic Kitty”
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Overview of an American SPY Project “Acoustic Kitty”

by Aniza Imtiaz

From historical point of view, we see the diplomatic relationship between America and Russia remains warmed up and still both countries have ups and downs in their diplomatic relations.

This blog narrates a diplomatic spy project between America and Russia. It was a secret project based upon cats by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which is an intelligence agency the federal government of the US.

In 1960, CIA considered that cats were the perfect animal to be trained as spies for the secret missions. The idea of cats as spies was introduced by B.F. Skinner who was a Psychologist in the US. He believed that the behavior of animals should be shaped and predicted through the behavioral techniques in a controlled environment. In 1948, Skinner started his research on the operant psychology in box experiments. That’s why, the bulk of Skinner’s work is known as “Skinner Box”.

For CIA, the animals as spies were not a new idea because, before that, they had experimented different animals by giving proper training to work for the US intelligence agencies.

In the era of Cold War between Soviet Union (Russia) and the US, the diplomatic relations of both the states were in worst situation to defeat each other. For this, they used the idea of animals as spies and started turning pets into trained detectives in the mid of 1960s.

Firstly, they focused on dogs and cats to train them for secret works. In 1967, the CIA concluded that the true nature of animals had been discovered and should be used in a remote way.

In a research, the US preferred cats as an experimental vehicle on dogs for laboratory work. In 1968, the US opted for the modified version of Skinner Box and programmed goals. They started training cats about how to search for a specific target and to respond properly about their work.

In the project, the cats were guided about the signals that indicated about how to turn right or left after setting a target. Cats responded with different signals during the course of the training. When they started responding in a correct way, they were rewarded accordingly hence training started in large pen.

The handlers of this project learned that the pen of training went larger so they added stimuli like traffic noises and in the last phase of training they did the same exercise in an open yard to get more efficient results.

There was an obvious challenge for the handlers in the spy mission to give language skills through which their cat spies could narrate the whole captured visuals and information in a certain mode of communication.

The CIA solved this problem through implants. It was a surgical procedure in which they would put a microphone in the ear canal of cats. They set a power source in its chest and along its spine they imposed an antenna.

For guidance, the handlers of cat spies could transmit the tone to cat and when it reached its target once, they could trace the signals of a conversation while broadcasting it back via radio link. That’s why, the project was named as “Acoustic Kitty” in 1967.

The purpose and the mission of the program was to capture the secret details being shared in the Soviet Union while sitting in Washington D.C.

This project could not work for a longer period as the spy cat was hit by a car when it was going to its target. Apparently, the project was closed down in 1969 due to lack of funding.

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