by Chris Goff
Years ago, Smithsonian Magazine published an article by Tom Vanderbilt entitled “The CIA’s Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren’t Even Human.” It’s worth sharing.
During World War II, a psychologist named B.F. Skinner received defense funding to research a pigeon-based homing device for missiles. While Operation Pigeon was never deployed, the project inspired two of his graduate students. After leaving Skinner’s program, the husband and wife opened up the I.Q. Zoo, a tourist attraction and animal training facility in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The facility quickly became the go-to training ground for zoos, theme parks and Hollywood performance animals.
In 1965, after bringing in Bob Bailey, another Skinner aficionado and the first director of training for the Navy’s pioneering dolphin program, a new branch of the business was born. It was the height of the Cold War, and suddenly various government agencies, such as the CIA, the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, and Limited Warfare Laboratories were seeking their help to train animals as spies. Using animals in intelligence has a long history, and if you asked Bob Bailey, he would tell you, “We never found an animal we could not train.”
Now, despite the cadre of Artificial Intelligence weapons available for Intel gathering, I can think of nothing better than a raven, dolphin or cat doubling as a super sleuth. Interested in reading more? Here’s the link to the article in Smithsonian Magazine, or you can peruse an even more recent report by the BBC.
Just curious, have you ever felt like someone was watching you, but no one was there?