The CIA is everyone’s favorite shady government organization. With secrecy being one of the agency’s primary objectives, it’s not surprising that us everyday folks know rather little about their activities, even though we think we do.
The CIA has been around since 1947, and the fact it still remains shrouded in mystery is a testament to their abilities. Despite this, there are a few things we do know, thanks to various leaks and whistle-blowers, some of which are very strange. Here is a list of some of the secret activities the CIA gets up to.
1. They spent $20 million on Operation Acoustic Kitty
The CIA once attempted to use cats to eavesdrop on important conversations during the 196os. A microphone, transmitter, and antenna wire were surgically placed inside the cat in an hour-long operation.
Problems with the Acoustic Kitties were linked to their training — or lack thereof — which caused them to quickly forget the mission and attend to their own interests. The project was canceled in 1967. In the end, the CIA essentially spent $20 million to discover that cats always do what they want.
2. They even keep their agents’ names a secret on the CIA memorial
The CIA has a memorial honoring its members who have been lost in the line of duty. Located at the CIA headquarters in Langley, each member is represented by a star, with one added for every death. However, many of these stars are not accompanied by a name, to maintain the operator’s secrecy even in death.
3. Music by Eminem and Red Hot Chili Peppers has been used for torture
The CIA are no strangers to weird and controversial activities related to torture. One such oddity is the inclusion of music in their bag of torturous tricks. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ songs contain a lot of heavy guitar riffs that can make people feel distressed, according to a former CIA interrogator.
4. The Unabomber’s brother partly blames the CIA for his actions
Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, is one of America’s most notorious criminals, who commenced a bombing campaign across the nation through the 1970s until the mid-1990s.
Kaczynski was actually involved in a CIA-funded study at Harvard University that saw undergraduate students humiliated for their opinions and beliefs. David Kaczynski, Ted’s brother, wonders if his involvement may have influenced some of his crimes.
5. The agency only confirmed the existence of Area 51 in 2013
The legendary secret base at Area 51 has been a hot topic in conspiracy theory circles for decades, but wasn’t officially acknowledged until 2013. Many believed the base to be America’s main site for the analysis and storage of extra-terrestrial beings and technology.
To the dismay of many around the world, the official acknowledgment stated the base was simply a testing location for secret aircraft and aerial vehicles. In 2019, the CIA may have regretted confirming its existence when a group of more than 2 million people jokingly planned to Naruto-run into the base and save the aliens inside, causing a national security frenzy.
6. The CIA may have hired Saddam Hussein
Some believe the CIA hired Hussein in the 1950s with the goal of appointing him as the President of Iraq. At the time, the U.S. believed the then Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim may have been aligned with communist beliefs, and removing him from power would put a stop to that.
7. San Francisco street workers were hired to give LSD to unsuspecting customers
The CIA has a well-known history with the hallucinogenic drug LSD. To witness the effects of the drug without directly acting illegally, the CIA hired female sex workers to administer it for them in an operation codenamed “Midnight Climax.”
They would bring unsuspecting male customers back to safe houses, where they would then secretly dispense the drug to the victim before having sex. To observe the effects, each safe house had mirrors that CIA could watch through.
8. The CIA headquarters’ Starbucks is the only one in the world that doesn’t require your name
The CIA headquarters in Langley contains a Starbucks, but one that is more streamlined to serve members of this secretive line of work. The baristas who work there are trained to remember faces instead, and have to go through much higher security checks than normal.
9. They used Viagra to bargain with an Afghan chieftain
In exchange for information, the CIA has a long list of payments as an alternative to plain old money. For example, Vietnamese farmers hired by the CIA during the Vietnam War were often paid in tools rather than money.
In one case, a particular Afghan chieftain offered a goldmine of information on Taliban activities in exchange for a large supply of Viagra pills.