The CIA Probably Wishes These Facts About the Agency Remained Classified

Photo Credit: Brooks Kraft, LLC / Sygma / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Brooks Kraft, LLC / Sygma / Getty Images

With secrecy being one of the CIA’s primary objectives, it’s not exactly surprising that us everyday citizens know rather little about the agency’s activities, even if we think we’re more knowledgable than we are. The CIA – the Central Intelligence Agency – dates all the way back to 1947, and the fact it remains shrouded in mystery is a testament to its agents’ abilities.

Despite this, there are a few things we do know, thanks to various leaks and whistleblowers, some of which is very strange. The following is a list of some of the secret activities the CIA gets up to.

The CIA spent $20 million on Operation Acoustic Kitty

Portrait of a kitten
Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The CIA once attempted to use cats to eavesdrop on important conversations during the 196os – you read right, cats. Well, if we’re being honest, just one feline was involved before the operation was shelved, but that doesn’t make the idea any less ludicrous.

A microphone, transmitter and antenna wire were surgically placed inside the cat in an hour-long operation, to ensure it could conduct its mission without risk of its purpose being found out. However, there were problems. These were largely linked to its training – or lack thereof – which caused the feline to forget about its task and attend to its own interests.

Operation Acoustic Kitty, as it was known, was canceled in 1967, but not before the CIA had spent $20 million to essentially learn what we all already know: cats will always do what they want.

Agents’ names are kept on a secret memorial

View of the CIA Memorial Wall
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Many might not know that the CIA has a memorial honoring agents who’ve been lost in the line of duty. Located at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, each member is represented by a star, with one added for every death. Presently, there are 140 lining the memorial.

Interestingly, many of these symbols aren’t accompanied by a name, to maintain the operator’s secrecy even after they’ve passed.

Using popular music for… torture?

Portrait of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Photo Credit: MTV / Getty Images

The CIA and its agents are certainly no strangers to weird and controversial activities related to torture. Out of the methods we know about, the strangest is arguably the use of popular music. What’s more, it’s not just one type of music that’s used.

According to a report dubbed Out of the Darkness, songs by Irish pop group Westlife was used to torture a man at a “black site.” Another report, this time by Human Rights Watch, also detailed the use of songs by rappers Eminem and Dr. Dre, with it having also been reported that music from the Red Hot Chili Peppers has also been played.

The latter’s music features heavy guitar riffs, which are said to cause distress among those held captive.

Is the CIA to blame for the Unabomber?

Two police officers leading Ted Kaczynski, in handcuffs, along the side of a building
Photo Credit: BOB GALBRAITH / AFP / Getty Images

Ted Kaczynski – better known as the Unabomber – is one of America’s most notorious criminals, who made homemade explosive devices and mailed them out across the country, invoking a sense of terror and unease from the 1970s, all the way through to the ’90s, when he was eventually caught.

Kaczynski was actually involved in a CIA-funded study at Harvard University during his second year at the post-secondary school. This involved undergraduate students discussing their personal beliefs with other participants and writing an essay. Their writing was then given to an anonymous person, who then belittled them while the participant’s physiological reaction was monitored.

David Kaczynski, the Unabomber’s brother, wonders if his involvement in the study may have influenced some of his crimes.

The CIA only confirmed Area 51’s existence in 2013

Aerial view of Area 51
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The legendary secret military base known as Area 51 has been a hot topic within conspiracy theory circles for decades, but did you know it 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 site was simply a testing area for secret military aircraft and aerial vehicles. In 2019, the CIA may have regretted confirming its existence when a group of more than two million people jokingly planned to Naruto-run into the base and save the aliens inside, causing a national security frenzy.

The CIA may have hired Saddam Hussein

Portrait of Saddam Hussein
Photo Credit: Jacques Pavlovsky / Sygma / Getty Images

Some believe the CIA hired Saddam Hussein in the 1950s, with the goal of appointing him as the president of Iraq. At the time, the United States believed then-Iraqi Prime Minister ‘Abd al-Karīm Qāsim may have been aligned with Communist beliefs and removing him from power would put a stop to that.

The account was collected by United Press International, which interviewed former diplomats, American Intelligence officials and scholars. Interestingly, the CIA refused to comment.

Giving unsuspecting individuals illicit substances

View of San Francisco, California, through the Golden Gate Bridge
Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The CIA has a well-known history with the hallucinogenic substance LSD (think Project MKUltra). The agency is also known for its interest in the human mind and for setting out to see if someone could actually be mind-controlled. It merged the two in the 1950s to form a project codenamed “Operation Midnight Climax.”

To witness its effects of LSD without directly acting illegally, the agency hired female street workers in San Francisco, California, to administer the substance for them. The women would bring unsuspecting male customers back to safe houses, where they’d secretly dispense the substance to the victim, before engaging in their activities. To observe the effects, each location had mirrors that agents could watch through.

As could be expected, the operation had serious ethical issues, with the CIA ultimately abandoning this avenue of research in 1963.

The only Starbucks where you don’t need to give your name

Starbucks coffee cups lined up on a counter
Photo Credit: Stephen Chernin / Getty Images

Given the long hours CIA agents work, it’s no surprise that the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, contains a Starbucks. However, it’s different than the average franchise you’d find anywhere else in the world.

This Starbucks location is streamlined to serve members of this secretive line of work. The baristas who work there are trained to remember faces, instead of needing names, and have to go through much higher security checks than your average employee.

Using Viagra as a bargaining chip

Man holding up a Viagra pill
Photo Credit: BSIP / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

In exchange for information, the CIA has a long list of payment methods that can be used as an alternative to money. An example of this comes from the Vietnam War, when Vietnamese farmers hired by the agency were paid in tools, rather than money, as the items were of more use.

More from us: There’s a Big Difference Between the FBI and CIA

Another notable example occurred during the War in Afghanistan, with agents offering an Afghan chieftain Viagra in exchange for information on Taliban activities in the region. This was a much safer option than money and weapons, as the latter could fall into the wrong hands.

Jesse Beckett

Jesse Beckett is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE