Declassified Secrets: From Spy Satellites to Wired Kitties 

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Pete Souza

On occasion these classified documents will undergo declassification, subsequently they will pop up on websites or other platforms and become subjected to academic, journalistic, and public scrutiny. Oftentimes what is unveiled, typically years and years after the events they addressed have already unfolded, is gripping or even shocking.

Recovering A Spy Satellite

In April 1972, the U.S. Navy deployed the Trieste II Deep Sea Vehicle I (DSV-1) into the Pacific Ocean, its objective was to recover a “data package.”However it turned out to be “part of a film capsule from an American photo reconnaissance [spy] satellite codenamed HEXAGON.” According to the Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room, a malfunction was responsible for the incident.

Source: CNet/CIA Historical Collections Division

A parachute was intended to deploy once the capsule reentered the atmosphere and was over the primary reentry zone near the Hawaiian Islands. However, the parachute malfunctioned, broke off, and the capsule plummeted into the ocean, sinking to approximately 16,400 feet (5,000 meters).

Pegasus Spies Target Mexican President Obradors Administration

Per declassified documents, Mexico’s Undersecretary,Alejandro Encinas, told President Lopez Obrador that spyware had been located on Encinas’s own cell phone and two others that worked in his office.

Source: Reuters/Henry Romero

Encinas was in the process of investigating the strange “disappearances of hundreds of people,” a New York Times article explains. These incidents had taken place during the “Dirty War” that the Mexican military deployed in the 1960s and 70s.Per reports made by Kate Doyle in a 2003 article titled “Human Rights and the Dirty War in Mexico,” when this all initially started United States officials considered the Mexican “crackdown” to be reasonable initially, U.S. officials considered the Mexican crackdown to be understandable, the U.S. allegedly had  assured Mexico that it “had no intention of pressing Mexican President Luis Echeverría about it.”

Project Cloud Gap

In January 1969, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency produced Volume 1 of its “Final Report” detailing a field test involving the “Demonstrated Destruction of Nuclear Weapons.” According to the abstract of the publication, the purpose of the field test was to “develop and test inspection procedures to monitor the demonstrated destruction of nuclear weapons.” Adding to that, a goal of the test was to find out the extent in which “proposed method of demonstrating destruction” would expose classified weapon information.

Source: Unsplash/Dan Meyers

The test included 40 real nuclear weapons and 32 fake ones. The test revealed that proposed destruction techniques could have the potential to expose classified weapons designs.

CIA Operations Involving Stay Behind Agent

Timothy Naftali of the University of Virginia reported that between the years 1949 and 1955 the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)  between 1949 and 1955, the U.S. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operated a stay-behind network of German agents.

Source: The New York Times/Bettman Archives

The operation consisted of two programs, the Kinitz, in Southwestern Germany, and the Pastime, in Berlin. The purpose was to give invaluable intelligence sources behind the lines in case the Soviets invade West Germany. Throughout the operation, certain stay-behind agents proved to be a problem, one group in particular was displaying “Nazi tendencies.” Consequently the CIA ended up launching a “resettle” program in Canada and Australia.

Missile Gap

During the Cold War, Western nations became increasingly concerned that the USSR was surpassing the United States production of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Source: Pinterest/imgur

The perceived “missile gap” between NATO and the USSR led both Eisenhower and the Kennedy administrations to ramp up the production of ICBM. However, with the advancements in technology and innovative aerial and satellite photography CIA was able to gain better assessments of Soviet missile capacity. This allowed policymakers to shift gears towards something else.

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall that was built in 1961 separated East Berlin from West Berlin up until 1989. The purpose of the wall was to alienate and destroy the small area of freedom that surrounded the wall.

Source: Daily Mail Uk/Rex Features

However, the Wall ended up being a political sore spot that increased tension between the United States and Europe. Instead, the Wall became a political hot spot that escalated tensions between the U.S., Europe. Several USSR declassified documents regarding the Wall unveil the United States response to USSR threats attempting to isolate West Germany prior to the Wall being built.

Bay Of Pigs Operation

The CIA staff historian Jack Pfeiffer authored the Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, initially meant to be top secret. At the time of his retirement it remained incomplete.

Source:JFK Library

Its fifth volume, criticized for its lack of scholarship, still remains unpublished. Pfeiffer’s Foreword to Part 1 of Volume 2 highlights the CIA’s “participatory role in the formulation of United States foreign policy”  in the course of the operation focus was directed towards Guatemala and Nicaragua. Part 2 of the volume serves as an appendix to Part 1, containing four memorandums and excerpts from an interview with the Ambassador to Guatemala at the time, John J. Muccio. Volume 4 is dedicated to the point of view of CIA personnel who were “closely involved in the Bay of Pigs (BOP) operation.” Their perspective can be summed up as feeling, as Pfeiffer writes, that they received a “bum rap,” as they were blamed as scapegoats for a political decision that undermined the success of the mission, in part to protect “the Kennedy image.”

Project 1794

The declassified United States Air Force aircraft depicted in the cutaway diagram 1950s undeniably has a close resemblance to a flying saucer. Powered by a central turbine engine that is mounted at the center of the disk-like shaped body, it also appears as if the object was built specifically to hover, take off at high speed, shoot in an upward direction, and change its direction at the drop of a dime.

Source: The Verge/National Archives

An article released by Live Science’s regarding the eccentric aircraft highlights, it was constructed during Project 1794 and would be “capable of traveling at supersonic speeds at high altitudes.” In fact, the specifications for it call for it to be capable of attaining speeds that reach Mach 4, it also noted that it would be able to reach altitudes of 100,000 feet (30,480 meters). It would also have to be extremely fast because its purpose was to take down Soviet bombers. The Pentagon even had bets going on the saucer-shaped aircraft. A whopping $3 million was given for the production of the prototype, however the project would ultimately be canceled in 1961 when tests suggested that the “flying saucer design was aerodynamically unstable” and would likely be uncontrollable at high or supersonic speeds

Violence Against Civilians And Prisoner Torture In Vietnam

Some may be under the false impression that the notorious My Lai massacre in 1968 was the only incident of horrific acts committed by United States forces during the Vietnam War.

Source: Pinterest

Declassified Army documents that were once a part of a secret 9,000-page archive compiled by the Pentagon task force, reveal that the same unit responsible for killing “anything that moved” at My Lai were also responsible for various other heinous acts. A Los Angeles Times article highlights, Vietnamese families were “attacked in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing… as a violent minority murdered, raped, and tortured with impunity.” These atrocities were not isolated to one specific unit, they were noted in every single Army division that was in Vietnam. Documented incidents include crimes such as seven massacres resulting in at least 137 deaths; seventy-eight “other attacks” resulting in at least 57 deaths, 56 wounded, and 15 sexually assaulted; and nearly 150 incidents of the torture of prisoners of war “with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock

Wired Kitties

Kat Eschner, in an article for Smithsonian Magazine,discusses how in the 1960s, the CIA explored using animals such as ravens, pigeons, and cats for espionage reasons. Cats, known for their natural curiosity, were thought to be the perfect option to be a spy. They were going to be used for the United States Project Acoustic Kitty. The cats were meant to be implanted with recording devices so they could wander by cues directed by audio. The main objective was to have the cats record Soviet leaders’ every word, meaning their conversations would no longer be covert.

Source: BBC/Thinkstock

The idea might seem funny to some, but in reality it was monstrous, says Victor Marchetti, a former assistant to the CIA’s director: “They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, and wired him up. They made a monstrosity.” During that time the sophisticated technology was still in its developmental stage, and implementing this idea was not an easy task, the project took five years to complete, including the time spent testing the technology on “dummies and live animals.” The project had what seemed like immediate setbacks: starting with the first cat set to be deployed being killed by a taxi as it attempted to cross the street. The kitties’ career as spies ended in 1967, when the CIA finally acknowledged that, despite using a “$20 million feline radio transmitter,” cats, as Eschner puts it, “really don’t take direction well.”

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Athena Hallet

Written by Athena Hallet

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