Acoustic Kitty

In 2001 declassified CIA documents revealed Operation Acoustic Kitty. The premise – use cats to spy on Soviet embassies and the Kremlin. Launched in 1961, Acoustic Kitty faced considerable challenges – surgically implanting listening devices into a cat’s ear, wiring the tail as an antennae weren’t problematic, training fickle felines to ignore distractions were another matter.

Five years and $20 million tax dollars later, Acoustic Kitty was tasked with eavesdropping on two Soviet agents in a park near the Soviet Embassy on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington D.C. CIA operatives released, then witnessed Acoustic Kitty’s demise when a taxi ran over her. They secured Acoustic Kitty’s remains to prevent Soviet discovery of the mission.

Abandoned in 1967 as “an unadulterated failure”, to this day portions of CIA Acoustic Kitty files remain censored.

Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti said –

“They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally, they’re ready. They took it out to a park bench and said, “Listen to those two guys. Don’t listen to anything else – not the birds, no cat or dog – just those two guys!”

Cuban Embargo

What began over 50 years ago as Cold War posturing, has evolved into one of the longest standing embargoes in world history. “Posturing” might be a little unfair – Cold War fears and hysteria presented themselves as ever present dread. Communists were the enemy – an enemy poised to unleash global nuclear annihilation. Communists were the reason we built shelters and stock piled supplies. Only 2 years old in 1961 as the Bay of Pigs played out, my mother tells of utter despair listening to news reports – convinced unthinkable was inevitable.

Capsulizing Cuba”s predicament isn’t easy –  In 1959 Fidel Castro led Cuban rebels to victory by ousting Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s revolutionary government drastically altered American interests in Cuba. Socialist land reform (three quarters of arable Cuban land, owned by foreigners under Batista) led to seizure of U.S. owned sugar plantations. America countered in 1960 by reducing Cuban sugar imports, the Soviet Union agreed to purchase the difference. Escalating reform of privately held land, business ,and education, coupled with increased Soviet trade, and expulsion of religious organizations (Cuba declared itself an Atheist nation in 1962 – a prohibition removed by the Communist government in 1991) meant one thing, and one thing only – Communism.  Cold war anti-communists lost their minds over socialist reforms and Soviet presence – in 1962 president John F. Kennedy signed an executive order, effectively severing all ties with Castro’s Cuba. Linked below, a good timeline of embargo progression….

The Cold War resides in history books, America trades with Russia, and Cuba is now a member of the UN Human Rights Council – a council that’s voted 22 consecutive times to end the U.S. embargo. The latest vote, an overwhelming majority (188 UN general assembly members in favor) with America and Israel the only hold-outs. More astounding is news that Barrack Obama signed up for another year of embargo under the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917 – a federal law restricting trade with nations hostile to America – a law requiring yearly review by the President. A law pertaining to Cuba alone, after George Bush removed North Korea from the naughty list in 2008.

Not even the fact I’m Canadian, negates bat shit absurdity of continued embargoes with Cuba. Ponder Obama’s about face – help me make sense of this crazy world.

John Oliver on the Daily Show….





Warm, fuzzy, proud to be Canadian citizens likely haven’t heard the term “ProFunc”.  Prominent Functionaries of the Communist Party was a top secret program of the Canadian government and RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to identify, monitor and plan for internment of Communists, Communist sympathizers and their families. In 1950, RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood spear headed ProFunc, complete with arrest document C-215; a form filled out with information on 16,000 “Communists” and an estimated 50,000 “sympathizers”. These citizens were often under surveillance – form C-215 included details far beyond name and last known address. Details like “possible escape routes from residence” were required on each and every arrest document. Regularly updated and kept on file in RCMP headquarters across the country – citizens were oblivious to the consequences of a ProFunc crack-down.

Great care was taken; not only to maintain secrecy, but to practice for that day when the hammer fell. Any unsuspecting citizen with the unfortunate luck of a C-215 on file, faced a possibility of arrest and detention without formal charges,  separation from family members, solitary confinement, strict rations of food, and standing orders to shoot if they tried to escape. This was Canada, from 1950 until 1983 – a matter taken most seriously by bureaucrats on a secret mission, unencumbered by matters of human rights or legality – I doubt they grasped the irony of their actions.

On Oct. 16, 1970 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau put Canada under Marshall Law by evoking the War Measures Act – a response to the kidnapping of British trade commissioner James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte by the FLQ (A radical Quebec separatist group). In a recent interview by CBC, retired Lt. Julien Giguere who headed the Montreal anti-terrorism unit at the time of the October Crisis, admitted they only had 60 or so names on their list of FLQ members or sympathisers; given the severity of Trudeau ordering marshall law – they thought it best to pad the suspect list. Over 500 arrests were made; most with absolutely no affiliation, widely assumed to have been taken from the established ProFunc lists

Canada’s Solicitor General, Robert Kaplan put an end to ProFunc in 1983. It wasn’t until January of 2000, when Canadian Press reporter Dean Beeby broke the story of ProFunc’s existence, that those listed finally understood why they always felt  they were being followed. Profunc cared little for details such as duly elected representatives or status – Tommy Douglas, leader of Canada’s New Democrat Party, had a fat C-215 file – the slightest hint of “civil unrest” could have put the father of Canadian social medicine behind bars.

Understanding Cold War hysteria isn’t difficult – grasping the scope of “big brother” in terms of modern technology, is a sobering thought. Pondering the reality of ProFunc, a nasty piece of business conducted within the back rooms of my nice little country, serves as a wake up call. If any government decides the “end justifies the means”, we are powerless – human rights, code of law, due process – chuck them out the window. Holy crap indeed.

Missing the Cold War

Reading a post the other day by wordpresser Robert Nielsen – Why Did Communism Fail – set me pondering in another direction. I started thinking about how my post WW2 childhood placed my generation smack dab in the middle of paranoia central. The threat of nuclear annihilation ever present, fresh off McCarthy era Communist witch hunts, Kennedy assassinations, and the bay of pigs – Cold War paranoia served us well – we were prepared; people weren’t considered wing nuts for stocking a fall out shelter or filling the pantry with canned food.

Once the Cold War evaporated, so too did our sense of impending doom. Happy as I was to show doom the door; my children spared sleepless nights worrying about a slow death from radiation poisoning – the fall of Communism took with it our ability to fathom a world where we might have to fend for ourselves.

We live in a vastly different world today. Not even 9/11 or North Korea pounding it’s chest, replaces the void left by a departing Cold War. The cold war era was practical if nothing else, people prepared as best they could. At the very least families talked about contingency plans  Without the internet, cell phones, or bank cards, people had to plan ahead. Problems were approached differently, and solved with good old fashioned ingenuity.

I don’t loose sleep fretting about impending disaster. I write posts on solar flares, asteroids, and super volcanoes because it blows my mind that our planet supports life in the first place. Equally mind blowing is my conclusion that for all our progress and technology, I’d place my bet on the survival of cold war era society over today. The cold war is history, the product of a time vastly different, and impossible to compare with the modern world. That said, it was a time when technology or not, it was accepted, talked about, and prepared for. I miss the sensible middle ground of a time when people thought about having to take care of themselves.

By default the cold war era prepared us for an infinite number of calamities. With each passing decade since, our self preservation becomes more about packing a firearm than storing food, water, and a hand cranked flashlight. It’s entirely possible that I’m just getting old, yet boldly ponder a simpler time when nuclear annihilation was tackled with sensible preparations.


If news of an impending global disaster should break consider hopping on a plane to Albania.  Between 1950 – 1985 Albania built over 600,000 bunkers, enough to house the entire population. Albania has more bunkers than any place else in the world. No guarantee you would be welcome, and doubtful an Albanian bunker would offer any comforts of home. Perhaps just something to keep in mind if you happen to be in the area.

For those seeking a bunker closer to home the options are astounding. Forget the cold war era cellar, and consider the marketing plan from Vivos. This California company will take your money in exchange for a place to go when it hits the fan.

Bunker “kits” are available on-line, ebay offers cold war era fallout shelters, and “doomsday” real estate is big business. You can purchase old missile silos ready to accept modern conveniences or if money is no object multi million dollar fortresses.

All I’m pondering at the moment is the sorry state of my emergency kit. As a child of the cold war years paranoia is understood. As a practical middle aged woman, I’m making sure I have a few days supply of food and water. Unless companies like Vivos have secret technology to transport clients to their facilities when calamity strikes, I’ll take my chances at home.

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Bunker in Albania