3 of the CIA’s Weirdest Plots

cat spy the CIA

These are just three of the bizarre ways the CIA is said to have tried to keep America safe. These are also some of the CIA’s failed plots since its founding in 1947.

1. Cats were supposed to be used as Agents by the CIA.

Credits: Canva

The operation, dubbed “Operation Acoustic Kitty,” involves surgically implanting microphones into cats so that they could discreetly record audio conversations.

An hour-long operation was required to insert transmitters and microphones within a cat’s skull and ear canal. In an ideal world, the cats would be able to rub against America’s opponents’ legs and gather crucial intelligence in the process.

Credits: Canva

After a mic’d-up feline jumped out of a scout van and was reputedly plowed down by a taxi during its first field test in 1967, the entire project was canceled. [Source]

2. To help rescue hostages, the CIA pretended it was producing a sci-fi film in Iran.

Credits: Canva

This scenario is familiar from Argo, which received the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2013 for dramatizing the CIA’s efforts to help six US embassy staff members flee a revolutionary Iran.

The spies did this by posing as crew members on a sci-fi film called Lord of Light (which was later renamed Argo).

Credits: Canva

Although the film was a hoax, the agency was using a real script and concept art—illustrated by comics icon Jack Kirby—from a film that was being pitched in Hollywood to make the operation appear more genuine.

The strategy worked, as impossible as that may sound—though the film did take some liberties. [Sources: 1, 2]

3. The CIA planned to make Fidel Castro’s beard fall out.

Castro speaking in Havana, 1978, Credits: By Marcelo Montecino

Even though there were several murder attempts against Fidel Castro throughout his lifetime, one of the most bizarre schemes devised by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was merely intended to embarrass the Cuban leader by using thallium salts to cause his beard to fall out.

Thallium is a very poisonous chemical element that may induce symptoms ranging from stomach discomfort and migraines to convulsions, hair loss, and, in the worst cases, death if a person is exposed to it for an extended period of time.

Credits: Canva

When Castro went on an overseas vacation, the plan was to sprinkle thallium in his shoes, where it would be absorbed into his skin, making him lose his beard and depriving him of his machismo (taking his communist regime down in the process, apparently). Castro’s decision to cancel the trip is said to have make the plot fail. [Sources: 1, 2]