When the CIA Spied on American Citizens—Using Pigeons

FLYING ABOVE THE WASHINGTON NAVY Yard, a spy was taking a series of pictures that revealed more than even the most advanced satellites, while the workers below went about their day-to-day lives, not knowing they were the subject of an espionage mission. Looking to gain an edge in the Cold War, in 1977 the Central Intelligence Agency had recruited a new, nearly invisible agent: a pigeon.

It may sound unusual, but the idea of using pigeons for espionage wasn’t without merit. The place of pigeons in an army was first recorded by the Roman historian Pliny, who described their role in communication, and the German army in World War I were the first to explore the use of pigeons for reconnaissance. The United States military had itself been using pigeons since the late 1800s for communication, but “I could not document any instance of them being used for reconnaissance,” says Elizabeth Macalaster, author of War Pigeons: Winged Couriers in the U.S. Military, 1878-1957.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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