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September 14, 2019The CIA has declassified documents on secret missions conducted during the Cold War, in which the 'spies' were pigeons, owls, dolphins, crows and other animals. The dossiers show that the birds were trained for clandestine missions, in order to entrust them with the task of photographing sensitive places in the Soviet Union.

The ravens were supposed to release spying devices on the windowsills and the dolphins were trained in submarine missions to control the Soviet fleet. The CIA also studied how to exploit cats for surveillance espionage and how to insert implants into dogs' brains to control them remotely, programs that did not go far.

The CIA mandated ornithologists to find out which birds regularly spent part of the year in the Shikhany area, for example, where the Soviets had nuclear weapons facilities. They also intended to use them as "living sensors", because based on the food they ate they would reveal what tests the Russians were conducting. There were also owls, hawks, vultures, parrots among the other birds that the agency hired or attempted to hire. The best 'candidate' turned out to be Da Da, a crow so promising to be nicknamed "the star of the project".

But in a mission, Do Da was attacked by others of his kind and there was no more news. The CIA also purchased hundreds of pigeons, equipping them with cameras and making them fly to the US to train them. The goal was to monitor the port of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, where the Soviets built nuclear submarines. But in the experiment many birds died, others fled or disappeared with the precious equipment they were wearing. The revealed documents do not say whether the operation in Leningrad was ever attempted.