Iran busts ‘spy pigeons’ near nuclear site / Oct 20, 2008

“Security forces in Natanz have arrested two suspected “spy pigeons”
near Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment facility, the reformist
Etemad Melli newspaper reported on Monday. One of the pigeons was
caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan in
Isfahan province, the report cited an unnamed informed source as
saying, adding that some metal rings and invisible strings were
attached to the bird. “Early this month, a black pigeon was caught
bearing a blue-coated metal ring, with invisible strings,” the source
was quoted as saying of the second pigeon. The source gave no further
description of the pigeons, neither their current status nor what
their fate will be. Natanz is home to Iran’s heavily-bunkered
underground uranium enrichment plant, which is not far from Kashan.
The activity is the focus of Iran’s five-year standoff with the West,
which that fears it aims to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran vehemently
denies the charge. Last year, Iran issued a formal protest over the
use of espionage by the United States to produce a key intelligence
report on the country’s controversial nuclear programme.”


BY Saleh Eskandari / July 10 / from Iranian newspaper Resalat /
translated by BBC

“A few weeks ago, 14 squirrels equipped with espionage systems of
foreign intelligence services were captured by [Iranian] intelligence
forces along the country’s borders. These trained squirrels, each of
which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the
country for intelligence and espionage purposes. According to the
announcement made by Iranian intelligence officials, alert police
officials caught these squirrels before they could carry out any task.
Fixing GPS devices, bugging instruments and advanced cameras in the
bodies of trained animals like squirrels, mice, hamsters, etc, are
among modern methods of collecting intelligence. Given the fast speed
and the special physical features of these animals, they provide
special capabilities for spying operations. Once the animals return to
their place of origin, the intelligence gathered by them is then
offloaded. . . .”

BY Carol Highfill / November 1996

Lost or Stolen Birds
“Bands are one method of identifying a lost or stolen bird. No matter
how careful bird owners and breeders are, the unthinkable sometimes
happens and a bird flies away. It may be found by a conscientious
person who would like to return the bird to its owner. If the bird is
wearing a band, the task becomes much easier. Many bands are traceable
and a finder (with help from a pet store, veterinarian or breeder) may
be able to trace the bird and its owner. If a finder advertises that a
bird has been found, the true owner can prove his ownership of this
particular bird if he has the band number. If a bird has been stolen,
the thief will often remove the band to prevent discovery. However,
there are documented cases where birds have been recovered years later
due to identification of the leg band. Removal of the band by a thief,
decreases the value of the bird and some thieves take their chances.
Reputable breeders and pet stores will question the history of an
unbanded bird. Anyone buying a bird as a pet should also question any
bird which is not banded. The ability to remove a leg band is one of
this method’s drawbacks when compared to chipping or fingerprinting.”


“War of the Birds is the untold story of how carrier pigeons – members
of the elite MI-14 secret service division – are the forgotten heroes
of the Secret Service during the Second World War, playing a vital
role in securing the Allied Victory. Focusing on the efforts of five
forgotten Secret Service heroes of World War II – all of whom have
feathers – War of the Birds is a surprisingly suspenseful and dramatic
documentary about the war taking place in the air between Nazi and
Allied birds as they struggled to deliver crucial military
intelligence. Although today pigeons are seen as vermin, their role in
communicating information between the Allies in Britain and their
troops and agents in occupied Europe was paramount. In cases where
radio transmission and other forms of communication was not available
these brave birds, which have an in-built sense of direction over vast
distances and incredible flying power, saved the day. Drawing upon
emotive interviews and archival footage, we hear the miraculous tales
of pigeons like ‘White Vision’, which miraculously flew 60 miles over
heavy seas against 25mph winds to save 11 crew members from certain
death; ‘Mary of Exeter’ which flew for the Allied forces for five
years, getting wounded 22 times before finally being killed on duty;
and ‘Scotch Lass’ which returned to England from Holland with vital
microphotographs that saved hundreds of lives. Over fifty pigeons won
the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Congressional Medal of
Honour, after the Allies won the war. These brave birds survived enemy
bullets, Nazi attack falcons and flight exhaustion to defeat Hitler
and his forces and change the course of history. This documentary
serves to remind a new generation of the importance of pigeons in a
pre-digital and internet world.”

“One well known Kennoway pigeon fancier, Jim Hamilton, has raced the
birds for most of his life and even provided pigeons for the
government during the second world war. The exhibition tells the story
of one such pigeon named Winkie, who was based at RAF Leuchars during
the conflict. On February 23, 1942, the damaged Beaufort that Winkie
was travelling on ditched suddenly while returning from a strike off
the Norwegian coast. She broke free from her cage and flew back to
base 129 miles away, arriving wet and exhausted. After assessing
Winkie along with other circumstances, a sergeant was able to advise
where to search for the plane and the crew were soon rescued. As a
result, she was the first pigeon to be awarded the Dickin Medal, which
is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.”

Decorated animal heroes
BY Hugo Potter / February 18 2007

· Paddy (1944) Carrier pigeon made the fastest recorded crossing of
the Channel to deliver messages from Normandy for D-Day.
· GI Joe (1946) Famous messenger pigeon which averted a bomb attack on
the Italian village of Colvi Vecchia, saving more than 1,000 lives.
· Judy (1946) English Pointer ship’s dog, alerted crew to approaching
aircraft. The only animal officially registered as a prisoner of war.
· Simon (1949) Ship’s cat served during the Chinese civil war.
Survived canon shell injuries to kill off a rat infestation on HMS
· Roselle (2002) Guide dog who led her blind owner and a woman blinded
by debris from the World Trade Center during the attacks of 9/11.
· Sam (2003) Dog serving with the Royal Candian Regiment in Bosnia.
Disarmed a gunman and guarded refugees against a hostile crowd.


Pigeon’s war medal up for auction / 26 October, 2004
“A bravery medal awarded to a pigeon for flying over enemy territory
carrying vital information during World War II is to be auctioned. The
bird, called Commando, was bred in Haywards Heath, Sussex, and carried
out 90 trips in German-occupied France. It brought back messages to
the UK in metal canisters strapped to its legs. Commando was given the
Dickin Medal for animal bravery in 1945 – one of only 54 to be given
out. It is to be auctioned at Spink in London on 4 November. Commando
was bred by pigeon fancier Sid Moon in a loft in the West Sussex town.
Mr Moon served with the Army Pigeon Service in World War I and made
his pigeons available to the war effort in 1939. Fewer than one in
eight of the birds sent on the missions returned home. They often fell
victim to German marksmen, birds of prey, bad weather or exhaustion.
But Commando survived the trips and was awarded the animal equivalent
of the Victoria Cross. The medal is being auctioned by Mr Moon’s
granddaughter Valerie Theobold and is expected to fetch between £5,000
and £7,000. She said: “The thing I remember is the noise of the
pigeons and probably also the smell of the pigeons. “But it is quite
interesting to think that all those pigeons carrying all those
messages through the war were coming from the loft.” Another of Mr
Moon’s relatives, John Theobold, said: “It was terribly hard for the
agents or for the people who were occupied trying to get message out
by radio because if they were caught they were shot. “So pigeons were
one way of getting information back that was crucial.””

‘War secrets’ pigeon trainer dies / 1 April, 2004
“Northamptonshire’s Dowager Viscountess Dilhorne, who trained pigeons
to carry World War II secret communications from the continent, has
died aged 93. During the war the then Mary Manningham-Buller trained
carrier pigeons in a small Oxfordshire village. The birds were used by
secret agents and resistance fighters, flying back to her with coded
messages on their legs. The funeral of the Viscountess, who died on 25
March, will be held on Friday at Deene Park, Corby. She was the widow
of the 1st Viscount Dilhorne, formerly Reginald Manningham-Buller, who
was Lord Chancellor from 1962-64. He became the Conservative MP for
Daventry, later South Northamptonshire, in 1943 and left the Commons
for the Lords on becoming a peer in 1962. For many years after the war
Mary Manningham-Buller did not discuss her secret work for the
government, even though she had discovered that some of the messages
carried by her pigeons had been of critical importance to the
military. Lady Dilhorne was born Mary Lilian Lindsay, one of eight
children of David Lindsay, Lord Balcarres. Her mother was Constance
Lilian, youngest daughter of the MP for Huntingdon Sir Henry Pelly.
The Viscountess is survived by a son and three daughters. One, Eliza
Manningham-Buller, has been director-general of the Security Service
since 2002.”


Scientists create remote-controlled pigeon / February 27, 2007
“Chinese scientists have succeeded in implanting electrodes in the
brain of a pigeon to control the bird’s flight remotely, state media
have reported. The Xinhua News Agency said scientists at the Robot
Engineering Technology Research Centre at Shandong University of
Science and Technology in eastern China used the micro-electrodes to
command the bird to fly right or left, and up or down. The implants
stimulated different areas of the pigeon’s brain according to
electronic signals sent by the scientists via computer, mirroring
natural signals generated by the brain, Xinhua quoted chief scientist
Su Xuecheng as saying. It was the first such successful experiment on
a pigeon in the world, said Mr Su, who conducted a similar successful
experiment on mice in 2005. The report did not specify what purpose
the pigeons may perform.”

CIA recruited cat to bug Russians
BY Charlotte Edwardes / 03 Nov 2001

“The CIA tried to uncover the Kremlin’s deepest secrets during the
1960s by turning cats into walking bugging devices, recently
declassified documents show. In one experiment during the Cold War a
cat, dubbed Acoustic Kitty, was wired up for use as an eavesdropping
platform. It was hoped that the animal – which was surgically altered
to accommodate transmitting and control devices – could listen to
secret conversations from window sills, park benches or dustbins.
Victor Marchetti, a former CIA officer, told The Telegraph that
Project Acoustic Kitty was a gruesome creation. He 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.” Mr Marchetti said that the first
live trial was an expensive disaster. The technology is thought to
have cost more than £10 million. He said: “They took it out to a park
and put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There
they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was
dead.” The document, which was one of 40 to be declassified from the
CIA’s closely guarded Science and Technology Directorate – where
spying techniques are refined – is still partly censored. This implies
that the CIA was embarrassed about disclosing all the details of
Acoustic Kitty, which took five years to design. Dr Richelson, who is
the a senior fellow at the National Security Archive in Washington,
said of the document: “I’m not sure for how long after the operation
the cat would have survived even if it hadn’t been run over.” The memo
ends by congratulating the team who worked on the Acoustic Kitty
project for its hard work. It says: “The work done on this problem
over the years reflects great credit on the personnel who guided
it . . . whose energy and imagination could be models for scientific
pioneers.” By coincidence, in 1966, a British film called Spy With a
Cold Nose featured a dog wired up to eavesdrop on the Russians. It was
the same year as the Acoustic Kitty was tested.”

MI5’s secret plan to recruit gerbils as spycatchers
BY Michael Smith / 29 Jun 2001

MI5 considered using a team of highly-trained gerbils to detect spies
and terrorists flying into Britain during the 1970s, Sir Stephen
Lander, the service’s director-general, revealed yesterday. The plan
was based on the ability of gerbils to detect a rise in adrenalin from
changes in the scent of human sweat. Sir Stephen said the Israelis had
put the idea into practice, placing gerbil cages to the side of
security checks for travellers at Tel Aviv airport. A suitably placed
fan wafted the scent of the suspect’s sweat into the cage.

The gerbils were trained by Pavlovian response to press a lever if
they detected increased adrenalin, receiving food as a reward. The
system was never put into practice by MI5 because the Israelis were
forced to abandon it after they found that the gerbil could not tell
the difference between terrorists and passengers who were scared of
flying. Speaking at a conference at the Public Record Office in Kew,
Sir Stephen said MI5 archives contained a complete volume on the idea
– which was based on Canadian research for the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police – written in the 1970s.

Although Dame Stella Rimington made a practice of speaking publicly in
an attempt to change MI5, yesterday’s Missing Dimension conference was
only the second occasion that Sir Stephen has done so. The conference
marks a new PRO exhibition on espionage, Shaken Not Stirred, starting
today, which includes exhibits on a number of spies including Mata
Hari and a spy paid the equivalent of £6.5 million by King George I to
spy on the Stuarts. The Missing Dimension refers to the fact that most
histories are written before intelligence files have been released and
so omit a crucial element of what occurred and why. Sir Stephen
admitted that it would be a long time before MI5 would be able to
release details of its Cold War activities.