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The CIA web presence, enhanced for the year 2011!
February 9, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

The Central Intelligence Agency launched several enhancements to CIA.gov, attempting to make a more public-friendly internet presence. Their outreach efforts also include Flickr and YouTube accounts, where you can watch CIA Director Panetta deliver his keynote address at a foreign language summit, if you have an hour to kill. Or marvel at a silver dollar that is actually a hollow container! They even have a few pictures of a dragonfly and a fake fish. Wait, what? That dragonfly is a tiny gas-powered machine that actually flew in the 1970s, and that fake fish is a functional Unmanned Underwater Vehicle.

Charlie the robo-carp and the gas-powered dragonfly were shown off in 2003 at an exhibit that wasn't open to the public. News reports have blurry pictures at best, but now you can see the fake tiger dropping Seismic Intruder Detection Device in all it's glory, along with other relics of the sneaky past.

Wired is not impressed, but they did find The CIA K-9 CAM: The Headquarters Tour, in which an explosive detection canine officer guides you through the CIA headquarters. Warning: she's a dog, with a cutesy human voice.
posted by filthy light thief (37 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
"This Cold War-Era intrusion detector was designed to blend in with the terrain," given that your mission is to infiltrate a litter box at a summer camp ceramics studio.
posted by theodolite at 12:10 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dragonfly Insectothopter

Developed by CIA’s Office of Research and Development in the 1970s


I'd be interested to know if it was developed before or after Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy was published.
posted by weston at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Want
posted by interrobang at 12:21 PM on February 9, 2011


What, no amphibious cars? Pffft.

awesome post man
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on February 9, 2011


No exploding cigars or beard-falling-out powder?
posted by fixedgear at 12:26 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Get your hollow coins here! Who needs microdots, I've got MicroSD in a coin.
posted by Marky at 12:28 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


That dragonfly is a tiny gas-powered machine that actually flew in the 1970s, and that fake fish is a functional Unmanned Underwater Vehicle .

Holy shit. That's incredible. Almost too incredible to believe.
posted by spiderskull at 12:33 PM on February 9, 2011


Is there anything more noble than a bomb dog? Also they are generally Labs, which makes them appear even more noble. A parking garage I pass on my way to work has a bomb dog team; they use Labs -- SO ADORABLE.

And I love the concept of a "canine officer;" “So happens this dog achieved the rank of colonel in the United States Army.”
posted by grobstein at 12:37 PM on February 9, 2011


Funniest part of the Flickr account?

"By CIAgov
No real name given"

Oreally?
posted by ShawnString at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


*melts down spare change*
posted by peeedro at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2011


After seeing the life-like "insectothopter," Hiley jokes that she cannot look at a dragonfly in the same way anymore.

No shit. These things have been around since the 1970s? That kinda laters my worldview.
posted by Bummus at 12:45 PM on February 9, 2011


Gah! laters=alters
posted by Bummus at 12:46 PM on February 9, 2011


I'm not clicking on it. That's how they get your DNA.
posted by notmydesk at 12:46 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seeing the words "CIA" and "enhanced" in the same sentence gave me a bad moment there.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:55 PM on February 9, 2011


Meanwhile, in other news, the CIA has an accountability problem.
posted by msittig at 12:57 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cookie: REFERRER=http://www.metafilter.com/; ciaBannerflashPlayed=1

Argh! They know where I came from!
posted by rh at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where's the shoe phone?
posted by Babblesort at 1:00 PM on February 9, 2011


Wow, that's super cool! I sure am happier looking the other way now.
posted by willie11 at 1:09 PM on February 9, 2011


Anyone else read this when they were a kid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Dunn,_Invisible_Boy?
posted by mullicious at 1:13 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if there is a special "smuggle Afghan heroin into the US to fund Kurdish paramilitaries" activity, or if that's just reserved for their Facebook profile or something.
posted by Avenger at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese: Seeing the words "CIA" and "enhanced" in the same sentence gave me a bad moment there.

The funny/unnerving thing is that is the exact wording chosen by the CIA in their press release: CIA Introduces Enhancements to Public Website


Avenger: I wonder if there is a special "smuggle Afghan heroin into the US to fund Kurdish paramilitaries" activity, or if that's just reserved for their Facebook profile or something.

Congratulations, you're now a level 2 government drug-runner! You're half way to becoming Local Despot! Tell your friends and earn extra IntelPoints!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:17 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nothing instills fear in America's foes quite like the "George Bush Center for Intelligence" does.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2011


Nothing instills fear in America's foes quite like the "George Bush Center for Intelligence" does.
Sure!
Fear of herniating themselves from laughing too hard.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:26 PM on February 9, 2011


The Eisenhower dollar with a secret compartment is really cool, but I think this one is the best "stash" device of all: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ciagov/5416802884/in/photostream/ They shipped documents around in a penis pump!
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:34 PM on February 9, 2011


Webpages about spy toys are just another way the CIA attempts to make itself seem innocuous to an unsuspecting public.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:58 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone have any links to the kind of engine that dragonly used? I can't seem to find anything, and the "actually flew" YT link doesn't play for me.
posted by phliar at 2:22 PM on February 9, 2011


Where are the vials of LSD?
posted by doctor_negative at 2:38 PM on February 9, 2011


phliar: Anyone have any links to the kind of engine that dragonly used? I can't seem to find anything, and the "actually flew" YT link doesn't play for me.

You're not missing much in the YT link. The first part is a low-res, low-quality CG rendering of the "Insectothopter," then a short clip of it flying. There's actually a short wikipedia page on the Insectothopter, and the CIA museum website has a bit of text:
Insectothopter had a miniature engine to move the wings up and down. A small amount of gas was used to drive the engine, and the excess was vented out the rear for extra thrust. The flight tests were impressive. However, control in any kind of crosswind proved too difficult.
Unfortunately, that's the most information I've found anywhere on it.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:33 PM on February 9, 2011


From msittig's link:

The AP investigation of the CIA's actions revealed a disciplinary system that takes years to make decisions, hands down reprimands inconsistently and is viewed inside the agency as prone to favoritism and manipulation. When people are disciplined, the punishment seems to roll downhill, sparing senior managers even when they were directly involved in operations that go awry.


Well no shit. They work for the CIA. Maybe not "favoritism" as much as "that guy/woman knows all sorts of fucked up shit about me" or "He/She is the only one that double agent in Bulgaria will talk to..." or "He/She has photos of Senator ________ screwing a baby deer."

So, I'd imagine the "reprimand" process is full of sitcom situations like, let's say:

Agent Smith: "Agent Johnson helped blow up a daycare in Seattle, Washington. There were no sleeper agents, enemy targets, or even a single person tallied in the dead with as much as a police record."
Agent Davis: "What was his reasoning for the act?"
Agent Smith: "One of the students' last name was 'Billiand', which Agent Johnson astutely pointed out was an anagram for Bin Ladin. He believed Bin Ladin moved stateside."
Agent Davis: "That's absurd. Bring him in here right now."
Agent Smith: "He's already here."
Agent Davis: "Where? In the building?"
Agent Smith: "No, he's right there... "

The wall opens and Agent Johnson casually walks out.

Agent Davis: "Good heavens! How long have you been listening in on me?"
Agent Johnson: "Few months... watching you, too. What did you want to talk to me about?"
Agent Davis: "Um... bang up job in Seattle Agent Johnson."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:45 PM on February 9, 2011


I'm surprised nobody has seen fit to mention the multicultural outreach accessible from the front page. We now return you to your previously scheduled gigglefest.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:45 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A small amount of gas was used to drive the engine, and the excess was vented out the rear for extra thrust.

Wait a minute, do they mean gas as in compressed air? I somehow assumed "gasoline" and was all excited about an IC engine small enough to power an insect.

"However, control in any kind of crosswind proved too difficult." Doesn't every student pilot go through that phase?
posted by phliar at 4:43 PM on February 9, 2011


Well that's interesting. I think they might have done better with a fake bumble-bee or a fake horse-fly as the first flying 'bugs'. Random flight behavior is normal for both species.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:44 PM on February 9, 2011


Bat spies
posted by clavdivs at 5:23 PM on February 9, 2011


Oh, Wired isn't impressed, is it? You might as well rewrite that as, "Wired doesn't know diddly shit and is proud of it." That dragon fly thing? There is a big push right now by various military agencies to design and understand vehicles exactly like this, and the CIA turns out to have built a working one 40 years ago. It blew my mind when I saw it this afternoon and my colleagues were also impressed. But I guess that's why we're engineers; we just couldn't hack it at a high flying publication like Wired.
posted by indubitable at 8:15 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


indubitable: Oh, Wired isn't impressed, is it? You might as well rewrite that as, "Wired doesn't know diddly shit and is proud of it."

I kinda fudged that link reference. Wired wasn't impressed by the content the CIA is sharing, noting that the dragonfly "drone" and Charlie the carp are the peak of an otherwise lackluster collection of rather old spy tech, which is easily trumped by other online collections.

For example, there are pictures of pictures of presidents, where you can almost make out what is written below the picture. At least they took the time to transcribe the notes. The history behind the pictures are interesting (Each president since the formation of CIA under President Truman has written a note of thanks to the men and women of the CIA. This gallery displays those notes with the president’s photograph.), but the presentation is lacking.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:31 AM on February 10, 2011


I'm glad I wasn't the only one that lusted afterremembered the dragonfly thing from Danny Dunn.
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2011


I think they might have done better with a fake bumble-bee or a fake horse-fly as the first flying 'bugs'.

The CNN link mentions in passing that they tried a robotic bumblebee, but found that its flight was too erratic, which really makes me want to hear more about how they achieved a realistic bumblebee, especially given that the flight dynamics of bumblebees are still being researched.

The attention to detail implied on a scrapped experiment blows my mind. And terrifies me.
posted by kagredon at 10:41 PM on February 10, 2011


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