When you think CIA, one of last words likely to come to mind is "open." And yet the U.S. spy organization has begun to lift the lid-- albeit ever so slightly--in a bid to cultivate public support. In fact, the agency recently launched a retooled Web site, complete with YouTube and Flickr channels.
The following images include some of the mementos that the agency is now sharing with the public for the first time. If you thought James Bond had cool tech toys, get a load of stuff like this silk escape and evasion map printed with waterproof dyes just in case the map ever got wet.
Ever wonder where your tax dollars go? This image shows some of the handicraft of the CIA's Office of Advanced Technologies and Programs--in this case an "Unmanned Underwater Vehicle" fish built to study aquatic robot technology.
Why they would want to do that is anybody's guess, but the CIA did come up with a nifty implementation of different technologies, including a communications system in the body and a propulsion system in the fish's tail. (An operator on land controlled it by a wireless line-of-sight radio handset.)
This Dragonfly "insectothopter," invented by the CIA's Office of Research and Development in the 1970s, essentially served as a very tiny Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. One of the first-ever UAVs--long before the acronym entered the popular lexicon--this project pressed forward to test the feasibility of gathering intelligence collection by miniaturized platforms.
During the World War II, devices like this one helped agents remove letters from their envelopes without opening the seals. After inserting the device into the unsealed gap at the top of an envelope flap, an agent could wind the letter around the pincers and remove it from the envelope without leaving a tear in the paper.
The pneumatic tube system in the CIA's first headquarters building featured more than 30 miles of 4-inch steel tubing. The system, which had about 150 receiving and dispatching stations throughout the building, operated between 1962 and 1989.
You've heard of pigeons carrying messages. How about pigeons taking pictures? The CIA invented a small camera that was light enough to attach to pigeons. As the birds flew over a target, the camera would take detailed images of a target area.
In the 1950s, the CIA had its own semi-submersible. It couldn't travel very far and needed to be hauled around by a larger mother vessel, but its relatively small size allowed the spy sub to operate undetected in areas that would have proved impossible for larger ships.