The CIA’s Rectal Tool Kit for Spies–Created for Truly Desperate Situations During The Cold War

Though glob­al espi­onage remains a going con­cern in the 21st cen­tu­ry, some­how the pop­u­lar sto­ries we tell about it return again and again to the Cold War. Maybe it has to do with the demand those most­ly pre-dig­i­tal decades made upon the phys­i­cal inge­nu­ity of spies as well as the tools of spy­craft. Take, for instance, one par­tic­u­lar­ly inge­nious CIA-issued tool kit on dis­play at the Inter­na­tion­al Spy Muse­um in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “Filled with escape tools,” says the Spy Muse­um’s web site, “this kit could be stashed inside the body where it would not be found dur­ing a search.” Take one guess as to where inside the body, exact­ly, it could be stashed.

You can get a clos­er look at the rec­tal tool kit in the Atlas Obscu­ra video above. This “tight­ly sealed, pill-shaped con­tain­er full of tools that could aid an escape from var­i­ous sticky sit­u­a­tions,” as that site’s Lizzie Philip describes it, “was issued to CIA oper­a­tives dur­ing the height of the Cold War.”

Built to con­tain a vari­ety of escape tools like “drill bits, saws and knives,” it pre­sent­ed quite an engi­neer­ing chal­lenge: its mate­ri­als, one needs hard­ly add, “could not splin­ter or cre­ate sharp edges that could injure users,” and “it had to seal tight­ly to not let any­thing seep in or poke out.” Upon see­ing an item like this, which com­mands so much atten­tion at the Spy Muse­um, one won­ders whether all the spy­ing that went on dur­ing Cold War was real­ly so glam­orous after all.

Has it crossed the mind of, say, John Le Car­ré, his writ­ing career a near­ly six­ty-year-long defla­tion of the pre­ten­sions of spy­craft, to write about the ins and outs of rec­tal tool kits? But then, per­son­al expe­ri­ence has grant­ed him much more knowl­edge about the tac­tics of British espi­onage than those of the Amer­i­can vari­ety. As sure­ly as he knows the MI5’s offi­cial mot­to, “Reg­num Defende,” he must also know the unof­fi­cial mot­to that pokes fun at the orga­ni­za­tion’s aggres­sive cul­ture of blame avoid­ance, “Rec­tum Defende” — words that, in light of the knowl­edge about just where the agents of Britain’s main ally were stor­ing their tools, take on a whole new mean­ing.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The CIA’s For­mer Chief of Dis­guise Show How Spies Use Cos­tumes in Under­cov­er Oper­a­tions

How the CIA Helped Shape the Cre­ative Writ­ing Scene in Amer­i­ca

Read the CIA’s Sim­ple Sab­o­tage Field Man­u­al: A Time­less, Kafkaesque Guide to Sub­vert­ing Any Orga­ni­za­tion with “Pur­pose­ful Stu­pid­i­ty” (1944)

How the CIA Secret­ly Fund­ed Abstract Expres­sion­ism Dur­ing the Cold War

The C.I.A.’s “Bes­tiary of Intel­li­gence Writ­ing” Sat­i­rizes Spook Jar­gon with Mau­rice Sendak-Style Draw­ings

19-Year-Old Stu­dent Uses Ear­ly Spy Cam­era to Take Can­did Street Pho­tos (Cir­ca 1895)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • oroo says:

    crosspoke du tight Waglam­orous ape tool like spy­craft…


    What from Asi­mov’s Guide to the Bible, the com­plete (8500 B.C.) human time­line con­sist­ing of
    con­quer­ing one anoth­er is the cen­tral theme, aug­ment­ing dis­par­i­ty, pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive in
    macro­scop­ic time.…

    How is a con­trast derived for sub­nu­clear spin and polar­i­ty?


    thouht­co — Quan­tum Physics Overview

    Lieb-Robin­son bounds and the speed of light from topo­log­i­cal order

    The his­to­ry of physics : Asi­mov, Isaac

  • biff Michael Appia says:

    When I went to the Spy Muse­um in D.C., none of the peo­ple work­ing there knew the infa­mous cross­dress­er!

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