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High-Tech Squirrels Trained to Conduct Espionage 269

Pcol writes "In the July 20 issue of the Washington Post, columnist Al Kamen reports that the BBC has translated a story headlined 'spying squirrels,' published in the Iranian newspaper Resalat on the use of trained animals to conduct espionage against their country: '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 the story the squirrels had 'GPS devices, bugging instruments and advanced cameras' in their bodies. '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. . . .' Iranian police officials captured the squirrels before they could carry out their assignments."
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High-Tech Squirrels Trained to Conduct Espionage

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  • Squirrels? (Score:5, Funny)

    by LinuxGeek ( 6139 ) * <djand,nc&gmail,com> on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:42PM (#19949849)
    And I thought that Beaver was the best espionage tool... Go figure.
    • by ralphdaugherty ( 225648 ) <> on Sunday July 22, 2007 @10:16PM (#19951167) Homepage
      Did they send a moose in with the squirrel?

            Oh, wait a minute. That was to spy on Boris and Natasha.

            Never mind.
      • and here I thought our previous best source of intel, curveball, was nutty.

      • by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @11:12PM (#19951567) Journal
        It was widely reported several years ago that cats had been surgically modified to contain bugging instruments, a small power supply, and a broadcasting antenna that ran the length of the animal's tail.

        I believe the original test subjects were released in NYC and were dead within 24 hours. See, one of the requirements for the plan to be fruitful was a high population density to increase the chance of picking up something interesting... unfortunately the level of traffic in these areas is not healthy for stray kitties with no street experience. The surgery also included a type of disabling of the cat's hunger response so that it would stay in the vicinity of the area it was released and not go running off immediately in search of food.

        Here is one link to info, but I am not familiar with the site or their specific version of events: [].

        The NPR archives should turn something up as that is where I first heard of project 'Acoustic Kitty.'

      • Re:Squirrels? (Score:4, Informative)

        by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @11:18AM (#19956495) Journal
        Mind you those Møøse bites can be pretty nasti.

        Those responsible for sending the squirrels have been sacked.
    • Re:Squirrels? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Sunday July 22, 2007 @10:19PM (#19951191) Homepage
      Spying with squirrels and small animals would be great if you can actually do it. Two words: plausible deniability. Even if your targets capture your squirrely assets, the technology aboard the animal is not a huge wash, and probably is not so special it has to be from the United States. You do lose a trained squirrel, however. If you could get a squirrel to enter a house and just sit there, you can effectively bug a house. With the GPS gear, you can figure out whether you're bugging the right house. If you hear conversations about insurgencies, and killing Americans, and stuff, then you can send a GPS-guided JDAM bomb right through the window.

      But if your target complains about being spied on by a trained squirrel, people will laugh at them for being paranoids.
      • Re:Squirrels? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by acidrain ( 35064 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:21AM (#19953069)

        plausible deniability

        It is well known the CIA did this with a cat in the 60s. [] I would be quite reasonable to expect them to have moved on to smaller animals by now. The CIA has an overwhelming need to spy on Iran. Sure this story is funny, but not really all that unlikely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But if your target complains about being spied on by a trained squirrel, people will laugh at them for being paranoids.
        You hit the nail on the head. Infowar. Actually implementing such a plan is stupid. Faking it is brilliant.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        > If you could get a squirrel to enter a house and just sit there

        Thats a big "if".

        I had a squirrel get lose in my house once (it fell down the chimney) and let me tell you the LAST thing it did was "sit there".

        That squirrel was PISSED. It completely wrecked the kitchen, broke many dishes, was on top of the cabinets, the sonnabitch ripped drywall from the walls and ceiling. There was much screaming and telling the kids to "get in their room and close the door" whilst I bravely ran away from the enraged cr
  • I think... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Iphtashu Fitz ( 263795 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:44PM (#19949873)
    ... the Iranian intelligence community have lost their collective nuts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 )
      Ah, finally a /. story where the following link makes sense: []

      These guys have already been on top of this kind of stuff for years....
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This story reads like an April Fools' joke.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:45PM (#19949891) Journal
    nuf sed
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...Until they see the sharks with lasers on their heads...

    And wow, this has really gone all lengths through getting reported; As it stands now I am commenting on an article in the Washington Post, which reports that the BBC reported... yet another report by an Irani reporter.... Too much reports for today.
  • by LordHatrus ( 763508 ) <> on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:46PM (#19949899) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new electronic-squirrel overlords.
  • You know (Score:4, Funny)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:46PM (#19949901)
    This has Cheney written all over it.
    • I heard he is offering his own family recipe for bacon grease gravy in apology though. Now that's good eats!
  • CIA (Score:5, Funny)

    by Neon Aardvark ( 967388 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:46PM (#19949903) Homepage
    The CIA are trying to work out which trees should be bombed.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:47PM (#19949909)
    is Iran's main export product after oil and their government is full of religious nut cases, so this is just far too nutty...
  • Seems fairly barbaric - one day this will be done by microscopic robots that can fly.
  • by networkzombie ( 921324 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:49PM (#19949925)
    is why were the Iranian police catching squirrels?
    • Obviously, the female squirrels were not properly covered (being naked and all)....
    • A sunny May afternoon. Aziz, a low-ranking man in the Iranian defense force, has become overtaken by his hobby - filming voyeuristic squirrel porn - and has now taken it up even during his work hours

      Aziz [holding a video camera, slobbering all over himself, and muttering audibly]: Ahhh yeaaaah... you go for that nut, sugar... go get it... go get it!

      Squirrel [climbs tree, gets nut, eats]

      Aziz [now muttering noticeably louder]: Yeah.... eat it... yeah.... that's what I'm talkin' about... ohhhhhhh yeaaaaahhhh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:49PM (#19949935)
    It's clear now who's REALLY running our intelligence services. []
  • Here [] are some better ones.

    MSNBC []
    Wired []
  • Since when is Disney into weapons research ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      Since when is Disney into weapons research?

      Well, we do have Goofy in the Whitehouse.
  • by bytor4232 ( 304582 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:55PM (#19950007) Homepage Journal
    The Other Animals Are Agin' Us
    By Tim Bedore 2003
    URL: []

    Did you see that in the paper the other day about those carp in the Mississippi River jumping into boats and bonking fisherman in the head? It's true. They're called big head carp, they're from Asia and they're attacking and severely injuring many fisherman.

    Biologists claim the roar of boat motors agitates and excites these carp and they jump towards the sound but I think these biologists are naively missing an obvious connection. Fish are attacking fisherman. For the fish it's get them before they get you, kill or be killed. Even if these fisherman are practicing catch and release, that's a very painful, embarrassing experience for any fish and apparently they have had it.

    What about the increase in mountain lion attacks? Great White sharks moving closer to shore? Moose have been showing up in towns and stomping on people. A squirrel was in my living room last spring. Am I the only one that sees a pattern here? People, wise up! The other animals are against us. It doesn't take a genius to see there's an inter-species conspiracy to thwart the urban expansion of man.

    How do the squirrels fit in? Surveillance. They spy on what we people are doing in the cities and report back to the bigger species out there on the front lines.

    And taken together these other species represent walking, we hope not yet talking, scratching, biting weapons of mass destruction. And if these other species can convince the insect world, for example a well known anti-human group like the killer bees, to join up our way of life and our democracy could be history.

    The skeptical may ask why would these other species want to hurt us? Obviously, they hate us. They are jealous of our way of life. We swim in chlorinated, safe environment pools, then towel off and have an adult beverage. They are stuck eating sludge in the Mississippi, a river polluted by guess who: their mortal enemy man. And to top it all off we eat them.

    This invasion of Asian carp is no accident. This is stage one of their well planned attack. We ignore the obvious at our own peril.

    We can no longer sit back and wait for them to attack us. It's time we adopt a new doctrine regarding these other animals. We have to wipe out any and all species who are a lined against us, wherever they are. We can not rest until every big head carp, great white shark, mountain lion, moose and squirrel and any other species that associates with them are defeated.

    If the U.N. wants to get involved fine, if not we can do it alone. Of course the British will show up, they always do, but we will fight to protect our way of life. And if you don't agree, you're an unpatriotic idiot who hates America.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      you have a point

      Seagull becomes crisp shoplifter 7994.stm []

      A seagull has turned shoplifter by wandering into a shop and helping itself to crisps.
      The bird walks into the RS McColl newsagents in Aberdeen when the door is open and makes off with cheese Doritos

      The bird first swooped in Aberdeen's Castlegate earlier this month and made off with the 55p crisps, and is now a regular.

      Once outside, the crisps are ripped open and the seagull is joined by other birds.

      i think we gotta have a look at social economic state of the animals and look at the collapse of moral's within the animal kingdom, spying squirrels, dorito stealing seagulls and man eating badgers in basra what's next hoodie hamsters, graffiti gerbils, please wont someone think of the children.

      • I tell ya, with all this and the man-eating badgers in Iraq [] (Dinsdale?), I'm buying me a whole passle of birdshot and headin' fore the hills.

        Which are filled with woodland creatures.

        Ok, maybe it'll be safer where I am...

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Informative)

    by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:55PM (#19950015) Journal
    Secret Squirrel []
    And can someone please tell me if this post is a joke or if Iranians really think US is using squirrels, or if Iranians made this up for propoganda? Who's going to believe this...
    • Four years ago,, a now defunct satire magazin visually resembling a top german news magazine, published a fake interview with the then chancellor Gerhard Schröder, in which he pronounce Germany's interest in establishing a nuclear strike capacity.

      Two years ago, a iranian news agency found this fake interview and thought it was a reliable news source. They broke the story and there was a big bruha in Iran. The german consulate in Tehran even had to issue an official denial :-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jasin Natael ( 14968 )

        That's still nothing compared to when the Beijing Evening News translated and reprinted an Onion article about Congress going on strike and threatening to move to another city because they wanted a retractible dome, better seating and parking, and more concession stands and bathrooms for the Capitol Building, complete with illustrations. They had to issue a formal retraction.

  • Hey Rocky! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @07:58PM (#19950051)

    Bullwinkle: Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
    Rocky: Again?
    Bullwinkle: Presto!
    Ahmadinejad: ROAR!!!
    Bullwinkle: Oops, wrong hat.

  • I thought moles were the most successful spy creatures. In fact I think, if Iranian intelligence was wasting it's time on this, it needs to go find the mole that has been successful in its mission.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @08:01PM (#19950081) Journal
    In related news, British forces have been accused of releasing ferocious man-eating badgers in the Iraqi city of Basra. From the BBC article []:

    Word spread among the populace that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic.

    But several of the creatures, caught and killed by local farmers, have been identified by experts as honey badgers.

    The rumours spread because the animals had appeared near the British base at Basra airport.

    UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.
    • Yeah, I saw this article and thought of that story too.

      Man-eating badgers. How nuts do you have to be to think that a badger could eat a man?

      Everybody knows that a small child aged four to five years old, six at the most, is their limit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Ant P. ( 974313 )
        Maybe the badgers were powered up with red mushrooms.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by dwarfsoft ( 461760 )
          It depends how riled they are about being chased by a Snake as to how deadly these mushroom eating badgers are.
      • by Goaway ( 82658 )
        Actually, these are honey badgers. They kill lions by ripping off their balls and making them bleed to death. They'll eat an entire platoon of heavily armed soldiers just for fun.
      • Man-eating badgers. How nuts do you have to be to think that a badger could eat a man?

        That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on! ... Look, that badger's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MrCopilot ( 871878 )
      UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.

      Translation: We don't need no stinking Badgers.

      Well of course they are denying it. Those Badgers were told if captured we will disavow any knowledge of you or your activities.

      The real trick is teaching these Badgers to eat only insurgents.

    • by mrmeval ( 662166 )
      I would so love to buy a pint for twelve British soldiers (or reasonable facimilies) for singing
      this and put it on youtube. []

    • by acvh ( 120205 )
      "UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."

      Hunter Thompson pointed out that one of the most effective techniques in politics is to make your opponent take time to respond to outlandish rumors: "I am not, nor have I ever been, a pigfucker."

    • Um no, badgers are not man-eaters. According to []:

      "Badgers subsist primarily on a diet of stoats, voles, and marmots. In a pinch, badgers have been known to eat woodpeckers."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Liquidrage ( 640463 )
      Yeah. You make fun of it.

      But me and Suad don't go out no more because of those things.
    • UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.

      It's one of the few times I actually believe what a military spokesman says :)
  • Then they're clearly not part of a crack intelligence team...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2007 @08:24PM (#19950245)
    Didn't they know that?
    But seriously, the CIA tried something like that with a cat: [] "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."
    And there have always been rumors about the Navy training dolphins. Given how capable trained dolphins are, that wouldn't be too surprising to me.
    But squirrels? Can squirrels be trained? Why mess around with trained squirrels when they can use paid humans?
    Mailboxes Etc in Beverly Hills []
  • Mmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @08:27PM (#19950259)
    In Iran, the penalty for espionage is spit roasting with potatoes and gravy...
  • Back in the 70s the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology had plans for an "Acoustic Cat". The plan was to surgically alter it, insert batteries and turn its tail into an aerial. It was apparently run over by a taxi before it could be trained for its mission.
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @08:34PM (#19950325) Homepage
    s "resalat" Farsi for "onion"?
    • by linumax ( 910946 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @10:00PM (#19951005)
      Resalat is one of the two ultra-conservative papers in Iran, the other is Kayhan (very close to Ayatollah Khamenei, the director, Shariatmadari is assigned by him and is also his adviser). Being government run papers they are extremely powerful in a sense that while more that 150 reformist/leftist papers have been shut down during the past 7 years, these two have left survived any litigation.
      I occasionally read those when I was in Iran and believe it or not they are FoxNews-made-in-Iran. Anyway, try not to take them serious.
      just thought someone might be interested!
  • Instead of keeping the squirrels, they should have replaced the surveillance gear with tiny little bomb vests and let them go.

    If necessary, they could also indoctrinate the squirrels with rumors of 72 virgin squirrels awaiting them in the afterlife.

    • by Brian Stretch ( 5304 ) * on Sunday July 22, 2007 @11:51PM (#19951851)
      Instead of keeping the squirrels, they should have replaced the surveillance gear with tiny little bomb vests and let them go.
      If necessary, they could also indoctrinate the squirrels with rumors of 72 virgin squirrels awaiting them in the afterlife.

      They tried, but:

      1) Squirrels are better at math than jihadis. They spot the 72 virgin con easily.
      2) Squirrels aren't all that picky about the virgin thing anyhow.

      Actually, we have had problems with suicidal squirrels around here. Every once in a while the power will go out and they'll find a very crispy squirrel near a chewed-on power cable. I don't think that tiny little bomb vests would add much to the effect.

      Sending in secret ninja squirrels to rescue the American hostages in Iran [] is sadly more likely than any other forceful action to get them released.
  • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS ( 313647 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @08:41PM (#19950369) Homepage
    You and Natasha COMPLETELY missed the moose!
  • From DSL/Broadband Reports' security forum thread [], robotic flies [] created.
  • What's next? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Sunday July 22, 2007 @09:16PM (#19950637)
    Mind controlled giant squids? Trained dolphins with sonar cannons on their backs? Sharks with lasers?
  • just wait till the new 65nm spy chips come out and they can reduce the spies to chipmunks and sugargliders.
  • The squirrels are given pouches containing cyanide-laced acorns, ready for quick consumption should they have to endure hostile interrogation.
  • I was just trying to find the nuts in Iran. Good job, squirrels!
  • Secret AAAAAAAGENT Squirrel! Secret AAAAAAAAAGENT Squirrel!
  • Surface dwelling intel critters were just the beginning. And God forgive them if they ever make us unleash the sharks with frickin laser beams!!
  • it's not.

    They even have pictures of the little spies: []

    Wow. Never thought I get to use that pic and be ontopic.
  • with the killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. Makes a mean duo.
  • Clearly (Score:2, Funny)

    by Groggnrath ( 1089073 )
    ...the U.S. is suffering from a lack of squirrel spy's. We must, as a nation, develop an equal squirrel spy system. If both the U.S. and the muslim world have squirrel spies, neither would deploy them for fear of equal retribution. We could create a stalemate, wherein we would only deploy tactical chipmunks, and keep our squirrels, and dare I say, 2 megaton raccoons, in reserve. The next step is obvious, a squirrel defence shield.
  • > These trained squirrels, each of which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the country for intelligence and espionage purposes.

    This is nuts. Literally. Trained Squirrels? All they'll find is nut stashes along the border and maybe get some squirrel p0rn.

    Do they really think these Squirrels will run around with little binoculars searching for WMDs? Someone has been watching too much Rocky and Bulwinkle.
  • This is obviously a mis-timed April Fools story. It is all just too weird.
    • Start with the Iranian police or security forces who have been tasked with intercepting these trained, border-penetrating squirrels. How do you work yourself into that particular job? What are the opportunities for career advancement? Where do you go after serving in Squirrel Patrol?
    • Just what are the chances of a squirrel surviving in the middle of the desert? I don't care how much training it's had - it just seems like a very
  • Those were Jack Bauer's hairs. And he wants them back. Looks like we'll be getting that war with Iran, after all.
  • by FauxReal ( 653820 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @04:04AM (#19953247) Homepage
    Wikipedia already has the operation and underlying technology behind squirrel espionage [] outlined.
  • Source? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Peregr1n ( 904456 ) <> on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:38AM (#19953857) Homepage
    Interesting that the column refers to 'BBC translators' with no link. There's no sign of this story on the BBC website. Would it be cynical of me to suggest that the columnist has inflated this story out of hearsay?
  • Poor Squirrels (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 ( 518485 ) on Monday July 23, 2007 @09:48AM (#19955269)
    During WWII the UK used Carrier Pigeons to deliver plans. The Nazis got wise and gave orders to shoot pigeons on sight.

    Although the UK had some rather nasty ideas of their own:
    "A thousand pigeons, each with a two ounce explosive capsule, landed at intervals on a specific target might be a seriously inconvenient surprise."

The best defense against logic is ignorance.