On Saturday newly declassified documents detail the secret Cold War use of pigeons in spy missions.
The newly declassified files reveal how pigeons were trained for clandestine missions which included photographing sensitive sites inside the Soviet Union.
“Tacana” was the codename for the 1970s operation and explored the use of pigeons with tiny cameras that automatically took photos.
The CIA shares that the collection of declassified documents “highlight the diverse programs involving the feasibility of using dolphins and birds to support spying operations.”
“For a variety of technical and other reasons, none of the programs ever became operational,” the CIA said.
In the mid-1970s the CIA flew pigeon test missions. In one mission including one over a prison and a second over the Navy Yard in Washington.
The BBC reports that the “pictures taken over the Navy Yard with a camera that cost $2,000 showed remarkably clear details of people walking and cars parked.”
The CIA reportedly feared that a member of the public would come across a camera-equipped pigeon every time they did a mission or test mission so its spymasters devised elaborate cover stories.
A memo dated September 1976 shows that the CIA selected a Leningrad shipyard where the most advanced Soviet subs were being built as an Operation Tacana target.
The program was shut down by the late 70s after a CIA review found that the program to be “too unreliable” to continue. The files also show that several of the pigeons disappeared with expensive cameras and one pigeon was attacked by a hawk and the camera was lost.