An ice pick lobotomy involves inserting an ice pick above the eyeball and hammering it into the brain to destroy the frontal lobes. In 1977, the CIA admitted that it had considered doing this to enemy agents as a way to erase their memory following interrogation. This secret program was code-named "Project Artichoke".
However, the agency insisted that by 1972 it had abandoned the idea as too barbaric, and too likely to "invite horrible reprisals".
Some other interrogation techniques that the agency had considered, but rejected, included:
—Placing subjects in a quaking rubber room to produce overanxiety and emotional instability. The CIA review says "for our purposes a quaking room is too much of a torture chamber; however, if some third-degree approach is contemplated at a permanent installation, this one is interesting."
—Shining flickering lights at a prisoner. "The analyst ... mentioned watching a restaurant fan which was too slow, but nevertheless spoiled his appetite."
—Injecting forms of cocaine into a suspect's brain through holes in the skull. "Too surgical for our use."
—Odors were also considered. The documents said that terror has been produced by exposing a subject to a harmless odor, such as geranium, simulating the smell of a lethal gas.
1945: Toward the end of World War II, the American OSS cooked up a scheme to use postage stamps to demoralize the German people. The idea was to create fake 12 Pfennig stamps on which Hitler's profile was replaced by an image of Hitler with his jaw eaten away.
The Operation had no discernible effect on German morale. But it's a favorite topic among stamp collectors, who are flattered to think that anyone in the OSS ever imagined that stamps might have had such an effect.
Avakoum Zahov was a fictional secret agent who featured in the novels of the Bulgarian writer Andrei Gulyashki. Zahov made his first appearance in the 1959 novel The Zakhov Mission. He returned in the 1966 novel Avakoum Zahov versus 07 — in which he battles and defeats a British agent known as '07'.
Journalist and popular historian Donald McCormick was the first to raise the idea that Gulyashki was involved in a propaganda scheme to create a proletarian Bond. In his 1977 book Who’s Who in Spy Fiction, McCormick lists the Bulgarian as a ‘novelist who responded to the KGB’s request for writers to glorify the deeds of Soviet espionage and to improve its own image in the early sixties. The object was to popularise secret agents of the Soviet Union as noble heroes who protected the fatherland and it was launched by Vladimir Semichastny, the newly appointed head of the KGB in 1961, when he contributed an article to Izvestia on this very subject.’
It is not clear where McCormick got his information, but others have since picked up the claim and run with it. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory states that Gulyashki ‘was invited by the KGB to refurbish the image of Soviet espionage which had been tarnished by the success of James Bond’. Likewise, Wesley Britton claims in Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film that, in 1966, the Bulgarian novelist was hired by the Soviet press to create a communist agent to stand against the British spy ‘because of Russian fears that 007 was in fact an effective propaganda tool for the West’.
"My name is Zahov, Avakoum Zahov" just doesn't have the same ring as "Bond, James Bond".
The "Caccolube" was a simple but effective device to disable an enemy vehicle. It was a condom filled with abrasive powders and crushed walnuts, and was dropped into an engine crankcase. "After the engine heats up," the OSS manual explained, "the hot oil will deteriorate the rubber sac and free the compound into the lubricating system.
"When circulated through this system, the compound fuses and welds the moving metal parts of the machinery. Slipped into a truck, the Caccolube takes effect after the truck has been driven from 30 to 50 miles. It reacts so thoroughly on pistons, cylinder walls and bearing journals that the vehicle is not only thrown out of service but the engine is destroyed beyond repair."
This lethal "lube job" replaced the original effort using sugar, when it was discovered that sugar actually promoted better engine performance in the vehicles of that era. Source: Jack Anderson, "Rare arsenal used by spies," Santa Cruz Sentinel, Mar 9, 1987.
I've previously posted an example of a comic book created by a government for the purpose of propaganda or education ("Confidencias de un Senderista"). In a similar vein is the 1955 film Animal Farm, which was the first animated feature film released in the UK. It was produced by the CIA. As reported in the NY Times (Mar 18, 2000):
Many people remember reading George Orwell's "Animal Farm" in high school or college, with its chilling finale in which the farm animals looked back and forth at the tyrannical pigs and the exploitative human farmers but found it "impossible to say which was which."
That ending was altered in the 1955 animated version, which removed the humans, leaving only the nasty pigs. Another example of Hollywood butchering great literature? Yes, but in this case the film's secret producer was the Central Intelligence Agency.
The C.I.A., it seems, was worried that the public might be too influenced by Orwell's pox-on-both-their-houses critique of the capitalist humans and Communist pigs. So after his death in 1950, agents were dispatched (by none other than E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate fame) to buy the film rights to "Animal Farm" from his widow to make its message more overtly anti-Communist.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.