The freakiest thing about reading CIA gadget lore is that it's all real. The nerds working for the agency's Office of Technical Services were always devising and building gadgets to get people out of—or into—difficult situations. Here's a rundown of crazy stuff from the Spytech book, not necessarily stuff you'd carry all at the same time, but stuff that, to paraphrase Dr. Strangelove, would help a fella have a pretty nice weekend in Moscow. Jump for all the pictures and descriptions:

OK, so you're out there on your ops, and you want to pick up chatter from enemy radio. You don't want to look suspicious, so you pull out your pipe and pretend to pack it with tobacco. You can't actually light it, because inside this pipe-shaped countersurveillance radio is a receiver, batteries and a bunch of other stuff that won't take kindly to smoke and embers. The device's neatest attribute is its lack of earpiece. Instead, you'd bite down on the mouthpiece, and hear signal through bone conduction.

Once you've gathered your information, you can stash your film and other goodies into a dead rat. Or, if you think rats are icky, you can put your data into a brick or a rock. Here's one actual "concealment" brick with a cement cap:

Since there's always a risk of getting caught, smart guys wrote down their info on water-soluble paper, and stored it in thermoses. A thin layer of glass separated the paper from water; when the bad guys came close to apprehending the agent, he'd just drop the thermos and the glass would shatter. There'd be no sign of the paper, and the contents would then be drinkable—if you didn't mind all the broken glass.


Earlier on, guys would wrote down data in exploding notebooks, but I imagine the practice was curtailed when they drew a little too much attention, especially in phone booths, airplanes or gas stations. Note: The instructions tell you to remove the safety when you start using it, not just when you need to blow it up.

If your data-dumping apparatuses didn't get you out of trouble, you're lucky you've got an Escape & Evasion Rectal Suppository Tool Kit shoved up your ass. That's right, that tool kit is rectal, and goes up presumably far enough that the man with the rubber glove (you know the man) won't find it. Hopefully you'll be able to get to it when you need to saw, drill, ply and file your way out of a Siberian prison camp.

Escape futile? Or just having an upleasant time with the whole suppository tool kit? If you planned ahead, you got the agency to provide you with a definitive way out. Though not common, "L-Pills" containing "lethal" substances were issued from time to time, and stashed in pens. U-2 spyplane pilots carried something slightly different, a needle, hidden within another larger needle (you know, so you don't prick yourself), tipped with something nasty called "saxitoxin."

All of this CIA tech and much more like it is covered with great depth and hair-raising anecdotes in Spycraft, a new book by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton, reviewed by us, and available for pre-order at Amazon.