A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras

In celebrating the launch of Spycraft, I've looked at all kinds of gadgets, but the bread and butter of Cold War CIA gear were tiny cameras and listening devices. The bugs aren't so exciting to look at, though the stories of their placement make great reading. The cameras, on the other hand, always come in clever "concealments."

Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Illustration for article titled A Gallery of CIA Spy Cameras
Advertisement

The agency's star camera was the T-100, so named because it could take images of up to 100 full-sized documents on a piece of film measuring 4mm wide by 15mm long—and that baby could be embedded anywhere. Hollywood may have desensitized you to the spycam notion, but remember, the images you see here are of totally real devices that were actually used in death-defying espionage. Hey, careful where you point that necktie, buddy.

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Of course window laser listening devices have nothing on Leon Theremin's "The Thing"....

The Thing, was very simple by today's standards, but ingenious. It consisted of a tiny capacitive membrane (a condenser microphone) connected to a small quarter-wavelength antenna; it had no power supply or active electronic components. The device, a passive cavity resonator, became active only when 330 MHz microwaves were beamed to the device from an external transmitter. Sound waves caused the microphone to vibrate, which varied the capacitance "seen" by the antenna, which in turn modulated the microwaves that struck and were reflected by "The Thing". A receiver decoded the modulated microwave signal so the sound that the microphone picked up could be heard, in the same way that an ordinary radio decodes modulated radio waves into sound. The variable capacitance that made "The Thing" work was the same principle used in the Theremin.

Theremin's design made the listening device very difficult to detect, because it was very small, had no power supply or active components, and did not radiate any signal unless it was actively being powered and listened to remotely. These same design features plus the overall simplicity of the device made it very reliable and gave a potentially unlimited operational life. Assuming that the device had never been discovered, it could easily have worked for 50 years or more.

[en.wikipedia.org]