Monday, July 07, 2008

600 letters an hour

Elizabeth Gudrais has a fascinating little piece on Kristie Macrakis' Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World:
Consider the “smell chair,” whose seat covering was an interchangeable cloth fastened down to look like a regular cushion. After the “target” got up from the chair, Stasi agents would collect the cloth and store it in an airtight jar. The captured scent served as a kind of pheromonal fingerprint, a form of positive ID in an age of ever-multiplying code names and aliases. The Stasi used this method to check up on known dissidents and employees suspected of acting as double agents. If they could gain access to the hotel room or office where an allegedly duplicitous meeting took place, they could use dogs to determine whether their target had been there.
Macrakis' next book is on the history of invisible ink...

I went to the the KGB museum in Moscow--one of the more chilling places I have ever been. They had a volume full of ceremonial photographs of the agency's heads--in the late thirties, each man's tenure was only a matter of months, at which point his life would end also...

The camera-in-a-bra, which could take pictures through sheer fabric (the photo is courtesy of Macrakis via the Harvard Magazine website)


  1. All the old Communist spy stuff is so big and bulky. But, hey, at least it makes your boobs look bigger (and deformed)!

  2. Ah, camera bra... so men's gazes will be directed toward the lens.