Directly from the file of “so crazy it has to be true” comes a left-field plot from the CIA itself: they partnered with an American toymaker — not to create a fun or useful toy for kids — but to create one that discredited the enemy. By making and releasing demonic-looking Osama bin Laden dolls, the plan was to scare citizens and turn them against the leader of Al-Qaeda.
It went like this:
The dolls were to be shipped to Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. The dolls themselves were a recreation of bin Laden. However, when met with heat, the plastic face would peel, presenting a red-skinned, greed-eyed face with black Tiger-like stripes. The symbolism isn’t hard to decipher: under the normal-looking bin Laden, there was a scary, deformed, seemingly evil version of him, just waiting to be released. And considering the dolls would be shipped to one of the warmest climates in the world, there’s no denying that the heat-sensitive material would fulfill its purpose: to dissolve and reveal the evil-looking face.
Image of original G.I. Joe doll by Hasbro. Image: DVIDS
The dolls were 12 inches tall and in many ways modeled G.I. Joes. In fact, the bin Laden doll was designed by the “father” of G.I. Joe himself, Donald Levine, who was an executive at Hasbro toy company. Levine was contacted by the CIA for two reasons: one, his ability to design toys, and two, his connections to have them manufactured and distributed.
The CIA has since acknowledged that the program, code-named “Devil Eyes” existed, but that it was discontinued in 2006. Allegedly, they said that only three prototypes were created and dolls were never released to the masses. The branch is said to have scrapped the mission after viewing prototypes. In any case, the original plan was to manufacture them in China, reducing shipping costs and helping to add further secrecy to the plan.
However, in 2014, The Washington Post reported that hundreds of the toys are said to have been manufactured and shipped to Pakistan in 2006.
One of the American prototypes was auctioned for $11,879 and another went for $6,250. The remaining prototype is believed to still be in possession of the CIA.
The plan, no doubt, came as a part of “influence operations,” where the government uses tactics in order to change the majority view of a particular person or entity. In this case, to discredit bi Laden himself, and in turn, Al-Qaeda
Toymaker Levine passed away in 2014, and his family was questioned about the project when reports became public.
“Don Levine was a dedicated Patriot, and proud Korean War veteran. When called on, he was honored to assist our country.”