Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages - We Are The Mighty
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Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

The world of espionage requires two equally important things: access to information and a means of getting that information back to the other side. Modified DNA might make that a little easier.

Throughout history, spies have concocted many different means of secret communication. In the earliest days of modern spycraft, ink and paper had to be concealed from prying eyes. Spies wrote with anything that could be used as a kind of invisible ink, everything from lemon juice to semen. Hey, sometimes spycraft is just stressful. 

As technology advances, using biology to enhance the ability to send covert messages is only increasing, but in a very different way.

Transmitting secret messages via radio or morse code carries risks. Israeli spy Eli Cohen ascended to a high rank in the Syrian Defense Ministry over four years by befriending important people in the Syrian government. The entire time he was transmitting information back to the Mossad through radio. He was caught red-handed during a transmission. 

Being able to deliver information will always be the most secure means of communication. Over time, complex cyphers, micro-dots that can hold thousands of documents on a mark the size of a period, and dead drops of actual documents were solid means of getting that information back to handlers. Spy agencies developed incredible technology to obtain information. 

A new biological means is taking that technology a step further, using specially-modified strands of DNA to imprint messages on a molecular level. 

Though the process is complex for the layman (at the moment, don’t sleep on the CIA’s technological engineers) anyone looking to send a secret message can create a strand of DNA with the coded message. Only the receiver will be able to decode it, and possibly even know it’s there.

Like the microdot, the hidden DNA message can be pasted on a dot in a standard letter and simply mail it to whomever is intended to receive it. 

A strand of modified DNA
DNA can be used to store information, but in very tiny pieces.

According to the New York Times, the procedure was developed by a civilian, Dr. Carter Bancroft, professor of physiology and biophysics at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. 

The idea is to arrange the four nucleotides that comprise DNA into a simple encryption cypher using the letters that denote the nucleotides: A,C, G, and T, then marking them with “primer” DNA. It would be mixed with human DNA and sent off. The receiver would have the key to the cypher.

DNA manipulation can be a useful way to send messages because of the complexity of human DNA. It can be “chopped up” into 30 million different strands. 

The Mount Sinai researchers then hid the DNA onto a microdot in a regular letter and mailed it through the U.S. Postal Service.

Once received, a spy agency would then use techniques common in DNA laboratories to replicate the strand containing the hidden message, so long as they know the “primer” sequence. If an intercepting agency suspects a DNA microdot but doesn’t know that sequence will have 30 million possibilities to sift through.

Until the Alan Turing of DNA cyphers is born, that is. To get the general idea of how it works, watch the video below.

Articles

The SR-71 Blackbird was almost the most versatile fighter plane ever

Have you ever looked at the old SR-71 Blackbird and wondered how awesome it would be as a fighter jet? So did the United States Air Force (for the most part). The SR-71 is based on the super-secret CIA’s A-12 reconnaissance plane. When the Air Force got a glimpse of the A-12 and its capabilities, their minds got to work. 

The first idea to come from the A-12 design was the YF-12, a single-seat interceptor aircraft that closely resembled the A-12 but came packing with guns and missiles instead of photographic and signals intelligence monitoring equipment. 

Lockheed’s YF-12 first took off in August 1963 and unlike its predecessor, the A-12, or its successor, the SR-71, there was nothing really secret about it. The President of the United States first revealed its existence but that might have been a strategic move. It covered up the CIA’s super-secret aircraft and provided enemies a window into the advancements Air Force fighters were making.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
“Hey, you guys know that whole strapping some guys to some giant rockets and shooting them into space? What if we did that, but a fighter jet?” (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Popp)

The YF-12 was every bit as great as expected, and every bit as great as both the A-12 and the SR-71. It could fly at supersonic speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour and at altitudes of more than 80,000 feet. It is still the largest and fastest interceptor aircraft ever built. 

It also had an advanced fire control radar system to operate the AIM-47 missiles that could be mounted under its wings. Unlike other missile systems at the time, the AIM-47 was much more accurate and reliable in air-to-air combat. This would have made the YF-12 the deadliest aircraft in the world at the time. 

The Air Force was understandably excited at the prospect of integrating such a fighter aircraft into its air defense network. After successfully testing the AIM-47 missile integration, the USAF placed an order for more than 90 of these flying behemoths, ready to implement them into the defense of the United States. It was a little war brewing in Vietnam that would be the program’s demise. 

As the intensity of the fighting in Southeast Asia increased, so did the American commitment to South Vietnam. Spending on the war increased along with it. Concerned about the cost of the YF-12 program, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declined to support the interceptor program and it was ultimately cancelled in 1968. 

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
Buzzkill…
(Defense Intelligence Agency)

All was not lost for the unique airframe, however. Though there was no need for a supersonic, high-altitude interceptor for airspace defense in the U.S., there was a need for an ultra-fast, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to fly over places other aircraft wouldn’t dare. The SR-71 Blackbird was born from this need. 

The Blackbird looks exactly like its predecessors but outperforms both of them. It has a greater operational range than the YF-12 and is still the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever built, a record set in 1976. 

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
U.S. Air Force

SR-71s were a brief view of what the YF-12 could have been: a fighter aircraft so accurate, it could hit a target on the ground while flying at three times the speed of sound. If another fighter or a surface-to-air missile came up at it, all the pilots had to do was hit the throttle and outrun it. The A-12s, YF-12s and SR-71s were titanium masterpieces of Cold War technology.

Intel

Here’s how you can buy a nuke on the black market

You can buy anything on the Bulgarian black market, including drugs, women, guns and even fully functional nuclear warheads.


Also read: We’re freaked out about Iran, but what other countries already have nukes?

Fascinated by a French reporter’s ability to purchase a nuclear warhead on the black market, American journalists from Vice travelled to Bulgaria to meet the man who sold it, according to the video below.

They met with Ivanoff, a former military intelligence colonel turned entrepreneur, whose business led him into the Saudi Arabian building industry. Through his business dealings, Ivanoff met with terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden, who was interested in making a “dirty bomb” out of radioactive waste. Ivanoff suggested why not get the real thing, a nuclear warhead.

Watch:

NOW: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

OR: 32 times when the U.S. military screwed up with nukes

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Here’s why it’s a bad idea to snipe at the US Army

A Taliban sniper team thought it would be a good idea to snipe some American soldiers, little did they know what they’d be facing in retaliation. America’s military doesn’t respond with just a little firepower, it responds with jets and bombs.


In this Hornet’s Nest clip on the American Heroes Channel, a father-son journalism team embedded with the 101st Airborne captured footage of the unit pinned down by Taliban snipers. The snipers come dangerously close to killing some of the soldiers. At first, the soldiers respond with machine gun fire, which managed to injure one of the insurgents but nothing too serious. “They’re reporting that everything is okay,” said the translator listening to the enemy radio chatter. “Good, it’s not going to be okay,” said Lt. Col. Joel Vowell in the video below.

The soldiers were using the shots to lock in the enemy’s position. Air support is called in and BOOM! Game over terrorists.

The military’s embedded program give journalists and filmmakers access to wars like never before, so it’s no surprise that the latest conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been some of the best documented in history. Here’s the footage:

Articles

9 of the most evil weapons of all time

Of course, anything made to kill another human being has an element of dubiousness about it; but some designs go above and beyond merely killing and add suffering to the equation. Here are nine of these evil weapons:


1. Boiling Oil/Hot Tar

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

One of the earliest forms of evil weapons. When defending a castle, use arrows and spears and rocks to simply kill. Use hot tar to terrorize and demoralize the enemy as well as kill him.

2. Mustard Gas

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

Mustard gas was first used in battle by the Germans in World War I with the expressed intent of demoralizing the enemy rather than kill him. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Source: Wikipedia)

3. V-1 Buzz Bomb

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

The V-1 rockets were not intended to hit specific targets, but instead, they were designed terrorize the population of England during World War II.

4. Flamethrower

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

What do you do when you don’t want to crawl into tunnels and pull Japanese soldiers out of their hiding places one-by-one? You strap on your flamethrower and burn them out — a torturous way to go.

5. Firebombing

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

Firebombing is an air attack technique that combines blast bombing with incendiaries to yield much more destruction than blast bombs would alone. The Germans firebombed Coventry and London in 1940, and the British paid them back in spades toward the end of the war, most notably at Dresden.

6. Atomic Bomb

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

Since August of 1945 service academies and war colleges have studied the calculus of using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but regardless of whether the strategy ultimately saved lives that would have been lost during a manned invasion of the Japanese homeland, it inflicted great suffering on the population in the form of destruction on an unprecedented scale and the follow-on radiation poisoning.

7. Anti-personnel Mines

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

These mines are designed to maim, not necessarily to kill. Stepping on them causes the mechanism to bounce up to pelvis level before exploding, causing maximum suffering before a slow painful death.

8. Punji Sticks

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

An evil booby trap most notoriously associated with the Vietnam War, Punji Sticks were a low-fi weapon used by the Vietcong to terrorize American forces patrolling the jungle. The sharp sticks were hidden under tarps or trap doors covered with brush, and they inflicted nasty and painful wounds to lower extremities.

9. Napalm

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

A bomb full of a gelling agent and petroleum, Napalm was originally used against buildings but later became an anti-personnel weapon. The flaming goo that erupts when the weapon goes high order sticks to skin and causes severe burns.

Articles

This is the deadliest airplane ever, period, end of discussion

In the 1950s, Lockheed Martin designed the C-130 with transport in mind, by the end of the 1960s, Boeing converted the lumbering giant into one of the deadliest aircraft in the world. Its endurance and capacity to carry munitions made it the perfect AC-47 Spooky gunship replacement.


Related: This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

Like the AC-47, the new, AC-130 was capable of flying faster and higher than helicopters, and its excellent loiter time allowed it to deliver concentrated fire to a single target on the ground. The gunship first saw action during the Vietnam War and has continued to receive updates. The newest version of the gunship, the AC-130U Spectre, uses the latest sensor technologies and fire control systems to improve range and accuracy.

This video perfectly shows why Boeing received an $11.4 million indefinite contract by the U.S. Air Force. Watch it now:

Video: American Heroes Channel, YouTube

Intel

This fire-and-forget artillery round can guide itself to any target

The M982 Excalibur is the world’s most sophisticated artillery munition designed for a weapons system that was introduced during the Vietnam War: The M109 Howitzer.


This smart munition was co-developed by U.S.-based Raytheon Missile Systems and Swedish BAE Systems Bofors to precisely kill targets from long range and eliminate collateral damage. It gives a projectile the same precision you’d expect from a missile.

“You can aim the gun off target up to 20 degrees off angle and the round will still fly itself back to your target,” said Jim Riley from Raytheon Missile Systems in the video below.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEXKuNJKNYw

American Heroes Channel

Intel

These Soviet airplanes were built to fly fast right over the surface of water

During the Cold War, the Soviets made a new type of vehicle called a ground effect vehicle (GEV). These vehicles earned their own classification because they aren’t quite airplanes or hovercrafts but something in between.


Ground effect is the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface of the Earth, which reduce the drag and lead to greater cruise efficiency, according to AVweb. Pilots simply describe it as “floating.”

Although the Soviets didn’t discover the ground effect phenomenon, they did take full advantage of it by making these behemoth low-flying vehicles.

YouTube, CVEJIN

Articles

The time a fishing boat helped capture a North Korean submarine

Since the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953, a tenuous ceasefire has existed between South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Although gunfire has been exchanged across the demilitarized zone on the 38th parallel, the conflict is largely marked by espionage. In 1998, the extraction of North Korean spies from South Korea was foiled by an unlikely and unintentional defense mechanism.

On June 22, a North Korean Yugo-class became disabled in South Korean waters. About 11 miles east of Sokcho and 21 miles south of the inter-Korean border, the submarine became tangled in a fishing drift net. The North Korean sailors attempted to free the submarine to no avail.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
U.S. Air Force graphic by Billy Smallwood, edited to show location of Sokcho

The surfaced and disabled submarine was observed by South Korean fishermen who notified the South Korean Navy of their sighting. A corvette was promptly dispatched to intercept the North Koreans. The submarine was towed by the corvette back to the navy base at Donghae with its crew still inside. However, the submarine sank on its way into port. It is still unclear if the submarine sunk due to damage sustained or if it was scuttled. The next day, the North Korean state-run Korean Central News Agency announced that a submarine had been lost in a “training accident.”

On June 25, the submarine was salvaged by South Korea. It had sunk to a depth of approximately 30 meters. The bodies of nine North Koreans were recovered from the submarine. The five sailors who crewed the submarine were apparently executed. Four of them had been shot in the head. “It appears that four men, including the commander, shot the five men to death, then committed suicide,” said the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Lt. Gen. Chung Young Jin.

The North Korean submarine is now in Unification Park in South Korea

Also discovered in the submarine were two automatic rifles, two machine guns, a shoulder-fired rocket launcher, diving equipment, oxygen tanks, military boots and hand grenades. While this equipment was not exceptional to find on a military submarine, the presence of South Korean drinks suggested that the agents had completed an espionage mission. The submarine’s logbook noted multiple incursions into South Korean waters on previous voyages. The bodies of the submarine crew were buried in the Cemetery for North Korean and Chinese Soldiers.

1998 was a year of high tension on the Korean peninsula. Following the 1998 Sokcho submarine incident, a dead North Korean commando and an infiltration craft were discovered near Donghae in July. In December, a semi-submersible vessel exchanged fire with South Korean ships near Yeosu and later sunk with all hands aboard in what became known as the 1998 Yeosu submersible incident. However, the involvement of a fishing net and a fishing boat in the Sokcho submarine incident makes it stand out from the others.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
A North Korean Sang-O submarine that ran aground in South Korean waters near Gangneung (Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/@Idobi)

Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

Articles

This man in Georgia restores WWII airplane turrets in his garage

Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.


Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.

In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
American ball turret gunner Alan Magee poses in his station. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.

The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.

Check out the full video below:

Intel

This is what the Air Force thought nuclear war would look like in 1960

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
Photo: US Air Force


In the late 1950s the U.S. Air Force created a training video to demonstrate to airmen what the first stages of a nuclear war with Russia would look like.

The simulated war begins in 1960 with an alert that a Russian attack is incoming, and the action quickly picks up as crews around the world scramble to their planes. There are rare shots of rocket-assisted takeoffs by the B-52s carrying a full nuclear payload. The B-58, a Mach-2 bomber still in development and testing when the movie was shot, is also featured. After Germany, France, and Japan are wiped out, America begins releasing its own nuclear weapons. Missiles launch into the sky, bombs drop from bays, and Russia is obliterated.

Check out the initial alert (8:54), the first bombs and missiles impacting (36:40), or the final score of the first day of conflict (39:58). The commanding general declares victory at 53:10, but then drops one more bomb for the hell of it.

Watch the video:

NOW: The 7 scariest weapons Russia is developing right now

Intel

Here is a reminder why the coalition thought Saddam Hussein needed to go

July 22, 1979, was the day Iraq became a dictatorship headed by Saddam Hussein. In a terrifying purge of the Ba’ath party, Saddam rid himself of all opposition and secured his rule.


Just six days after seizing power by forcing out his cousin Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Saddam summoned all of the Ba’ath party leaders to an auditorium near the presidential palace and had the secret police lock the doors behind them.

At the head of the podium stood Muhyi Abdel-Hussein, who had been the general secretary of the Revolutionary Command Council, the executive committee that ran Iraq. He accused himself of being involved in a Syrian plot against the regime along with other co-conspirators in that very room. One by one, as each name was read out loud, party members were plucked from the audience. Meanwhile, Saddam sat off to the side sitting nonchalant smoking a cigar like Al Pacino in Scarface.

In all, 68 of them were removed for alleged treason. 22 of them were subsequently sentenced to death by firing squad and the rest locked away. Here’s the actual footage from Saddam’s public purge.

Watch:

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