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

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.

Intel

Powerful video shows the special friendship between a US soldier and an Iraqi child

In 2005, Army Spc. Justin Cliburn befriended two local boys while deployed to Iraq with the Oklahoma National Guard that he will never forget.


“Once I met these children it made every day something to look forward to,” said Cliburn in the StoryCorps video below. “We would play rock, paper, scissors, we would kick around a soccer ball. We were about as close as people that don’t speak the same language can be. I had never been really good with children and this was the first time I felt I loved someone who wasn’t my family member.”

Things changed when the nature of war took its course. This touching video shows how friendships form in the unlikeliest places and the lasting impressions they leave:

NOW: Watch this Iraq War veteran’s tragic story told through the lens of a cartoon

OR: Iraq war vet relives his most intense gunfight

Intel

How sports signals are basic espionage tradecraft

How does a runner on second know when he should steal third? Does a batter automatically know when to bunt? When does a quarterback call an audible – and how can he communicate that play without the other team knowing just what he saw in their defense? Hand signals and codes are simple ciphers designed to communicate a simple message. It’s no different from what intelligence agents have been doing since days of Julius Caesar.


Sports teams have been using encrypted signals since before World War I. Most famously, the 1951 Giants put a man with a telescope in center field to read the opposing teams calls and signals. The Giants overcame an almost 14-game deficit that year to force a playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers. From the Giants’ center field manager’s office, coach Herman Franks relayed the opposite teams’ signs to the bullpen using an electric buzzer system. The catcher’s call would then be relayed to the batter.

The scheme was simple intelligence tradecraft.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
Simple, right?

“These are simple messages being sent,” says Dr. Vince Houghton, the curator and historian of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. “They take a basic step of encryption, the way an army encrypts tactical plans to attack or defend. You can let the enemy know what you’re going to do next, so you can’t send these messages in the clear.”

The reason the ’51 Giants encrypted their signals was the same reason they climbed back into the playoffs: unencrypted messages were easy to intercept, which made it so their hitters knew what the pitcher would do, giving them a huge advantage.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
The incident would later be made into the film ‘Bat 2-1’u00a0starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover. (TriStar Pictures)

The relationship between sports cryptography and the military can go the other way, too. In Vietnam, Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down in an EB-66 near the North-South Vietnam Demilitarized Zone. This was literally the worst situation for military intelligence. Hambleton not only had the intelligence vital to the Vietnam War, but the U.S. military’s entire Cold War-World War III contingency plans. If he was captured by the North Vietnamese, they would be able to give the Soviets the entire Strategic Air Command war plans.

Hambleton survived and the NVA knew exactly how valuable he was. While looking for extraction, he had to evade the NVA patrols looking for him while making his way to the rescue area. The problem was he had to be told how to get there over the radio – and an unencrypted radio was all he had.

Knowing Hambleton was crazy about golf – perhaps the best in the U.S. Air Force – the military fed him the info he needed to move using a simple substitution cypher. It took Hambleton a half-hour to figure out what they were doing.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
The real-world Iceal Hambleton (U.S. Air Force)

“Instead of telling him to move south 100 meters, they would tell him to walk the first hole on Pebble Beach,” says Dr. Houghton. “He was tracked by using descriptions of golf course holes he knew well.”

Other codes included playing 18 holes, starting on No. 1 at Tucson National.

“They were giving me distance and direction,” Hambleton later explained. “No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards running southeast. They wanted me to move southeast 400 yards. The ‘course’ would lead me to water.”

Unlike using a radio, sports code has to be done in plain sight — that’s where the hand signals come in to play.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages

Check out the International Spy Museum if you’re in the DC area or just take a look around their website for tons of fascinating spy history. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.

For tickets to visit the exhibits and see the largest collection of espionage-related artifacts ever placed on public display, visit https://www.spymuseum.org/tickets/. Also, there’s a $6.00 military discount!

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

This video perfectly shows what happens when you shop for tactical gear

It’s that time of the year again. Holiday leave, time with the family, no shaving and presents!


Whether you’re shopping for a buddy or self-gifting, finding the perfect piece of kit for your rifle is tough. You could ask your friends, visit online forums or ask Jean-Pierre.

Related: Watch this man teach you now to reload in the worst possible way

Jean-Pierre knows the struggle. Gear is expensive and the possibilities are seemingly endless. But don’t stress, just sing along with him and stick to a vision.

Watch:

Intel

This Is A Triple-Barreled Soviet Space Gun With An Attached Machete

For 20 years Russians were equipped with a triple-barreled gun with a swing-out machete for space missions.

Also Read: 10 Things That Will Remind You About NASA’s Amazing Legacy

The TP-82 pistol was included in the Soyuz Portable Emergency-Survival Kit after two cosmonauts crash-landed into a forest in Siberia in 1965. They struggled to hunt prey, build shelter, and send a distress signal and thus, the “space gun” was born to shoot rifle bullets, shotgun shells, and flares.

During flight, the gun is stowed in a metal canister and if all goes well, the canister is never opened, NBC News space analyst James Oberg reports. “At the end of the mission, after landing, the gun is usually presented as a gift to the Soyuz spacecraft commander,” Oberg reports.

Astronomer Matija Cuk at Harvard University explains that the only difference between shooting a gun on Earth and in space is that the bullet will keep traveling forever. “The bullet will never stop, because the universe is expanding faster than the bullet can catch up with any serious amount of mass,” Cuk told LiveScience.

Astronomer Peter Schultz at Brown University also notes that in space you could technically shoot yourself in the back.

“For example, while in orbit around a planet, because objects orbiting planets are actually in a constant state of free fall, you have to get the setup just right. You’d have to shoot horizontally at just the right altitude for the bullet to circle the planet and fall back to where it started (you),” Shultz told LiveScience.

Russia replaced the gun with the semi-automatic Makarov pistol because all the in-stock ammunition for the TP-82 had expired.

While the conjoined gun-machete no longer exists in the Soyuz portable emergency-survival kit, an individual gun and machete are still included.

More from Business Insider:


Intel

This teenager with cancer got his wish to be a Navy pilot for one day

The Make-A-Wish Foundation teamed up with the crew of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) to grant Peter, a 16-year-old cancer survivor, his wish to become a Navy pilot for a day.


“Since fourth or fifth grade I wanted to be a naval aviator,” said Peter, in a video produced by the U.S. Navy. “We live within twenty miles of Annapolis and so you have the Naval Academy there, everyone is a Navy fan.”

He didn’t know what to expect when he learned that he was going to be on an aircraft carrier. Little did he know that he would be traveling by air and landing on its deck. Peter got the Navy’s V.I.P. treatment and did way more than he could imagine.

Watch:

NOW: 7 kids who joined (even commanded) military units for a day

OR: Aaron Rodgers surprises four kids whose dads died while serving in the military

Intel

How a war between Michigan and Ohio would play out today

One of the least impressive wars in American history is the Toledo War. In 1835, a time after Ohio gained statehood and when Michigan was still a territory, war broke out between the two over who controlled Toledo. Two separate maps were drawn on either side, each claiming the highly profitable city of Toledo. Ohio and Michigan mustered their respective militias and prepared for war.


Luckily, or sadly, if you’re the type who enjoys violence, nothing happened. Instead, everyone got drunk and just shot their guns into the air. Only one person was actually injured, Sheriff Joseph Wood of Michigan, but he was stabbed in a bar fight. Additionally, Michiganders also managed to kill one Ohioan’s pig. Tensions were so high that President Andrew Jackson had to step in and sort things out. Toledo went to Ohio, while Michigan laid claim to the Upper Peninsula. In the long run, the forests and mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan turned out to be far more beneficial than the pretty-neat Toledo Zoo.

Today, the “war” is a funny footnote in American history that everyone from Michigan and Ohio will remind you of when it’s time for one the state’s sports teams to play the other’s. Out of pure speculation, let’s pretend that the two states prepared for a second Toledo War. For this scenario to play out, each state would act as their own country, not using any forces outside of already-established bases and National Guards, one half of the number of troops each state gives towards active duty as loyalists, and 2.5% of the state’s GDP (slightly above the world average for military expenditure).

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
And let’s pretend the cause for war is because Ohioans never forgave Michigan for that one pig. (Image via New York Public Library)

Michigan Forces

Guard Troops: 14,934.

Additional troops from Active: 1,044.

Military expenditure: $13.2 Billion.

Two things would make Michigan a formidable foe: Detroit Arsenal and the large lakes secured by a sizable Coast Guard. The Detroit Armory produced many of the U.S. Armed Forces’ tanks from 1940 until its transfer to civilian use in 2001. Michigan is a large hub for the Coast Guard with two stations, one in Detroit and the other in Traverse City. Michigan is also home to two Air National Guard Bases, Battle Creek ANGB and Selfridge ANGB. They also have Camp Grayling, the largest National Guard training center in the USA, both by physical size and number of troops trained.

Despite these benefits, Michigan is the underdog in nearly every statistic. The fact that it also has no sizable Active Duty installation outside of the Coast Guard puts Michigan at another disadvantage.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
All those woods up north make for good training grounds. (Michigan National Guard Photo by SPC Victoria Jacob)

Ohio Forces

Guard Troops: 27,208.

Additional troops from Active: 3,397.

Military expenditure: $16.87 Billion.

Other than higher numbers, a key strength Ohio has over Michigan is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This probably contributes to the 5,358 airmen who enlisted active duty out of the total 6,793 Ohioans who serve. Those numbers would definitely be able to manage the five other Air National Guard bases scattered throughout Ohio.

In this fight, there’s no doubt about who controls the air — but that’s about it. In a full-scale war against Michigan, Ohio would greatly lack in ground and naval troops.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
The war entirely comes down to how large of an Air Force you would need to overpower every other branch. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Marisa Alia-Novobilski)

Outcome

Winner: Depends on how long the war goes.

Ohio’s vastly superior Air Force would overpower Michigan in a heartbeat, but that’s about all they’ve got going on. Michigan has the means of production and self-sustainability to counter Ohio’s lack of ground and naval capabilities if the war drags on.

Who do you think would win in this fictional fight? What other states would you like to see duke it out in a fictional war? Let us know in the comments!

Intel

The first Marine death of the Iraq war has been avenged, 13 years later

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages


Over a decade after Marine Lance Cpl. Antonio “Tony” Sledd was killed in Kuwait — marking the first American casualty of the second Iraq War — the terrorist mastermind who was responsible has been killed.

The Pentagon reports that an aerial drone was used to take out two Kuwait men who were tied to Sledd’s death, according to Time Magazine.

Sledd was 20 years old when he was killed on Fylaka Island in October of 2002, about 20 miles east of the city of Kuwait. He and fellow Marines were training on the island, five months before the official invasion.

Sledd had been creating a makeshift baseball diamond during a break when a white truck driven by two Kuwaitis burst through the training exercise, opening fire with AK-47s. One of the men was Mushin al-Fadhli.

The 34-year-old al-Fhadli was killed in a drone strike on July 8 while he drove his vehicle through northwestern Syria.

The Times reports:

“Al-Fadhli was the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives, sometimes called the Khorasan Group, who are plotting external attacks against the United States and our allies,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. He added that al-Fadhli also was “involved” in the 2002 attack “against U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait.”

Read the full article at the Times

NOW:These new mini-drones could revolutionize ground warfare

OR: There’s going to be a ‘Top Gun 2′ — with drones

Intel

This hilarious video reveals why Marines prefer Camp Pendleton to 29 Palms

A simple glance at a map would tell you all you need to know. Camp Pendleton is on the southern California coast with San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County just a short drive away. By contrast, Twentynine Palms is in a remote desert location akin to being stuck on Tattooine.


But there’s more to like about Camp Pendleton than fun outside the base.

Check out this Terminal Boots video:

Intel

This is how powerful the Tsar Bomba would have been over America

In the heights of the Cold War, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe against his desk as he vowed to show America at the United Nation General Assembly in 1960. The following year, on October 30th, the most massive nuclear explosion ever was detonated over Severny Island.


The 50-megaton, 60,000-pound hydrogen bomb was said to have been 1,570 times larger than the combined energy of the nuclear devices dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 10 times the collective destructive power of every conventional weapon ever used in WWII, and it alone accounted for 10 percent of all nuclear yields ever.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
Thankfully for humanity, this was never tested again.
(Courtesy Photo)

The mushroom cloud of the blast soared up 40 miles high (seven times the height of Mount Everest) and had a 59-mile-wide cap. The blast was so incomprehensibly large that it’s nearly impossible to contextualize just how devastating it would have been if detonated over American soil.

To put all of this into perspective — and much to the delight of Yankees fans — let’s measure the hypothetical blast using today’s pitcher’s mound at Oriole Park in Baltimore, MD, as a point of reference.

Spies can now use modified DNA to send secret messages
I have nothing but love for the city of Baltimore and the Orioles, but they do make things rather convenient for this thought experiment.
(Courtesy Photo)

The initial blast would have decimated the entire city and everything within 12 miles. The mushroom cloud, with a radius of 29.5 miles, would have stretched all the way into Washington D.C. The heat from the blast would have extended out 62 miles, and would have left everyone in Dover, Delaware with third-degree burns.

According to NukeMap, roughly 1.4 million people would have been killed immediately and the nuclear fallout would have made its way through Philadelphia, PA and into Trenton, NJ. Shockwaves reached 430 miles, which would have put it past Cincinnati, OH. Windows would be shattered up to 560 miles miles away, reaching Chattanooga, TN.

With a height of 40 miles, the mushroom cloud would have been visible from 564.5 miles. That means everyone in the outskirts of Atlanta would have been able to see it. The fireball was visible from 620 miles away, which would have meant everyone in Chicago would be witness to it.

For more information on the destructive power of the Tsar Bomba, check out this video.

Intel

This Crazy First-Person Footage Shows Korean Navy SEALs Taking Down Somali Pirates


If you have a problem with Somali pirates, South Korean Navy SEALs know how to solve it.

Case in point comes in this remarkable footage captured by one of the operator’s helmet-mounted cameras, while rescuing the crew of a hijacked freighter. The recently uploaded video shows how the Somali pirates’ chances of getting away quickly decimate once the team boards the ship.

Also Read: Here’s How US Navy SEALs Take Down A House

The footage is just over four minutes long, but the mission began long before boarding the ship. A South Korean destroyer chased the Samho Jewelry – an 11,500-ton chemical carrier – for eight days before it was safe enough to carry out the pre-dawn rescue. Once on board, another five hours would pass until the operation was over.

Officials in Seoul said all 21 members of the crew – 11 Burmese, eight Koreans, and two Indonesians – were safe after the rescue mission, according to The Guardian.

Here’s the footage captured from the helmet-mounted camera. Check it out:

NOW: This Awesome New Movie Is Shot Entirely Like A First Person Shooter

AND: How Navy Special Ops Survive Training Missions In Freezing Water

H/T: Funker 350