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Spy Gadgets Out In The Open

The part of the CIA that's in charge of science and technology is showing off some never before-seen-devices that have been used in the cloak-and-dagger game over the years.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante went to CIA Headquarters to get a sneak peek at what some have called "the finest museum you'll never see."

It's a museum of top-secret spy stuff, a display of the once-classified gadgets used by CIA spies all over the world. It's for CIA employees only, but CBS News got a rare look behind the scenes from Dr. Donald Kerr, director for science and technology.

Pointing at what looks like an insect, Kerr says, "unmanned aerial vehicles. This is the smallest that we've ever developed at CIA. It's called an ornathopter because it looks like a real insect rather than like a model airplane."

But when the spies put the small fly in the field, they discovered a fly in the ointment.

"It's very subject to winds," Kerr notes, "so you're not going to use it outdoors with a strong wind blowing. But other than that, it does work."

Next was a realistic looking - and moving - catfish, lifelike enough to become a trophy catch on someone's mantel.

Kerr says, "This is the kind of thing we might use when we think about how do you get a censored package or collect materials close to a source where you don't want to reveal your presence. And so we concealed the device as a fish, it moves in a quite realistic way.

But as Kerr points out, "I expect per pound it costs more than the average catfish that size."

Asked if the CIA has actually been able to use it, Kerr replies, "We're somewhat sensitive about that because clearly a thing like this, conceptually, is something we can use again. And so we like to show we know how to do it; we don't like to talk about specifics of what we do with it."

A Cold War special was a microdot camera. Spies used it to take photos so small they could fit into the period at the end of a sentence and could be smuggled back inside a letter.

Another Cold War special was a motion detector, sort of a seismic device, disguised to look like tiger droppings and, as Kerr describes it, "nothing you would want to pick up."

It would be scattered on the ground in sensitive areas and would send back information on the motion of the earth's surface in that area.

And, of course, there is the pigeon camera. If there's anything in oversupply in Washington, it's pigeons. So Plante wonders aloud whether they could they be up in the air snapping his picture.

"Well, I don't think they are any more," Kerr replies, "but there was a period when that could've been possible."

To those who compare him to James Bond's "Q," Kerr says, "One, I'm not fictional. Second, I have the pleasure of actually doing it for real and understanding what results we get by the investment of our people's efforts and time. So my job's actually more satisfying."

And as Plante discovered, a tour of his workspace reveals a new reality.

With law enforcement on high alert these days, you just might want to think twice before shooing that pigeon off your favorite park bench.

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