April 10, 2022

The CIA's Heart Attack Gun

The CIA's Heart Attack Gun

During the Cold War the CIA required a weapon capable of eliminating targets on their blacklist while leaving no trace that could raise suspicions in the media. Fidel Castro, Cuba's Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, was one of the most wanted people. 

Killing people from a distance was the preferred method, but each bullet can be traced back to its source. Getting too close to the target could jeopardize the agent's safety.

Mary Embree was a secretary in the audio surveillance division and was eventually promoted to the technical services department. 

She was tasked to the project and eventually they came up with a gun that would shoot poisoned projectiles that would dissolve inside the target and induce a heart attack which would be undetectable upon postmortem. 

Some say the darts were made of ice, and the toxins involved were from poisonous shellfish and the wound always looked and felt like a mosquito bite!

Photo of Mary Embree

The CIA invested millions into making this gun and in 1952 it cooperated with the now-defunct U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories which had stockpiled substances that could cause tuberculosis, anthrax, encephalitis (sleeping sickness), valley fever, food poisoning, and smallpox. 

When the weapon was first revealed, many people mistook it for a "death ray" capable of inducing a cardiac arrest in its victims, making it sound like something out of a science fiction film.

Ultimately there was an investigation of the CIA for unscrupulous activity. So, in 1975 the agency’s director, William Colby, was brought before Congress to testify; he is shown holding a modified Colt 1911 with an odd looking scope in photos and video.

Even today, no one knows what happened to the weapon after it was shown to the public. At the time, it was stated that the weapon would be handed over to the US military to keep it secure, despite the fact that prohibiting a weapon should result in its destruction. 

Do you believe the rumors that the weapon was still in the hands of the CIA?