> Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina
> by Mark Townsend Houston
> Sunday September 25, 2005
> It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane
> Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot
> terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf
> of Mexico.
> Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises
> claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and
> surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among
> the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training
> dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any
> are missing.
I'm going diving and surfing in Australia next month, but I guess
that's far enough away that I don't need to worry. (unless the
dolphins take over an aircraft carrier at gunpoint or something)
hmm, I should check if my travel insurance covers armed attacks
> Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold
> War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught
> to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound
> was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who
> have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence
> programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.
> Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for
> government and industry, said he had received intelligence from
> sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service
> confirming dolphins had escaped.
> 'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits
> who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers
> are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special
> harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts
> are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated
> later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'
> Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a
> neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before
> Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.
> The mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from
> a commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight
> were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned
> until US navy scientists had examined them.
> Sheridan is convinced the scientists were keen to ensure the dolphins
> were not the navy's, understood to be kept in training ponds in a
> sound in Louisiana, close to Lake Pontchartrain, whose waters
> devastated New Orleans.
> The navy launched the classified Cetacean Intelligence Mission in San
> Diego in 1989, where dolphins, fitted with harnesses and small
> electrodes planted under their skin, were taught to patrol and protect
> Trident submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea.
> Criticism from animal rights groups ensured the use of dolphins became
> more secretive. But the project gained impetus after the Yemen terror
> attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Dolphins have also been used to detect
> mines near an Iraqi port.