How the CIA Ran a Secret Toy Operation in South Asia

How the CIA Ran a Secret Toy Operation in South Asia

– [Kento] I’m Kento Bento! This video is made possible by Audible. Get a free audiobook by going
to Guangdong, China, 2005. It was late at night. A factory manager made his way past
the assembly line to the adjoining warehouse, where a meeting was set to take place. A group of men had already gathered. He didn’t know exactly who these men were, but from his contact, he knew
they were important people. Not wasting any time, he presented
to them what they asked for, a toy, a toy that he and his colleagues had passionately
been working on the past few months. Upon inspection, the men seemed
pleased with the product, but in order to move to the
next phase of operation, final approval was needed from Langley. You see, these men were from the CIA, and this operation, if successful, could help put
an end to one of the greatest conflicts in modern time. But how? What was this toy? And who were they targeting? This happened in 2005, but what led to
this moment actually started four years earlier. New York, September 11, 2001. Two commercial planes crashed
into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. A third plane took out the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in
a field in Pennsylvania. These airliners, as we
all know, were hijacked in a set of coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic
terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States. About 3,000 people were
killed and over 6,000 injured in what was the single deadliest
terrorist attack in human history. The leader of al-Qaeda? Osama bin Laden, already on
the FBI’s most wanted list for the U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi. The U.S., along with coalition forces,
responded by launching the War on Terror, invading Afghanistan in the
hopes of eliminating al-Qaeda and ousting the Taliban regime. After months of fighting though, many of these
fighters eventually escaped to neighboring Pakistan, where they continued to launch offensives. The war was far from over. Fast forward to 2005. After years of conflict and devastation, in order
to build goodwill in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the CIA started a program where
gift items would be handed out to kids. These items included pencils,
notebooks, games, toys, all in backpacks for easy distribution, blue for boys, pink for girls. And this seemed to be appreciated
by many of the locals. Now by this time, despite bin Laden
being on the run for years, intelligence agencies were
no closer to finding him. There were leads that went nowhere and conflicting information
on his whereabouts. The FBI even had a $25 million bounty
out leading to his capture or death, which for the most part
generated no actionable intel. Bin Laden’s survival and ability to evade
capture likely emboldened al-Qaeda and was a reminder to the people of the
region of the group’s enduring influence and power. And so the CIA felt ultimately that
they needed a different approach, one unconventional and perhaps
even unsettling to some. What they had in mind though
was well beyond their expertise and so they decided to enlist
help from an unexpected source. This individual turned
out to be Donald Levine, one of the greatest minds
in the toy industry, a former business exec at Hasbro, where
he was head of research and development. Hasbro, an American multinational toy
company, is the largest toy maker in the world, responsible for such notable
offerings as Mr. Potato Head, Transformers, Monopoly, My Little Pony, Power Rangers, Twister,
and the iconic G.I. Joe. This was Levine’s greatest creation. Now the CIA wanted him
to create a new product, a very special toy for what
was to be a very special mission. Hesitant at first, he eventually agreed. But now the next step was to travel
13,000 kilometers to Guangdong, China. For Levine, this was familiar
territory, Guangdong. For nearly 60 years, he had
done business in the region, amassing a vast network of contacts. Most of Hasbro’s toys were
manufactured in East Asia. Through this, the CIA now had the means to discreetly
develop and manufacture their secret product, which would’ve been extremely
difficult to do in the U.S. Chinese artists and designers were also
enlisted to ensure the work’s precision and accuracy. A few months later, a factory manager,
who had been involved with development, met with operatives in
a Guangdong warehouse. He had in his possession the final product
and presented it for inspection. Now the men seemed pleased. The toy was as they envisioned. In front of them… …lay Osama bin Laden in 12-inch form, a custom-made terrorist
action figure, with a twist. You see, the plan was for the toys to be sent to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, cheaply packaged, and
handed out to children. The CIA, after all, had
the perfect cover in place with their preexisting goodwill project. Now as pencils, notebooks, games and
toys were all being placed in backpacks, the seemingly innocuous bin Laden
dolls would also be slipped in. From there they would be given to unsuspecting children on a nationwide scale, where after finding the toy,
they would play with the toy, and it would be all fun
and games thereafter, until their faces start melting off, a demon face, red skin,
green eyes, black markings. This was no ordinary doll, because this was a doll specifically
designed to induce fear and anxiety. The doll’s face was painted
with heat-sensitive material that was intended to peel
off after a prolonged period. Now it wouldn’t immediately be evident, but the idea was that children and
their parents would be seriously spooked and coerced into seeing the actual bin
Laden likewise as a monster, dehumanizing him, dissuading the people from idolizing
the terrorist leader and from joining radical groups. The aim was to strategically turn public
opinion against al Qaeda with playtime propaganda, leading possibly, whether
directly or indirectly, to bin Laden’s capture
and al Qaeda’s defeat. This covert psychological operation
was codenamed Devil Eyes, and even though Donald Levine and various
officials were ultimately pleased with the final product, in order for them to get to
launching the next phase of operation, final approval was of
course needed from Langley. By now, for over half a decade, the CIA had been using drones, satellites, spies,
and tracking devices to combat al-Qaeda. More recent interrogations of detainees
and intercepted radio transmissions were among seemingly credible leads
that they felt kept them on bin Laden’s tail, so when a package
arrived one morning at HQ with a funny-looking toy bin Laden inside, perhaps the legitimacy
of Operation Devil Eyes, pitched well over a year ago
and under different management, was now lost on them. Perhaps they felt they had
more actionable intel now or they were worried
about operational costs or the political blowback, or it just seemed a
ridiculous plan in retrospect. Heck, maybe they realized a
young pro-Taliban Star Wars fan would actually find bin Laden morphing
into a jihadist Darth Maul super cool. But whatever the reason,
upon inspection of the toy and reassessment of the operation, and after all that work, the CIA ultimately
decided to shut it down. There would be no mass
production, no distribution, and all trace of the
operation in China wiped out. And so it was. Now despite what the
CIA has since claimed, some sources have said the factory
in Guangdong actually went on to produce a few hundred of the bin Laden figures as
part of a mistaken pre-production run in 2006, and was even shipped out on a
freighter to the Pakistani city of Karachi. If true, this would mean hundreds of
toys are still out there today in circulation. Officially though, according to the CIA, there are only three currently in
existence, claimed to be variant prototypes. Two of them were actually discovered
in a basement many years later by Neil Levine, son of Donald Levine who
had then since passed, and subsequently auctioned off to
anonymous buyers for hefty sums. The third and final bin Laden doll though, well, it remains fittingly
in the possession of the CIA, at the agency’s headquarters at Langley. Five years later, on May 2, 2011, the CIA tracked an al Qaeda courier
to a private residential compound in the urban city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. At 1:00 a.m. local time, Operation Neptune Spear, a CIA-led operation
along with Joint Special Operations Command, was carried out by
members of SEAL Team Six, where, in a 40-minute raid consisting
of 79 commandos and a dog, Osama bin Laden, the world’s most
wanted man, was finally found (gun popping) and killed. The man who pulled the trigger was
Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert O’Neill, who had been involved in more than 400
missions in his lifetime, including saving Captain
Phillips from Somali pirates and rescuing Lone
Survivor Marcus Luttrell. Taking down bin Laden was just the
cherry on top of his incredible life story, which you can hear all about by listening to
his book for free, narrated by O’Neill himself, on Audible, because Audible is the best
place to get audiobooks and other spoken word entertainment. There’s not just O’Neill’s
book The Operator, or the ones covering interesting
secret CIA operations, which I’ve been listening to myself, but there are also great
titles from many other genres, including history, mystery, sci-fi,
business, science, self-development and more. I like Audible because you can essentially read a book no matter what you’re doing, washing the dishes, folding the laundry,
taking the bus, or going for a run. Right now there’s a special
Christmas offer for a limited time only, where you can get three months
of Audible for just $6.95 a month, which is actually more than
half off the regular price. You can get this by going
to or texting kentobento to 500-500. Once you become a member, you can browse and
listen to audiobooks on any device, anytime, anywhere, and if you don’t like your audiobook, you can always
swap it out for free with their Great Listen Guarantee. So if you want to get started with Audible and
support the Kento Bento channel at the same time, head over to or once again, text kentobento to 500-500. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “How the CIA Ran a Secret Toy Operation in South Asia”

  1. War. Terrorism. al-Qaeda… Sure enough this video got demonetized (and as a result has been suppressed by the algorithm). Sucks, but on the bright side, you can get Kento Bento MERCH at!

    You can also support us on Patreon:

  2. All things aside, KB has the most smooth plug ins for their sponsors… The content is well researched and beautifully narrated and I don't mind that the videos are sponsored; moreover I'm impressed by the fact that he is capable of plugging them in so smoothly

  3. I think I would have assumed that the locals would have thought that the toys were evil, especially if they idolized Al Qaeda. This would have backfired horribly in the face of the CIA

  4. I thought terrorism didn't have religion. I guess Dilon Roof was a "Christian Terrorist" along with the Norwegian Templar.

  5. George Bush is waking up in the morning. He slowly walked to his bathroom to brush his teeth, and when he suited up he think: "We need to make a 12 inch version of Osama bin Laden and give it to kids in Afghan in hope for he's finded."

  6. ᔕɊᑌᎥᗪᗪƳᔕ,ᔕ丅ᗩᗰᑭƳᔕ,ᗩᔕᕼᗴᔕ ᗩᑎᗪ ᑭØᑭᑌᒪᗩᖇᗰᗰᗝᔕ FᗩŇ says:

    don't call them muslims they don't deserve that title after what they have done. True muslims wouldn't even consider hurting anyone.

  7. Why send troops to kill a bunch of terrorists. Send one troop with napalm (the soldier would have to agree with the suicide).

  8. RIP Todd Beamer his famous words let's role and helped the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania Field so no one got hurt and sacrificed his life for other people

  9. I really hope the advertisers paid him well. Such a smooth transition hahaha.

    The Sacha Baron Cohen spoof slipped in was hillarious.

  10. A toy that's face would melt off to show a demon like face underneath? Dude, that's rad.
    Where's my melty face toyline dammit.

  11. I'm sure half of comments will be about:
    1) we thought that there will be some sort of spyware
    2) who at the end got 25mil?!

  12. Did anybody else think the children’s faces started melting off? Cause I got pretty freaked out and I’m wondering if that was just me thinking that 😂

  13. You earned a sub. You have a way of telling stories that keeps me here, even when I have another video cued. Well played sir.

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