The CIA and Jack Gregersen's exploding hat

The CIA and Jack Gregersen’s exploding hat

Agency classified a stranger’s suggestion that it invest in anti-personal headgear for over 40 years

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

A letter in the Central Intelligence Agency’s declassified archives shows that in late 1959, the Agency was on the receiving end of an unsolicited suggestion from a helpful citizen on how to best weaponize haberdashery. While there’s no record that the CIA ever followed through on the advice, or even responded to the letter, it apparently left enough of an impression to remain classified for the next 44 years.

On December 9th, 1959, a letter addressed simply to “Security, Central Intelligence Agency,” arrived at what is now the old CIA headquarters in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The author, identified as Jack Gregersen in the return address, wasted no time in making his point: He had an idea he wanted to share with the Agency … albeit one he couldn’t vouch for personally due to its impracticality and inutility.

That idea, to put it simply, was to put a bomb in a hat.

Gregersen noted that the bomb wasn’t intended to be removed, and would likely only be used in emergencies (Gregersen does not note what types of emergencies might require a non-removable bomb in a hat). Gregersen even goes so far as to suggest that a magician’s false bottom could be used to place the bomb in the hat, which would then double as a convenient cover story for a spy needing to explain why their fedora was so heavy.

A routing slip indicates that Gregersen’s letter made the rounds at the Agency, but it’s unclear if any reply was sent.

While it’s altogether likely that the Gregersen’s hat amounted to nothing more than an office in-joke, it’s still worth noting that the letter was only approved for release in 2003- meaning it was kept classified a full seven years longer than that Playboy cartoon somebody thought was funny.

The full letter is embedded below.

Image via FBI Flickr and licensed in the public domain.