Belly Buster Hand Drill

Belly Buster Hand Drill

The "belly buster" hand-crank drill served as an aid to audio surveillance efforts by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the 1950s and 1960s. Designed to drill holes into masonry, the device made it possible to implant audio devices for covert listening.

The field of audio surveillance was already some 90 years old, as evidenced by the enacting of the first state statutes forbidding the interception of telegraphic messages in 1862, when the belly buster hand drill made its debut. It has long since become a museum piece, replaced by more sophisticated electronic drills, yet its genius lay in its sheer simplicity.

The drill, on display in the CIA Museum at agency headquarters in McLean, Virginia, was actually part of a kit that included several bits and accessories, including wire and microphones. The flat, compact kit made it easy to conceal, and once the operator arrived at the site of the intended audio surveillance, it could be assembled rapidly.

Having selected the area of wall to be drilled, the agent held the base of the drill against his stomach, and cranked the handle manually. The difficulty of this operation, and the exertion it placed on the operator's stomach, earned the drill the nickname by which it is known to posterity.



O'Toole, G. J. A. Honorable Treachery: A History of U.S. Intelligence, Espionage, and Covert Action from the American Revolution to the CIA. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991.

Owen, David. Hidden Secrets. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2002.

Pollock, David A. Methods of Electronic Audio Surveillance. Springfield, IL: Thomas, 1973.


"'Belly Buster' Hand-Crank Audio Drill." Central Intelligence Agency. < > (January 6, 2003).

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