Parler Share

Real spies, not James Bond, take spotlight at new spy museum

Parler Share

WASHINGTON (AP) — James Bond’s shiny silver sports car — with its JB007 rotating license plate — is the first thing visitors see when they step into the new and improved International Spy Museum that opens Sunday in Washington. After that, it’s as if the history of Hollywood’s famous private eye vanishes in invisible ink, while the stories of real-life spies and modern-day espionage take center stage.

The old, cramped museum focused on human collection of intelligence. The new one also offers a window into covert operations, counterterrorism, intelligence analysis, cyber espionage, intelligence failures and even highly debated legal and ethical issues, such as waterboarding.

“We’re not playing it safe as a museum,” Vince Houghton, the museum’s curator and historian, said during a sneak-peak tour of the $162 million, nonprofit museum. “We don’t get money from the government. We need to maintain our independence because there are a lot of stories we need to tell.”

Real intelligence officers tend to be tight-lipped, but at the museum, visitors can watch videos starring current or former intelligence officers talking about their jobs.

The top psychologist at the CIA talks about how trust and fear affect relationships between intelligence assets and their handlers. A former deputy CIA director discusses how spooks assessed the intelligence that led to the raid of a compound where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 in Pakistan. Real female spies dispel the myth that women rely on sex appeal to gather intelligence.

Best Buy and Home Depot Forced to Take Drastic In-Store Measures to 'Stop the Bleeding' Caused by Crime Surge

There’s an exhibit featuring Morten Storm, a Danish man turned Islamic radical. He later became disenchanted with Islam and went to work for Danish intelligence as a double agent, providing information about wanted terror suspects. His life in the shadows became public in 2012.

“We went to the undisclosed location where he’s hiding from al-Qaida and recorded him actually telling his own story surrounded by artifacts from his own life,” Houghton said.

There are stories of deception and tragedy, intelligence coups and surprises, too.

Everybody knows that 007 was “Bond. James Bond.” Fewer people know that America’s first spymaster was President George Washington, a.k.a. Agent 711.

Both sides spied during the Revolutionary War during the 1770s, but at the end, the head of British intelligence operations Maj. George Beckwith stated: “Washington did not beat us militarily, he simply outspied us.”

Washington helped coordinate intelligence operations during the war and the museum has a letter he wrote creating the first U.S. intelligence agency.

“It’s the Magna Carta for American intelligence,” Houghton said of his favorite artifact. “It’s the founding document and we have it. It’s as cool as it gets.”

The old museum, which closed in 2018, had about 3,000 artifacts and could display about 600 of them at a time. The new spy museum has 10,000 artifacts, including more than 5,000 items donated by H. Keith Melton, a Florida businessman who spent years crisscrossing the globe to find and buy them. The roughly 1,000 spycraft artifacts that can be seen when the new museum opens include:

The ice-climbing ax used in the bloody assassination of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. A chunk of Gary Powers’ U2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. The handcuffs used to arrest John Anthony Walker Jr., a former Navy chief warrant officer convicted of spying for the Soviet Union from 1968 to 1985. A large piece of a tunnel that penetrated East Germany so that the U.S. and allies could tap Soviet and East German communications. Code-breaking equipment. Hidden cameras. A pregnant woman disguise. The Amber drone, a remotely piloted surveillance aircraft designed by an Israeli that is a forerunner to today’s Predator, which executes airstrikes in Afghanistan and other hotspots around the globe.

Ex-eBay Execs Get Prison Time for Bizarre Harassment Scheme, Included Mailing Live Spiders to Victim

Not everything is real. Upon entry, visitors can opt to get a cover identity and mission along with a badge with radio-frequency technology that will recognize them as they walk up to interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Their spy skills are tested throughout the tour and at the end they can find out if they’re better suited to be an intelligence officer in the field, for example, or an analyst at CIA headquarters.

Visitors can create a disguise or climb inside a replica of a “stress position” interrogation box that’s too narrow to sit down in and too low to stand up in. They can walk into an exhibit that recreates life under the secret police in East Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Without warning, a stern-looking Stasi police officer and police dog — actually a video behind glass — appear to be approaching to ask for papers.

“If you were interrogated harshly by the Stasi, chances are you would sweat,” perhaps on the cushion of the chair while being questioned, Houghton said. “They’d cut out a piece of the cushion and they’d have your scent. They put it in a scent jar and if they needed to track you down, the dogs would be able to go and find you.”

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Parler Share
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City