International Spy Museum
Saturday, Sept. 7
Good evening Ms. Tobia. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the doors of the International Spy Museum, located near the Chinatown/Gallery place Metro stop, at 800 F St. NW. You are to assume the disguise of a “perky college girl” and collect the information needed to assess the credibility of this interesting new venue.
Go go gadget keyboard.
I received this message at 2300 hours Friday night. I embarked on the mission Saturday afternoon not knowing what to expect. A long line snaked along the flashy building. After receiving my entrance pass – for an $11 fee – I proceeded more easily than anticipated through the doors into a high tech room of glass, lasers and blue lights.
The voices of spies whispered overhead, describing in their own words the challenges of the game of spying. After a short film, briefing me on the essentials of spying, I had the opportunity to see if I had what it takes in the school for spies. Interactive computer stations gave me the chance to choose a secret identity. I could choose to be a female doctor with three kids or I could change my nose and hairstyle to conceal my true identity.
Long lines inhibited me from all the stations, but I was able to test my perception skills next. The perception test required me to look at a typical picture and asked me to identify anyone in disguise or anything that looked suspicious.
I entered a submarine in possible danger of an approaching enemy sub. A voice briefed me on the suspicious sonar sounds an enemy submarine emits. I put on a headset and listened to the sonar of the forthcoming sub and I identified it to be harmless.
There are more than 200 spy gadgets, weapons, bugs, cameras and vehicles on display. I was amazed see the fabulous Aston Martin DB5, also known as the 007 car. Prior to my visit I assumed the spy tools and gadgets of Sean Connery’s world were the fiction of Hollywood. Much to my surprise, shoe taps, gun-rings and buttonhole cameras are paraphernalia familiar to the world of espionage.
I was put in a different spy situation in every room I entered. The museum is set up to create the effect that I was in the secret tunnel under the Berlin wall, inside a Russian submarine or inside a phone booth receiving covert information. My biggest challenge was climbing through an air duct over unsuspecting museum goers, and simulating the effect of clandestine snooping.
The next part of the museum took me into the historical world of spies. I was inundated with information through short films about the KGB and about the Manhattan Project. I was able to track the technology of spying back to its roots. I learned about spymasters such as Moses, Harriet Tubman, Queen Elizabeth I, George Washington and Joseph Stalin.
The final aspect of the museum looked at the present and future of spying. I watched videos about criminals allowing me to view the world through the eyes of the spies. I learned that today’s successful spies use highly advanced technology and the internet to hack into systems and decode encryptions and threats.
It’s a perilous world these guys and girls have to protect and maintain. We will probably never discover or fully appreciate the best spies of today because they are so covert they will never be exposed – at least we can sleep easier knowing they are out there. And three hours later my mission was complete.
This is Agent Tobia, signing off, for now.
This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.
-The Spy Museum is open 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. April through October and 10