Entertainment, History, Interviews, People, The Features

Tony Mendez and ARGO: The True Story

Author and Former CIA Agent Antonio Mendez (Photo courtesy Joanna Mendez)

On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the American embassy in Tehran and captured dozens of American hostages, sparking a 444-day ordeal and a quake in global politics that still reverberates today. But there’s a little-known drama connected to the crisis: six Americans escaped from the embassy only to remain trapped in the city, facing torture or death if the militants discovered their whereabouts. With time running out, CIA officer, Antonio Mendez devised an ingenious yet incredibly risky plan to rescue them.

Disguising himself as a Hollywood producer, and supported by a cast of expert forgers, deep-cover CIA operatives, foreign agents, and Hollywood special effects artists, Mendez traveled to Tehran under the guise of scouting locations for a fake science fiction film called Argo. While pretending to find the perfect film backdrops, Mendez and a colleague succeeded in contacting the escapees and smuggling them out of Iran right under the noses of their pursuers.

Such is the real-life setting for ARGO: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, which released in stores earlier this week. Mendez will be present at a book launch party at the International Spy Museum tomorrow evening. The former agent-turned-author took a few minutes to talk about the experience, the new book, and the upcoming movie Argo (starring and directed by Ben Affleck) releasing October 12. Continue reading

Downtown, History, Interviews, People, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

AZORIAN and the CIA Visit the Spy Museum

Hughes Glomar Explorer; photo courtesy Dave Sharp

In February 12, 2010, the CIA declassified substantial information surrounding one of its more secret Cold War projects, Project AZORIAN. The code name referred to the Agency’s ambitious plan to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean in order to retrieve its secrets.

This Thursday at 10:15 am, the International Spy Museum, in cooperation with the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program, is hosting a special discussion on Project AZORIAN and the Hughes Glomar Explorer. The guest speaker is David Sharp, a former CIA employee who was part of the critical success of the Explorer’s mission.

The story of Project AZORIAN began on March 1, 1968, when a Soviet Golf-II submarine, the K-129 sailed from the naval base at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula to take up its peacetime patrol station northeast of Hawaii. Something went terribly wrong in mid-March 1968 as the submarine suffered a catastrophic accident and sank 1,560 miles northwest of Hawaii with the loss of its entire crew. Interestingly, the CIA history is silent on the cause of the accident, mentioning neither how the agency came to learn of the sub’s demise nor the exact location of its resting place 16,500 feet below the surface of Pacific. Continue reading

History, People, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Annie Jacobsen & the Notorious Area 51

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘dsearls’

Tomorrow, secrets of Area 51 will be revealed.

Okay, not quite all. But more than you’d expect. The International Spy Museum is hosting a special (and free!) documentary screening and author discussion tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. in conjunction with the National Geographic Channel. Annie Jacobsen is a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine and an investigative reporter whose work has also appeared in the National Review and the Dallas Morning News. Her two-part series “The Road to Area 51” in the Los Angeles Times Magazine broke online reader records and remained the “most popular/most emailed” story for ten consecutive days. Her findings resulted in both a new book, AREA 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, and a companion National Geographic special, Area 51 Declassified.

Jacobsen has been busy prepping for her book tour, which kicks off at the Spy Museum, but managed to squeeze off a few answers to WeLoveDC regarding Area 51, its purpose, and what really went on at America’s most well known Top Secret facility.

Continue reading

Downtown, History, Penn Quarter, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Spring Offerings From ISM

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Ghost_Bear’

Every Friday for the next six weeks, the International Spy Museum (ISM) will be debuting a new exhibit within the museum, including the addition of several new rare artifacts from the shadowy world of espionage. These new additions (some for a limited time only) join the already-extensive collection regarding the world’s “second-oldest profession” and the new gallery dedicated to espionage in the 21st Century. Several of these exhibits will tie into special programs occurring at the museum over the next few months, covering not only the secret history of spying but also exploring today’s hottest topics that daily impact the world of intelligence. “Espionage deals with clandestine, hidden information and the best spies make sure their every trace disappears, which makes finding personal pieces of tradecraft very challenging,” says Anna Slafer, ISM’s Director of Exhibitions and Programs. “Many of our new artifacts have to come us from intelligence agencies and the families of these famous spies, giving us a detailed story of these object’s role in history.”

And the lineup, after the jump. Continue reading

News, Special Events, The Features

Discussions: Pakistan, the USA and Terror

Photo courtesy of
‘Candlelights at Leopold’s’ courtesy of ‘Unlisted Sightings’

With the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, the ever-tense relationship between Pakistan and its eastern neighbor was once again headline news. Pakistani government officials condemned the attack, but the incident raised questions again about links between the Pakistani Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Islamic terror networks. How does the history of the ISI- and its partnership with the CIA during the 1980s-affect its actions and worldview? How do the United States and Pakistan look on their partnership in today’s circumstances? These pressing questions will be considered and discussed tonight by a panel of experts at the International Spy Museum.

Present will be Shuja Nawaz, Director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States and author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within; Bruce Riedel, senior fellow, foreign policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution, former CIA officer and senior adviser to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues; and Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, the Director of the South Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has written extensively and testified before Congress on Pakistani issues.

To get an idea of tonight’s discussion, we obtained from the ISM a quick Q&A session with Shuja Nawaz. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Heat Stroke Protesting

washington dc by wayan
Photo by Wayan

You have to love the stamina of Washington DC protesters. This Saturday, its going to be a high of 90 °F and Accuweather is calling the “RealFeel” at 96 °F.

That would be hot enough to fry some brains, especially those that are crazy, or dedicated enough to wear a black hood on a DC summer day. Whatcha say is the heat stroke probability for our black hood friend here?

I for one say that instead of sweating, this guy should be enjoying the best summer refreshment: Beer + Lime + Ice.