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

Scribblings, Special Events, Technology, The Features

Scribblings: Shane Harris

Photo courtesy of
‘Watch The Watcher’
courtesy of ‘kevinspencer’

Tomorrow at noon, the International Spy Museum is having a lunchtime discussion with journalist Shane Harris on his new book, The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State. In his new book, Harris tracks the government’s elusive quest to build a computer system that can sift huge amounts of electronic data for signs of terrorist activity. First proposed by national security adviser John Poindexter in 1983, reopened after the 9/11 attacks in a program called Total Information Awareness (TIA), and publicly banned by Congress in 2003, TIA was recreated as a classified program at the National Security Agency and is now a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s national security policy. Drawing on unprecedented access to the people who pioneered this high-tech spycraft, Harris contends that despite billions of dollars spent on this digital quest since the Reagan era, the government still can’t discern future threats in the vast data cloud, but can now spy on its citizens with an ease that was impossible and illegal just a few years ago.

A quick interview with the author after the jump. Continue reading

History, Interviews, People, Scribblings

Scribblings: Haynes & Klehr

Photo courtesy of
‘Soviet Unterzoegersdorf’
courtesy of ‘boklm’

In 1993, former KGB officer Alexander Vassiliev was permitted unique access to Stalin-era records of Soviet intelligence operations against the United States. Vassiliev subsequently shared the notes he took with Library of Congress historian John Earl Haynes and Emory University professor Harvey Klehr. Together they have written an extraordinarily detailed and shocking account of the KGB’s espionage successes in America, including penetrations of American government and industry at the highest levels. The authors expose Soviet spy tactics and techniques and shed new light on many controversial issues, including Alger Hiss’s cooperation with Soviet intelligence, KGB recruitment of muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, and Ernest Hemingway’s meetings with KGB agents. Join John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, at a special free lunchtime chat and booksigning event at the International Spy Museum on Thursday, August 20 from noon to 1 p.m. (No tickets required.)

A special Q&A with the authors after the jump. Continue reading

24 in DC, Fun & Games, Technology, The Features, WTF?!

Amateur Spies (Like Us)

Photo courtesy of Don Whiteside
WLDC Stealth, courtesy of Don Whiteside

Unless this is your first time here you’re well aware that we’ve become a little obsessive over Jack Bauer’s tour through our city. We’ve got 15 17 hours worth of 24 recaps under our belt and fully intend to laugh (in order to fight off the tears) through the remaining 9 7 hours of Hollywood’s molestation of our geography. (Yes, Tiff, I suck at math.) So really, about the last thing we needed was to be further encouraged.

Enter the International Spy Museum.

The folks over at the museum’s retail store sent us some toys to play with, after having been entertained by our 24 recaps. So early in March, three items arrived in plain brown boxes by an unmarked panel truck. In the middle of the night.

After some email haggling, jovial threats and bickering, the WLDC staff managed to split up the loot gifts and proceeded to play with them: a micro-cam recorder, a ninja sword umbrella and night vision goggles. And now, we’re going to tell you all about it.

Continue reading