Entertainment, The Daily Feed

Bond Evil Doers On Display At Spy Museum

For most the holiday means gifts, family, and travel. What often goes overlooked are the movies. As an avid Oscar watcher, The Holidays is also a key time for films vying for some critical acclaim and year-end buzz with Awards season quickly following the New Year. For one film franchise, it’s already been a great year. James Bond celebrated 50 years in film in 2012 and the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, racked up another $7M at the Box Office this past weekend bringing the total gross to $272M. Also celebrating an anniversary this year is the International Spy Museum in Chinatown which first opened 10 years ago. A new exhibit entitled, “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains” celebrates Bond through a unique lens: the bad guys that have tried to kill him.

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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

History, News, People, The Daily Feed

Inside Operation Dark Heart

Photo courtesy of
‘Nada News by Pepe Medina’
courtesy of ‘Newspaper Club’

On Thursday evening, May 12, join Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer at the International Spy Museum as he discusses his book “Operation Dark Heart” and the controversy it stirred up. Shaffer was a Defense Intelligence Agency senior intelligence officer who returned to active duty after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. During that 30 month period, Shaffer commanded a DIA operating base and conducted two successful undercover combat tours in Afghanistan. The objective of those tours? Searching for senior al-Qaeda leadership figures by recruiting informants and gathering intel.

His appearance at ISM so shortly after the events on May 1 is purely coincidental but timely. Continue reading

Special Events, The Daily Feed

Love Your Sweetheart the Spy Way

Photo courtesy of
‘Spy in the House of Love’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

This February, take your love undercover at the International Spy Museum, where they’ve developed a month-long set of activities to spice up the romance at your next rendezvous. From Whoopie Pies to Love a Spy, guests will experience how spies turn up the heat.

Starting February 4th, ISM offers the chance to “Love a Spy” every Friday and Saturday at Spy at Night throughout February. Guests who reserve a Love a Spy package for $100 will receive two Double Agent tickets allowing guests to visit the permanent exhibit and Operation Spy or Spy at Night.

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History, Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Emil Draitser

Photo courtesy of
‘The Leica M9 with the KMZ Jupiter-8 50mm f/2’
courtesy of ‘Ð�лекÑ�андÑ�’

At noon on Thursday Sept 30, Emil Draitser will be discussing his latest book, Stalin’s Romeo Spy, at the International Spy Museum. The discussion and book signing is free.

In the 1930s, Dmitri Bystrolyotov was handsome, fluent in several languages, a sailor, doctor, lawyer, and artist. He was also a spy for Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. A charmer, he seduced many women in Europe – including a French diplomat, the wife of a British official, and a Gestapo officer – to discover their countries’ secrets for the Soviets. Caught up in Stalin’s purges in 1938, he then spent twenty years in the Gulag and came face-to-face with the true regime for which he had once spied.

Author Emil Draitser was a former journalist in the Soviet Union and now a professor at Hunter College in New York. He shared a little about Bystrolyotov and some of the more fascinating facts of Stalin’s “Romeo Spy.”

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History, Interviews, Penn Quarter, Special Events, Technology, The Features

OXCART: CIA Innovation and a Cool Spy Plane

Photo courtesy of
‘Oxcart Belly’
courtesy of ‘MrGuilt’

In the late 1950s, during the heyday of aviation and the dawning of space flight, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) approached Lockheed to develop a new aircraft that could overfly the Soviet Union. The CIA’s current plane (at the time) was the U-2, which served admirably in its role as a high-flying reconnaissance plane but was still susceptible to being shot down by high-altitude Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM). Such an incident did occur in 1960, when Gary Powers was shot down while conducting an overflight over the U.S.S.R.

The result was the A-12, code name OXCART, which ended up in a different role as the Vietnam war broke out. The CIA’s spy plane flew several black missions during the war before being phased out and replaced by the U.S. Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird. On Thursday evening at the International Spy Museum, many aspects of the A-12 Oxcart program will be discussed by several experts, including CIA chief historian David Robarge, J-58 engine inventor Robert B. Abernethy, flight specialist Thornton D. Barnes, CIA officer S. Eugene Poteat, and pilot Kenneth Collins.

For a taste of the discussion, we managed to pin down CIA chief historian David Robarge for a few minutes to discuss the Oxcart and BLACK SHIELD programs. Continue reading

History, Interviews, News, People, Scribblings, The Features

Scribblings: Malcom Nance

Photo courtesy of
‘Bunker Business’
courtesy of ‘isafmedia’

Tomorrow at noon, meet author Malcom Nance as he discusses his latest book An End to Al Qaeda at the International Spy Museum. The author seminar and book signing is free to the public.

A 27-year intelligence and combat veteran of modern counterterrorism warfare, Nance lays out a comprehensive plan that would defeat Al Qaeda in less than twenty-four months without a single violent military action. His proposals include waging a war against the fear Al Qaeda has stoked, drastically reducing heavy military operations that kill civilians in the process, and relying more heavily on counterintelligence to root out terrorist groups.

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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

Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Divulging Canadian Secrets at the Spy Museum

Photo courtesy of
‘Spies, More Spies, & Still More Spies’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

“Certain death lay ahead if the least hint of my intended desertion got about.”—Igor Gouzenko

In September 1945, a cipher clerk named Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, Canada with secret papers and a plan. For Western intelligence, Gouzenko’s defection, and the layered information he shared, ushered in a new era of cooperation against a common foe. Tonight, join Amy Knight, author of How the Cold War Began: The Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, to hear her ground-breaking findings. She was the first to explore recently de-classified records of the Gouzenko case in Canada, Britain, and the United States.

Ms. Knight is a well-known specialist on Soviet/Russian intelligence; in addition to her discussion, guests will also have a chance to see artifacts on loan from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service related to the case. The event is co-sponsored by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Embassy of Canada in celebration of the 25th anniversary of CSIS and in recognition of the collaborative and enduring security relationship between the United States and Canada.

A brief Q&A with Ms. Knight, after the jump. Continue reading

Fun & Games, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Operation: SNOW PEA

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Ghost_Bear’

So you’ve watched 24 and are hankering for some personal spy action, right? Or perhaps you’re in the mood for something a little different during the cold, dreary days of winter. Well, for a limited time, you can be a double agent right here in the “City of Spies.”

The International Spy Museum is running Operation: Snow Pea through the end of February, giving you and your friends the chance to experience the museum and a special operation for the price of one admission. Simply provide the secret password (SNOW PEA) to one of the museum’s operatives or on the online order form and receive admission to the museum PLUS one of the following for only $20.10:

  • Be an intelligence officer on an international mission in Operation Spy.
  • Thwart a cyberterrorist attack on the nation’s capital! Play Polar Bear Spy in the City.
  • Enjoy creative cocktails and clandestine conversation at Spy at Night.

Offer isn’t valid between 2/12 – 2/15 and expires February 28. Get your spy on before the tourists come back…

Scribblings, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Christopher Andrew

Photo courtesy of
‘MI5 Headquarters and Towers’
courtesy of ‘the grasshopper lies heavy’

This fall marks the 100 year anniversary of the founding of MI5, Britain’s counter-intelligence and security agency. As a celebration of the agency’s storied success since its inception at the turn of the 20th century, the service has authorized the publication of an official history by Professor Christopher Andrew of Cambridge University. This Thursday, November 12, the public is invited to meet with the author as he discusses his new book Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (here’s the Kindle link) at the International Spy Museum from noon to 1 p.m. Attendance is free.

Prof. Andrew reveals the precise role of MI5 in twentieth-century British history: from its foundation in 1909, through two world wars, and its present roles in counterespionage and counterterrorism. He describes how MI5 has been managed, what its relationship has been with government, where it has triumphed, and where it has failed. Defend the Realm also reveals the identities of previously unknown enemies of the United Kingdom whose activities have been uncovered by the agency and adds significantly to our knowledge of many celebrated events and notorious individuals while laying to rest a number of persistent myths.

A brief chat with Professor Andrew 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.

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Special Events, The Daily Feed

Dinner With a Spy

Photo courtesy of
‘I spy with my Metro eye …..’ courtesy of ‘christaki’

Next week, the International Spy Museum is holding one of their annual “Dinner with a Spy” events. This year’s guest is Oleg Kalugin, former head of Soviet KGB operations in the U.S. during the Cold War. Today, Oleg is an American citizen and an outspoken critic of his former employer and Russia’s current leadership.

During this intimate dinner, Kalugin will share some of his hottest stories from the Cold War, weigh in on the current international issues, and dialogue with his former adversary, CIA veteran and International Spy Museum executive director Peter Earnest. The ticket price includes a three-course meal at Zola and ‘unrestricted access’ to two extraordinary Cold Warriors.

It all goes down on Wednesday, March 18th at 7 p.m. Call the museum at 202.393.7798 for more information and to purchase tickets.

Essential DC, History, Interviews, People

He Loves DC: Peter Earnest (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of Me
Peter Earnest, courtesy of Me

Last week, we introduced you to the Executive Director of the International Spy Museum, Peter Earnest. He sat down with me back before Thanksgiving; we talked for quite a while covering both his personal observations and his professional opinions on the Washington DC area.

Before we continue with the rest of the interview, I need to point out that Peter can be an extremely funny guy. If you doubt, witness the two-part episode that aired about a month ago on Stephen Colbert’s show, specifically the “Fallback Position” segment he does periodically. He did two segments with Peter, an interview and a look at some items in the museum proper. If you’ve not seen them, you must. (Each segment is about six minutes long.) Don’t worry, we’ll still be here when you get back.

Ok, on with our conversation! We cover everything from public perception on espionage to cabbies to people; find out what Peter had to say after the jump. Continue reading

Downtown, History, Penn Quarter, Special Events

Off the Beaten Path: ISM Happenings

Photo courtesy of Me
Warder_building, courtesy of Me

I get a lot of updates on programs from a certain set of buildings at 8th and F St, NW, mainly because I had the privilege to work there when I first moved to the area. Their programs are top-notch and always interesting; this month’s offerings are no exception. So because secrets seem to abound all over our fair city, here’s your chance to discover some on your own at one of the area’s more clandestine sites.

Oh, come on. Indulge me the super-secret spy stuff. This place is one of the things I love about DC (though I do have my own personal thoughts about their ticket prices), so it’s just natural I share it with all of you.

The rundown after the jump.

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Downtown, History, Media, Penn Quarter, People, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Why Spy?

Photo courtesy of handwrite
this is why i am a spy, courtesy of handwrite

The world today is as volatile a place as we’ve ever known. So how does the U.S. maintain its intelligence assets against the faceless enemy of terrorism and extremists? In his latest book Why Spy?, Frederick P. Hitz, former inspector general of the CIA, draws on his extensive experience to suggest how the U.S. can rise to the challenge. Hear from this insider’s perspective on the safety of America and why it depends on how well—and why—we spy. In this lunchtime conversation, he’ll discuss the pitfalls of the past and share suggestions for successful U.S. intelligence in the future.

Meet and greet the author at the International Spy Museum on Friday, 9/26 from noon – 1 p.m. This “debreifing” session is free and open to the public.