Sometimes the only way to uncover an adversary’s most hidden secrets is to put our eyes and ears in the field. This hunt for information leads US intelligence officers on daring missions on land, at sea, and miles above our world. The “Where We Spy” gallery illustrates the concept that spying goes on everywhere. Using some of the greatest spy stories from recent history as its framework, this part of the exhibition explores both the science and technology, and the human ingenuity, bravery and sacrifice that have shaped the outcome of these events. In addition to intelligence gathering on land, overhead, and under the sea, this gallery also has a section devoted to infamous traitors from recent history.
AT THE EXHIBITION SPY: The Secret World of Espionage examines the “Why, Where, and How” of US intelligence information gathering and presents your students with a rare opportunity “to go behind the scenes” into the real world of espionage. Your field trip begins with the question “Who Spies?” It is a reminder that, like every other nation, the United States has always collected information about the global events that affect each of us. Sometimes that information comes from public sources. Other times we gather it secretly, through espionage, or spying. In fact, intelligence gathering is a world-wide activity with literally hundreds of spy agencies operating around the globe. Regardless of the source, its purpose is to protect our country’s interests and keep our citizens safe. In the “Briefing Room,” students view a short film that provides an introduction into the real world of spying. It will debunk myths, educate with facts, and provide the context for the exhibition areas that follow. Students then enter a spy agency “Ops” (operations) center, where they are confronted with the challenges of intelligence gathering today. They will learn the various ways agencies use news feeds from all over the world for information. This part of the exhibition also answers the critical question of “Why We Spy.” Collecting information, or intelligence, about potentially hostile countries and groups can identify threats against the United States—before harm occurs.
The German Enigma decipher machine from WWII is among the rare treasures displayed in “The Vault” gallery.
Students then enter “The Vault” for an up close look at rare treasures from the world of espionage, many of them once highly classified. Some of the artifacts displayed here represent game-changing technologies and operations that redefined espionage and made history in the process. In the “Dark Room and Training Center,” students test their own spy skills while launching a covert operation under the cover of darkness! In the “How We Spy” gallery, your students’ mission is to learn the skills of the spy trade. The methods spies use for secret operations are known as “tradecraft” and include the technology that makes covert communications, concealed cameras, hidden writing, and secret entries possible. Real-life tradecraft wizards constantly dream up new ways to outsmart the enemy. The US intelligence cycle ends where it begins, with the President and his senior policymakers. In the final gallery, students learn that a key end product of all these espionage efforts, at least from a US perspective, is to inform the Commander-in-Chief as to what knowledge he needs to have in order to counteract the threats facing our nation. Once the Intelligence Community gathers the information as requested, analysts refine the “take” and transform it into finished intelligence reports. Most exclusive of all is the highly classified President’s Daily Brief (or PDB), issued to the President each morning by the Director of National Intelligence. 5