|CIA Issued Lock Pick Set|
There are many means by which spies can obtain information, including wire taps of all types. I learned at the museum about the Berlin Tunnel, a joint operation in the 1950s between the CIA and Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. The idea was to build a tunnel between East and West Germany that would provide access for the Allies to tap into Soviet underground phone cables. Unfortunately, MI6 agent George Blake, one of the members of the British task force concerning the mission, was a mole working for the Russians and he immediately told the KGB about the plan. Rather than let Blake's identity be burned, the KGB kept this information to itself and let construction of the Tunnel go forward. The CIA and British Intelligence tapped into Soviet phone lines for two years before the KGB "inadvertently" found out about the existence of the Tunnel and caused it to be dismantled.
Communication of the information that a spy obtains is obviously an important part of the game. The museum has a section dedicated to codes and ciphers that was fascinating. A code replaces words with substitute words or phrases wherein a cipher replaces letters with other letters or elements. So for a spy to communicate that "The General is airborne" in code, you might hear "The crow is flying" while in a cipher it might be "zbys...." Short wave radios (referred to as "pianos") were an important way to communicate information through code. One of the world's most famous codes was developed by the Navajo Indian Code Talkers during WWII. The idea to use Navajos as code talkers came from Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary who spoke fluent Navajo. Realizing how impenetrable the Navajo language was, Johnston came up with the idea of using an encoded version of Navajo as a means of communicating crucial war time information. In 1942, 29 Navajos were recruited by the Marines and developed a code book of words and phrases. Their code was never cracked by the Japanese and the Navajo Code Talkers are given a large amount of credit for the capture of Iwo Jima by the Marines.
One last bit of spy craft deserves a word here--the role of the disguise. The CIA (and, presumably, comparable agencies worldwide) has a Chief of Disguises in its employ. Antonio Mendez was the Chief of Disguise in the 1970s and is credited with getting six American diplomats out of Iran during the hostage crisis by creating disguises for them as a Canadian film crew. (As an aside, Mendez is married to Jonna Mendez, another former employee of the CIA in the disguise department. I bet they're never at a loss for a Halloween costume!) The museum explained the use of "spirit gum" to adhere components of a disguise such as a moustache or a bald pate. This portion of the museum contained an interactive opportunity to identify a "spy" after donning her or her disguise. Once again, my skills of observation were lacking--I was one for two, definitely not good enough for the world of espionage!
Next stop: Some tidbits about real life spies.