Spy: The Secret World of Espionage—it sounds like if I told you about this, I’d have to kill you. Not to worry, Discovery Times Square and the CIA have given me clearance. But the encrypted communiqué in confirmation —or the ticket—strongly implied that future inquiries would be met with categorical disapproval.
That said, upon entering the very credible looking CIA front on West 44th Street, I received an electronic device containing recordings of my mission and the extensive history preceding it. I was then whisked in isolation to a darkened room.
Spies Like Us
Anxiously awaiting my indoctrination, I received a plasma-based video overview of what spies do. Through ingenious science, undercover danger and diligent synthesis of information, America attempts to gain the upper hand. The fields in play are national defense, government affairs, business interests and anything else where the stakes are high.
The concerns of highest property land in the oval office every morning in the form of the Presidential Daily Brief. JFK crucially utilized such data, according to “The Spy Who Saved the World” briefing I received on my transmitter. The deft presentation was visually enhanced in pictures, devices and artifacts from the spy in question.
Otherwise, the president was able to put the “hotline” to planet-saving use during the Cuban Missile Crisis. On the other hand, it was the hot seat for the KGB officer who provided the intelligence. Ending in execution, I realized I was going to be here for a while—without remorse.
Myth vs Reality
Off the shock, I made my way to a CIA sanctioned dissertation—movie myth vs. reality. The touch screen talking heads began with a real live spy who drew a distinction between fiction and the real thing. “What we do is much more exciting,” the agent beamed.
Unfortunately, he did not elaborate, which was disappointing. But I assume his constraints are far more restrictive than mine.
Regardless, the weekly airing of Mission: Impossible in the 60s did create a real life intersection between life and art. Langley set aside an agent every week to field the onslaught of questions from viewers. Remarkably, the dialogue occasionally led to tactics that the CIA employed.
High and Low Tech Spying
Nonetheless, I felt a little drag as I hooked into the birth of the OSS and then the development of an underwater canoe used during WWII. The Francis Gary Powers incident was old news, but various gadgets kicked my gear up a bit.
A hollow KGB nickel containing a tiny radio transmitter intrigued and a giant mechanic claw developed to recover a sunken Soviet Sub was an engineering marvel of the CIA. But as I was informed earlier, the most important tool of the intelligence agency is the human brain.
The Soviets used to intentionally publish tourist maps of Moscow with mistakes to keep American spies off balance, and WWI saw the French put cameras on carrier pigeons to do battlefield reconnaissance. Counter intelligence would come full circle in WWII when the Nazis deployed hawks to wreak havoc on French carrier pigeons.
Still, this low tech war waged above has not been lost to the modern age, and the CIA wasn’t shy about poking fun at the Iranian version. “An Israeli spy pigeon was recently arrested by Iranian intelligence as an enemy of the state,” the electronic narrative jibed sarcastically.
From Russia with Love
But no matter how you disseminate, I was working and getting tired. Exhausted, I trudged to the wing below. I was immediately struck by the Life Magazine cover story on the assassination of Trotsky. As an avid consumer of Russian history, I was completely reengaged by the display.
I learned that the Soviet fugitive initially survived the attack. The intelligence was proven by his picture in the New York Daily News.
Mystified by the historical record, I almost missed the actual ice pick that did the damage and the blood stains left behind. If that wasn’t enough, his skull was also featured, but a closer look revealed it to be a forensic duplication.
More Spy History
I then breezed through some seriously interesting assassination gadgets and listening devices and the American treachery of the Walker Family, Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. I was also able to trace the CIA’s footprints to the capture of the Lockerbie Bombers. Maybe somehow sensing my elevated biorhythms, I seemed to have received an unspoken upgrade in clearance.
Meaning, I stood at the open doors of the CIA’s storied, “vault.”
This left me privy to a piece of the Berlin Wall, a mechanical Catfish used to gather information on enemy vessels and a victory letter home written on the actual stationary of Adolf Hitler.
And the Holy Grail
The dispatch was written by OSS operative and future CIA director, Richard Helms. Of course, it still could not compare to what I deemed the Holy Grail of intelligence history—a Nazi code machine known as Enigma. Cracked by the Mathematicians at Bletchley Park in England, the operation shortened the war by two years, according to the history.
Initially, I thought how cool would it be to put my fingers to the keyboard. But that sounded like interacting with technology, which really pains me. This temporary agent aside, there was plenty of interactive technology to go around for the kids.
So in case a lull comes over them, they can navigate their bodies through a laser alarm room, touch screen an encryption program and produce a digital disguise to keep them on top of their spy game.
Either way, if history and covert activity is something that inspires, this secret initiation is to die for—even if it won’t likely come to that.
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