Spy at the Movies – The Quarantined Edition

  1. Bridge of Spies (2015)
    Let’s support Tom Hanks’s speedy recovery by watching him in this fantastic movie about a tricky spy swap.
  2. Argo (2012)
    Our favorite Spy Museum founding board member Tony Mendez is immortalized here by Ben Affleck.
  3. The Counterfeiters (2007)
    During WWII, Nazi Operation Bernhard was a plan to destroy the British economy with forged pound notes.
  4. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
    All Hail Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. This film connects to the “Spies and Spymasters Gallery” and includes the Babington plot, Spanish Armada, and Queen Elizabeth’s worst cousin: Mary Queen of Scots.
  5. Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
    The story of US congressman Charlie Wilson and CIA operative Gust Avrakotos who organized and supported the mujahadeen against the Soviets.
  6. Breach (2007)
    This film focuses on a young FBI operative, Eric O’Neill, working close with traitor Robert Hanssen as the FBI investigation closes in. Discover the true story in the Museum’s “Turncoats and Traitors” Gallery.
  7. The Lives of Others (2006)
    Get up close and personal with a Stasi surveillance officer in East Berlin.
  8. OSS 177: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)
    Meet a dazzling super agent who isn’t James Bond. French Operative OSS 117 goes to Cairo to pursue the murder of his fellow agent amid Cold War tension.
  9. Spy Game (2001)
    Frequently cited as their favorite spy movie by intel insiders: This film features Robert Redford and Brad Pitt and does a great job depicting recruitment.
  10. Thirteen Days (2000)
    Agents, rest assured…we’ve survived tough times before. This Cuban Missile Crisis thriller will take your mind off the pandemic!
Posted in SPY at The Movies | Leave a comment

Declassified: Women You Probably Didn’t Know Were Spies

Over the centuries there have been colorful, clever, trained and dedicated women, all engaged in the art of espionage. From the Civil War to the present time, their roles have in intelligence have varied as spies, cryptologists, scientists, historians, entertainers, and educators. Female spies are very much a part of the actual contribution of espionage by gathering information while earning high level positions in both the military and in many intelligence agencies in the government.

In the spy world, there is less information on women’s actual contributions to espionage but more information on stereotypes of female spies which still continues to capture the popular imagination. Myths about women in espionage proposed that they were just for sexual pleasure and victims who lure men into compromising and dangerous situations to betray them. These stereotypes of female spies are of “unscrupulous seductresses or virtuous victims”, which undermines the meaningful contributions and the accomplishments that women made in the spy world. They did a lot more than flirted and tricked men into giving secret information. They wielded weapons to help them win battles, save generals, and hide prisoners.

These four female spies or secret agents completed some of the most duplicitous and daring missions in history, using everything in their power to gain information and risking it all for a cause, or causes they believed in. Lydia Darragh, Nancy Hart, Virginia Hall and Mary Legere are examples of fighting spies that not only fought to protect their spaces and their spy networks but broke stereotypes and made history as fighters.

Lydia Darragh

Lydia Darragh was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1729. In 1753, she married a family friend, William Darragh, and later the couple moved to America where they settled in Philadelphia in a large Quaker community. Darragh was not only a midwife and a mother of five children (four died during infancy), she was also a tutor while secretly supporting the rebel cause during the Revolutionary cause. Darragh’s courageous actions helped General George Washington with an attack that occurred in December of 1777. While British officers and troops demanded Darragh to use her home for a secret meeting in the fall of 1777, she hid in her closet while overhearing their plans for a surprise December 4th attack on Washington’s army at Whitemarsh. She made a long and dangerous walk to a Patriot message center to tell the message about the surprise attack. Darragh’s bravery gave George Washington time to prepare his troops for battle.

Washington penned this historic letter initiating America’s first spy network.

Nancy Hart

During the 1700s, Nancy Hart, a Georgia frontierswoman hero during the American Revolution whose mission was to take the Georgia territory away from the British Loyalists while serving as a spy. Historians said she was a fearless woman who was six feet tall with red hair and incredible strength. During the Revolution, Hart either took care of her farm or snuck off to spy on the British during her spare time. Stories have been told that she captured five or more British soldiers and killed one for killing one of her farm turkeys and demanding her to cook it for them. Hart somehow held the British captive and hung the soldiers from a nearby tree. In 1912, six bodies were found near her home, which believed to have been those of the British soldiers. This event not only gave credence to the Hart Legend by playing an important role for her community and family during the war of Independence, but she also shaped the memory of American history in ways that still tells and resonates today.

Virginia Hall

Virginia Hall had a committed passion for language and adventure. After graduating from Radcliffe College and Barnard College (Columbia University), she traveled to Europe in the 1930s and later on worked for the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. She was assigned to travel to Izmir, Turkey for work, but she lost her left leg below the knee during a serious hunting accident. She had to place a wooden prosthetic leg to replace her missing ligament, which she affectionately nicknamed the leg “Cuthbert.” After World War II, Hall was recruited by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). She went through a very tough and extensive training that included weapons, tradecraft, clandestine, communications and other resistance programs. She also spent her years in France operating spy networks, delivering top secret information to the British government and securing and running safe houses. In 1945, Virginia Hall was awarded the Distinguish Service Cross for her heroic actions.

This identification and cover documents illustrate Virginia Hall’s career from her early days in the SOE through her work with the CIA.













Mary Legere

Mary Legere is known to be a 21st century spy. From 2012 to 2017, Legere served as the Lieutenant General and the US Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for intelligence (G2). She also was only the fourth female three-star general in the history of the US Army. Before receiving this title, Legere received a bachelor’s degree in political science and government with a concentration of mass communications at the University of New Hampshire in 1982. While in college, she commissioned to the UNH’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program and then later on joined the Army’s Intelligence Corps. Legere decided to rise up through the ranks by continuing her military education at the United States Army War College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the US Army Command and General Staff College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she received her master’s degree in Military Strategy, Art and Sciences. After college, she served in a number of intelligent positions, such as the Commander of 501st Military Intelligence Brigade from 2002 to 2004, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the Multi-National Force in 2008, and Commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command from 2009-2012. Legere retired in 2017 and is now an advisor of the Military Cyber Professionals Association (MCPA).

The three stars on Mary Legere’s jacket announce her rank: Lieutenant General.

Posted in History | Leave a comment

Mata Hari: Double Agent or Scapegoat?

The debate over Mata Hari and her involvement with the world of espionage is one that may never have a clear answer. Her life is a mix of tall tales and legends, some were self-fabricated, and others were created by people’s perception of facts in a turbulent time. With every myth there is a grain of truth, but in regards to Mata Hari, the identity of that grain is hard to determine.

Hari’s early life was one of fact. She was born as “Margaretha Zelle” in the Netherlands, to a family plagued by unfortunate circumstances. From an early age, Margaretha relied on her sexuality and femininity to pave her future path. She answered an ad in a newspaper for military captain, Rudolf MacLeod, who was looking for a wife while stationed in the Dutch Indies. Margaretha was almost 19 when she married the 42-year-old captain and thus ensued their unstable nine-year relationship. Macleod’s heavy drinking and jealously over the attention his wife received by other officers was not subdued by the birth of their two children (a boy and a girl) who later became the breaking point between the couple. With her marriage shattered, one child dead, and the other being raised by MacLeod, Margaretha moved to Paris.

It was when she divorced her husband and became a mistress to a French diplomat that Margaretha developed the character Mata Hari: an exotic dancer who portrayed the sacred rituals of Eastern temples. Mata Hari’s erotic dances went against previously conceived social ideals and walked the edge of indecency. Alongside the dancing, Hari became a courtesan and spent much of her time with powerful men from all over Europe. One suitor after the next showered her with luxurious gifts, giving her the life of comfort and opulence she had dreamed of.

International Spy Museum – Mata Hari’s metallic bodice

As she aged, Mata Hari’s dance career began to decline after 1912. On March 13, 1915, she performed in what would be the last show of her career. By this time, she had become a successful courtesan, known more for her sensuality and eroticism than for her beauty. She had relationships with high-ranking military officers, politicians, and others in influential positions in many countries. Her relations and liaisons with powerful men frequently took her across international borders.

During the time of WWI, Hari was approached by a German counsel and offered 20,000 francs to spy for Germany. She desperately accepted the money, which she supposedly viewed as repayment for her expensive goods that had been seized by the German government when the war began.

Hari never admitted to sharing any confidential secrets with the Germans. When she returned to Paris, she continued on with her life of luxury but failed to realize that she was being followed. The head of Deuxième Bureau (counterespionage) commanded his agents to surveil her but they returned without any evidence that Hari was spying for the Germans.

As the war raged on, France was desperate for some kind of win to boost morale. Unbeknownst to her, Hari provided the French with an opportunity. Capturing an enemy spy would relight the fire that fueled the French forces. Steps were put into motion and Mata Hari agreed to spy for France in return for one million francs.

Hari was sent back to the Netherlands lacking any specific instructions other than to wait. Enroute, she was detained by British agents and underwent interrogations until she admitted that she was a spy for France. When the authorities contacted the French government to corroborate her claim, the French refused to do so.

When Hari returned to Paris after collecting intel on German diplomats, she expected to be greeted with her reward but instead all she received was silence. She was arrested on February 12, 1917, with eight changes, one for espionage on the German behalf. The French claimed to have intercepted radio transmissions that pointed to Hari as a double agent, but the legitimacy of the transmissions was never authenticated.

Her trail consisted of evidence that now, wouldn’t have been able to legally convict anyone of anything, let alone espionage. Mata Hari was found guilty on all accounts without any chance for appeals or exchange for jail time and on October 15, 1917, she was put to death by a firing squad.

Hari’s life story begs the question: was she the fantastic double agent who fooled all of those around her, or was she simply a naive women who was dealt an unfortunate hand and bit off more than she could chew? Could she have been committing illegal acts with such a high level of deception that we are still being deceived today, or was she just scapegoat for a nation that was looking for an easy answer to their problem? The truth is still unknown…

Experience her life on the big screen in our upcoming special viewing of the movie Mata Hari, Agent H21 on August 23, 6:30 PM. Popcorn and sparkling French soda will be included. For more information, visit the International Spy Museum.

Posted in History | Leave a comment

From Russia with Love | A History of Poisonings

Targeted killing. Wet jobs. Assassinations. Eliminations. Spy thrillers feature deadly plots in which governments eliminate spies, operatives, dissidents or enemies of the state. Life imitated art with the recent expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States on Monday, in response to Russia’s alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Whether Russian agents played a role in the latest wet job or the bizarre death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko—who died in London on Nov. 23, 2006 after being poisoned by radioactive polonium-210—remains unclear. What we do know is that he wasn’t the first.

Bulgarian Umbrella
In 1978 the KGB used an umbrella like this—modified to fire a tiny pellet filled with poison—to assassinate dissident Georgi Markov on the streets of London.

In fact, there is a dark and often odd history of death by poison that stretches back to ancient times. In the Roman republic, arsenic was used so widely that in 82 BC, a law was issued against poisoning. And historians still wonder about Napoleon’s untimely demise after traces of arsenic were found in his hair.

But no nation can lay a more legitimate claim to institutionalizing assassination as part of its foreign policy than the Soviet Union, starting with the regime of Joseph Stalin. Initially, Soviet “wet jobs”—so called because of the resulting blood and gore—were clumsy and brutal; after several failed attempts to get at Stalin’s exiled rival Leon Trotsky in Mexico, a Soviet agent finally managed to smash his skull with an ice pick.

The original ice-axe used by assassin Ramon Mercader (courtesy of H. Keith Melton)

Over time, the methods became more refined. In 1943, Stalin established a special department whose name described its tasks quite accurately—the notorious Smersh, or “Death to Spies,” an organization immortalized by Ian Fleming in his James Bond novels. Smersh, later integrated into the KGB, remained active for years. To equip its assassins, the KGB set up a secret arms laboratory at Khozyaistvo Zheleznovo to develop innovative—and not so “wet”—ways of killing.

One of the earliest known Soviet Cold War plots aimed straight at a foreign head of state. Frustrated by the refusal of Yugoslav leader Josip Tito to align his country with the Soviet bloc, Stalin decided to have him eliminated. To dispose of Tito, the KGB considered several methods, including administering a silent spray of pneumonic plague during a personal audience and presenting him with a booby-trapped box that would release a lethal poison gas as soon as it was opened. The operation was shelved only after Stalin’s death in 1953.

But the policy of state-sponsored assassination outlived Stalin. In the 1950s, Ukrainian nationalists were the preferred targets. In one instance, a 25-year-old Soviet assassin, Bogdan Stashinsky, was issued a spray gun that fired a jet of poison gas from a crushed cyanide vial, causing death by cardiac arrest. Having tested the weapon successfully on a dog, Stashinsky killed two Ukrainians in Germany, one in 1957 and one in 1959.

Gas Assassination Weapon, KGB, 1950s
KGB officer Bogdan Stashinsky assassinated two Ukranian dissidents living in Germany using this poison gas weapon hidden inside a rolled-up newspaper.

Although Moscow decorated Stashinsky highly “for carrying out an extremely important government assignment,” the assassin soon felt remorse. Encouraged by his East German girlfriend, he defected to West Germany and later publicly revealed his gruesome assignment.

Stashinsky wasn’t the only KGB killer with second thoughts. In fact, the “human factor” saved another Ukrainian’s life. In 1954, KGB assassin Nikolai Khoklov showed up at the flat of Georgi Okolovich in Frankfurt, Germany, and told him: “I’ve come to you from Moscow. The [Kremlin] has ordered your assassination.”

Khoklov went on to explain to the baffled Okolovich that he did not intend to kill him. Instead, he defected to the CIA and subsequently held a sensational press conference where he displayed his exotic murder weapon—an electrically operated gun, fitted with a silencer and concealed inside a cigarette pack, which fired cyanide bullets. Later, the KGB unsuccessfully tried to kill Khoklov with radioactive thallium.

The KGB also made its creative killing capabilities available to its Eastern European sister services. One notorious incident occurred in 1978 when the Bulgarians used a KGB-designed umbrella that shot ricin pellets to kill a dissident in London.

Other spy services were more cautious about availing themselves of lethal KGB assistance. Markus Wolf, the former director of East German foreign intelligence, said the only drug he ever hesitatingly accepted from the Soviets was a “truth serum” that his KGB contact “touted as ‘unbeatable’ with the enthusiasm of a door-to-door salesman.” Wolf had reason to be skeptical. A doctor later told him that a person treated with the drug “will be dead as a dodo in seconds.”

Accidental deaths were not uncommon. In 1975, the KGB seized a hapless defector, Fyodorovich Artamonov, in Austria, bundled him into the trunk of a car and heavily sedated him. But by the time they reached Czechoslovakia, Artamonov had died of an overdose.

One of the last confirmed Soviet assassinations was the less-than-subtle plot to take out Afghan President Hafizullah Amin in 1979. As the Red Army began its invasion of Afghanistan, KGB special forces dressed in Afghan uniforms gunned down Amin in his Kabul palace. Since then, Russian intelligence has been suspected in various violent deaths, but no definitive proof has been found.

To be sure, the KGB was not the only spy service involved in wet jobs. The CIA, for one, is credited with a handful of assassination plots. Fearing a communist takeover in the Congo in 1960, the agency planned to inject a “lethal biological material” into the food or toothpaste of the country’s leftist leader, Patrice Lumumba. However, before the CIA could proceed, local killers had already taken care of Lumumba. Similarly disappointing were plots to dispose of Cuba’s Fidel Castro by a variety of methods, from exploding cigars to poison pills.

In the end, the CIA’s attempts at assassination during the Cold War failed miserably. When it came to death by poison, the Soviets clearly had the better of their Western counterparts.

A History of Poisonings
By Thomas Boghardt. Published: San Jose Mercury News, Sunday, Dec. 03, 2006.

Posted in History, In The News, Tools of the Trade | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Berlin Tunnel – Journey of An Artifact

During the Cold War, monitoring the Soviet Union and its influence worldwide was the top priority for the CIA. In the 1950s, the CIA and British Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) agreed tunneling from West Berlin to East Berlin would be the best covert wiretapping operation.

Construction took a year – tunnelers removed 3,100 tons of soil (enough to fill 20 average American living rooms) and used 125 tons of steel plate and 1,000 cubic yards of grout. The finished tunnel was 1,476 feet long.

British technicians installed the taps, and data collection began in May 1955. Unknown at the time to the CIA and Britain’s MI-6, the KGB—the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency—had been aware of the project from its start.

George Blake, a KGB mole inside MI-6, had apprised the Soviets about the secret operation during its planning stages. But to protect Blake, the KGB allowed the operation to continue until April 1956 when they “accidentally discovered” the tunnel while supposedly repairing faulty underground cables—without putting Blake at risk.

The Soviets planned the discovery in hopes of winning a propaganda victory by publicizing the operation. But their plan backfired when, instead of condemning the operation, most press coverage marveled at the audacity and technical ingenuity of the operation!

The International Spy Museum is honored to receive segments of the Berlin Tunnel which will form the centerpiece of a new exhibit that recreates East and West Berlin during the 1970s, showcasing one of the most ambitious operations undertaken by the CIA.

Check out the Berlin Tunnel’s journey from Germany to Washington, DC. The new artifact will be on display at SPY’s new permanent home at L’Enfant Plaza, opening in 2018.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Women Who Were Spies

March is Women’s History Month! SPY pays homage to female spies whose achievements, courage and strength outshine even James Bond!

65beb484Virginia Hall
America’s “Incredible Limping Lady”

Of the many women who served in the OSS, field agent Virginia Hall was one of the most distinguished. Undaunted by her artificial leg, she created a spy network and helped organize and arm French commandos behind enemy lines. Posing as a dairy farmer, she scouted potential drop zones while herding cows. Later, she tapped out Morse code messages over wireless radio to officials in London.

Virginia Hall was the only female civilian in World War II to receive the coveted Distinguished Service Cross.

Collection Highlight - International Spy Museum

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHT – Distinguished Service Cross






Julia Child
Years before she learned to cook, Julia Child worked for the OSS during World War II. Julia had wanted to join military services, but was denied because of her height – a statuesque 6 ft.2. However, she was not too tall to join the OSS. While she started out as a secretary but soon enough she was given more responsibility within the agent. Her superiors praised her drive and cheerfulness, saying she inspired other workers. She helped develop a shark repellent, so sharks would no longer accidentally trigger bombs. Ever modest Child said, “I was not a spy, only a lowly file clerk.” She received an Emblem of Meritorious Civilian for her work.




Mata Hari
Mata Hari embodied all the romance of espionage. During World War I,  this exotic dancer turned spy was involved with German intelligence, using her female wiles to worm secrets out of high ranking Allied military officers.

While the details of her brief espionage career remain murky, in 1917 French counter-intelligence intercepted an enemy telegram implicating her as a German spy. The French arrested, court-martialed, and executed her by firing squad in 1917.



Letter written by Mata Hari France, 1908 International Spy Museum

Letter written by Mata Hari
France, 1908 International Spy Museum



Sarah Emma Edmonds
Sarah Emma Edmonds was probably the closest thing the Union Army had to a master of disguise during the American Civil War. In fact, Edmonds entered the Civil War in disguise. She enlisted in the 2nd Michigan Infantry dressed as a man, calling herself Franklin Flint Thompson. Working as a Union spy, she frequently traveled into the Confederacy in disguise — sometimes as a black man or woman — seeking out information and stealing papers from Confederate officers. However, when she contracted malaria, she deserted the army, fearing she would be found out as a woman. She ended up serving out the rest of the war as a nurse once again.



Marlene Dietrich
German born Marlene Dietrich became a U.S. citizen after defying Hitler’s orders to return to her native Germany. The sultry performer risked her own safety to entertain American troops at the front lines during World War II. In 1944, the OSS tapped Dietrich to record songs for broadcast to German troops. Her nostalgic reading of German lyrics was intended to lower morale and promote defection. After the war, she received the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.


Elizabeth P. McIntosh
Elizabeth P. McIntosh “Betty” was a war correspondent and independent journalist who joined the OSS shortly after Pearl Harbor. McIntosh was one of the few women assigned to Morale Operations, where she helped produce false news reports, postcards, documents, and radio messages designed to spread disinformation. She also detected a copy of the Imperial Order discussing terms of surrender which was then disseminated to Japanese troops, as were intercepted orders of other sorts.













Mary Bowser
Mary Elizabeth Bowser (born c. 1840) was a freed slave who worked in connection with Elizabeth Van Lew & Ulysses S. Grant as a spy. She operated as a servant in the home of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis where she gathered important military information to pass on to the Grant administration.

To avoid suspicion, she pretended she was crazy and went by the nickname, “Crazy Bet.” Little did anyone know that Bowser had a photographic memory – she gathered intel reading military documents left out on desks or tables and eavesdropping on conversations. She then wrote the information in cipher code and passed it on through the Union lines to Grant and other officers.

Chevalier d'Éon

Chevalier d’Éon
The Chevalier d’Éon is a fascinating figure, even beyond her career as a spy. Born Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont, d’Éon was likely assigned male at birth and lived publicly as a man for the first 49 years of her life. She worked for King Louis XV’s Secret du Roi, and, as part of a plot against the Habsburg monarchy, was sent to Russia to meet with Empress Elizabeth. Because only women and children were able to cross into Russia at that time, d’Éon had to dress as a woman, calling herself Lea de Beaumont and serving as Empress Elizabeth’s maid of honour.

While living in exile in London, d’Éon was subject to rumors about her true gender, and after Louis XV’s death, she returned to France and demanded to be recognized as a woman. The court of King Louis XVI agreed to recognize her as a woman, on the condition that she dress as a woman, a condition that included funds for a whole new wardrobe. D’Éon lived out her life as Mademoiselle La chevalière d’Éon de Beaumont.



Jonna Mendez  – CIA Chief of Disguise
Jonna Hiestand Mendez is well known as the other half to the CIA’s leading disguise specialist Tony Mendez (ARGO).  Tony and Jonna served over fifty years combined as Chiefs of Disguise in the Office of Technical Service, the technical arm of the CIA’s operations directorate, creating false identities for America’s undercover agents. Jonna started her career as an intelligence officer and lived undercover for 27 years in such places as Germany, Thailand, and India, specializing in clandestine photography. Her duties included instructing the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets in the use of spy cameras and the processing of intelligence gathered by them. Her impressive record afforded her the opportunity to work in Southeast Asia as a generalist in Disguise, Identity Transformation and Clandestine Imaging. In 1988, she was promoted first to Deputy Chief of Disguise and then, Chief of Disguise. She retired from the government in 1993, earning the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation Medal.

Mendez Diguises

Mendez Diguises


Melissa Mahle
Melissa Boyle Mahle, a sixteen-year covert operative for the CIA in the Middle East, was the Agency’s top-ranked female Arabist before she left in 2002. As a field operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), she worked against many of the key challenges to US national security, including running operations against al-Qaeda terrorists and illicit networks selling weapons of mass destruction. She received a Presidential Letter of Appreciation for her work on the Middle East Peace Process and numerous exceptional performance awards from the CIA for her recruitment of agents and collection of intelligence. Ms. Mahle is the author of the book Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11.



Josephine Baker
Singer-dancer Josephine Baker moved to France to escape racism in America and became the toast of Paris. In gratitude, she became a World War II spy for her adopted country – the French Resistance. No one suspected that her sheet music was covered with messages written in invisible ink or that her dress contained hidden photographs. Her fame enabled her to attend parties with high-ranking Japanese and Italian officials and report back what she heard. For her counterintelligence work, Baker was awarded the Medal of Resistance.

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHT - Voluptuosa Sheet Music by Josephine Baker and Jose Padilla, (c. 1930s)

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHT – Voluptuosa Sheet Music by Josephine Baker and Jose Padilla, (c. 1930s)




Princess Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan
An author of children’s books might seem an unlikely candidate for being a spy, but Princess Noor was just that. The great niece of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and daughter of Indian royalty, Princess Noor joined the SOE as “Nora Baker” in London and trained to operate a wireless radio transmitter. She was sent to occupied France using the code name Madeline. She carried her transmitter from safe house to safe house with the Gestapo trailing her while maintaining communications for her Resistance unit. Eventually she captured and executed as a spy, in 1944. She was awarded the George Cross, the Croix de Guerre and the MBE for her valor.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Holiday Etiquette – Moscow Rules


Thanksgiving2016SPY - Moscow Rules Image




With the holidays fast approaching, we can all use a refresher crash course in guest etiquette in preparation for your timely visit to family and friends! Much like the “Rules of Engagement” for spies, the CIA’s Moscow Rules serve as prominent guidelines to keep in mind when you sit and break bread on Thanksgiving Day.

The original Moscow Rules list contained 40 different rules, and may never have existed in written form. In his book, The Master of Disguise, Tony Mendez (ARGO) wrote, “Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood… By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense…”

Here are the complete Moscow Rules given as:

  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Never go against your gut.
  3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  4. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone.
  5. Go with the flow, blend in.
  6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
  7. Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  8. Don’t harass the opposition.
  9. Pick the time and place for action.
  10. Keep your options open.

Follow these rules for your next holiday outing and we guarantee you will be invited back next Thanksgiving—and who knows…maybe even for Christmas and New Years.

Posted in A Well-Read Spy, Ask A Spy, In The News, Intellegence Briefing, SPY at The Movies | Tagged | Leave a comment

Explore milestones from the International Spy Museum’s past 14 years!

On July 19, 2002 – the International Spy Museum opened its doors – introducing you to the shadowy world of espionage! Over 9 million visitors and 14 years later, we thank YOU for spying on us!

Explore milestones from the International Spy Museum’s past years!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unsung Heroes – SPY Celebrates African-Americans in Espionage

In honor of Black History month, SPY profiles extraordinary clandestine African American men and women throughout history. These unsung heroes have been active agents in the defense of American freedom on the frontlines and behind the scenes of every American military conflict. While the nature of their efforts required a cloak of secrecy, their stories are numbered and varied. What is shared is their collective courage, loyalty, and opposition to tyranny.


Mary Elizabeth Bowser (1839 – ?), was part of a Union spy ring known as “the Richmond underground”, directed by Elizabeth Van Lew, whose family was well respected and well connected socially in Richmond. Bowser had been a slave of the Van Lew family, but Van Lew freed her and sent her North to be educated. When Van Lew decided to establish a spy ring in Richmond shortly before the fighting began, she asked Bowser to return and work with her for the Union. Van Lew obtained a position for Bowser as a servant in the Confederate “White House” through the recommendation of a friend who provided supplies to that household. Bowser pretended to be uneducated but hardworking and, after working part-time at several functions, was hired as a regular employee. Her access provided her with opportunities to overhear valuable information. As a Black woman – and a servant at that – she was ignored by the President’s guests. Bowser had a photographic memory and could report every word of the documents she saw at the “White House”. In recognition of her intelligence contributions, Bowser was inducted into the US Army Intelligence Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, on June 30, 1995.

f4c661c888268fdf2b6d3373100b690dJames Armistead Lafayette (c. 1748-1830)

Born enslaved in Virginia during the time of King George’s War, with permission of his holder, James Armistead joined the Continental Army in the battle of the American Revolutionary War under the Marquis de Lafayette—in whose honor he would later adopt this surname. Armistead infiltrated the camps of the notorious British Brigadier General Benedict Arnold and Lord Cornwallis posing as a fugitive slave. Serving the British troops in this role, he would record their tactics and report back to operatives fighting on the side of America. His communications were essential in the Battle of Yorktown and the overthrow of British forces. Where many enslaved gained freedom as a condition of military service, Lafayette remained bonded until he petitioned the Virginia Assembly for his freedom with a testimonial of his service from the Marquis de Lafayette that stated, “This is to certify that the bearer by the name of James has done essential services to me while I had the honour to command in this state. His intelligences from the enemy’s camp were industriously collected and faithfully delivered. He perfectly acquitted himself with some important commissions I gave him and appears to me entitled to every reward his situation can admit of.”


Harriet Tubman (c. 1822-1913)

Respectfully known as the ‘Moses of her people’ for ushering numerous enslaved persons to freedom, Harriet Tubman is most often associated with her epic works as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The same stealthy mobility and furtive operations that facilitated repeated and undetected journeys across military fronts were enlisted by the Union Army to disable, upset, and aid the fall of travel and supply utilized by the Confederate States Army. Traveling as far south as Florida, she served the Union Army as a nurse, by scouting enemy posts, and as a spy. She was a daring leader behind combat lines and on the battlefield. In 1863, after a successful maraud leading Colonel James Montgomery’s Union troops, General Rufus Saxton reported to Secretary of War Staton, “This is the only military command in American history wherein a woman, black or white, led the raid and under whose inspiration it was originated and conducted.” While aiding Union efforts, she helped many seeking freedom to realize their goal by delivering them to safe harbors. Whether on the frontlines or shepherding people out of bondage, Ms. Tubman fought in the war for freedom on two sides—for her people and her country.



Robert Smalls (1839 – 1915)

In May 1862, the second bloody year of the American Civil War, a 22-year-old slave named Robert Smalls accomplished an unthinkable feat of cunning, deception, and bravery: he stole a ship. Smalls along with 16 people on board, including his wife, brother, and their children commandeered the ship on which he worked (The Planter) past the Confederate-occupied Fort Sumter, and surrendered it to the blockading Union navy. He also delivered important information about Confederate dispositions in and around Charleston Harbor. Smalls supplied Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont with the necessary intelligence to seize Stono Inlet, occupying it with several gun-boats and securing an important base for military operations. He would go on to serve as a pilot for both the navy and the army during the remainder of the war. After the war, he was elected to the US House of Representatives multiple times.


John Scobell (1861)

John Scobell was a freed slave who was recruited by Union intelligence chief Allan Pinkerton to spy behind Confederate lines. Scobell was intelligent and a good actor. He took on several identities, including food vendor, cook and laborer. Scobell often worked with two of Pinkerton’s best agents—Timothy Webster and Carrie Lawton—posing as a servant.

Scobell provided valuable information about Confederate order of battle, status of supplies and troop morale. He also sought out leaders in the black community to collect information about local conditions, fortifications, and troop dispositions.
To learn more about the “black dispatches,” read the CIA’s publication Black Dispatches: Black American Contributions to Union Intelligence During the Civil War.



Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

An icon of the Jazz Age—singer, dancer, and actress Josephine Baker is internationally recognized as an entertainer. She was also an agent of the French Resistance during World War II. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis Missouri, the first African American woman to star in a major motion picture would catapult herself to the intercontinental stage with audiences easily engaged in English and French. Refusing consent of segregated engagements at home, it was her appreciation of France’s acceptance that led to her work as an ‘honorable correspondent’ in the war against Germany. Capitalizing on her celebrity status, Ms. Baker mingled with military personnel, politicians, and bureaucrats at parties and during performances. She re-counted pertinent intelligence to aid the French Resistance. Baker also smuggled important information out of France. No one suspected that her sheet music was covered with messages written in invisible ink or that her dress contained hidden photographs. She was awarded the Croix de guerre and received a Chavalier of the Legion d’honneur, two distinguished French military commendations.

*COLLECTION FEATURE — See Josephine Baker’s sheet music in the Spy Museum collection.

Josephine Baker sheet music 1


Josephine Baker sheet music 3

Josephine Baker sheet music








Captain Gail Harris (1949 –   )


At the time of her retirement in 2001, US Navy Captain Gail Harris was the highest-ranking African American woman in the United States Navy. Hailing from the ghettoes of Newark, New Jersey, Captain Harris’ destiny to serve in the US Navy was cemented at the age of 5, when she saw a World War II-themed movie that featured a scene with Navy pilots being briefed before the climactic Battle of Midway. Then, she decided that was what she’d do when she grew up.  Unaware of the existence of a federal law which prohibited women from going into combat—which would not be changed until 1994—she forged ahead with her dream. In 1973, she became the first woman in US Naval history to serve as an Intelligence Officer in an operational Navy aviation squadron. Her career included hands-on leadership during every major conflict from the Cold War, to El Salvador, to Desert Storm, to Kosovo, and at the forefront of one of the Department of Defense’s newest challenges, Cyber Warfare. For every job assignment taken, Captain Harris was the first woman or first African American for that post, and was frequently hand-selected for challenging jobs based on her outstanding performance. Her career highlights include being pulled from her Hawaiian assignment 18 months early in 1988, and sent to South Korea to head up the intelligence support for the Games of the XXIV Olympiad (1988 Summer Olympics). This task involved extensive coordination with the United States and South Korean military, intelligence and civil agencies.  She was also hand-selected by the Director of Naval Intelligence and Commander of US Naval Forces Central Command to fill an interim position as Acting Naval Attaché in Egypt, thereby becoming the first female to serve as a military attaché in a Middle Eastern country.

author001 - Malcom 2Malcom W. Nance (1961-   ) 

Retired US Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Malcolm Wrightson Nance holds the distinction of being one of a select few African-American intelligence operatives who engaged in the secret war against Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization years before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Born in Philadelphia, PA, Mr. Nance hails from a family boasting over 100 years of military service: fighting in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the War on Terrorism. In 1981, he entered Naval Intelligence learning to speak Arabic, break enemy codes, interrogate prisoners and track international terrorists across the globe.

For more than twenty years, Mr. Nance conducted numerous secret covert and clandestine intelligence missions in many Middle Eastern, African and South Asian countries as well as participating in combat missions in Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Syria. He often worked from intelligence collection platforms that included the Battleship USS Missouri, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, destroyers, high speed special boats, helicopters and drones. However, many more missions involved working in remote, austere environments where his knowledge of foreign languages and his ability to blend in to collect information proved vital to protecting the lives of American citizens.


A fierce advocate of holding the moral high ground in intelligence activities he was called to testify before Congress against the use of torture on captured enemy prisoners. His powerful testimony would be quoted by President Obama who proclaimed “Waterboarding is torture … period,” and then halted the use of unethical and ineffective interrogation methods.  Mr. Nance is the author of several books on al-Qaeda and his textbooks on terrorism are used by the FBI, CIA and global intelligence agencies and a regular speaker at the International Spy Museum. He attributes his success in intelligence to an early love of reading, geography, foreign languages and studying the history of other African American spies.

Want to learn more about African Americans in espionage? Don’t miss SPY’s upcoming programs:

Anonymous Heroes: African American Spies of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War on Wednesday, February 10; 6:30PM. *Click here for tickets.


Intelligence as a Career Path: A Black History Month After-School Program with Malcolm Nance on Tuesday, February 23, 4:30-5:30PM. This event is free and open to the middle and high school students only. In partnership with the Greater Washington Urban League. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

10 James Bond Facts You Should Know

The first Bond film, Dr. No hit theaters on Oct. 5, 1962. Five decades and 24 films later, the super spy Agent 007 has been immortalized as an iconic screen hero. In anticipation of SPECTRE, latest installment in the Bond franchise, SPY has compiled 10 interesting, fun tidbits for your reading pleasure.

Meet the real Bond. Dr. James Bond, ornithologist, at your service! Ian Fleming named the character ‘James Bond’ after American ornithologist Dr. James Bond, a Caribbean bird expert. During an interview, Fleming remarked that he wanted ‘the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name’ he could find and happened to have Dr. Bond’s book Birds of the West Indies on hand.



The first man to ever embody 007 was American actor Barry Nelson, who played card shark ‘Jimmy Bond’ in Casino Royale (1954). In total, eight actors have played Bond in 25 films! Barry Nelson, David Niven (Casino Royale, 1967), Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and of course Daniel Craig!
Daniel Craig is the only Blond Bond!













Check out this video of Barry Nelson in action as Jimmy Bond:

The late Richard Kiel, who played Jaws, could only keep his metal teeth in his mouth for about 30 seconds at a time [SEE INTERVIEW], and the chain that he bit through at the Pyramids in The Spy Who Loved Me was made of licorice. You can see JAWS’ steel teeth on display in the Spy Museum’s Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond exhibit.

Jaws Teeth 11.28.12









Sean Connery played 007 in exactly 7 movies. And in each and every appearance as Bond, Connery wore a hairpiece.

Sean Connery05







5. Sex BOND
From Dr. No to Skyfall, James Bond has slept with 53 women if you don’t count him sleeping with Eve during the shaving scene of Skyfall – that’s an average of 2.3 women per film! According to research, Roger Moore was the most promiscuous of Bonds. He bedded 19 women over 7 movies. Sean Connery’s time as 007 saw him net 15 beauties over 6 films, while Pierce Brosnan came in as the third randiest Bond, over his four films he slept with nine women.




6. Shaken, Not Stirred
It seems Bond had it right. According to a study by the University of Western Ontario, shaking a martini releases more antioxidants than stirring. At further testing, shaken martinis had a tendency to remove hydrogen peroxide, which is a good indicator of the ability of a drink or a substance to act as an antioxidant.

In the film, Quantum Of Solace, 007 shares the recipe for a proper Dry Martini: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”



We all know Bond’s rank is 007, but what of the other 00-agents at MI-6? A look back through film history shows: 002 is killed by The Man With The Golden Gun, 003 dies in the opening scenes of A View To A Kill, 004 dies in The Living Daylights and 006 was Sean Bean’s villain in GoldenEye – while others, such as the mythical 001 and 005, remain a mystery. You can’t forget poor old 009 – he was killed while dressed as a clown in Octopussy. 008 is Bond’s replacement in the unfortunate event of his death.


James Bond’s weapon of choice, the Walther PPK, is the same model of gun that Adolph Hitler used to commit suicide on April 30, 1945.

bond walther ppk










According to autorevolution.com, Aston Martin offered Daniel Craig any Aston Martin car, any time, for the rest of his life. Essentially, Craig can walk into any Aston Martin dealership and say, ‘One please’ and drive off.

For the new Bond film, SPECTRE, Aston Martin is once again providing the wheels for Britain’s best secret agent, and this time it’s in the shape of the DB10. Feast your eyes!



According to IMDB usage, the Top 5 Bond films are:

1. Casino Royale
2. Goldfinger
3. Skyfall
4. From Russia with Love
5. Dr. No

Spectre, the 24th installment in the 007 franchise, hits U.S. theaters on November 6, 2015. COMING SOON – See exclusive items from the new film, including villain Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz)’s ring, costumes, props and more in our 007 exhibit!

SPECTRE Contest Image



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment