If you know me well, you know that I have more than a tiny interest in the Central Intelligence Agency. That’s why I jumped at the chance to go see the latest addition to the Discovery Times Square Spy: The Secret World of Espionage exhibit last Friday. The exhibit, which includes artifacts from the CIA, the FBI and the National Reconnaissance Office, had been closed recently for renovations and, on Friday, it re-opened with fresh spy gear that the CIA used while evacuating American hostages out of Iran in a ruse. The mission was called Argo, named after a movie created by the CIA under a fake studio called “Studio Six Productions.”
As my friend, who organized the tour, explained to me, the idea was incredibly complex. Here’s how it worked: CIA officer Tony Mendez and his team created offices in Los Angeles on a Columbia Studio lot that was previously used for the film The China Syndrom by Michael Douglas. The team created everything that would be needed for a real movie, including a logo, cards, stationary, detailed producer notes and even a legitimate script. Then they approached the Iranian government and pitched them on filming a movie in Iran that glorified the Islam religion. To add to the cover story, the CIA even took out advertisements in the popular Hollywood daily Variety.
The exhibit, that I was able to see on the morning it opened to the public, includes the Studio Six briefcases, the original pitch letter from the studio, the script and more. Everything has the real (but fake) Studio Six Productions logo on it. The entire story, which ended up successfully saving American lives in Iran, has been turned into a real movie this time around. It hits theaters this Friday, Oct. 12.
We talk about gadgets here every single day on TechnoBuffalo, but we rarely get a chance to look back and point out that a lot of today’s technology was created a long time ago for use in the government. The whole Spy: The Secret World of Espionage exhibit includes tons of amazing artifacts, from shoes with secret compartments, to miniature cameras and even pigeons that were used as early surveillance drones. Today, we all have those small cameras embedded in our smartphones – but imagine a time when nobody but the CIA had access to that kind of technology? It’s endlessly fascinating.
At the end of this article I’ve also included a large gallery of the other items on display at the exhibit, including famous Russian spy Anna Chapman’s laptop computer, the handcuffs used to arrest her group of Russian spies just a few years ago and tons of other spy gadgetry.