Relics of the secret services in the new International Spy Museum at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington

The new espionage museum opens its doors in Washington with three floors dedicated to espionage from a letter signed by George Washington on spying on the British to cutting-edge technology to prevent cyber attacks.

International Spy Museum at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington. Image: screenshot
International Spy Museum at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington. Image: screenshot

Visitors want to know if they have what it takes to be spies, concluded the museologists after the experience in the previous venue, inaugurated in 2002. The new building located in the L'Enfant Plaza offers an initial game in which interested parties are awarded a false identity and a mission. During the tour, the player interacts with different screens to face the challenges they pose.

There are also more realistic simulations, like the capture of Osama bin Laden. At a table of "intelligence agents" you can review the clues that the US secret services had about the possible hiding place of the terrorist in Abbottabad, Pakistan: they burned the garbage instead of throwing it away, they had built a huge wall in front of a balcony and there was a man on duty. The assistants have to decide what they would do with the information gathered by the director of the CIA.

The important pieces

An Enigma machine from World War II, one of the five needles with poison that the United States embedded inside coins for Cold War soldiers and the flag that exiled Cubans did not raise after the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs are part of the treasure. From this Saturday the public will be able to witness these relics of the secret services in the new Museum of Espionage in Washington. Also, the ax with which the Spanish Ramón Mercader murdered Trotski in Mexico.

Torture and waterboarding

A wooden bed with rings on the sides holds an original case to perform the technique of simulated asphyxiation. The pieces were used to train the military in the interrogation of possible terrorists after 9/11. A question rules the wall of the room: "What is torture?" In the venue, videos are projected with interviews with former officials and other experts who defend or criticize the method. "Water goes down my throat ... this is not simulation at all. This is torture ... you start to panic ... and then you start to drown, and then you start to numb. Because the water does not end until the interrogator wants to ask you a question. "The museum, in addition to presenting the technical aspects of espionage, also seeks to put on the table some of its moral dimensions.

The murder of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico

The ax with which the Catalan Ramón Mercader had murdered the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in 1940, Mexico. There has always been a curiosity about the whereabouts of the weapon chosen by the Barcelona spy in the service of the KGB, whose real identity was ignored until the 1950s. According to the collector H. Keith Melton, who donated his entire collection to the museum, he found it in Mexico City after several unsuccessful trips in search of the pickaxe that Stalin's order crossed the skull of the founder of the Red Army.

Ana Alicia Salas, a Mexican, showed the homicidal tool during a conference with the intention of charging a "ridiculous" figure. She said that she had inherited it from her father, chief of police and that she had kept it under her bed for forty years. Nobody bought the piece then, but the war veteran, after three years of negotiation, managed to reach an agreement.

The question remains whether it is the real one. Melton is convinced of this by a series of factors: the mountaineering instrument is engraved with the seal of the Austrian manufacturer Werkgen Fulpmes, who only produced a few models in 1928; retains the mark of the bloodstained fingerprint on the same spot as seen in the photograph of the press conference that was offered after the murder; and an article published in the press in 1946 tells that Salas's father exhibited the tool in a museum, presenting it as Mercader's criminal weapon.

https://www.spymuseum.org

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