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CHIPS Articles: National Counterintelligence and Security Center Unveils “Wall of Spies Experience” Museum

National Counterintelligence and Security Center Unveils “Wall of Spies Experience” Museum
Espionage from the American Revolution to the Cyber Revolution
By NCSC Newsroom - October 4, 2019
“From the American Revolution to the cyber revolution, spies among us have caused lasting damage to our national security,” said NCSC Director William Evanina. “And just as our adversaries and the threats we face continue to evolve, counterintelligence and security professionals – as custodians of our nation’s secrets – must evolve as well. Vigilance, resolve and the capacity to understand and learn from the lessons of the past are the foundations for safeguarding our future.”

The Wall of Spies Experience consists of several distinct elements and includes more than 200 stories of espionage and sabotage from our country’s founding to contemporary times. Key elements of the museum include the following:

The museum’s central exhibit, the “Wall of Spies,” provides detailed accounts of more than 135 spies who betrayed America from the Revolutionary War to the 21st Century. While not a full accounting of every espionage case during this period, the wall provides key insights into the motivation and tradecraft of spies. Broken down by era, this display covers the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the “Golden Age of Soviet Espionage,” the Cold War and post-Cold War.

The “John Jay Wall” tells the story of how John Jay, one of America’s founding fathers, a drafter of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the United States, led the first major American counterintelligence operation, including the unravelling of a British plot to kidnap or kill General George Washington.

The “Soviet Wall of Shame” highlights six high-ranking Soviets who spied for the West and changed the course of the Cold War. These spies were heroes to the West, but among the most damaging in history to the Soviet Union. Five of the spies were caught and executed by the Soviet Union, but the sixth survived after a daring escape and is today living overseas.

The museum also features a display of 39 images of Cold War-era espionage concealment devices, as well as an espionage video loop with historical footage of 17 espionage and sabotage stories in America. These videos range from the German sabotage of a U.S. weapons depot in 1917 to the FBI’s “Operation Ghost Stories” investigation into Russian illegals in America that culminated in 2010.

There is also a collection of more than 50 historical espionage artifacts on loan from the FBI, CIA, NSA and private collections. In addition, the museum includes an Espionage Library consisting of more than 120 espionage books, roughly half of which were used in research for the Wall of Spies.

Other elements of the Wall of Spies Experience are the “Did You Know Wall” and the “Wall of Spies Continued.” The former contains interesting espionage stories not covered in detail on the Wall of Spies. The Wall of Spies Continued is where NCSC will update the museum with recent or new espionage cases that meet the threshold of significant damage to national security.

The Wall of Spies Experience also includes wall-size maps of the greater Washington, D.C., area and New York City identifying 39 locations involving significant spying episodes.

Finally, NCSC is breaking ground on the “Digital Wall of Spies” today to help transition from the physical to the digital. NCSC will begin posting the current material from these exhibits – plus additional spy stories, images and the video loop – on https://intelligence.gov/wall-of-spies in phases over the coming months. This website will help ensure the public can access and learn from materials in the Wall of Spies Experience, even if they can’t physically visit the museum.

The new museum has a history dating back more than a decade. In 2004, a founder of the International Spy Museum and a former CIA officer donated what was known as the “Wall of Shame” to NCSC’s predecessor organization, the Office of the National Counter-Intelligence Executive (ONCIX). The Wall of Shame consisted of 72 American and foreign spies discovered from the 1930s to 2004.

In 2017, NCSC decided to update the Wall of Shame with a much broader vision that would document and display the history of espionage and sabotage in the United States in a modern way and in keeping with museum-quality standards. After two and a half years of research and analysis, NCSC completed the Wall of Spies Experience in September 2019.

National Counterintelligence and Security Center is a center within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. NCSC is the nation’s premier source for counterintelligence and security expertise and a trusted mission partner in protecting America against foreign and other adversarial threats.

A first look at the Wall of Spies, a special exhibit housed at the Intelligence Community Campus Bethesda, Maryland. NCSC photo
A first look at the Wall of Spies, a special exhibit housed at the Intelligence Community Campus Bethesda, Maryland. NCSC photo

A collection of artifacts, as well as a small library of books on espionage and counterintelligence, enrich The Wall of Spies Experience. NCSC photo
A collection of artifacts, as well as a small library of books on espionage and counterintelligence, enrich The Wall of Spies Experience. NCSC photo

The Soviet Wall of Shame details Soviets who spied for the West and who's efforts changed the course of the Cold War. NCSC photo
The Soviet Wall of Shame details Soviets who spied for the West and who's efforts changed the course of the Cold War. NCSC photo
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