Cloak and dagger world of spies exposed in NYC show

Fri May 18, 2012 1:24pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The mysterious cloak and dagger world of international espionage and its real-life heros and villains are exposed in a new exhibition, the first to be sanctioned by U.S. intelligence agencies.

"Spy, the Secret World of Espionage," which opens at the Discovery Times Square on Friday, includes hundreds of artifacts, some from the vaults of the CIA and FBI and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

They range from a World War Two-era collapsible motorbike that could be dropped by parachute and deployed in 10 seconds and a German ENIGMA machine to create secret messages to a camel saddle used by one of the first CIA agents in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks to bugging devices, microdots and surveillance equipment.

"This is the first and only time these items will ever travel. It is kind of an unparalleled cooperation and collaboration with the CIA and FBI," said H. Keith Melton, an author, intelligence historian and expert on spy technology who contributed items from his own collection.

The interactive exhibit, which will travel to 10 U.S. cities, offers a glimpse into a part of history and a secret world peopled with real-life agents, who Melton says are often completely misdefined by Hollywood and are nothing like James Bond.

"Pop culture is about two things -- assassination and seduction. The real world is about information and communication. The sad thing is information and communication don't sell movies," said Melton.

"James Bond wouldn't last four minutes in the real world."

Melton, the author of several books on espionage including "Ultimate Spy," has spent decades gathering unusual spying gadgets from Germany, Russia, Mexico, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the Czech Republic that explain what espionage is.   Continued...