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Tuesday January 16, 2001

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Cleveland company's spy museum to unravel secrets of espionage

By The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - The secret is out: Some of James Bond's biggest fans were KGB agents.

But the Soviets weren't interested in how the fictional British spy liked his martinis or seduced femme fatales. The KGB thought Bond's goofy weapons were real and tried to keep pace by working on new gadgets like a lipstick gun.

That's just one secret of the cloak-and-dagger trade that a Cleveland company is revealing as it enters the hush-hush world of espionage by opening the International Spy Museum in Washington in February 2002.

The museum will cost $29 million and showcase thousands of years of espionage and international trickery, dating back to the Trojan horse.

"The real stories are more interesting than fiction," said Dennis Barrie, president of Malrite Co., which focuses on starting new museums.

Barrie, a former Smithsonian curator, was at the center of a controversy in 1990 when the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati opened an exhibit by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that included homoerotic shots. Prosecutors brought obscenity charges against the center and Barrie, but a jury acquitted them.

Malrite founder Milton Maltz, who was on a board of directors that helped bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to Cleveland, came up with the idea for the for-profit spy museum.

Maltz worked for the National Security Agency while in the Navy. While he described his intelligence work as "pretty mundane,'' Maltz said he has always been fascinated by the espionage world. The popularity of history-based TV shows and greater willingness by spy agencies to reveal secrets of the trade helped convince him that a museum would sell.

Barrie anticipates the museum will draw 500,000 visitors the first year.

''The world is mesmerized by spying. We've had even more interest in the subject than we anticipated," Maltz said.

Even the Central Intelligence Agency has nice things to say about the museum, though it cannot endorse commercial projects.

"We think that it's a good idea to better inform the public on the true mission of the CIA and intelligence gathering. Most of what's out there is Hollywood's perception and what you read in novels. The vast majority is not true," agency spokesman Tom Crispell said. "I think it will give individuals a more realistic understanding of what the intelligence business is all about."

Many ideas for the museum came from an advisory board of historians and former spies with the FBI, CIA and KGB. A couple of years ago, the ex-spies gathered to swap stories, Maltz said.

''Sometimes they would say, 'Is it still classified?' One side would tell their story and the other side's story would be different," Maltz said. "It was fabulous because it was spy versus spy."

Malrite has been collecting artifacts for the museum by buying items on the Internet and asking former agents for souvenirs from their careers.

Some of the material will come from H. Keith Melton, a historian who has a 6,000-piece collection of spy material. About 500 of Melton's items are at the CIA's headquarters, which has a small museum for employees and invited guests.

The new museum's prized possession is an Enigma machine used by the Nazis to encrypt top-secret messages.

Among the other attractions will be a "spy school," where visitors can learn how to bug a room, try on disguises and use spy cameras. Another exhibit will recreate the Berlin tunnel where agents eavesdropped on the Russians during the Cold War, while yet another will be a World War II codebreaking room where visitors will see the role espionage played in helping the D-Day invasion.

While the museum will address the careers of real-life spies such as Mata Hari and Julia Child (she did intelligence work in Asia during World War II), there will also be a nod to Bond and his colleagues from the world of movies and TV. That's because the real world influenced the entertainment industry and vice versa.

Barrie said the director of the CIA in the 1960s often watched TV's "Mission Impossible." He said that the day after the week's episode, the director would call those in charge of coming up with spying gadgets and tactics and ask, "Can we do that?"



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