Defense Intelligence Agency Museum – Washington, D.C. - Atlas Obscura

Defense Intelligence Agency Museum

Amid the sprawling Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters is one of the Smithsonian’s least accessible museums.  

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The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Museum tells the story of the agency’s nearly 60 years of rooting out the world’s military secrets. 

The DIA is one of the country’s “big five” intelligence services and acts as a combat support agency. It’s focused mission is made clear at the entrance of the museum, which one reaches after walking past an enormous red mural of major historical events in a giant foyer.

Alongside notorious, and celebrated espionage relics are narrations about the villains and heroes in the annals of military history. Prominent among the displays is the story of DIA analyst Ana Belen Montes, who spied for Cuba from 1985 to 2001 and the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

Additionally, during the final decade of the Cold War, the DIA was known for its annual publication of Soviet Military Power, which gave a public account of the U.S.S.R.’s military capability. Reportedly, the most avid readers of the magazine were Soviet military leaders who were unable to get information about their own military. On display with editions of the DIA publication is the Soviet response journal, Whence the Threat to Peace, which was published only once.

While other spy museums in the nation’s capital get more attention, lucky visitors to the DIA Museum will get an uncompromised look at authentic spycraft. However, you won’t be able to just walk into this museum, as the only way to view its clandestine contents is if escorted by a DIA employee and with permission. 

Know Before You Go

Again, the DIA Museum is not open to the general public, but one may visit if escorted by a DIA employee.

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