Gallery: Covert Action

Discover the age-old techniques leaders use to secretly influence events abroad. Find out about the covert mission failures and successes-from sabotage to lethal action. 


  • Sabotage - Disrupt. Delay. Destroy. What is the potential and the danger in sabotage operations? This exhibit includes stories about Operation Gunnerside, the WWII Allied effort to prevent Germans from building a nuclear bomb, and Opération Satanique, an attempt by French Intelligence to disable Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior. Visitors also encounter ninjas, the WWII submarine the Sleeping Beauty, an array of sabotage artifacts, and can avoid detection by crawling through an Air Duct

  • Deception - A magician’s misdirection. A forger’s fakery. A poker player’s bluff. Spotlight classic deception techniques used to make a force appear stronger than its enemy, or to hide in plain sight—strategies still used today.

  • Lethal Action - Targeted killing. Wet jobs. Assassinations. Eliminations. Learn the deadly plots in which governments eliminate spies, operatives, dissidents, or enemies of the state.

  • Secret Soldiers -  Learn about the 1960s failed CIA Bay of Pigs operation and the successful 1980s Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan. 

  • Undermining Nations - How can a nation secretly undermine a rival’s political or economic system? This exhibit covers the Sidney Reilly and Robert Lockhart plot to overthrow the Bolshevik regime and the Nazis’ Operation Bernhard to wreck Britain’s economy during WWII through counterfeit money

  • Propaganda - What is fake news? This exhibit includes examples of government attempts to manipulate public opinion across history, from Ancient Egypt to the 2016 US presidential election.

  • Exfiltration - How do spy agencies undertake risky missions to rescue hostages or bring defectors to safety? Here, visitors can discover the story of the Canadian Caper (ARGO) from the CIA officer who carried it out: Tony Mendez.

Trotsky Ice Axe

On display

The assassination of Leon Trotsky was known as the crime of the century when it occurred in Mexico in 1940. This ice-climbing axe used in the assassination was missing for decades before it resurfaced in 2005. It was recently donated to the Spy Museum courtesy of H. Keith Melton and features in the Lethal Action exhibit.