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CIA Museum unveils weapons

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It’s a well-known fact that being a spy takes hard work, determination and a lot of gadgets. And we all know James Bond wouldn’t have got anywhere without his garrotte watch (used on Red Grant in From Russia With Love, if you’re asking).

To us mere mortals it’s the sort of stuff we can only dream about but at least we can have a look at the CIA Museum's archive of spy weaponry. Here are some of the best and most innovative gadgets from the past.


Despite sounding like a child’s sugary medicine, the Caltrop, or tyre spike, could in fact be the perfect weapon. No matter how it is tossed, it will land with one of its four prongs pointing up – in other words it will deflate any tyre it comes into contact with.

Escape and evasion map

The rustle of paper can be a massive giveaway, particularly if you’re hiding out in enemy lines. Luckily, this map comes printed on silk, which means it doesn’t make any of those tell-tale noises. It can also be folded up to be easily concealed and it’s printed with waterproof dyes so the colours won’t run when wet. It can’t be used as a cravat.

The enigma machine

First invented during World War I, the enigma machine is an iconic device used for cracking incoming messages and codes, as well as encrypting outgoing messages to confuse the enemy. It looks dead nice, too. See?

Letter removal device

If you had visions of spies steaming envelopes to read secret letters, then think again. This isn’t The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole… This is warfare. In World War II, in order to read letters without actually opening the envelope, a Letter Removal Device (catchy) was inserted into the envelope to extract the letter using pincers, then pulled through the unsealed gap at the top.

Microdot camera

This Microdot camera is pretty unbelievable. So that messages could be passed undetected, whole pages of information could be reduced to the size of a full stop. Microdots were also hidden in other things such as rings and hollow coins. And you thought your remote control was easy to misplace.

Minox camera

Back in the day, the Minox subminiature camera was the world’s most widely used spy snapper. Created by Walter Zapp, a Latvian engineer, the device fits easily into the palm of the hand but could take high quality, spontaneous pictures. When it first became available, it was considered a marvel of technology.

Tobacco pouch camera

One of the more Bourne-esque style weapons, this miniature 35mm was originally manufactured in Switzerland and was constructed so that it was concealed in a modified tobacco pouch. A spring-wound mechanism moved the film on between exposures.

Bodyworn surveillance equipment

A spy’s clothing was one of the most important tools for gathering intelligence in hostile environments and outfits would have built-in equipment for recording information. Although we have to admit it's pretty nifty, Inspector Gadget it's not.

Images: CIA Museum, Rex Features

You can see more of the images on the CIA Museum’s Flickr stream here.



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