MCLEAN, Va. (WVEC) -- It's a place you will only get to see if you work for the Central Intelligence Agency or are related to someone who does; even this work place has "family days."
Last Saturday, 13News Now got the rare opportunity to see a part of the CIA museum opened first in 1997 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the agency. It has since grown slowly through the extreme dedication of its director, Toni Hiley.
Hiley walks through countless covert CIA artifacts. The museum is filled with items that represent operations dating back to its inception when it was called the Office of Strategic Services. There are drones that look like dragonflies and reconnaissance fish. But, there are very few items in the CIA museum that are as meaningful to its current workforce than the ones from the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
"With 70 percent of our workforce having joined since 9/11, it's absolutely critical at this point in our history that we understand the officers that have gone before us," said Hiley.
Those officers helped gather the intelligence that led to the creation of this perfectly-scaled model of Usama bin Ladin's home in Abbottabad, Pakistan. That is how his name is spelled on the label that sits just outisde of the model in the museum. Next to the model is a brick from the building brought back from an operator. During the raid, US Navy SEALs removed his AKMS with fake Chinese markings. The model was built to full scale and SEALs used it to practice the raid. Hiley says, "they told me they felt like they had been there before" because they had practiced it so many times and it was built well.
Hiley wishes she could bring every American inside, but the museum is for CIA officers. It must remain that way for the officers' protection.
"I think the American people understand that we have to keep America's secrets and that many of the people who keep those secrets are undercover and that their identities have to be protected," Hiley said.
She has commissioned almost two dozen paintings of various moments in CIA operations history. Two in the collection were painted by a current intelligence officer named "Deborah." We have covered her last name on the painting for her protection.
"We wanted a female artist represented in the collection and we wanted an agency artist and we got both," says Hiley.
Deborah painted a moment from Operation Argo. It was the same operation that inspired the Ben Affleck's movie where retired officer Tony Mendez orchestrated the release of six American Diplomats in 1980, by sneaking into Iran as movie producers. Click here for more details.
"This painting collection takes us to where we cannot go. This agency has always been about going to where others cannot go."
The most recent painting represents the first American flight over the Soviet Union in a U2 aircraft. But the painting couldn't be done accurately without finding the exact model of the U2. Even though the exact aircraft sits in the Smithsonian, its interior was converted from a U2-A to a U2-C. Hiley went on the hunt for the exact cockpit. She tried the Air Force with no luck. She tried Lockheed who built it with no luck. She tried archive after archive, finally to be sent to Beale Air Force Base in California where the pilot's manual for a U2-A sat in the safe. She thanked the AFB's historian for sending it and years later, the artist went to work.
Click here to view the CIA Museum's online collection.
Web Extra: Inside the CIA Museum with Tonie Hiley