Den of Spies: Legacy of US-Iran spy wars
Passport forgery tools, surveillance gadgets, shredding machines, encryption devices, secret drawers – if what Iran has been claiming since 1979 is true, then Tehran perhaps houses the most chilling relics of the ongoing US-Iran spy wars.
On Monday, Iran revived its hostile relationship with the American intelligence community – which goes back to 1979 –by claiming to have arrested 17 CIA spies and sentencing several of them to death.
On November 4, 1979, at the height of the Iranian Revolution, a group of Iranian students aligned with the newly-established anti-US Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini stormed the US embassy in central Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage – precipitating a 444-day-long hostage crisis.
Soon after, Tehran had claimed the storming of the complex exposed a sophisticated, clandestine CIA surveillance hideout based inside the main embassy building.
Hindustan Times visited the complex, which stopped operating as a US embassy since the storming in 1979. It had been maintained by the IRGC and was more recently turned into a museum of anti-American propaganda.
Locally known as ‘Den of Spies’ and ‘Museum Garden of Anti-Arrogance’, the place is now a repository of anti-US propaganda displayed in various forms – artistic murals on walls and stairwells, cheeky political cartoons on the courtyard, a prominent ‘Down With USA’ doormat, inflammatory anti-West slogans and a trove of allegedly CIA-linked relics discovered in 1979.
Inside the complex, which requires visitors to buy entry tickets to have a look at the exhibits, the key highlight is the main building – home to what Iranian authorities claim are remnants of the CIA’s state-of-the-art equipment that have been carefully preserved.
The so-called ‘Den of Spies’ is staffed with government-appointed experts help visitors take a look around and translate for them the captions on the exhibits, written in Persian.
Among the most interesting relics, as Iranian authorities would have us believe, is a corner desk with a typewriter, lots of documents, photo-paper, stationery, gadgets and canisters of chemicals. The curators claim that’s where CIA personnel used to make forged passports for undercover agents travelling in and out of Iran.
Also on display are secret drawers connecting separated office rooms, meant to keep the identities of intelligence officials exchanging materials hidden from one another, as the museum guides claim.
The building also houses a soundproof glass room, which the guides believe was used by the CIA to hold secret negotiations.
Aside from what are labelled as bugging devices, of various shapes and sizes, computers are exhibited, which Iranian curators say weren’t commercially available at the time when the CIA was using them.