Hollywood Movies Sparked 'Intelligence Arms Race'

From cigarette guns to cameras in insects, what every spy needs.

January 08, 2009, 1:46 AM

June 21, 2006— -- James Bond had a watch that could shoot lasers. Ethan Hunt of "Mission Impossible" had explosive chewing gum. Agent 86 of "Get Smart" had, well, a telephone in his shoe.

So not all spy gadgets are perfect, as Steve Carrell's new movie "Get Smart," based on the 1960s spy spoof series, is quick to point out; but all have one thing in common: They are really, really cool.

Many audience members can remember going through two distinct emotions after watching James Bond float around in a jet pack in "From Russia with Love" -- wonder followed directly by acute jealousy.

Luckily, as tourists of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., can surely point out, many of these outlandish spy gadgets do actually exist. And others can be easily purchased.

Peter Earnest, executive director of the museum, told ABCNews that during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States got caught up in an "intelligence arms race" that was inspired, at times, by Hollywood.

"My understanding was the KGB ... that the Soviet intelligence service, would see 'Mission Impossible' and assume American intelligence had these things and would run to their managers and say, 'Why don't we have that?'" Earnest said.

And U.S. operatives were on the job, too.

"We had one, clear goal in mind, only one, and it is, 'We make a device that works for the case officer and for the agent,'" said Robert Wallace, who used to work for the CIA's Office of Technical Service, meaning he was the real-life equivalent to James Bond's technical wizard "Q."

Though the devices were not always extremely practical, they never lacked creativity, as Wallace demonstrated on "Good Morning America" with a camera that was hidden inside a life-sized mechanical dragonfly, making it a tiny unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle.

While it may be hard to come by a dragonfly spy plane at the nearest Radio Shack, today many formerly top secret gadgets, like voice scramblers, spy shades and hidden safes, are available to the public. Not to mention satellite imaging, which only in the past few years has become accessible by nearly anyone thanks to programs like Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth.

There was a plethora of fun spy gear showcased on "Good Morning America" today, bound to make you channel your inner-James Bond. There was a pen that- surprise!- held a hidden computer USB drive. For those top-secret phone calls you want to make, there was a voice changer, and software to upload on someone's new iPhone so that you always know their location. Best for all budgets was a plain peanut butter jar that doubled as a secret safe! All were from the International Spy Shop.

But for true "Get Smart" fans, the dream will not be complete until they are decked out in a tuxedo, limping awkwardly around a casino, sloshing a vodka martini with one hand and holding their shoe firmly against their ear with the other.

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