Leading up to the release of Take the Bai Road, and the re-release of Bai Tide, I’ve started a blog series about various espionage terms. Today’s installment? An exploration of CIA Headquarters, which are actually pretty cool.
You know what’s annoying? The CIA won’t give authors a tour of their building. Wait. Scratch that. They will, if you’re a major headline-type author (I happen to know that several of the instructors at the 2014 ThrillerFest I went to got to go on a tour after the conference), but regular schmoes need not apply. I’ve asked the CIA’s entertainment liaison, just to confirm I’m not a big enough deal, yet. That’s a good goal, right, guys? To be a big enough deal as a writer to merit a tour of CIA Headquarters?
Anyway, the CIA’s Headquarters in Langley, Virginia are pretty cool. Not much of Bai Tide takes place there, but parts of Blood Money do, as do parts of Take the Bai Road. Here’s what you need to know about one of the more secretive workplaces in the country.
This is the Old Headquarters Building (or OHB for those in the know). It’s a feat of 1950’s architecture, the designers of which worked off DCI Allen Dulles’ vision of a college-like campus for officers to work in. It contains a whopping 1,400,000 square feet of space.
I’ve had to use a little creative license to imagine how that space is utilized. The CIA is understandably cagey about the layout of their building, but they do share some aspects of it. Like this awesome tile inlay on the lobby floor:
This seal is made of granite and measures sixteen feet across. The symbology of the seal is as follows: Eagle (Our national bird, it stands for strength and alertness) Sixteen-point star (Represents the convergence of intelligence data from around the world that all meets at a central point) Shield (Defense)
This is the Memorial Wall, which is on the north wall of the OHB lobby. Each of the 125 stars represents an intelligence officer who gave his or her life in service of the U.S., The criteria for inclusion on the wall is strict: “Inclusion on the Memorial Wall is awarded posthumously to employees who lose their lives while serving their country in the field of intelligence. Death may occur in the foreign field or in the United States. Death must be of an inspirational or heroic character while in the performance of duty; or as the result of an act of terrorism while in the performance of duty; or as an act of premeditated violence targeted against an employee, motivated solely by that employee’s Agency affiliation; or in the performance of duty while serving in areas of hostilities or other exceptionally hazardous conditions where the death is a direct result of such hostilities or hazards.”
That book you see in the middle of the Memorial Wall? It’s the CIA Book of Honor. It lists the names of 91 officers who died in service, and 34 stars to represent the lives of those whose identities must, even in death, remain a secret. Can you imagine passing this every day on your way in to work?
Also in the OHB is the CIA Library. It’s extensive, and makes a prominent appearance in Take the Bai Road. Imagine every research tool you’d need to understand or investigate something from a different part of the world and you’ll find it in there.
The OHB is also home to several thoughtful memorials, a portrait gallery of directors past, a gallery of U.S. presidents, a museum filled with important items from the CIA’s storied past, and an art collection. It’s massive, and from what I’ve read, each new employee gets a tour their first day.
Now this is the New Headquarters Building, or NHB. By the 1980’s the CIA was bursting at the seams so they built this. It is two six-story office towers built into a hillside behind the OHB and the entrance is actually on the fourth floor.
They weren’t kidding about the college campus. The entire Headquarters property occupies 258 acres of land, and much of it is landscaped like this.
This is just one of many art installations on the CIA campus. It’s called Kryptos. Found at the entrance of the NHB, it contains complicated codes that apparently still have not fully been cracked.
Believe it or not, there actually is a Starbucks in CIA Headquarters. The first chapter of Take the Bai Road takes place there, as a matter of fact. Don’t believe me? Read this article on “Store Number 1.”
If you want more, the CIA’s website has a photo tour of their headquarters that’s a lot of fun. Feel free to take a look and let me know what captured your interest!
Did you enjoy this post? If so, be sure to order a copy of one of my books for more in-depth looks at the fascinating world of espionage!