Spy Bases: 9 Secretive HQs of the World’s Intelligence Agencies

cia_0By Robert Beckhusen

Architecture is a language, one used by institutions to say something about themselves.

The same basic principle is true for the world’s spy agencies. All show their secrecy in their buildings, while some may appear starkly utilitarian, and some may even be frightening and alienating. But they also have their quirks and differences, whether it be an isolated complex hidden by trees, in a location that’s never been officially disclosed, or a prominent complex built by superstar architects and put on prominent display in the middle of a capital city.

From Virginia to Berlin to Moscow, here are only a few of them. Then visit the Read More Link to see the other remaining buildings. Very interesting and just think of the things they don’t advertise to the public.. The truth is stranger that fiction.

United States: Central Intelligence Agency

Protected from prying eyes by a wooded belt in suburban Langley, Virginia, just northwest of Washington, D.C., the complex is actually two sets of buildings connected to a central core, with each set built at different times. The first half of the building and designed by New York architecture firm Harrison and Abramovitz — who had a role in designing the United Nations headquarters — dates back to 1963. It’s a sign of its times, and built from sterile pre-fabricated concrete. Though the Headquarters Auditorium (seen at top), also known as “The Bubble” took its cue from post-war futurism. But by the 1980s, the agency was running out of space. Today, the complex is much larger, with an added west wing of two glass office towers, designed by Detroit architects Smith, Hinchman & Grylls in the 1980s.

The CIA also has a penchant for art and assorted knick-knacks. The agency has a chunk of the Berlin Wall on display, and an A-12 Oxcart spy plane. There’s a museum inside the building with all sorts of weird memorabilia inside, from a robotic fish to a Cold War-era mini-submarine (seen above). Outside the cafeteria on the grounds of the headquarters’ new wing is the copper sculpture Kryptos, containing 869 encrypted characters on four plates. The final plate, with its 97 characters, is still unbroken.

United States: National Security Agency

There are clear views of the National Security Agency’s headquarters off the Patuxent Freeway, just skirting Fort Meade, Maryland, about 15 miles southwest of Baltimore. But we wouldn’t advise getting any closer, as the NSA is the highly secretive agency responsible for the U.S. government’s codebreaking and collecting communications from around the world. The NSA’s headquarters also fits the part, rising blank and expressionless above a desert of parking lots. Completed in 1986, it resembles a collection of stubby, black, reflective monoliths like from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And according to the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the complex has an estimated 10 acres of underground space.


But like the CIA during the Cold War, the NSA in recent years has outgrown its own building. Fort Meade altogether has grown extremely rapidly as defense agencies relocate there and the NSA boosts its Cyber Command headquarters. Defense and government contractors now have offices surrounding the place, and contract and government jobs have surged, largely due to growth at the base more generally, and partly because of growth at the NSA. The Baltimore Business Journal reported that the base is expected to add an eye-popping 42,500 jobs by the end of the decade. The Defense Department even paved over part of the base’s golf course for the headquarters of the Defense Media Activity organization, the Pentagon’s media wing. Hopefully the Pentagon and the NSA will include a lot more parking.

United Kingdom: Secret Intelligence Service


There’s perhaps no spy headquarters more recognizable than the SIS Building, headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6. It’s not only smack-dab in the middle of London, but has been featured in six James Bond movies, and blown up in two of them. Designed by architect Terry Farrell, the structure has been compared to a cross between a Babylonian ziggurat and a power plant. And it’s built like a veritable fortress, capable of withstanding bomb attacks. There are also reportedly extensive underground areas.

It’s also put its defenses to use. In September 2000, militants suspected to be from the Real Irish Republican Army — a splinter faction of the Irish paramilitary group — fired a rocket-propelled grenade round at the building’s eighth floor, causing no injuries. In a demonstration of just how heavily armored the building is, the rocket reportedly bounced off a glass window.

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