Photo: Erik Cox Photography/Shutterstock

International Spy Museum To Fix Its Highly Controversial Torture Exhibit

Museums News
Photo: Erik Cox Photography/Shutterstock
Eben Diskin
Jan 10, 2020

The International Spy Museum in Washington DC is coming under fire for its controversial torture exhibit. Three Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — Dianne Feinstein, Martin Heinrich, and Ron Wyden — accused the musem last month of “misrepresenting” and “sanitizing” the CIA’s torture program, and requested that further context be added to the exhibit that takes into account the program’s actual effectiveness.

The museum’s president, Tamara Christian, responded with her own letter addressing the senators’ concerns. “The new exhibit,” she said, in reference to upcoming renovations, “will focus more broadly on the history of interrogation, to include both coercive methods (physical and psychological) and non-coercive methods (such as rapport building) […] We also intend to add content on scientific and technical innovations to detect deceit (to include a polygraph artifact), as well as legal definitions of torture.”

Right now, the exhibit focuses on centuries-old physical torture methods, as well as waterboarding techniques used by the CIA post-9/11. Experts, however, have criticized the museum for its depiction of waterboarding and other techniques, and its failure to present visitors with research-based information that discredits the effectiveness of these brutal methods, and with the crucial information that torture is banned under the Geneva Conventions. According to Buzzfeed News, the current exhibit also includes “a poll asking visitors if they would support torturing suspected terrorists.”

Christian’s letter also promises that the new exhibit will feature an expanded timeline of the CIA program to place torture in a more accurate historical context.

The changes are due to be implemented by March 2020.

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