We’re trying to give the visitor an impression of both how this could disrupt the electro-magnetic spectrum, as well as affect things such as the electrical grid, and if they did do that, the possible consequences of that. And, of course, we can imagine a society with no electrical power, or electrical power down on perhaps on the east or west coast.
According to the museum’s press release, “through the use of multi-media, Weapons of Mass Disruption imagines the potential devastating impact of a coordinated attack. A successful cyber strike on America’s power grid could include blackouts, the breakdown of water and sewage treatment capabilities, the crippling of transport and communications systems (including those of the military), the uncontrollable spread of epidemic diseases, the near-total cessation of economic activity, and widespread civil unrest bordering on chaos.”
Earnest says the exhibit isn’t as alarmist as it may sound. “The idea here is not to be scary. The idea is to say ‘Look,’ and this is one of the roles of intelligence after all, is to say ‘look, this is what’s out there. These are threats. These are the possible consequences.’ And I think anyone concerned about national security wants to be aware of those, and I think that’s true of the public as well.”
In asking “could power lines turn into battle lines?”, Earnest says the museum looks at not only who could be behind cyberattacks, but what they could stand to gain.
We’re trying to give the public an awareness of, what is in effect, a huge, almost vacuum cleaner-like, effort to collect intelligence on our country, our computer systems, computer networks both in the government – Pentagon, Department of Defense – as well as the private sector. You know about 90% of the utilities and public transportation and communications and so forth in this country are owned by the private sector. Those are among the very things under attack.
The International Spy Museum is open from 9:30 to 6:00 and is located at 800 F Street, NW.