When it comes to its fascination with the shadowy world of espionage, Washington certainly wears its heart on its sleeve. The business of spying seems to give a vicarious thrill to residents who can sometimes seem bereft of other passions. They certainly do have something to crow about. From alcoholic British traitors Kim Philby and Guy Burgess in the 1950s to recent FBI double agent Robert Hanssen, the city's park benches and shady street corners have played host to some stunning betrayals. Burgess used to stagger from bars loudly declaring he was a Soviet spy to anyone who would listen. No one did, apparently. The Russians, meanwhile, communicated with their agents through chalk marks on lampposts down busy Wisconsin Avenue. Then there is the presence of a US$35 billion (HK$273 billion) industry spanning the CIA, FBI and ultra-secretive National Security Agency, which between them employ an estimated 60,000 people in what remains by far the world's largest intelligence machine. But one of the most visible signs of the ongoing affection for espionage is the opening two weeks ago of the International Spy Museum. With US$40 million in private funding and an advisory board of some leading former spies and spy-masters, including former KGB veteran Oleg Kalugin, the museum has been packing them in. Not taking itself too seriously, the museum mixes sound-and-light shows and a touch of the tongue in cheek with some deadly serious exhibits. The Aston Martin driven by Sean Connery as James Bond 007 in Goldfinger can be found nestled amongst lipstick pistols used by the KGB and the Enigma code machine stolen by the British from a German submarine in World War II. There are rooms devoted to the US Civil War and the Russian Revolution and recreating the grey pavements of East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. In an attempt to broaden the historical sweep, Chinese military strategy master Sun Tzu's The Art of War is touted as proof of espionage as the second-oldest profession. The museum's opening gala night brought all manner of old operatives out of the cold. Werner Juretzko, who spent six years in an East German prison for espionage, praised the place but questioned the word 'spy'. 'We don't spy,' he told the Washington Post. 'We never did. We gather information.' He might have been tempted by the museum's official T-shirt: 'The International Spy Museum . . .I Was Never There.'