"The CIA is not in the habit of discussing its clandestine operations, but the agency’s purpose is clear enough. As then-chief James Woolsey said in a 1994 speech to former intelligence operatives: “What we really exist for is stealing secrets.” [...]
That is why by 1955, and probably earlier, the CIA created a special unit to perform what the agency calls “surreptitious entries.” This unit was so secret that few people inside CIA headquarters knew it existed; it wasn’t even listed in the CIA's classified telephone book. Officially it was named the Special Operations Division, but the handful of agency officers selected for it called it the Shop.
[...] in the 1980s and early ’90s, the Shop occupied a nondescript one-story building just south of a shopping mall in the Washington suburb of Springfield, Virginia. The building was part of a government complex surrounded by a chain-link fence; the pebbled glass in the windows let in light but allowed no view in or out. The men and women of the Shop made up a team of specialists: lock pickers, safecrackers, photographers, electronics wizards and code experts. One team member was a master at disabling alarm systems, another at flaps and seals. Their mission, put simply, was to travel the world and break into other countries’ embassies to steal codes"
Jack King's new novel: The Black Vault