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21.02.2014
From the author of Argo comes an unforgettable behind-the-scenes story of espionage in action.
Mendez, a 25-year CIA operative who rose to the position of "Chief of Disguise," works hard to demystify the workings of Cold War spy culture.
On the 50th anniversary of the CIA, author Mendez was named one of the 50 all-time stars of the spy trade.
The retired, highly decorated chief of disguise for the CIA highlights his adventurous 25-year career. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Though he alludes romantically to the agency's work as "a domain of shadows" in his introduction, his approach to this memoir is mostly pragmatic (fans of Robert Ludlum-type spy stories should stick with fiction).
There is no place where espionage is not used.--Sun TzuThe Blue Ridge Mountains, Maryland, August 21,1997. Mendez reveals the cunning tricks and insights that helped save hundreds from deadly situations.Adept at creating new identities for anyone, anywhere, Mendez was involved in operations all over the world, from "Wild West" adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow.
Recruited in the 1960s for his skills as an artist, he worked first on forging documents of foreign governments. Although he began making counterfeit identity papers, he eventually branched out, bringing techniques developed in Hollywood to espionage.


In 1980, he orchestrated the escape of six Americans from a hostage situation in revolutionary Tehran, Iran. He then ventured into the field, creating disguises to help "exfiltrate" spies from enemy territory.
His greatest feat may have been engineering the escape of the six Americans from Tehran who'd taken refuge in the Canadian Embassy during the 1980 crisis. I wait tensely on the concrete observation deck of the sweltering airport terminal, peering down at the tarmac through a thickening haze. Mendez claims not, defending his work as part of a very real "war." Reader Hill, a longtime Brilliance veteran, manages to translate ably the sense of awe that Mendez experienced as he learned the tools of his trade.
More important, he makes the events sound credible and real, aided by Mendez's clear-eyed descriptive writing style.
An Aeroflot IL-62 arrives from Tashkent and lumbers up to the gate directly below.My pulse suddenly surges.
The operations plan called for the subject and his CIA escort to have left on the continuation of the delayed TWA flight at least an hour ago, for a very good reason. We wanted them out of here before the Aeroflot landed, with its inevitable ground retinue of KGB gumshoes.The subject is a KGB defector who simply walked into our Station ten days earlier.
Now, waiting down in the steamy, crowded departure hall, will he panic and run when he hears the Soviet flight announced?I glance over the mildewed cement barrier.


It lands, taxis down the runway, and finally stops at the far end of the poorly lit parking apron.The haze thickens--"smit," the old Asian hands call it, ground-hugging "smoke from shit" from the millions of cow dung cooking fires burning in villagesacross the subcontinent.
My task is to confirm that our subject and his escort officer "Jacob," my partner in this operation, safely board the continuation of the TWA flight. If I don't catch sight of them coming out of the terminal with the other passengers booked for the same flight, it could mean they have run into trouble at passport control.
That is where the alias documents and disguise I've helped create will be tested.Passengers emerge from the terminal, headed for the TWA plane, but I still don't see the subject and his escort. Is it possible that they have already bolted to the two getaway cars sitting at the dark end of the parking lot with their engines running?Whatever the outcome of the exfiltration operation, I have to pass a signal from the phone booth at the bottom of the stairway. I find myself descending the stairs with their chipped paint and wedging myself into the oven of the phone booth. I lift the receiver of the clumsy red Bakelite phone, put a brown coin in the slot, strike the cradle bar and release it. Damned colonial phone, a legacy of British rule that probably hasn't been maintained since the Raj folded the Union Jack.Again I jiggle the cradle.



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