Former CIA couple in effort to ‘un-demonize’ agency

Tony Mendez

Mendez in 1990

A husband-and-wife CIA team, who married after retiring from the agency, after a collective career spanning over half a century, are speaking around the country in an effort to “humanize [and] un-demonize the CIA”. Antonio (Tony) and Jonna Mendez joined the agency in the 1960s, and spent the next 25 years at the CIA’s Office of Technical Services. Tony was eventually promoted to Chief of Disguise, and later Chief of the Graphics and Authentication Division, whose mission is –among other tasks– transforming the identities of CIA field operatives, by supplying them with high-quality forged documentation for use in their various missions. In 1997, he was honored by the CIA as one of the “50 trailblazers” in the agency’s history. Jonna Mendez worked for 27 years as a spy camera expert, and was tasked with training CIA officers in the use of covert technologies. After their retirement, the husband-and-wife team were called by the agency to enter the lecture circuit and chronicle their undercover careers in places like Germany, India and Thailand, in an effort to ‘humanize’ the secretive agency. The two former agents’ latest book is Spy Dust, which recounts their intelligence work in the USSR in the 1980s, and their personal relationship which eventually ended in marriage. Their most recent speaking engagement was at the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Florida, on May 4, where they gave a lecture entitled “Disguise, Deception and Illusion: CIA Masters of Magic”. A local news report on their talk can be accessed here.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

One Response to Former CIA couple in effort to ‘un-demonize’ agency

  1. Kohji says:

    I have read his first book, it is a fast read and interesting.

    Like many such memoirs, it leaves out as much as it puts in perhaps.


    The CIA has a generally good reputation right now because of one thing: Obama. People did not like Bush and the left wing turned to crazy rhetoric while Bush was in office. That is politics in the US is a mess and it is tied to European politics.

    What the Free World lacks is the sort of propaganda the Soviet Union had. It is a sort of limp wristed, “Do not mettle” attitude. There is no straight line. For kids, there is a straight line. Kids glorify spies. Spies fight criminals, terrorists, and tyrants.

    In the RW, too often, this does not come out. People too often see a blurred line. Tyrants, terrorists, and criminals are glorified. Their real nature is kept a mystery to the general public so doubt is allowed to remain.

    Spies, by nature, have to deal with moral hard calls. But it should not be as it has been, where the bad guys get all the say, and the good guys are silent.

    These means better positive action, as well as better exposure of the criminal nature of tyrannical nations. What if Hitler had been exposed properly? What if.

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