The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA

4 Nov

The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA

The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA

Antonio J. Mendez

Language: English

Pages: 376

ISBN: 0060957913

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From the author of Argo comes an unforgettable behind-the-scenes story of espionage in action. In the first ever memoir by a top-level operative to be authorized by the CIA, Antonio J. 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. In 1980, he orchestrated the escape of six Americans from a hostage situation in revolutionary Tehran, Iran. This extraordinary operation inspired the movie Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck.

The Master of Disguise gives us a privileged look at what really happens at the highest levels of international espionage: in the field, undercover, and behind closed doors.





















no-passport-stamp trips we risked on urgent operations. In this case, the urgency had been clear as soon as the Secret IMMEDIATE NIACT cable had hit my Okinawa base thirty-six hours earlier, requesting the services of AN ARTIST/VALIDATOR [FORGER] ON-SITE IN VIENTIANE SOONEST. As Mark, the case officer who had sent the cable, drove me from the airport to this villa along a circuitous route, he briefed me on the urgent job I faced. “We’ve got one day—max—to complete some illicit alterations to

briefed at the local CIA base on the subtleties of the Special Branch before the actual exfiltration, so I wasn’t too worried. We had valid tourist visas and diligently completed all the entry forms presented to us. Immigration did not probe for what our real purpose might be beyond the word “tourism” we both scrawled on the paperwork. Our purgatory in the Immigration line was relatively brief compared to Customs, whose inspectors knew their jobs very well. They didn’t seem particularly

among the snake charmers, pony rides, magicians, and food stands selling spicy dishes made surveillance nearly impossible. Mac then briefed us on the status of the operation. NESTOR was still hidden at the safe house with Jacob and a preliminary debriefer from the Soviet-East European Division, who had flown in two days earlier. The vigilance of KGB and SB stakeouts at the international airports and border crossings had intensified in anticipation of NESTOR’s attempt to escape. SB surveillance

removed. His nose and cheeks, from his upper lip to his brow, were now covered with a material that obscured his vision. Forced to breathe through his mouth, he was clearly fighting off the claustrophobic panic that the loss of sight and normal breathing could induce. On the other side of the sink, “Andrew” was assisting me, stirring a special adhesive under a stream of warm water from the rusted tap, while “Hal,” the acting CIA chief in Tehran, sat tensely on the sofa, listening to the subdued

ornate archways of Mehrabad Airport and around the circular drive we stopped near the glass-and-concrete main terminal. We were right on schedule. After Andrew parked the car and deftly removed his disguise, we strolled into the terminal. Glancing around quickly, I felt optimistic. The hall was empty except for a few drowsy militants slouched on benches and some temporary revolutionary officials sipping tea at their counters. No one seemed to pay attention to the two foreigners who had just

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