Tony & Jonna Mendez

Tony & Jonna Mendez

  • Author of Argo
  • Retired and Decorated CIA Officers
  • Painter, Lecturer and Consultant

Tony Mendez is a retired CIA officer, an author and an award-winning painter with an international reputation. He lives and works in his studios and gallery on his forty-acre farm in rural Maryland.

In 1965 CIA's Technical Services Division recruited him. Born in the loneliest town on the loneliest road in America, Eureka, Nevada, Tony led two lives. For 25 years he worked under cover, often overseas, participating in some of the most important operations of the Cold War. To his friends he was a quiet bureaucrat working for the U.S. military. To the CIA he was their disguise master. From Wild West adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow he was there.

He moved into the CIA's executive rank over the course of his career. Mendez and his subordinates were responsible for changing the identity and appearance of thousands of clandestine operatives, allowing them to move securely around the world.

In January 1980 he was awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor for engineering and conducting the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the hostage crisis. This rescue operation involved creating an ostensible Hollywood film production company, complete with personnel, scripts, publicity and real estate in LA.

When Mendez retired in November 1990 he had earned the CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit and two Certificates of Distinction. Seven years later, in September 1997 on the fiftieth anniversary of the CIA, he was one of fifty officers chosen from the tens of thousands who had worked at CIA over its first fifty years awarded the Trailblazer Medallion. This honor recognized him as an "officer who by his actions, example, or initiative helped shape the history of the CIA."

He published his first book, The Master of Disguise, in November 1999. Since then Mendez has appeared in various national media to include twenty-two documentaries. In September 2002 he published his second book with his wife Jonna entitled "Spy Dust." Warner Brothers has made a feature film based on the rescue of the hostages out of the Canadian embassy in Tehran. The film, called ARGO, which stars and was directed by Ben Affleck, opened nationally in October 2012 and won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Tony's book, ARGO: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, was published prior to the film's release.

Mendez continues to paint, to lecture and consult to the U.S. Intelligence Community. He has published articles in their journals and he and his wife are founding board members of the International Spy Museum in Washington DC.

At the 60th Anniversary of CIA's Office of Technical Service, Tony Mendez's parent organization, General David Petraeus, former Director of Central Intelligence called out Tony as one of three OTS officers in sixty years who had made a difference in how the CIA did its work. That, combined with plaudits from four previous Directors of Central Intelligence in reviewing his new book, ARGO, lends credence to his innovative spirit and courage.

Jonna Hiestand Mendez

Jonna Hiestand Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with 27 years of service, living under cover and serving tours of duty in Europe, South Asia and the Far East.

She joined the CIA's Office of Technical Service in early 1970 and within a few years was overseas as a Technical Operations Officer with a specialty in clandestine photography. Her duties included training the CIA's most highly placed foreign assets in the use of spy cameras and processing the intelligence they gathered.

Retiring in 1993, she had risen to the position of Chief of Disguise and the rank of GS-14 earning the CIA's Intelligence Commendation Medal. Since that time she has continued her career as a fine art photographer, a consultant/lecturer and an author. Today she works in her photo studio at the family gallery in rural Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. Jonna's photography can be viewed at:

She and her husband, Antonio J. Mendez, have collaborated on a book about their work against the Soviets in Moscow during the last decade of the Cold War. The title of the book is "Spy Dust."

Jonna works for Counter-Intelligence Center, where she is a professor teaching intelligence courses. She and her husband also teach to the intelligence community, including NSA and The Defense Intelligence Agency. Together the Mendez' have participated in over twenty-two television documentaries on a variety of channels to include Discovery, History and PBS.

Jonna is a founding board member at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C and also serves as Vice President of the La Gesse Foundation, presenting American pianists in Europe and at Carnegie Hall. She is on the board of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, MD.

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