Former CIA Chief of Disguise, Author, Speaker
Jonna Mendez Bio
Jonna Hiestand Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with 27 years of service. She joined the Central Intelligence Agency in Europe in 1966 and lived under cover for several decades, serving tours of duty in Europe, the Far East, and the Subcontinent, as well as at CIA Headquarters. In 1970 she joined CIA’s Office of Technical Service, which closely resembled “Q” in the Bond films. Her duties included preparing the agency’s most highly placed foreign assets to gather high priority intelligence using subminiature spy cameras and other espionage technology and techniques.
Recognized as a future leader early on, Jonna was selected for an exclusive yearlong program designed for officers with high potential. She took these skills overseas, adding disguise and identity transformation to her extensive roster of skills. Returning to Langley in 1986, she was assigned to Denied Area Operations for disguise, focusing her efforts on the most difficult and hostile areas where she and her colleagues matched wits with the KGB, the East German Stasi and the Cuban DGI. She was promoted to Chief of Disguise in 1991 where she ran a multi-million-dollar program with staff positioned around the world. She retired from the government in 1993.
Since retirement Jonna and her husband have written several books, to include Spy Dust, ARGO, and The Moscow Rules. During the pandemic she began her next book, In True Face, A Woman’s Life in the CIA, Undisguised, that will be published in March 2024 during Women’s History Month.
Over her career, Jonna has briefed Presidents and Prime Ministers and lectured extensively at colleges and universities, ranging from WestPoint to the Sorbonne in Paris, and multiple US intelligence agencies, including CIA. She has also been featured in numerous TV documentaries and on-line media, one of which has been seen over 22 million times. In June 23 she received the prestigious DAR Patriot Award for “lifelong service to America in the defense of freedom.” Most recently she spoke at Las Alamos National Laboratories.
Jonna is also a founding member of the Advisory board of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.