The Burn Bag Podcast

"In True Face": A Conversation with Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise

March 22, 2021 Episode 48
The Burn Bag Podcast
"In True Face": A Conversation with Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise
Chapters
The Burn Bag Podcast
"In True Face": A Conversation with Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise
Mar 22, 2021 Episode 48

On this week’s episode of the Burn Bag, we talk to Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, about her work in the CIA. Mendez discusses her reasons for joining the agency, her time as an intelligence officer, and the history behind the Office of Technical Service (OTS). She analyzes the successes and failures of the products that the OTS produced and delves into the measures she and others had to take to thwart intelligence services in Russia, Cuba, and other areas where CIA assets were active. Jonna highlights the importance of human intelligence, revealing to us what the relationship was like between officer and agent, and speculates on how this form of intelligence may have changed given technological advances. We also chat to Jonna about the intricacies of the disguises she made, and why the "Tom Cruise peel" from Mission Impossible should be the "Jonna Mendez peel" -- as she details a famous meeting she had with President George H.W. Bush in which she demonstrated the efficacy of facial masks. We close the conversation with a discussion about the true story behind Academy Award winning movie Argo -- as Jonna talks about her late husband Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) and his role in the Canadian Caper operation during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980.

Jonna will be releasing a new book, "In True Face", in the near future, and you can check out more of her work and her writing here.

Show Notes

On this week’s episode of the Burn Bag, we talk to Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, about her work in the CIA. Mendez discusses her reasons for joining the agency, her time as an intelligence officer, and the history behind the Office of Technical Service (OTS). She analyzes the successes and failures of the products that the OTS produced and delves into the measures she and others had to take to thwart intelligence services in Russia, Cuba, and other areas where CIA assets were active. Jonna highlights the importance of human intelligence, revealing to us what the relationship was like between officer and agent, and speculates on how this form of intelligence may have changed given technological advances. We also chat to Jonna about the intricacies of the disguises she made, and why the "Tom Cruise peel" from Mission Impossible should be the "Jonna Mendez peel" -- as she details a famous meeting she had with President George H.W. Bush in which she demonstrated the efficacy of facial masks. We close the conversation with a discussion about the true story behind Academy Award winning movie Argo -- as Jonna talks about her late husband Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) and his role in the Canadian Caper operation during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980.

Jonna will be releasing a new book, "In True Face", in the near future, and you can check out more of her work and her writing here.