Thursday, November 01, 2012

When Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Have you seen the movie Argo yet? This is one story that works extremely well as both a book and motion picture. It's a gripping, suspenseful story with plenty of spycraft thrown in. Argo is a true, declassified account of the amazing rescue of six members of the American Embassy in Tehran following the militant takeover in 1979.

I can still recall those dark days in November when everyone was glued to the TV news for word about the American hostages in Iran. I also remember the jubilation when it was announced that six Americans escaped the embassy, had been given shelter by the Canadian ambassador, and were smuggled out of the country. Of course, as we now know, that wasn't the whole story.

He was the hero that few people knew about, but finally Antonio Mendez's story can be told. Mendez kept his secrets for decades until, in an unprecedented move by the CIA, he was given permission to tell the story of this most "audacious rescue." As a top-level CIA officer, Mendez specialized in "exfiltration," removing assets from extremely dangerous situations making use of disguise and diversion. After the fall of the American Embassy in Iran, all Tony's experience and contacts were needed to devise a plan for rescuing the six. 

One of Tony's associates was an award-winnning Hollywood make-up artist who had helped the CIA in the past. Together they worked up the ingenious rescue plan (many of their meetings were held right here in Burbank!). The plan was for Tony to enter Iran as a Hollywood producer scouting locations for a science fiction movie. When he exited the country, he'd be accompanied by the six Americans disguised as his Canadian film crew.

Argo is a great read, especially if you enjoy espionage and international politics.  For those unfamiliar with the history of US - Iran relations in the past 30+ years, the book will give you an overview of the events leading up to the Embassy takeover in 1979. Antonio Mendez has another published book, and now I will have to read that one as well! Check out The Master of Disguise:  My Secret Life in the CIA.

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