News

Masters of disguise teach students the art of deception

They made cameras out of lipstick tubes and suit jacket buttons, forged government documents and transformed men into women and women into men.

For the duration of career, until their names were released from the Central Intelligence Agency, Tony and Jonna Mendez could not tell a soul.

But on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in the School of Communication courtyard, Tony and Jonna Mendez, who each have about 30 years of experience at the Central Intelligece Agency, confided with students about the tricks of the trade in disguise and deception. Distinguished by the CIA as one of 50 trailblazers or leaders within the history of the agency, Tony Mendez spoke of accounts previously retold in his books, The Master of Disguise and Spy Dust, which he co-authored with his wife, Jonna Mendez. These books are suggested reading for new CIA recruits.

Tony Mendez revealed how an operation involving the creation of a fake Hollywood film scouting party rescued six U.S. Diplomats from Iran during the 444-day hostage crisis.

“Hollywood is eccentric and would go anywhere, no matter the political situation,” Tony Mendez said. “The plan was so crazy that we thought it just might work.”

Jonna Mendez, a former chief of Disguise Division, highlighted some common American habits that they had to train out of their officers before sending them out on missions.

“The way you eat, smoke and how you wear you wedding ring on your left hand all identify you as an American,” she said.

Jonna Mendez explained that Americans always stand on one leg and slouch, while most Europeans stand straight on both legs.

Also, when Americans are standing near a wall, a column or a structure, they always lean against it.

She also recommended that if one wants to blend in with the locals, one should shop for clothes in their local stores and wear their clothing.

Both mentioned that there is not really one academic track for someone interested in joining the CIA. Some traits that are helpful are language skills, a knack for logic and problem solving and most of all passion for the job and the country one serves.

Most of all, both Tony and Jonna Mendez stressed, working at the CIA is not for someone who needs a lot of feedback on job performance.

“You can save the world on Tuesday and get no applause,” Jonna Mendez said. “Only internal gratification, it rules out a whole lot of people who need a pat on the back.”

There was a large student turnout to the event, filling every chair available and forcing many into standing room only.

Some students appreciated the frankness of the speakers about a subject not generally talked about.

“Intelligence in America is an issue surrounded by a lot of hype and secrecy, and it was interesting to have an insider’s view of both the exciting and tedious parts of the job,” Sivan Goobich, a sophomore, said.

Elaine Fenna, a sophomore, was glad to hear an account of those working in the CIA and appreciated the speakers’ pragmatic approach.

“I am glad that I had the opportunity to hear a first hand account of the experience of working for the CIA, and of the extensive work required to execute overseas operations,” she said. “While they did confirm some aspects of the otherwise unbelievable accounts of the agency’s work, they also dispelled a lot of the mysticism that usually surrounds the intelligence community.”

The lecture was sponsored by the School of Business and the Intelligence Awareness Organization, a student organization on campus whose stated mission is the discussion and education of intelligence gathering and espionage.

IAO may be contacted at iao.studorg@miami.edu regarding upcoming events.

Shelley Rood may be contacted at m.rood@umiami.edu.

September 15, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The Miami Hurricanes are running low on tight ends. But their receivers — notably sophomore speedste ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday: ▪ The pretty even split of carries between Travis Homer ...

The University of Miami has lost another player to surgery, and the depth was already lacking at thi ...

A six-pack of UM notes on a Monday: ▪ There has been no more popular or successful quarterback at UM ...

The Miami Hurricanes’ defense leads the nation in tackles for loss and stopping opponents on third d ...

New technology could help schools identify shooters and other intruders before they enter the door. ...

A University of Miami professor has created software to detect fraud in standardized tests. ...

UM President Julio Frenk outlined the strategies of the Roadmap to Our New Century, part of his Stat ...

Students attending Monday night's State of the U address by UM President Julio Frenk offer thei ...

At UM’s inaugural State of the U address, President Julio Frenk detailed the strategies of the Roadm ...

Jeff Thomas may be quiet off the field, but the sophomore has been consistently making lots of noise ...

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Tuesday the league slate for the upcoming 2018-19 season. ...

Miami remained ranked in both major polls Sunday, checking in at No. 21 in the Associated Press Top ...

The Miami Hurricanes came to Toledo, Ohio for the biggest home game in the history of Toledo footbal ...

A quartet of University of Miami men's tennis student-athletes concluded the final day of compe ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.