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This is the autobiography of Antonio Mendez, the CIA officer behind the exfiltration of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in the 1970s. This operation was the basis of the movie Argo. Mendez describes his childhood, his early training as a graphic designer, and much of his career in the Central Intelligence Agency creating forged documents and disguises.

The author describes CIA operations in locations around the world, including Indochina, the Middle East, and the then-intact Soviet Union. Three themes emerge from these accounts. One is the trust developed among CIA officers who spend much of their time deceiving others. It helps explain the anger and disgust they feel for moles, traitors and double agents. The second theme is an increasing sophistication in the technology used to create documents and disguises. Disguises remain challenging since they must be good enough to alter appearance but simple enough for agents to don quickly with little training. The final theme explores internal CIA politics. We hear about jealousies between wage-grade and white collar employees, jostling for overseas assignments, and the "pinball game" of gaining support for new initiatives.

Each chapter is seasoned with tidbits of tradecraft and hard-won experience. Advice ranges from general strategies like "keep your options open" to more specific techniques like how to use the two-handed "forgers bridge" to do precision drawing. Some procedures seem obvious once you read about them, but were useful again and again in the field. For example, shipping containers equipped with automatic cameras sent through Warsaw Pact countries yielded volumes of information about routes, customs procedures, and security personnel. Buildings, vehicles and people were inspected repeatedly, but nobody thought to check the containers.

Equally fascinating is the information the book does not present. Most CIA officers and agents are referred to only by code names or aliases. Times and locations are reported only generally. Readers also become conscious of a trend as the narrative proceeds. Details of all kinds are increasingly reduced, altered, or glossed over to protect techniques still in use and officers still on active duty. What we learn about spycraft becomes all the more impressive as we realize it must be out of date or we would not be reading about it.

The book is an enjoyable read and teaches lessons about careful work as well as innovation under pressure. It is worth reading on its own merits, but will be especially intriguing to those who are familiar with the Argo movie.
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on 21 June 2000
Mr. Mendez has put together an interesting collections of his personal experiences working in the CIA. There is nothing here to shock or get excited about but it is at once interesting, exciting and informative, and lets outsiders peek behind the curtain of real-life covert field operations. Whether by design or due to faulty memory, some of his tales are not told just they way they happened and times and places have been fudged, but none of that takes away from the stories nor the readers pleasure. Not great literature but a good read never the less.
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on 21 April 2013
Useful counterpoint to the movie, Argo. Shows you how Mendez progressed through the CIA to a point where he was called upon to effect the rescue portrayed in Argo. Decidedly non-critical of colleagues so very much an "authorised" memoir
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on 11 January 2014
I found this a really interesting book providing considerable insight into the activities of the CIA, and Tony Mendez in particular. The book provides a comprehensive history of Tony Mendez's background in childhood and how this experience helped him become one of the CIA's most successful agents.
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on 21 March 2014
Enjoyed reading it. Lots of stories are told, not just the Argo one and some of them are even more interesting I think. Go and buy it!
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on 11 September 2013
Purchased this to read on holiday on kindle. Find this an absolutely riveting read as the author shared with he reader his experiences working with the CIA. Real life James Bond stuff that had me totally hooked.
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on 9 May 2013
For all you spy lovers out there, this new author has some great imagination and a gripping read. so what are you waiting for...
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on 30 September 2016
Very pleased
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