- Category : 1940-births
- Type : PE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Dedication 2
American CIA technical operations officer who specialized in support of clandestine and covert CIA operations.
Mendez was decorated, and is now widely known, for his on-the-scene management of the "Canadian Caper" during the Iran hostage crisis, in which he exfiltrated six American diplomats from Iran in January 1980. He arranged to have them pose as a Canadian film crew. As part of their cover, the diplomats carried passports issued by the Canadian government to document them as Canadian citizens.
After declassification of records, the full details of the operation were reported in a 2007 article by Joshuah Bearman in Wired magazine. This was loosely adapted for the screenplay and development of the 2012 Academy Award-winning film Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, who also starred as Mendez. Mendez also attended the 70th Golden Globe Awards to give a speech about the film, where it was nominated (and later won) for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Mendez and his first wife, Karen, had three children, including a son Ian who died in 2010, and sculptor Antonio Tobias Mendez. Karen Mendez died of cancer in 1986.
In the mid-1980s, Mendez worked with Jonna Goeser, also a CIA officer, on rebuilding the US security organization in the Soviet Union and later Russia. They married following Mendez's retirement in 1990, and had a son together. Since retiring from the CIA in 1990, Mendez and his wife Jonna, herself a 27-year veteran of the CIA, served on the Board of Directors for the International Spy Museum. He worked full-time as an artist.
He wrote three memoirs about his CIA experiences, Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA(2000), Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations that Helped Win the Cold War with Jonna Mendez and Bruce B. Henderson (2003), and Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History with Matt Baglio (2012).
In 2009, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Tony Mendez died from complications of Parkinson's disease on 19 January 2019, aged 78, in Frederick, Maryland.