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CSU-Pueblo speaker series concludes with former CIA agent

Release Date: February 19, 2014

Cora Zaletel

Executive Director, External Affairs

Colorado State University-Pueblo


Press Release

PUEBLO – The 2013-2014 Distinguished Speakers Series at Colorado State University-Pueblo closes out its schedule with former CIA agent Tony Mendez, inspiration for the 2012 Academy Award winning film, Argo. Mendez will present The True Story of Argo at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 26 in the Occhiato University Center Ballroom. Tickets are free to CSU-Pueblo students and $8 to the general public.

Born in Eureka, Nevada, Mendez is a retired CIA officer best known for overseeing the rescue of six American diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, inspiring the 2012 film Argo. He  spent 25 years as a CIA technical operations officer. In 1979, Mendez devised and oversaw the "Canadian caper," a plan to liberate six American diplomats from Iran. His mission was to extricate six American diplomats from Tehran, where they were hiding out in the homes of Canadian allies. Mendez managed and participated in the CIA operation that sent operatives into Iran, posing as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie. The group, including Mendez, successfully exited Iran with the American diplomats, who were carrying Canadian passports. The CIA awarded Mendez the Intelligence Star for his contributions to the mission.

Mendez developed a strong interest in art during his high school and college years. He supported himself by working as an illustrator and designer until, after answering an advertisement for a graphic artist, he was recruited by the CIA. At that point, Mendez became an espionage artist, employed by the CIA's Technical Services Division. Mendez worked with the CIA for 25 years. His geographic areas spanned South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Middle East. As a Technical Services specialist, Mendez regularly forged documents, created disguises, and conducted “exfiltration” missions to remove individuals from hostile countries.

The full details of this dramatic rescue were remained classified until the late 1990s. After his retirement, Mendez published two books recounting his experiences in the CIA. These books, Master of Disguise (2000) and Spy Dust (2003), were published with the encouragement of the CIA. In 2007, Joshuah Berman published the full details of the operation in a Wired magazine article. This story was subsequently adapted for the screen. In 2012, director Ben Affleck directed and starred in Argo, the film adaptation of Mendez’s experiences in Iran.
The Distinguished Speakers Series features eminent national or international speakers who contribute to current thought in social or political activities, in the arts and sciences, or other realm of contemporary significance by individuals who have distinguished themselves in their fields.  The series is co-sponsored by the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership, the Student Fee Governing Board, the Associated Students’ Government, and the Diversity Resource Center.

For more information, call the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership at 719.549.2687.

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.

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