Jonna Mendez is a former Chief of Disguise in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service, often compared to “Q” in the Ian Fleming novels, Ms. Mendez was also a specialist in clandestine photography. Her 27-year career, for which she earned the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation Medal, included operational disguise responsibilities in the most hostile theaters of the Cold War, from Havana to Beijing to Moscow and ultimately into the Oval Office. She is currently an author, lecturer, teacher and consultant on intelligence matters. Ms. Mendez has spoken at West Point, the Sorbonne University and Pompidou Centre in Paris, and was a keynote speaker at the 2022 Intelligence International Conference in Melbourne, Australia. She is frequently interviewed by the media as an expert commentator. She has co-written several books with her late husband Antonio Mendez, including Spy Dust: A True Story of Espionage and Romance, Argo, and The Moscow Rules. Her latest book, In True Face, recounting her career as a female operations officer in the CIA is scheduled to be published in Spring 2024.
Jonna Mendez has fabricated disguises around the world, in the most hostile cities in the world. She is able to take a well-known figure and quickly disguise them to the level that they basically disappear and their colleagues would not be able to recognize them. This has proven to be an excellent way to bring her talks home to her audience, and she can combine the fascinating clandestine disguise of an “Undercover Boss” with any of her presentation topics below.
FEMALE SPIES: CLANDESTINE WOMEN UNDERCOVER
Jonna Mendez served 27 years undercover with the CIA, retiring as Chief of Disguise. She relates spy tales about a number of effective and not so effective female spies, and also discusses her own experiences, living and traveling around the world, operating in the alleyways of Europe, the Far East and the Subcontinent, in alias identities, participating in classic espionage operations.
DISGUISE, DECEPTION AND ILLUSION: CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLES OF MAGIC
From Sun Tzu to the present, warfare has been conducted by the use of deception and illusion. Jonna Mendez, former Chief of Disguise for the CIA, reviews some of the most important deception operations through history. With the use of the art of magic, illusion and misdirection many enemies have been defeated without taking the field of battle. Jonna will recount stories of deception as used by the Allies in the Battle of El Alamien and “D” Day. From Hollywood she learned how to manage the “stage” on the streets of Moscow, delivering “performances” that helped win the Cold War. She also gives examples of how the “stage” of battle could be better managed today in the war against terrorism.
THE REAL “Q”: GADGETS AND TECHNOLOGIES IN ESPIONAGE OPERATIONS
Jonna served 27 years in the Office of Technical Service, the technical arm of the CIA’s operations directorate. She gives an overview of technical operations and the spy gear that made them unique. These gadgets were designed to keep foreign agents in place in hostile environments and to get them out of harm’s way when it was time. She finishes with an in-depth review of operational disguise and identity transformations operations where she tells stories of some of her life and death operations designed to elude surveillance and move intelligence agents and officers clandestinely around the world.
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