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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Jul 23, 2019

Stories of Cold War era espionage have inspired countless stories and films—but actual Cold War operatives can often deliver truths that are stranger than fiction. Former CIA spymaster Jonna Mendez arrived at Town Hall to tell her story—both she and her husband Antonio worked as CIA operatives to spy on Moscow in the late 1970s at one of the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. Soviets kept files on all foreigners, studied their patterns, tapped their phones, and even planted listening devices within the US Embassy. Intelligence work was effectively impossible.

Mendez shared highlights from her book The Moscow Rules which tells the story of how she and Antonio created the playbook that allowed officers to finally get one step ahead of the KGB, with tactics including Hollywood-inspired identity swaps, deception and evasion techniques, and document forgery. Mendez revealed how the CIA managed to gain a foothold in Moscow with the aid of these new guidelines—as well as an armory of new gadgets from the Office of Technical Services including miniature cameras, suitcase release body doubles, and wall rappelling mechanisms. Join Mendez for a firsthand account of how the CIA pulled off some of the greatest intelligence operations in the history of espionage.

Jonna Hiestand Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with over 25 years of service. When she retired in 1993 she had risen to the position of Chief of Disguise at the CIA. Since that time she has continued her career as a photographer, a consultant/lecturer and an author.

Recorded live in The Forum at Town Hall Seattle on June 26, 2019.