Monday, January 1, 2018

Reposted: Meet the CIA's former Chief of Disguise, per a request ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Meet the CIA's former Chief of Disguise ...

[JB comment: What a title, of all bureaucratic titles! -- but I do like 
cod, a gastronomical delicacy in my view ...

But I still can't quite make up my mind: Is the below from The Onion ?]

image from

Jonna Mendez

Mendez image from entry

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. She lives with her family and works in her photo studio and the family gallery on their forty-acre farm in rural Maryland. She and her husband, also a retired intelligence officer, are authors of “Spy Dust“, a book about their work against the Soviets in Moscow during the last decade of the Cold War. “Spy Dust” is recommended reading for new recruits in the US Intelligence Community and are part of the curriculum for the Intelligence Community as well as several colleges and universities.

Jonna was born in 1945 in Kentucky where her family dates back six generations in Taylor County. She graduated from high school in Wichita, Kansas in 1963, attended college at Wichita State and found her way to Germany where she lived for several years, working for Chase Manhattan Bank in Frankfurt. She was recruited into the Central Intelligence Agency in Europe in 1966.

For many years she lived under cover and served tours of duty in Europe, the Far East, and the Subcontinent, as well as at CIA Headquarters. She joined the Office of Technical Service in early 1970 and within a few years she was back overseas as a Technical Operations Officer with a specialty in clandestine photography. Her duties included the preparation of the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets in the use of spy cameras and the processing of the intelligence gathered by them. It was during these years abroad that she began developing her creative photography skills as well.

By 1982 Jonna’s potential as a future leader and senior officer was well recognized by OTS management and she was selected for a year long program designed for only a few officers with high potential. At the end of this tenure she was given her pick of several assignments and chose to go overseas once again to work in technical operations throughout a broad area of South and Southeast Asia as a generalist in Disguise, Identity Transformation and Clandestine Imaging.

Upon returning to Headquarters in 1986 she was assigned to Denied Area Operations for disguise. This took her to the most difficult and hostile operating areas in the world where she and her colleagues matched wits with the overwhelming forces of the KGB, the Stasi and the DGI. Meanwhile she continued to be selected for the most prestigious training and career development assignments and was promoted to Deputy Chief of Disguise Division in 1988 and Chief of Disguise in 1991. As Chief of Disguise Jonna ran a multi-million dollar program with a staff positioned around the world. She retired from the government in 1993, earning the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation Medal.

Jonna continues to act as a consultant to the U.S. Intelligence community. She has lectured with her author/husband Antonio Mendez to various World Affairs Councils, colleges and universities and at the US Defense Intelligence Agency at the Joint Military Intelligence College. Together they have participated in two Discovery Channel programs, the second featuring them exclusively. These programs document the espionage exploits of Jonna and her husband, who was also CIA’s Chief of Disguise. She is on the Board of Advisors of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Recently Jonna and her husband were honored with the IMOS Inter-Allied Distinguished Service Cross, Order of The Sphinx, presented by the Legion of Frontiersmen.

Jonna continues with her photography. She has recently had her images marketed by the La Madeleine Restaurant chain nationwide. She has also had a one-woman show at Hood College and at other galleries and an exhibition of French images on display in New York City at La Bonne Soupe restaurant. Her work is available at galleries and shops in Virginia and Maryland and at annual exhibitions at Pleasant Valley Studios at her home in Maryland. Jonna has completed her novel “The Silk Merchant” which is currently under negotiation with publishers.

Jonna serves on the Board of Directors of La Gesse Foundation, a non-profit organization that partners with Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Conservatory in presenting American pianists in Europe every summer. The musicians are also presented at Carnegie Hall in December.

Jonna is married to fellow Spy Dust writer, Antonio J. Mendez and they have one child.

[JB: on Spy Dust, here's from a review from The New Yorker:
Spy Dust…details the Russians’ latest anti-espionage technologies, including a mysterious light-sensitive tracking powder, insect sex pheromones, and clairvoyants, and double agents like Robert Hanssen and Edward Lee Howard. (The Mendezes were helped by the true-crime writer Bruce Henderson.) Officially, Jonna’s mission is a “smoking-bolt operation” designed to relieve the K.G.B. of an important communications device, but it’s actually a ruse to distract attention from the agency’s exfiltration of a K.G.B. officer about to be unmasked as a spy for the Americans. The book, which passed the C.I.A.’s publication-review board, makes a post-September-11th case for spooks — reminding us that the most successful operations are the ones we never hear about.]
Back to the original above entry (with the below pixes)

Jonna, an expert in clandestine photography, disguise, and false documentation [JB note: today, never use the word "fake" unless you're the U.S. president], can create a quick ethnic change on demand. Here Jonna removes her “Dagger” disguise in the Oval Office.

Jonna in Havana, Cuba

Jonna on safari

© 2012 The Master Of Disguise
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Addendum (12/29/2017) From Russia, With Wig: American Spy Suspect Is Ejected

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ELLEN BARRY MAY 14, 2013, New York Times [Article contains additional illustrations and links.]

Image from article, with caption  Wig askew, man identified as Ryan C. Fogle, a diplomat, was arrested in Moscow


MOSCOW — He arrived at the meeting with two wigs — the blond one on his head held in place by a baseball cap, a brown one in his knapsack, which also held a compass, a Moscow street atlas and $130,000 in cash. He was an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, Russian officials say, and his goal was to recruit a Russian security officer as a spy.

He even carried a letter offering “up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation” and signed affectionately, “Your friends.”

On Tuesday, the American, identified as Ryan C. Fogle, who had been officially posted in Russia as the third secretary of the political department of the United States Embassy, was ordered to leave the country by the Russian government, which officially declared him “persona non grata.”

In a move that appeared to be as much stagecraft as spycraft, the Russian Federal Security Service, the F.S.B., took the unusual step of releasing a video showing the arrest of Mr. Fogle, including him face down on a street as a Russian agent pinned his hands behind his back.

President Vladimir V. Putin has long expressed suspicions that Washington is working covertly to undermine him, and it was unclear if Tuesday’s incident would further damage an already fragile bilateral relationship. The Russian Foreign Ministry publicly summoned the American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, to a meeting on Wednesday to address the accusations.

McFaul image (not from article) from

Reveling in the chance to embarrass the United States in a seemingly amateurish act of espionage, the F.S.B. also released photographs of the wigs and other odd gear that Mr. Fogle had been carrying, as well as a second video showing three American officials, including the embassy’s chief political officer, Michael Klecheski, listening silently to a harangue by a Russian official.

The official said Mr. Fogle had tried to recruit a counterterrorism agent with expertise in the Caucasus, an area that has recently become of intense interest to the United States because the men accused of the bombings at the Boston Marathon had lived there.

The circumstances of Mr. Fogle’s unmasking seemed bizarre, even given the long, colorful history of spying by the Soviet Union, Russia and their rivals.

Over the years, American diplomats have found bugs and other devices in a wide variety of locations — including the undersides of typewriter keys and the beak of a wooden eagle presented to the ambassador as a gift. The United States once tore down and rebuilt an entire new embassy building in Moscow after discovering the walls were filled with listening devices.

Last year, British officials quietly confirmed a Russian accusation from 2006 that its spy service had used a fake rock to hide communication equipment used to download and transmit classified information.

Much discussion on Tuesday centered on the paradox of why the United States, a country that can kill terrorists with remote-controlled drones, would feel the need to send a man with a map and a compass to navigate the traffic-choked Russian capital.

“It seems to me quite odd,” said Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist who has written several books about the Russian intelligence services, and founded a Web site called, which monitors the activities of intelligence agencies worldwide. [JB note: "notification" from Google: "We tested this page and blocked content that comes from potentially dangerous or suspicious sites.  Allow this content only if you’re sure it comes from safe sites."]

Mr. Soldatov said he suspected that the entire episode was a sting operation run by the Russians.

Yevgenia M. Albats, the author of a 1994 book on the K.G.B., the Soviet-era spy agency, had a similar reaction. “I’m just surprised that the guy was such an idiot,” she said. “Why did he have to do it in such an old-fashioned way? It sounds like the ’70s.”

Had the Russians viewed Mr. Fogle as a serious threat, Mr. Soldatov and other intelligence experts said, they most likely would have stepped back and let his apparent recruitment effort continue, and perhaps even led him to believe that he had successfully enlisted a double agent, pocketing the money while trying to learn more about the Americans’ interests.

Instead, the Russians released the videos and photographs of Mr. Fogle’s assortment of props, which also included two pairs of sunglasses, a pocket-knife and a protective sleeve made to shield information held on the electronic chips now routinely imprinted on passports, transit passes and identification cards.

He also carried a decidedly un-smart phone that from a distance looked like an old-model Nokia. Unlike its counterpart in the “Get Smart” television series, it was not built into the bottom of a shoe.

The most recent comparable spy folly came at the Russians’ expense. In 2010, the American authorities arrested 10 “sleeper” agents who had been living in the United States for a decade, posing as Americans. Some were couples with children; some had well-developed careers in real estate and finance.

What they had not done was send any classified secrets back to Russia, and when they were caught they were not charged with espionage but with conspiring to work as unregistered foreign agents. They were eventually expelled to Russia in a swap that included the Kremlin’s release of four men convicted of spying for the West.

If Americans then wondered exactly what sort of high-level intelligence the Russian government had expected its operatives to find while living humdrum lives in places like suburban Montclair, N.J., the case of Mr. Fogle seemed to pose its own curious questions:

What exactly did he expect to accomplish with a shaggy, ill-fitting wig that seemed to fall off his head at the slightest bump? And why would a counterterrorism officer, trained by the Russian special services, need a letter describing how to set up a new Gmail account without revealing personal information?

Perhaps the overarching question was just: Really?

In Moscow and in Washington, American officials refused to answer that, or any other question.

Aides to Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Stockholm on Tuesday to attend a conference of Arctic nations, including Russia, declined to comment on the matter.

The State Department’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, confirmed that an officer from the embassy was “briefly detained and was released,” but she declined to comment further. The C.I.A. also declined to comment, as did the American Embassy in Moscow.

Russia had provided the United States with unusually robust cooperation after the Boston Marathon bombings last month. It helped American officials understand the activities of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder suspect, who returned to Dagestan in the North Caucasus for six months last year and was in contact with Muslim rebels there, according to Russian officials.

“While our two presidents reaffirmed their readiness to expand bilateral cooperation, including through intelligence agencies in the fight against international terrorism, such provocative actions in the spirit of the ‘cold war’ does not contribute to building mutual trust,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Mr. Fogle was detained on Monday night and released to the American Embassy on Tuesday.

The video released to Russian news agencies shows at least three American officials standing next to a seated Mr. Fogle as a Russian official, who is not shown on camera, expresses perplexity at the incident.

“At first, we could not even believe that this could be happening, because you well know that in recent time the F.S.B. has actively helped the investigation of the bombings in Boston,” the Russian official, speaking in Russian, tells the Americans.

Toward the end of the video, the Russian official comes into view, but his face is blocked out. He says the Americans have committed “a serious crime in Moscow,” then turns to the Americans, who have said almost nothing, at least in the portion of the video released to Russia Today.

“Do you have any questions about what you have been shown?” the Russian asks. The Americans, standing with their arms crossed, glance at one another, shrug and shake their heads.

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