Tony Mendez

American CIA technical operations officer and writer

Antonio Joseph Mendez (November 15, 1940 – January 19, 2019) was an American technical operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He worked in support of covert CIA operations. He wrote three memoirs about his CIA experiences.

Tony Mendez
Mendez (left) with Jimmy Carter
after the Canadian Caper
Birth nameAntonio Joseph Mendez
Born(1940-11-15)November 15, 1940
Eureka, Nevada, U.S.
DiedJanuary 19, 2019(2019-01-19) (aged 78)
Frederick, Maryland, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Years of service1963–1990
UnitGraphics and Authentication Division
Battles/warsIran hostage crisis, Cold War
AwardsIntelligence Star (1980)
CIA Trailblazer Award (1997)
Order of the Sphinx (2000)

Mendez was known for his on-the-scene management of the "Canadian Caper" during the Iran hostage crisis. He helped rescue six American diplomats from Iran in January 1980 by arranging to have them pose as a Canadian movie crew. As part of their cover, the diplomats carried passports issued by the Canadian government to document them as Canadian citizens.[1] This was loosely made into the 2012 Academy Award-winning movie Argo.[2]

In 2009, Mendez was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.[3] He died on January 19, 2019 from complications of the disease in Frederick, Maryland, aged 78.[4]


  1. Bearman, Joshuah (April 24, 2007). "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran". Archived from the original on February 25, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  2. Rosenwald, Michael S. (January 14, 2013). "Golden Globes: A big night for the real Tony Mendez". Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
  3. Owens, Donna M. ""Argo" subject now battling Parkinson's". Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  4. Kilkenny, Kate (January 19, 2019). "Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Portrayed in 'Argo,' Dies at 78". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2019.