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Past Event

Jonna Mendez: Unmasking My Life in the CIA

When Jonna Hiestand Mendez first joined the CIA, she still needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account or shut off the gas to their apartment. Hired as a convenience to her CIA officer husband’s career, she began by performing secretarial duties for the agency.

But she didn’t stay in the secretarial pool. Mendez's talent for espionage was clear, and she soon took on bigger and more significant roles at the CIA. She lived under cover and served tours of duty all over the globe, as well as at CIA headquarters. She confronted dangerous situations that called on her spy training: coming face to face with a rogue jihadi who had brought down an American plane, and helping steal a top-secret encryption machine from a Soviet embassy, among other high stakes situations. She became an international spy and ultimately the chief of disguise at the CIA’s Office of Technical Service—a kind of female American version of James Bond's famous "Q."

Now, the bestselling co-author of The Moscow Rules and Argo tells her riveting, courageous story of being a female spy at the CIA and battling against the prevailing culture of sexism at the time, all while undertaking dangerous missions for America’s safety during the height of the Cold War.


This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Bernard Osher Foundation

Photo by Tina Leu.

March 18, 2024

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Taube Family Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

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Jonna Mendez

Former Chief of Disguise, CIA; Author, In True Face: A Woman’s Life in the CIA, Unmasked

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In Conversation with Melissa Caen

Host, “Get Out the Bet” Podcast; Political Analyst; Attorney; Twitter @ConstitutionMel