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Escape from Iran

Date: 12-20-04
Host: George Noory
Guests: Bob Sidell

Hollywood make-up artist Bob Sidell shared the story of his recruitment by the CIA in order to help rescue six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. The six had managed to escape from the main group of hostages at the embassy but were hiding out in Tehran, unable to leave the country.

It was at this point that Sidell said he was contacted by the CIA's "chief of disguise" Tony Mendez about creating a cover story for the six escapees in order to get them of Iran. They came up with a phony movie company that was supposedly shooting a sci-fi movie called "Argo" in Tehran, and the six escapees were to pose as members of the film crew. Sidell explained how they created a fake production company in L.A. and took out ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter announcing the project.

CIA operatives posing as part of the film production got into Iran and explained the cover story to the escapees, who became adept at playing the roles of the movie crew, Sidell detailed. Subsequently, they were all able to depart the country without incident. This successful operation, now nearly 25 years old, had just recently become declassified, he noted.

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