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Inside the World of CIA Disguises

Date Sunday - July 21, 2019
Host George Knapp
Guests Jonna MendezJan Harzan

Jonna Mendez and her late husband Tony were CIA operatives working to spy on Moscow in the late 1970s, at one of the most dangerous times in the Cold War. Jonna discussed her story of the intelligence breakthroughs that turned the odds in America's favor, along with how she and Tony were instrumental in developing a series of tactics like identity swaps, and evasion techniques that allowed CIA officers to outmaneuver the KGB. During that era, they couldn't trust that the American embassy in Moscow was a secure facility-- "there were bugs in the walls, and the foreign nationals working at the embassy were known to be KGB officers," she said. "The only safe place in Moscow-- the whole city, was a Plexiglas room that was inside the American embassy...so there was nowhere to put a bug that you couldn't see...it was the only place you could have a confidential conversation."

As the former "Chief of Disguise" for the CIA, Jonna explained methods for altering operatives' appearances and how she was particularly protective of foreign assets who risked their lives to convey valuable intel to the US. If an agent or operative was under surveillance by car, they would try to get out of view for a short period (such as by taking two right turns). Then, on occasion they'd replace the agent with a blow-up dummy in the passenger seat-- the KGB wouldn't realize the swap happened, and might end up following the vehicle all day, while the agent was able to freely go about their business, she recounted.

If a person was confident and a good actor, they could pull off even a poor disguise, she noted, but if someone was afraid or timid even though they had a good disguise, the KGB could see right through it. She recalled one particularly harrowing case, where a terrorist supposedly wanted to reveal details of an attack to an agent, and she helped disguise the agent so that he could abort the mission once he got to the meeting place if things didn't seem right. Tony Mendez had established what he called the "Moscow Rules" in which agents learn the ability to blend in, as well as trust their gut instincts. In this video for WIRED, Jonna demonstrates with her son how someone can rapidly alter their appearance from businessman to hipster, if they're trying to lose someone that's following them on a busy street.

MUFON Symposium

MUFON's 50th Anniversary international UFO Symposium is taking place July 26-28 in Irvine, CA. In the first hour, MUFON's Executive Director, Jan Harzan, shared a preview of the event and offered commentary. He considers the revealing NY Times article from December 2017 about the Pentagon's secret UFO program to be a form of disclosure which brought the UFO subject into a whole new era. Next week's Symposium, which will be available as a livestream for those that can't attend in person, will feature ufologist and aerospace engineer John Schuessler as the keynote speaker, detailing his 50 years of diligent research in the field. Other notable speakers include Dr. Bob Wood (who worked on back-engineering UFOs), Paul Stonehill on Russian and Chinese unidentified aerial anomalies, and A.J. Gevaerd on South American cases.

Related Articles

Knapp's News 7/21/19

George Knapp shares a number of recent items of interest including an article about new evidence for multiple realities:

Multiple Realities Might Actually Exist
'We Need That Boot Print.' Inside the Fight to Save the Moon's Historic Sites Before It's Too Late
Elon Musk’s Neuralink unveils device to connect your brain to a smartphone
The trouble with tigers in America
How We Could Make Mars Habitable, One Patch of Ground at a Time

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