Former spy talks "Argo," and Iran rescue mission

Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:25pm EDT
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By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Antonio "Tony" Mendez is the rarest of creatures: A former spy who has come out of the woodwork.

His story is the subject of Ben Affleck's new film, "Argo," released in the United States Friday, and tipped to feature in Hollywood's awards season.

"Argo" is based on one of Mendez's most remarkable missions, rescuing six Americans from Iran during the height of the 1979 hostage crisis and helping them pose as a Canadian film crew making a fictitious film called "Argo." It follows Mendez's memoir of the same name, released in September.

Mendez, 72, who was named in 1997 one of the CIA's top 50 officers of its first 50 years, talked to Reuters about "Argo" the movie, the real CIA operation and current events in the Middle East.

Q: "Argo" the film depicts the 1979 storming of the U.S. embassy and hostage crisis. How do you compare that to riots in the region in more recent times?

A: "Seeing those crowds surging in front of multiple U.S. embassies and consulates does indeed bring back memories. Security has been beefed up in many ways, but these events show that perhaps they should be beefed up even more."

Q: Why recall the story of the rescue operation now?

A: "I wanted to set the details down on paper for the record and call out my colleagues, who were involved in the planning, even if many were in alias. I wanted to pass on the lessons learned to the public and to my former work mates, something that the CIA does not often do."   Continued...

Actor and director Ben Affleck speaks at a news conference to promote the film 'Argo' during the 37th Toronto International Film Festival, September 8, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill