Agent Behind ‘Argo’ Coming to Steubenville

STEUBENVILLE – A retired CIA officer whose work inspired the critically acclaimed Hollywood thriller “Argo” will be the second speaker in the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Herald-Star Lecture Series.

Antonio Mendez, a former CIA officer, will be in Steubenville in April to talk about his life as an agent and his role in the daring real-life rescue of six Americans from the Canadian embassy in Tehran in 1980. He’ll take the stage at 7:30 p.m. April 9 in the Steubenville High School Auditorium.

“We are excited to be able to bring to our community the second of our speakers in the lecture series,” said chamber President Sue Hershey. “We know that Antonio Mendez will provide an insightful and extremely interesting presentation that will be enjoyed by all of our attendees.”

Presenting sponsors for the event include Eastern Gateway Community College and the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Special support is being provided by Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast, Apollo Pro Cleaning, Piergallini Catering, Newbrough Photo and Steubenville City Schools.

Mendez was recruited by the CIA’s Technical Services Division in 1965, and the Eureka, Nev., native led a double life: For 25 years he worked undercover, often overseas, participating in some of the most important operations of the Cold War. His non-agency friends, however, saw him as a quiet bureaucrat working for the U.S. military.

The “disguise master” to the CIA, Mendez and his subordinates were responsible for changing the identity and appearance of thousands of clandestine operatives over the years, allowing them to move securely around the world. His own career ran the gamut from Wild West adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow.

He moved into the CIA’s executive ranks, earning the Intelligence Star for Valor in 1980 for engineering and conducting the rescue of the six U.S. diplomats who took refuge in the Canadian embassy in Iran. To effect their escape, Mendez concocted an ostensible Hollywood film production company, complete with personnel, scripts, publicity and real estate in Los Angeles.

Tickets go on sale beginning at noon today. Reserved seats are priced at $20, with general admission costing $15. A very limited number of VIP ticket packages are available by calling the chamber at 740-282-6226.