Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations That Helped Win the Cold War

Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations That Helped Win the Cold War

by Antonio Mendez, Jonna Mendez, Bruce Henderson
     
 

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Moscow, 1988. It is the twilight of the Cold War, and the KGB is at its most ruthless. In the last three years, ten CIA operatives have been executed or neutralized. Langley has no idea how the KGB seems to be able to predict the CIA's every move, but some believe they are using an invisible electromagnetic powder that allows them to keep tabs on anyone who… See more details below

Overview

Moscow, 1988. It is the twilight of the Cold War, and the KGB is at its most ruthless. In the last three years, ten CIA operatives have been executed or neutralized. Langley has no idea how the KGB seems to be able to predict the CIA's every move, but some believe they are using an invisible electromagnetic powder that allows them to keep tabs on anyone who touches it: spy dust.

Enter CIA officers Tony Mendez and Jonna Goeser, who come together to head up a team of technical wizards and operational specialists, determined to solve the mystery that threatens to bring down the curtain on the Cold War's final act.

Beginning in Indochina and culminating in a breathtakingly daring operation in the heart of the Kremlin itself, Spy Dust reveals more about U.S. intelligence techniques abroad than any previously published work of nonfiction, and is a riveting account of spycraft, courage, loyalty, and love.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Admiral Stansfield Turner former head of the CIA A true story of spying with all the suspense and intrigue of a James Bond novel.

Publishers Weekly An entertaining thriller with the added virtue of being true.

Booklist An endlessly fascinating book, one that spy buffs will return to again and again.

Hayden B. Peake curator of the CIA's Historical Intelligence Collection For CIA staffers, the changed names will be both frustrating and challenging as they attempt to sort out individuals and operations. For those who want a sense of what really takes place in the field when magicians from the Office of Technical Services are involved, Spy Dust is a rewarding experience.

Kirkus Reviews A real-life pleasure for fans of John le Carré and Tom Clancy.

The New Yorker
Assigned to a remote outpost of the Asian subcontinent in the spring of 1987, Jonna Goeser, an expert in clandestine photography, disguise, and false documentation -- she can facilitate a "quick ethnic change" on demand -- finds herself entangled in some dangerous business. Spy Dust, the memoir she wrote with Antonio J. Mendez -- first her boss in Technical Operations, then her husband -- details the Russians' latest anti-espionage technologies, including a mysterious light-sensitive tracking powder, insect sex pheromones, and clairvoyants, and double agents like Robert Hanssen and Edward Lee Howard. (The Mendezes were helped by the true-crime writer Bruce Henderson.) Officially, Jonna's mission is a "smoking-bolt operation" designed to relieve the K.G.B. of an important communications device, but it's actually a ruse to distract attention from the agency's exfiltration of a K.G.B. officer about to be unmasked as a spy for the Americans. The book, which passed the C.I.A.'s publication-review board, makes a post-September-11th case for spooks -- reminding us that the most successful operations are the ones we never hear about. With her black beret, bright lipstick, and cum-laude Barnard-girl-next-door persona, Judith Coplon was a celebrity from the moment of her highly controversial arrest on espionage charges in 1949. Was she the next Mata Hari? If so, some reporters found her disappointingly unexotic: "about as sinister as Louisa May Alcott," one wrote. Or was she just an industrious Department of Justice employee working on a novel about her experiences? The Spy Who Seduced America, by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, examines both the farcical and disturbing aspects of Coplon's case. (Dana Goodyear)
Publishers Weekly
Retired CIA disguise expert Antonio Mendez (The Master of Disguise) teams up with his wife, also a former agent, to reveal how they fell in love during a highly critical mission in the waning years of the Cold War. Antonio and Jonna shift back and forth in their account as separate assignments eventually converge in the extrication from Moscow of a high-ranking KGB mole, jeopardized by the traitorous dealings of men like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. Fans of Alan Furst's WWII espionage novels will appreciate the subdued nature of this thriller, where the stakes are always high but the individual actions are usually low-key, as well as the details the Mendezes provide on the art of eluding surveillance. The title is a red herring although "spy dust" was a real element of the KGB's operations against foreigners in Moscow, its role in this story is of a background nature. The climax hinges on a much more old-fashioned game of cat and mouse. There are a few weak spots in the narrative, where the authors (or their collaborator, true-crime scribe Henderson) try to recreate scenes at which they weren't present, but for the most part this is an entertaining thriller with the added virtue of being true. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Christy Fletcher, Carlisle & Co. (Sept. 17) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"Spy dust" is a chemical marking compound developed by the KGB (Soviet secret police) to help track targeted individuals. It is just one of the tools and techniques discussed by the authors, who headed up the Disguise and Documents Division of the CIA's Office of Technical Service and are now consultants for the CBS TV drama series The Agency. The authors met in the mid-1980s while helping to rebuild U.S. intelligence operations in the USSR, which had been severely crippled by American traitors selling secret information to the Soviets. Included here are fascinating tales of clandestine meetings, narrow escapes, missed clues, ingenious equipment, and various successes and failures, and the reader soon comes to realize that a lot of professional brain power goes into planning and carrying out this deadly game with the highest stakes imaginable. There is a glossary of spy terms at the end of the book, but a map of Moscow would have helped. This interesting and easy-to-read tale complements Antonio Mendez's The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA and is suitable for the espionage sections of both public and academic libraries. [Index not seen; Atria Books is the new name for the hardcover division of Pocket, a division of S. & S. Ed.] Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fascinating memoir from a husband-and-wife team of spooky gamesmanship in the Cold War’s deadly back alleys. Writing with the Agency’s blessing, retired CIA spymaster Antonio Mendez (The Master of Disguise, 1999) and agent Jonna Mendez offer a surprisingly open account of the intelligence community’s long, often deadly engagement with its counterparts in Russia, China, and Cuba. As their narrative opens, things have gone badly awry with American spying activities inside the Soviet Union; deep-cover double agents are being executed right and left, hapless Marine guards are letting secrets out of the embassy, and somehow the KGB is always a step ahead of the CIA, thanks in part to near-invisible "spy dust" that enables the Reds to track the movements of our men and women in blue. After the Mendezes learn that they’re being betrayed by Aldrich Ames and other turncoats within the agency, they put that knowledge to work concocting elaborate countermeasures and devious switcheroos. Avoiding the noir clichés of the spy genre, the Mendezes offer an eye-opening look at the complex business of gathering intelligence and spreading a few lies to disrupt the opposition, recounting rules that are "dead simple, and full of common sense: Never make surveillance mad or embarrassed—they will shut you down. Never look over your shoulder or steal free looks in store windows when on the street. Make them think it was their fault that they had lost you, not vice versa, because KGB officers know better than to report their own mistakes." In the end, they argue, the CIA’s work was more often successful than not, citing no less an authority than former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, who reckoned, "In the finalanalysis, the score would be five to one in favor of the United States on counterintelligence issues." Solid storytelling brought to bear on engaging material: a real-life pleasure for fans of John le Carré and Tom Clancy.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743428538
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
09/01/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
193,004
Product dimensions:
0.76(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

INDOCHINA

Winter 1973

Tony Mendez

CIA Technical Operations Officer

Specialties: Disguise and false documentation

I was being buffeted around in the backseat of a dilapidated gray Austin as Jack Maxwell drove quickly through the pitch black night. He spun the steering wheel back and forth with one beefy hand, and with the other deftly shifted gears like a race car driver as we sped down the narrow, winding streets of this moldering tropical city.

I knew that even though we couldn't see them in the dark, every structure we passed was mildewed and slowly crumbling back into the black loam and teeming vegetation from where it had come long before the British carved out their colonial outpost here more than a century ago.

Maxwell, a large man with sloping shoulders, was slouched against the right-hand door, on the driver's side of the old car. He had borrowed this wreck from one of the office secretaries for his nighttime forays. He was wearing a pair of tortoiseshell glasses, a Band-Aid mustache, and a floppy hat, one of the many quick-change disguises that I had devised for him and his intelligence sources to use for their meetings after dark. Such subterfuge was the only way CIA officers could meet their assets — locals recruited by U.S. intelligence — in this hostile environment.

Maxwell would sometimes have eight or nine operational meetings a night, which pushed the bounds of good security practices. Most meetings took place in the old car while he drove his asset around on the back streets, debriefing them while continuing to run surveillance-detection runs — SDRs, as they are known in the spy trade — to ensure they weren't being followed.

Tonight was a special trip. We would be breaking new ground on this case, and thanks to my disguises, Maxwell would be bringing his best agent home for a sit-down meeting in the civilized surroundings of his house, an almost unheard of luxury.

We were approaching a double corner as we passed the swimming club where Maxwell would execute a rolling car pickup. He slowed down, pressed on the brake pedal long enough for the forward motion of the car to be interrupted for half a heartbeat. He timed this stop to occur just as he passed behind the hedge on our left, next to the corner of the club building.

A dark figure moved out from behind the hedge at the same instant and entered the left front passenger door as I opened and closed it in one motion. The dome light had not come on.

The figure crouched safely on the floorboard of the car as Maxwell released his pressure on the brake pedal and our momentum carried us forward again. He pressed smoothly on the accelerator, and we continued on a circuitous route to the residential district out by the lake to our first destination.

The top-secret GAMBIT disguise was positioned on my lap. I had created it for the man at an earlier meeting, and I hoped to conduct a final fitting tonight. I planned to do this in the dark car as we moved along, in case we passed someone who knew him.

We started down a deserted stretch, and the man code-named SAPPHIRE had crawled up off the floor and was now sitting up directly in front of me. He knew what to expect as I reached over to show him how to put on the disguise. By the time Maxwell arrived at his cover stop, I had made final adjustments to SAPPHIRE's new persona and was handing him a small leather-bound credential, which he reviewed, then slipped into his pocket.

The houseboy and gate man at the cover stop didn't give us a second look as we waited in the car chatting while Maxwell made his phantom delivery to a friend, the cover reason for this trip.

Shortly, we were headed back to Maxwell's house, where I had been staying since my arrival from Washington, D.C. We had rounded a corner and were proceeding down a side street behind an enormous golden stupa, a Buddhist shrine, that marked the center of town.

Suddenly we were caught in the high beams of a vehicle blocking the center of the road. There were two uniformed and armed soldiers standing in front of the headlights of a camouflaged scout car. They signaled us to halt.

Maxwell stood on the brakes, and the ancient car lurched to a stop.

One of the military men approached the car on the passenger side and rapped on the glass with his swagger stick. SAPPHIRE rolled down the window, and the officer leaned his head so far into the car I was sure they would touch noses.

But he was not looking at SAPPHIRE at all. Instead, his gaze was focused on Maxwell.

"Evening, sir. May I see your papers?"

Maxwell presented his credential, handing it over in front of SAPPHIRE.

The officer shined his light on it, and then returned it. "Very good, sir. And what about these two gentlemen?"

Both SAPPHIRE and I were ready with our documents as well. His were in the credential case that I had given him minutes earlier.

After a quick look, the officer handed both of them back to SAPPHIRE and snapped to attention. "Thank you, Excellency," he said.

SAPPHIRE saluted back, and we were soon on our way.

A little later, we were relaxing over drinks at Maxwell's place, reliving the events of the evening. Maxwell suddenly turned to me. "By the way," he said, "that officer was awfully impressed with SAPPHIRE. What was that all about?"

"I knew the disguise would make him look older and distinguished," I said, "so I made him an attaché from an Eastern European country — with the rank of general."

SAPPHIRE smiled, enjoying the promotion that he had carried off perfectly.

The young Russian KGB officer already had a distinct military bearing.

Copyright © 2002 by Antonio J. Mendez and Jonna Mendez

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Admiral Stansfield Turner former head of the CIA A true story of spying with all the suspense and intrigue of a James Bond novel.

Publishers Weekly An entertaining thriller with the added virtue of being true.

Booklist An endlessly fascinating book, one that spy buffs will return to again and again.

Hayden B. Peake curator of the CIA's Historical Intelligence Collection For CIA staffers, the changed names will be both frustrating and challenging as they attempt to sort out individuals and operations. For those who want a sense of what really takes place in the field when magicians from the Office of Technical Services are involved, Spy Dust is a rewarding experience.

Kirkus Reviews A real-life pleasure for fans of John le Carré and Tom Clancy.

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