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The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA
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am 10. Januar 2000
"The Master of Disguise" is a boring read and offers nothing beyond tired flag waving and Mendez's relentless self-congratulatory back slapping of his accomplishments.
So...if you want to read why Antonio Mendez thinks he's cool, this is the book for you! Mendez spends the majority of the book (and no, I didn't finish it because it was so annoying) talking about his accomplishments with the CIA: his CIA intelligence star, his successful missions, etc...
All this would be well and good if his story was interesting, but it's not. How'd you like to read page after page about how he learned how to counterfeit foreign currencies working for the CIA in the 60s-70s? It's about as exciting a reading the telephone book.
And if you're looking for an inside skinny on how the Agency works, don't look here either. The contents of the book itself have been totally sanitized. What about Langely now? Zero. What goes on at the Agency? Zilch. Nothing is specific. Nothing is revealed. And, no, I wasn't expecting him to violate national security by telling us true secrets.
Sadly, Mendez's anecodtes are tired and well-worn. Looking to hear about intelligence in the 70s and 80s? Well, he's got tons of boring stories about playing tailing games in Moscow (oooh, frightening!) and dressing up some people in foreign countries to smuggle them out of the country (ooooh, a mask...I never would have thought of that).
All in all, this is a tired, boring story. Any episode from "Hart To Hart" or "Magnum P.I." offers more intrigue and insight into the workings of intelligence officers. If you're looking for a good book about the CIA and covert operations, try "Rainbow Six" by Tom Clancy. It's fictional, but an amazing read.
I'm not unpatriotic, this book is just terrible. And that's some "intelligence" you can rely on.
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am 11. Januar 2000
I was given this book for my thirtieth birthday approximately a month ago and since receiving it, I really had a difficult time putting it down!
From his hiring to training to actual field experiences, Mr. Mendez really allows the reader to know each event in great detail. Each chapter provides a new adventure!
I actually found myself feeling nervous as I read his stories of exfiltrations. I cannot imagine the amount of fear a person must experience as they provide phony identification to government officials in unfriendly countries. What becomes quickly apparent is the extreme courage of Mr. Mendez and others who truly risked their lives to protect the American way of life. This book also leaves the reader with a philosophical view towards why such espionage activities are necessary.
Of particular interest was the way Mr. Mendez related childhood activities to his career. I think that most people, myself included, can often relate such early experiences to current day career paths. In that respect, I feel that everyone in any profession will learn some life lessons from this book.
Finally, I'd only like to say that I wish the book was longer. Who knows, maybe Mr. Mendez will honor the American public with a second book.
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am 10. März 2000
Books like "The Master of Disguise," "A Spy for All Seasons," and other memoirs written by intelligence community insiders present with a paradox that is known to those who are well-read in espionage related subjects. Such books always offer the tantalizing prospect of detailed information that only an insider could possibly possess, but consistently fail to deliver when it comes to revealing significant information beyond what has already been pointed out by technically attentive fiction writers like Tom Clancy. The paradox arises because, as anyone with serious interest in espionage knows, it is quite absurd to expect ex-CIA agents to reveal anything remotely important or significant from their former occupation. Not surprisingly, "The Master of Disguise" seems to consist of slightly sensationalized, self-aggrandizing baubles for the casual reader. If you have not read much about the CIA, this is an entertaining account which you can ooh and ahh over after forking over the dollars the author seems to need for his retirement fund. If you have already read your share of insider accounts, save your money and buy the paperback if you must-- this book does not provide anything new or significantly enlightening.
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am 9. Januar 2000
I was intrigued by the title, and found the escapades of Tony Mendez incredible. As a fan of spy novels, this is the real deal, and I had no idea that the CIA was so advanced in their tecniques and grandiose operations - thought that was reserved for the movies. Tony Mendez is like "Q" in the James Bond films with his creative gadgetry, but more importantly his brilliantly planned Iranian operation is the stuff that movies are based on. It's a page turner, and I was on the edge of my seat following each step on his missions. I can only imagine how unnerving it must have been for Tony and his team in such operations as "Raptor." It was a real education; both informative and enlightening, and gave me a whole new appreciation of a secret organization, that unfortunately has been surrounded with much undeserved negative. Tony Mendez is a true hero and a credit to our country's history. If you like spy novels you'll love this book. Just remember - this is NOT fiction!
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am 30. November 1999
Mr. Mendez has shared with his readers a very real sense of what it was to be inside the CIA, and then inside some of their most exciting (and up to this point) secret operations. It is interesting that the CIA has allowed these stories to be told now, but in fact, after reading them, it is apparent that the intelligence equities are not affected. In each case the or foreign source has been safely rescued and resettled or the case has been finalized, once with the ultimate sacrifice on the part of the asset. I was thoroughly caught up in these tales of rescue and escapes from danger. It is amazing that these true stories are even more exciting than the Clancey books. His first book is a definite must read and will be on my Christmas gift list for several of my friends.
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am 29. November 1999
Unfortunately, because of the author's position as a forger and disguise-master, he didn't get the plum assignments. No tales of break-ins or derring-do here, but rather hours spent behind a magnifying glass creating documents. The most exciting cases here involve exfiltrating spies and others from behind unfriendly territory. This usuallly involves making a mask for them and walking through an airport. In fact, there's about 3 tales of making masks and walking through airports ... and the author can't tell you the details of the masking technique, because it's secret.
I can't help but think that any CIA spook who did see REAL adventure couldn't tell about it anyway because it would be classified. So this is the best we'll get. I'll stick with John LeCarre.
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am 8. November 1999
In his autobiography, decorated CIA veteran Tony Mendez has written a detailed and fascinating account of spy operations during the Cold War. Other books have told us what the CIA did, but this is the first and only to expose the secrets of how they did it! Tony's unique career, and mastery of disguises, deception, forgery, and exfiltration, show us that the gadgets utilized by "James Bond" weren't alwaus fictional! Spy agencies worldwide will make THE MASTER OF DISGUISE required reading for intelligence officers; the new KGB will probably charter a plane to rush the first 100 copies straight to Moscow! H Keith Melton; author of THE ULTIMATE SPY BOOK
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am 3. April 2000
As another reviewer has noted, there is a paradox in involved in "insider" stories from the espiocrats. It is completely understandable and commendable that the intelligence community seeks to inform the public of the original, brave work that goes into serving the country's security, but, considering most of the successful work must occur secretively, such promotional efforts ultimately make for dime-store dramas. Such is this book, which I found to be a complete waste of time. I intended to drop it off at the Strand, NYC's great used bookstore, but they already had nearly a shelf-full of these. I was forced to dispose of this book more permanently.
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am 9. November 1999
I worked very closely with Tony for many years and can attest to the authenticity of this book. I was saddened to learn through the book of the death of Karen Mendez . Tony truly was an action oriented person and his operational career was certainly not representative of Authentication Officers. This book says something about America and the Agency. The fact that a guy named Mendez , undereducated , from a town so small and isolated ( I spent the summer of 1946 there myself) could be so honored speaks volumes. For those who want to know about the can do sprirt that so characterized the Agency I knew , this is a must read.
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am 16. Mai 2000
What a great book! And not just for us "inside the beltway." Full of interesting technical information, operational background and personality. I highly recommend this over and above any fiction writer. They fail to invent themes and spies, grasping for the hook to make a reader buy their books about subs, Red Storms and the like, he invented, in some instances to save his life and the lives of others, real solutions to real life problems.
The details, the lives, and the problems are detailed very clearly, cleanly, and openly.
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