‘This Is Hypothetical’: Former CIA Spies Tell Comic-Con Audience How To Evade And Conduct Surveillance

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Comic-Con
Attendees dressed as various characters pose on day three of Comic-Con International on Saturday, July 20, 2019, in San Diego, California. (Photo by Christy Radecic/Invision/AP)

Two former CIA agents drew a crowd at this year’s Comic-Con, a popular comic book convention, with a talk on how to evade and conduct surveillance on people.

Jason Hanson and Jonna Mendez were among espionage experts, detectives and former spies addressing a group of wide-eyed attendees at the Spy and Espionage Tech panel.

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Mendez is the wife of former CIA officer Tony Mendez, who was the subject of the 2012 film “Argo”, dramatized by Ben Affleck.

Teaching Comic-Con visitors evasion tactics

“Everything I’m going to tell you is hypothetical,” Hanson, who was with the CIA for seven years and now runs the Utah-based Spy, Escape and Evasion, said amid knowing laughter.

Spy, Escape and Evasion teaches civilians on how to escape from dangerous situations and conduct surveillance through techniques including picking locks, detecting lies and escaping when constrained with duct tape.

Asked what cosplay he would choose if assigned to infiltrate San Diego Comic-Con, the former CIA agent said he would be Chewbacca “because then I don’t even have to really do anything, because I’d be totally covered by a 100 percent mask and nobody’s going to question it.”

Mendez, the former CIA chief of disguise, described how she and her husband studied the mask-making techniques from some of Hollywood’s top monster makers.

“We went to Hollywood. We were intrigued by their ability to build deceptions and illusions,” she told the Comic-Con audience. “For God and country, they gave us some lessons.”

Some of the CIA-tested espionage techniques included; creating twins or triplets to throw off surveillance, using disguises for protection and mobile sniffer machines that can help in trailing a vehicle by following its exhaust scent.

“We could do anything with disguise that we put our minds to,” The OCR quoted Mendez saying. “We could do ethnic changes. We could make you Chinese, we could make you African, and we could make you Indian. We could make you anything you needed.”