In November 1979, Iranian revolutionaries stormed and captured the US Embassy in Teheran.
Angered by the US Government decision to permit the former Shah of Iran to enter the US for cancer treatment, they held US diplomats hostage for more than a year.
Unknown to the revolutionaries, six American embassy staffers in another building on the grounds were able to escape, and made their way into hiding with the help of British, New Zealand, and Canadian diplomats. They ultimately spent more than three months living under the protection of the Canadian embassy, and ultimately left Iran using false Canadian passports.
It wasn’t until 1997, when the CIA declassified its own involvement in the “exfiltration” of the six Americans, that the world learned about the CIA’s elaborate cover story for the diplomats. It involved creating a fake Hollywood film production, and identities for the six Americans as Canadian filmmakers come to Iran to scout for locations to use in the movie. The story was first revealed by Joshua Bearman in Wired magazine in 2007 (“How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran”), and in The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA, a book by Antonio “Tony” Mendez, the CIA agent who orchestrated the exfiltration.
It’s the topc of Ben Affleck’s new blockbuster movie, “Argo.” But the real story is just as good as the Hollywood thriller, if not better.
In episode #34 of the Middle Chamber Books and Music Podcast, we interview Mark Lijek, one of the six Americans exfiltrated by Tony Mendez. Mark has written his own memoir of his time in hiding with the Canadians, The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery. You can also follow Mark on Twitter, where he is @ArgoMeHome.
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Update, February 1, 2013: Mark was interviewed on Fox News recently. You can watch that interview here: