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The CIA has revealed an important detail about one of its famous 'Argo' operation

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

One of the CIA's most famous operations was extracting six American diplomats from Iran after the U.S. Embassy there was overrun in 1979. The CIA declassified the story years ago, and it was turned into the movie "Argo," which won the Oscar for best picture a decade ago. But one important detail was kept secret until today. Here's NPR's Greg Myre.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: In the movie, Ben Affleck portrays Tony Mendez, a lone CIA officer sent to Iran to stealthily bring out six Americans being sheltered by the Canadian ambassador. In reality, two CIA officers were dispatched on the mission. The identity of the second officer was not made public until the CIA disclosed it Thursday in its own podcast, "The Langley Files." Yes, the CIA has its own podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE LANGLEY FILES")

WALTER TROSIN: The second previously undisclosed agency officer who snuck into Iran alongside Tony Mendez.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Ed Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Ed Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Ed Johnson.

MYRE: CIA officer Walter Trosin, who co-hosts the podcast, recaps the plot.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE LANGLEY FILES")

TROSIN: The CIA hatched a plan straight out of fiction - send CIA officers disguised as filmmakers into Iran, train the stranded Americans to impersonate a film crew, and lead the entire group back out past Iranian security at the border. The name of the fake film they were pretending to scout for - "Argo."

MYRE: The CIA declassified the operation way back in 1997, but Johnson had always preferred to keep his identity secret. When Johnson's family visited CIA headquarters this summer, Trosin met with them and tried to figure out a way to tell his story. Johnson, who's now age 80 and ailing, finally agreed to be identified. And it turned out Johnson had made an internal CIA recording about the operation years ago - podcast gold. In the recording, Johnson explains the first challenge was to get the diplomats to play the part of a movie crew.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ED JOHNSON: These are rookies. They weren't trained to be clandestine, elusive.

MYRE: The six were given Canadian passports and specific roles to play, which they rehearsed repeatedly. The moment of truth came at the airport in Tehran where they faced multiple security checks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHNSON: There are so many possibilities at any point along the way that - you can have your cover stories and your planning, and they can go up in a ball of wax. And everyone performed fantastic.

MYRE: Of course, not all CIA operations go off with cinematic precision, but this one did.

Greg Myre, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUN B ET AL. SONG, "CONCRETE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.

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