Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

How to Spot a Terrorist by His Facial Expression

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

How to Spot a Terrorist by His Facial Expression

Article excerpt

How to Spot a Terrorist by His Facial Expression Michele Rigby Assad. Breaking Cover: My Secret Life in the CIA and What It Taught Me about What's Worth Fighting for. New York: Tyndale Momentum, August 2017. Memoir. $25.99. ISBN: 978-1-49641959-0. 250pp.

I read this book cover-to-cover, and wouldn't have minded reading a second volume. This is a memoir of Michele Rigby Assad's experiences as a CIA operative. She describes how she was hired by the CIA. It was a long painful process where she was first told she got the job, and then it was rescinded, and then she reapplied, and was finally accepted. She describes how she was constantly sent into the most dangerous war zones while others in her class got to go to beautifUl cities and stayed in wonderful accommodations. She describes living in trailers in Iraq as bombs fell on the military encampment around her. She talks about sexism in the CIA and among the religious Muslim men that she worked with since her degree was in their Arab language. She mentions that despite passing a graduate language course in this language, she could barely use it in practical situations and needed a translator. She also talks about how she finally resigned from the CIA and went into private security contracting. It is strange that she explains that the CIA does not allow prior operatives to put their CIA experience on their resume, so they have to put their cover story (reporting for her) on the resume instead. And yet, here she is publishing an entire book that confesses to per having worked for the CIA. Clearly, this would be a security breach by the stated requirements on silence. It was also troubling for me to read that she determined if somebody was a terrorist or not based on her intuition rather than facts. Her job was to determine who was sincerely interested in converting to Christianity and who was holding onto their Muslim religion. She also had to separate terrorists from Muslims who did not want to kill Americans by their facial expressions, by their anger level, or by what others said about them. She admits that on some occasion the intel she gathered this way was incorrect and led to officers in the field who followed her directions into setups to be killed. She paints herself as the hero of this saga, and shifts the blame onto the lying or self-interested snitches who gave her false info in exchange for money. …

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