tv Michele Rigby Assad Breaking Cover CSPAN March 3, 2018 6:30pm-7:46pm EST
welcome back. we welcome all of you and appreciate seeing you all appear tonight. some familiar faces and some new ones and we hope you'll come back again not only to some of our programs in the future but the museum itself. we have another 11 months or so before we are not here anymore. we are moving to brand-new building and we are excited moving forward but we hope you come back and check us out on another day. i'm particularly happy to help with this our guest. sometimes they just show up for the first time and want to have known for years and it's a little disingenuous. we got a a chance to talk and get to know each other a little bit and i can truly say how much of a pleasure it's going to have a conversation with michele rigby assad who's a former undercover officer for the cia and richter of operations. she's a cyber specialists and served the country for 10 years
working in iraq and other places around the middle east. she and her husband joseph who is here as well. he's also former cia joined a group of americans -- whose efforts resulted in a group featured on 2020 in december of 2015. she holds a masters degree from the georgetown university and has served in several roles as an international security consultant to the middle east -- she is from central florida and here in washington d.c. so welcome and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. >> thank you so much. really nice to be here. i've never been here before either. >> so happy could come here. she is the author of "breaking
cover" in the subtitle is interesting and we will talk a lot about moving forward my secret life in the fbi and what it taught me about what's worth fighting for. this will be a concurrent theme throughout this talk because unlike a lot of other memoirs and people who have written them this one gets down to that fundamental question about motivation. motivation is something we eyes talk about. sometimes the motivation is to give up your life or cause whether it's working for the intelligence community or something completely different. let's start with that basic concept that we ask a lot of people who are farmers. the answer usually is i want to be a in the cia since i was 15 years old or when i was in college. you had no intention whatsoever of joining the cia until very late in your life.
you are not late in life yet. very late in your career moving forward. >> i wanted to say ballerina. i didn't even know growing up that venus buy or intelligence officer was a real job. it never entered my mind to consider such a career. >> you almost got dissuaded from the very beginning. for those who are of the generations of the 60s, 70s and 80s there's a lot of conversations about recruitment in a dark alley and now you can go to cia.gov and apply on line. not for the director but as an analyst. >> these were the old days where you put your physical resume into a box and this is the first time i had done an informational interview. i put my resume in every single
box for every single job and a reporter called me three weeks later and he said we are looking forward someone for the analyst position. then it started going through that very impressive vetting process. >> but then. >> couple of weeks i got a rejection letter in the mail saying you no longer qualify for this position as an analyst as if i had done something to jeopardize this job. >> all of a sudden you didn't qualify any more? did you run a stop sign or turn right on the a red nbc? you can't do that around here. at that level where you had been at dance degree you wanted a job doing something that's worthwhile but every job
requires what you have. >> experience. >> and how do you get experience? a vicious cycle here. he has sent to me it was so frustrating. d.c. is such an interesting place and is so full of many accomplished people lots of type a personalities. everybody had a job at me or at least it felt like anyway. why can i get a job? >> imparted a rejection letter they told you you couldn't apply back to the cia for a year so you were looking at other directions that the same time you had not only family friends but a family member or your spouse was looking at cia with the entirely different directory. >> he said there's this other side of the cia and this is the cool side apologize for any --. this is the cool side of the operations and this is where
it's at. like we have got to do this. my husband joked and he was like oh yeah and i did not conceptualize myself in such a roll in i didn't know what the site looked like. >> and pop culture doesn't help. you don't have 27 costumes and you are not jumping out of airplanes. a lot of people don't have this opportunity because your husband started this program. you were told everything that was going on because that's a big no-no but you got to see they came back from their training without being brainwashed or psychological trauma and you are able to kind of demystify the director of operations a little bit before you went down that path. >> people were getting cut left and right. not only do you have to pass all of the training exams but they
have to be sure that you have the constitution required for this kind of high-pressure job. >> one thing i found interesting interesting. [laughter] god thing it wasn't my phone going off. nobody needs to hear classic bust a move in the middle of our conversation. they just didn't know who you were because your husband because of his bio, was a natural fit for the director of operations but the minute you told him about you it was like of course. you have the back round, the languages, the degrees and you are exactly what they were looking for but it had to be brought to their attention. maybe they don't know everything everything. >> yes. my husband is a native arabic from the middle east. when i look at him i say you are clearly perfect for this. he said i have a wife and she also has the same expertise.
>> the husband-wife thing is a win-win for everyone. it's a win for the agency. the husband-wife team is a lot less obvious than a military age male walking around the middle east. you are couple and at the same time a lot of these psychological problems that case officers run into is that you tout can't tell those closest to you what they do on a day-to-day basis. you still can't have those in-depth conversations because you are working side-by-side side-by-side and sometimes on the exact same are prescient. you could be intimate with the person that you are intimate with anyway. >> exactly. having joseph help me plan for an operation in see through all
of the things that could go wrong, providing support for each other's operations. i felt so confident when joseph was behind me because i trusted him more than anybody. >> that is the key. you have to trust those you are working with especially in the middle east. that tilton trust of sardi there. it's not like you have to go out drinking together. but you talk about what they were looking for and you wrote this out of the book and i think it's done very well. the idea is you have to be completely honest so the cia can trust you but you are being sent overseas and you are lying to your family and friends about the fact that i'm a diplomat and an attaché for the u.s. embassy. i am the minister for shrubberies would you are actually working for the agency and at the same time you have to be honest.
you have to make sure you haven't broken the law because blowing through a stop sign can stop it but you are sent over seas to break the law in the country are going to. as far as i know espionage is not against the laws. >> exactly. they have to be sure you are not going to pose a threat to united states has as a double agent so they want honesty and they want integrity and at the same time they are asking you to break laws in other countries. it's a wild contradiction. >> one of those interesting contradiction and because pop culture is set such a crazy standard for what operations are is the fact that there isn't not an operation where there's going to be a 30 minute rush that doesn't take days if not weeks of preparation beforehand planning surveillance detection rounds in all these things and of course you don't see that in homeland. it would be a really boring
movie. let's talk about people work for a week and all of that goes into planning. the other side is it never works that way, right? no plan survives first contact with the enemy so you have to be a mid-it was planner but be very agile at the same time. you. >> you have to respond to murphy's law. anything that can go wrong will so you plan for these contingencies and something pops up. that's been hard for the agency to hire because they are looking for people who are meticulous planners who can ensure an operation on the fly and operate under this intense pressure because not only is your life on the line but your spouse's life. you are having and planning for a clandestine meeting but if you bring surveillance to that meeting there is definitely a
lot on the line. >> talk about how you were a natural recruit for cia with your background and knowledge in the area and your ability to have some aaron peck. you are a bit self depreciating about your arabic in the book. but even though you are a natural fit with the polygraph and the training at that place you can't say that but i can tell you it's a farm down in virginia the polygraph examination for anyone like me who grew up catholic went tot at a catholic school and married in a catholic church i am ingrained with this i'm guilty if i think about doing something i'm thinking about i'm not supposed to do. even considering it. if you talk about in the book were some cultures are some backgrounds are naturally inclined to be really bad in
these examinations. i may have when i was 10 years old looked at a pack of baseball cards and i don't have enough money i'm thinking about grabbing it. so in the process i stole a pack of baseball cards. my polygraph still like this. i have a lot of explaining to do afterwards but in your case you have somewhat similar experience and of course taking the box for the first time when they say relax and they start putting electrodes places in other censors other places. did you find that was overwhelmingly onerous and trying to convince yourself to calm down and convince them that you had nothing to hide? >> there are asking so many different questions like have you ever mishandled classified information. unlike what's classified information?
the polygraph went wild on the question of happy up for broken into computer system and i'm like okay now i know you are lying. i have no idea so they ask the all kinds of questions. you have censors all over the place. >> would you rather kick your dog or your cat? >> one thing that is an underlying theme in the book that i thought came across in all the right ways and i think it needs to be pushed into people's faces is the perception of women within the intelligence world and it's a recurring theme throughout the book and something we should take more seriously than we certainly do. this started right at the beginning of your training in your work at the cia. her training officer, i don't
know what the deal was but can you explain about your first impressions of the cia? >> my instructor had quite a legend at the cia. he was retired and he told me at one point and i don't know which point that was but he only knew women as secretaries and he said are you sure you want to get into operations? i was like i think so. my other mail colleague and i would sit in this room in this tiny room and he would never look at me. that was my introduction to the cia. >> you chalk it up to a degree in the book about this is an old guy thinking about that in the day. is it fair to say it dramatically changed? >> not all that much unfortunately. >> perception is still there
about the ability especially when it comes to abilities. >> you are dealing with people from very paternalistic cultures so when i started working at the cia they said your husband should really do that sketchy fieldwork and you should remain inside the office because of the female you are not going to be able to connect with these middle eastern male sources and a lot of them are terrorists. i thought okay they are the cia and they must know. i received all this amazing training to do operations and then being told you get to do everything your husband does. he will just have a little more office time but i found it very strange when i got into the field that other individuals who knew nothing about the middle east and had never traveled there before didn't know the
difference and didn't understand the sectarian strife going on, my colleague knows nothing about the middle east and is going to do a better job than i am? >> you saw the time men who did a specific thing were considered assertive and women were called a different word for that same thing. we have known each other for couple of hours and they see you for 10 minutes they can tell you are easy-going and open and you have a great personality but people may perceive that and they have perceived that as you were stupid or you are probably an underestimate your capabilities. >> yes. i don't know what it is. i'm sure i'm not the only one in the room but if you are empathetic and if you are smiling people think you are stupid. not everyone but there's this perception that you can beat
driven and be incredibly determined and have grit. they don't see what's what's inside to do so they have to see you in action. actually have to watch you in motion. it would take a long time to convince myself of my colleagues that not only i had what it took that i could be really good at it. once they saw me the briefing rooms and the intelligence i was able to collect it wasn't ah-ha moment fraught with us. >> it was wonderful that you are able to use this and take advantage of them underestimating you especially in some cases terrorists who would look at you as a object when he walked into the room and of course if you know anything about breathing or interrogation the number one thing you want to do is put your subject on guard and give them something to think about that is not trying to stop you from getting information.
and you had that. >> lucky me. >> turning people's bias against them and an oss and cia. someone that you looked up to as a model for your experience in the cia. >> she was a spy during world war ii. she had applied to the state department at three times and getting rejected for being a female and having shot off the bottom part of her leg and having a peg leg. they told her you are not able-bodied so therefore you can never be a diplomat. eventually she became one of the best spies in world war ii because she used that peg leg to code as an old lady and the nazis could not figure out where she was and what she was doing. they did not figure out she was american and i didn't know her true identity. she operated behind enemy lines but she was a radio operator and
because the counterintelligence radio operators only lasted six weeks before they were killed. she lasted two years. >> and if you want to see her actual radio it's a floor above us right now. >> oh my gosh. >> so we are very happy that you like virginia hall. but they ask you about your first -- joining the cia you think you are going to travel these wonderful places in the world. you might get to go to australia and maybe you'll be in the british station. you got sent somewhere and the cia won't let us know where you got sent but it certainly wasn't the virgin islands. >> no, no it wasn't the ivins. >> this is a somewhat interesting experience with your first boss who seem to have
similar ideas that you ran into during training. >> we sold our house in alexandria and we sold our cars. we gave away a pack of our belongings and we said goodbye to our families and friends and give up our civilian life's travel to the edge of the world and they essentially greeted us by cursing at us for several minutes and saying don't mess this up and not talking to us for three or four months. >> he trained as a management officer which was something you got shoved into and this is not like a secondary job. it's an incredibly important job at the cia. you kind of get the 30,000-foot view of what everyone is doing where cape officers are huddled in on up particular fiefdom you have the full picture. >> we are reading all the intelligence reports and
managing all of the intelligence reports and signal intelligence that you are putting all the people together and it creates a subject matter expert. >> you are supposed to be able to travel out and meet sources and things that other collections agents do but that's not what happened. women don't know how to do what they are told. back i was told that repeatedly. >> before the cia how many different countries had to travel to? >> six and i had traveled abroad abroad. i have been all over the middle east at that point so that was a revelation. >> one place we are allowed to say where you were and this is certainly not a pleasure deployment either. this is right before the sunni
awakening at a time where there was a lot of sect. violence. you got sent from one hardship deployment to the next. he referred to iraq as groundhog day unrelenting sameness every single day. >> yes. that was probably the hardest i have ever worked than i'm likely to never work that hard again. 13 to 14 hour days. we were handling information multiple times a day so with hair on fire no time to eat, hardly any time to sleep and we could even go to the bathroom. we would run to the bathroom and run back. it was constant because you are dealing with the location of a car bomb or an ied in troops were about to roll over it and you have to call that locations ied and before someone gets blown up. it was constant and there were
no breaks in this. meanwhile we are being shelled by rockets multiple times a day and it was 125 degrees out. it's miserable when it's hot and you are exhausted all the time. >> this is the opportunity where you got to show your mettle and some of the sources you are running in iraq to be mentioned in the book that most officers have three strikes against them before they walk in the door. they are american of course and nonbelievers. and they were cia but you had a fourth. >> yeah, exactly. >> you had to walk in the door and not waste any time and set the tone immediately or you were done. >> i explain to people that these were penetrations of terrorist groups and these guys are a part or very close to it and terrorist or insurgent group. most of them were incredibly
streetsmart high level of emotional intelligence. this is what it took to survive in a place like iraq under saddam hussein when everyone was reporting on everyone else. these guys were survivors. if you walk through that door and you are anything but offensive and if you are trying to hide the fact that you don't have the -- they will figure it you out immediately that they don't trust you they won't let you be there and tell. that's simple. >> these are come to jesus moment. they did all not listen sad want to help the americans because i believe in superman. maybe even at covert ulterior moments where a few mess with the briefly get power or money so they were doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. these were hardened terrorists. even though they are helping the united states. >> you wanted to accomplish something for themselves,
absolutely. they were out for their best interest and they were not different. >> you were able to do a lot that showed that you were capable of doing the job and then you guys decided to leave the cia and after the cia and we learned about this in the book it's not easy to transition back. >> it's terrifying. >> a decade where you are privy to the most secret information in the world where on a day-to-day basis you are doing things that are saving lives are changing lives and the intelligence you collect may be going although it to the top and of course you need to get a new job and your resume has a 10 year gap in it. you can't really talk about the wonderful things you have done and the scope so how do you do that transition? >> exactly. i have colleagues that want to
leave but it's so hard to get al. technically can leave the cia whenever you want. arabs hold you hostage but especially when you have served for a substantial. not quite 10 years for us you have no resume, you can't say what you have done for 10 years or so. you have no role because you have been undercover overseas living in crazy places. so how are you going to get leads for a job? >> if you are in a particular position where you need to maintain your cover your resume will say minister of shrubberies shrubberies. and you can't say no i actually did some really interesting things. i worked at langley. and there's a psychological issue involved with this that you talk about where you are leading a life that has true satisfaction.
but but trying to find out if he was legitimate. so he walked into the room and i thought this would be bad when i saw that much ego that passed i knew he would talk. and then you can get whatever you need to not only was he a ranger and a green beret. but special forces that's how they collins also green beret with the special forces there are some but there are very few works for any afghan name.
>> but then he said something he probably wish he didn't. [laughter] so i was really pushing hard it is called the hangman news he was squirming in his chair we had to make that where we wanted him because he was so nervous he was trying to figure a way out so i can't answer all your questions and then i thought he did not just say that. [laughter] because by the way we never say lately. so that was the immediate giveaway that he never worked
for the cia. so do tell me about that. and that was so much fun but we ended up afterwords writing a five page assessment on him and handed it to my friend and said he did all these things that he had done in his life he must've started his career at the age of seven. so we're pretty sure he was not legit. >> so you had some fun taking away from everything? >> yes from special ops to the ia with an extra dairy opportunity come to you where isis was on the move through the middle east for people who are unwilling to bend the knee
with fundamentalism like christians that would have been at the front end of the i.c.e. is reality. and lung -- brutality but it came to gather if you have watched survivor the producer mark burnett along with his wife had the assault team together and did something about this of course you and your husband on the other hand had a particular set of skills. so to my mind that brings up the juxtaposition where the plan come together. so you have a massive bureaucracy in this country that doesn't like these displaced country this ad hoc of people from all different
walks of life that have the skill set to do something about it. >> it is fascinating because we are kind of a model so people with a special skill set that isn't a company or organization but a shared common cause. so trying to rescue these people and then once joseph ran around trying to meet with the presidents and prime ministers no no no. then we finally found slovakia. what was so fascinating was once they said yes which was a big deal and a near miracle we had to help them work their bureaucracy to affect this evacuation. >> i laughed out loud because they had the infrastructure, money from ngos and
organizations and ready to do it but we can't because we cannot that the refugees to set them down to figure out if they are bad guys or not. [laughter] >> i love that like nobody's business. i love coming through mountains of information to be sure that we are getting good stuff and not fabricated intelligent so that is our thing the next of these groups trying to escape that is true it is a breeding ground but only for those isis people trying to slip into europe but unscrupulous people you have conmen and you want to make sure the people are really running for their lives. so you had to go back to iraq. >> yes. never say never because every
time i did right around the corner was that. i said i will never go back again. and there we were. but it was so fascinating because we were not bringing in anybody in this group that could pose a security threat and we had to be absolutely certain of that. and we had to say we will not bring in anybody that will blow you up or bomb people or criminalize. we have done our work and on our jobs to vet these people to make sure they really are. >> so then you have a situation where people don't know who you are that you are interviewing. i don't want to use the word do-gooder with that perception
she works for a charity or ngo trying to save the world and scamming people like this my whole life and then you sit in front of them to say we want to help you for a better life and think they can take advantage of you without particular set of skills they were prepared for. >> but also it was so intense having hundreds of conversations with people who were displaced by this. long -- isis. but they were cut off they were not receiving water or supplies they had already seen what isis had done to the other villages and killed the men and took the women and forced marriages and they knew it was coming. so the kurds were holding for a long. of time and then they said we
are leaving tonight. that night is when hundreds and thousands of christians left their ancient villages and just made a run for curtis dan. of course that is where we went to effect the evacuation. >> after the documentation your house or what to slovakia because now they have a separate problem but they said we are ready to go we are ready to receive but we don't know any christian. >> they didn't know what we had done in iraq. we could find anyone to help. really? so he takes a suitcase full of all of the documents to the table and says your christians are right there. we could say that only did we do the vetting we brought all the documentation to you and
they were pretty amazed it would have taken them at least one year on their own. >> that is just one element because you physically have to get the people out it is one thing that slovakia was ready to receive present physically from where they are as a displaced persons camp to slovakia. more difficult than you thought it would be. >> oh my goodness. this is a period of time when russia sending cruise missiles over iraq the airspace into syria against isis so they had to close all the northern iraq airspace. so the whole evacuation was thrown off. we could not get into iraq at first. then after 24 hours they reopened the airport and we made our way halfway across the world from central florida to curtis in and then hours
before the evacuation they did it again they shut down the airspace for the cruise missiles in the whole entire evacuation was thrown off because now we had no plane and could not get them out. >> you don't have time to kill layered down the street. >> they are like 40 miles away. >> russians. [laughter] so all of this was captured by 2020 for a special had not gone on camera i would not have believed it. i cannot believe what we went through to make this happen but miraculously we could finally locate an airplane willing to fly into a war zone and fly people out of curtis dan long -- curtis dan to slovakia. >> talking about this that why was this so difficult?
there are international agencies and governmental in i work for the commission of refugees in the balkan but the backlog in the time that it takes to take someone out of the war zone is dramatically longer than what they have. >> yes. and it takes far too long which is the same thing for the united states for our clearance process for the resident visa is far too long sometimes years at a time. we have to do a much better job figuring out how to get through the bureaucratic process to streamline the process and hire the people that know how to do vetting that is a better training of your officers now they seem to be doing a much better job but
so now it is four countries all over the world so it should not be that way so it is a desperate situation there living in refugee camps about five or ten years. >> that layer of bureaucracy of refugee status is different. and you had to coach these young iraqi people they could not call themselves refugees or they could not escape. >> even just going to the airport. it was very dicey because at this point iraq is could become suspicious we don't know what you are up to but we don't like it. so we had to coach them the night before to pretend like we were officers asking questions and if we say are
you refugees don't say yes you are internally displaced with a valid passport and a valid visa who had the right to travel. it was a refugee at totally different story. nobody say refugee. so i was trying to deflect the attention of people checking us in and the employees of the airport who kept saying are you sure they are not refugees? i am positive why are americans helping them? >> we are just taking them on a nice holiday in europe they are carrying everything they owned. [laughter] something about this does not look right. >> but it is the concept of refugee status basically
giving him a one day training to pretend that you are something that you are not. >> so that simple word can throw off the whole evacuation. >> so these people could die and the hands of isis. >> it was hard because they were given the impression after they were liberated and we were hopeful for these hundreds of thousands or millions of people. they cannot go home. isis has completely obliterated these areas. but they have destroyed all infrastructure like water or food. they cannot go back. they are stuck.
>> it is one thing if i move to canada i would be okay. but going from iraq slovakia where that probably isn't a language that is taught in a lot of schools and the climate is somewhat different and they have no discernible skills and to be displaced you are basically doing manual labor. that this would be harder life. >> we had this numerous times. please understand it may be more difficult to integrate into a new country than live with isis and they looked at us like we were nuts and they said we don't know if we can do this we want to go home.
so the people that want to support refugees they are going through such trauma and authority been through such trauma and no trying to start a new life in a place and then having to learners -- learn japanese go to school japanese i don't know i could do it and so to consider to understand that struggle. >> so you talk about the fact you are able to transition to the civilian workforce because you we were incredibly well educated you did the tradecraft you want to help these people because of that and you had the power to understand the middle east but for those out there who don't have a decade of cia training and want to do something is there anything that could be done by the average person? >> yes because now there are
so many pockets of refugees around the united states in churches and moss -- mosques and they love community support a lot of americans are scared to get into people but in the culture they are very community oriented they want you to ask about their stories and to take him to the grocery store to teach them how to use a card machine how to pay for their groceries there are different things they have never been exposed to or helping children register for elementary school is life-changing. it doesn't take much just be a normal person with a little bit of empathy and a little time and that can go a long way. [applause]
they didn't give you the exit interview so how will they ever change given that they clearly need more women or minorities or people to speak other languages with that 1950s metallic lung -- mentality how do you see that actually changing? >> that will come from the strong individuals to have the confidence so that was different disadvantaged so if you're point to collect different intelligence than the people understand those cultures of sizes and shapes so how do we get around? i am writing blogging pieces and
speaking public -- publicly and for those who get into the cia. it will not be easy they are behind the game and then to get in front of leaders at some point to change the way we do hiring and vetting. >> that operational template those that were outpaced that aren't allowing the 30 year like michelle who works her way up to be dir. of operations or dci aid might leave after five years because they were employed to the redacted country to say this is enough.
>> my concern this generation was the cia their whole career but my generation we came in around 911 so a lot of us had difficult careers so for us after ten years we were exhausted. i fearful the next generation in one sense it is good because they will take less crab from the civilian but unfortunately that means we won't have that expertise and for those people to stick around long enough to enact those changes is a huge challenge. >> from the american studies program i want to know what was the process to begin speaking like one -- of your experience? obviously you had to go
through clearance so what was that like? >> i had a spiritual calling to share my story so i felt a calling i could not do that in pseudonym it has to be a true name so i would have to leave the agency and drop cover but the agency does not have to say yes i started writing that initially thinking that they would and they did so the only thing i speak about everything that i say on the podcast have to be cleared. it's amazing what they will actually let you say. [laughter] but the feedback has been so tremendous. even with the risk there is a
definite risk attached to that it is so worth it when you can give people hope because i am a big believer in those toughest faces we find our strength and make the greatest impact to do those hard things. and giving people the courage and that makes it worth it for me and what gets me out of bed everyday. >> i can't tell you my name. it is a secret. [laughter] but did you work with any ministries from the u.s. to help integrate some of the refugees? be back no. we haven't worked on those integration issues. >> let me follow up with that.
>> but we do have friends who have come to the united states so as family we have done that but not on a large scale. >> have you ever heard voices of martyrs? you make of course pre-cia my husband did human rights work and worked with voices of martyrs like you mentioned the risk of the cia can you explain what that is? >> so the risk of a public personality because you have crazy people all over the place but i am also cognizant
as a former counterterrorism officer that if i am in public place or doing a book signing there is a very real risk somebody could walk in as a lone wolf to brandish a gun and that is a problem that is in the back of my mind. so now very public events we have to get security and bags are checked before they walk in the door. >> how much risk is there for your former contacts now that you are out? people overseas who you worked with? obviously the cia would not allow you to go out if there was but is there that concerned that anyone they had worked with overseas or that they had recruited or contact is painted automatically?
>> with the clearance process they make sure that is not the case. [laughter] >> how much did your family know? did your parents know where your friends? are there certain laws that regulate what you can tell people? also there is common sense. >> we have a rule you can tell your family that they are the burden of the secret and can keep a secret for you otherwise it is your life and their life. i knew my family could handle the secret site told my. they are sitting in the front my best friend and my sister and my niece always knew where we were and what we were doing
and they kept that secret for us. even having that core people behind us and praying for us really kept us from really bad things happening so we are grateful for their love and support. >> so that carried over so the story that i found fascinating is kids these days are leaving a historical record that is so much better to make the move from the to the airport with a massive historical record and to cancel the flight and to me as a historical document.
>> i had to go back to put the pieces together i couldn't remember which day was tuesday or wednesday so i took the time date stamp and put them altogether that was helpful as i was remembering that and writing about it otherwise i could not have kept all of that straight. >> write everything down the opposite of a secret. [laughter] any further questions? >> mr. and mrs. smith? or? >> i was so grateful to have joseph by my side because i don't think i could've gotten to that level of stress without him as my rock.
and ten years of that working every day constantly for surveillance that somebody is going to ambush you or attack you took it toll and was hard on the marriage especially toward the end but it also strengthened our marriage is you are the only one who knows you have been through together. we know things about each other nobody will ever understand fully so to have them by your side to keep you safe i was so grateful. also joseph taught me the intricacies of inner culture that i needed to do my job well. tough you cannot learn in a textbook so when you say this what does that mean or what are they thinking when they
say agency? he had to answer a lot of questions. >> but when you work together you didn't want people to know you were married to how difficult was that? there is a great story of what went on. >> because he was your spouse. you are so comfortable with and they say act like you don't know him very well. and then it was very awkward at times when we were trying to hide the fact we were married without too much but he was placed in weird positions where men were hitting on me. [laughter]
that was not embarrassing at all. >> last question? >> is there a story not in the book that you found yourself in the place where you realize i will remember this for the rest of my life? >> yes. in order to get from the airport to the cia compound we had to take helicopters and they flew us over the top of buildings with the idea the insurgents couldn't see you coming to shoot you out of the sky. we would only fly between the compound and the airport at night she would make this grand trip from washington d.c. to iraq but it was during curfew so the one time when it
was quiet minot people industry and i would try to sit next to the gunner to see out the door that is the only real glimpse of baghdad because what you are stuck in the green zone in the compound so they would say look while you can and i should have been scared but i wasn't. i was fascinated how did i get here? how did that happen? >> sitting next to a guy with night vision goggles and a machine gun. >> that was a surreal moment i never imagine.
>> kids cannot seem to shut up on social media so how hard will it be to recruit them to the ci cia? >> it will be really hard. because it will make it harder to hire the next generation. now that marijuana is legalized in some states because we had a polygraph have you ever used illegal drugs how do you ask that question now? like this was several years ago you were petting them for europe but how is that vetting process?
maybe like if they are coming from damascus to have a social media profile cannot be prevented as well? >> that is a great vetting to haul. >> not to make it too complicated but when the refugee says i have no documentation that is a massive red flag in the middle east even more important to have all of your paperwork together even internally displaced before they ran from their homes they have the paperwork with them. of course there are some legitimate cases where somebody lost their paperwork or passport along the way but generally speaking they treat their paperwork and documentation with great care.
>> what about the women who are working in the male-dominated workforce? >> my advice would be figure out what you are passionate about and get really good at it. in order to break the glass ceiling you have to demonstrate your knowledge and your expertise we have to work much harder than others to do that but i did really good with my knowledge of arab culture so find that then do everything you can to build up your knowledge on that topic or skill.
>> i am curious can you talk about the muslim culture in which you were existing and the states that you help them personally? >> it is very foundational from what i do with my life so for me i felt for me to do this very unorthodox career but to be in the middle east as a christian what was useful you are taught to have empathy for others and try to see others to understand other people better so that empathy was critical in the workplace and even just getting around. for the first time in my life i was a minority so i could
understand what it's feels like he the only one ever in the room so now i have more empathy for minorities because now i know what that feels like to be the different one. >> you were the quadruple minority. >> is your hand stretched out? he will be signing books please join me in thanking michele rigby assad b-17 b-17 i am paid to say the books are good but every so often i get to say it honestly. i truly enjoyed this i read in about four hours. i sat down and it is very narrative it is it something
like another chapter. we didn't give them anywhere near the justice we needed it will make for one hell of a screenplay because that track the airport is extraordinary the sunny story had me laughing out loud. so by the book it is worth having. >> thanks. thank you for coming b-17 b-17 5 [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
conference now suddenly this man gets dear in the headlights loo look. in pristine to tell me he had just done diversity training he felt was a couple of days worth of being beaten over the head to put in the corner so what he took away was it is all your fault. and that really stuck with me because that is exactly the opposite message we should be giving to men but how to bring them out long -- and not to alienate them. so the next day speaking to a room of women of all the issues that we do face that are systemic and a room full of female head nodding in recognition i just stopped in
the middle of the sentence we know this but if every man could be in this room and hear this as well. >> rule number one on the conspiracy undermining your aspiration, let me be clear it is primarily an audience of color but to mainstream caucasian audience your problem today is not you are black or white that part of the invisible class. you are invisible to power or wealth or your vote doesn't count. that is why people don't vote a very prominent guy in the
media right now who has done a lot of great things for social justice and civil rights but he didn't vote and i have a problem with that because that is where some people are elected to office but don't represent the public interest that we endorse that by not voting when you feel invisible you don't show up which is extremely important that means bad guys win. i want to make clear there is bringing man in your life. but not just your life that 80% of everybody in america because 70% of all americans living paycheck to paycheck. you are living in new york city making 70000 were struggling in atlanta georgia
making $50000 per year or 40000 you are struggling to make ends meet. if you are in a small town of alabama making 25004 oh white world community making 25000 you are struggling to make entry too much month at the end of your money. one third of all americans have to sell the car to raise 3000.55% don't have $500 in savings. safety 5% don't have $500 that isn't racial it is human so there was something going on in the world and this is a global issue by the way 1% of the worlds population own half of the wealth of the world.
by the way not just rich caucasians that asian and russian and african. rich people from all parts of the world who got the memo. >> her interviewer this evening is a producer 2015 previously a reporter at npr as well as an npr producer speaking to our featured authors 11 and award winning journalists covering the far right as well as human rights in russia and central africa in the middle east with national security. a graduate of columbia journalism appearing in publications the new york times, "rolling stone" and al jazeera americ