71: Finding Faith, Courage and Confidence as a Secret Agent—Michele Rigby Assad's Pivot from CIA to Author

"Was it hard to be a CIA officer with all of the challenges and change that entailed? Yes. Scary? Of course. But if I was going to fulfill my life mission, I had to conquer my instinctual tendency to freeze in place. Fear would get me nowhere. Faith, however, would take me to places I could never have imagined."

—Michele Rigby Assad, Breaking Cover: My secret life in the CIA and what it taught me about what's worth fighting for

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in, because this weeks guest is a fascinating one, a one-of-a-kind woman I'm lucky to call a friend. Michele Assad was a self-described "sweet, faith-based southern girl" in high school, the last you'd expect to become an international undercover agent for the CIA, interrogating terrorists while stationed at war zones across the Middle East. But that's exactly what she did for ten years with her husband in a real-life Mr. and Mrs. Smith situation.

In this conversation we dive into what it was like to work as a woman in interrogation rooms even when everyone told her she'd only succeed behind the scenes doing paperwork; the role of faith in Michele's career, how she honed her skills around intuition and reading body language, and what it's like for her to "come out" and try to build a public-facing platform after so many years of being required to keep her entire life secret. 


More About Michele

Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations. Trained as a counterterrorism specialist, Michele served her country for ten years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations.

Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband Joseph (also a former agent) joined a group of Americans who wished to aid persecuted Christians. Their efforts resulted in the evacuation of a group from northern Iraq that was featured on ABC’s 20/20 in December 2015.

Michele holds a master’s degree in Contemporary Arab Studies from Georgetown University. Today she serves as an international security consultant, splitting her time between the Middle East, Florida, and Washington, D.C. 

Topics We Cover

  • Listening to intuition and letting it lead us even when we can't see the next step

  • How rejection often serves as a blessing-in-disguise

  • Michele's experience as a woman in the CIA, particularly when everyone seemed to tell her i t was a hindrance that would sentence her to years behind a desk instead of doing field work

  • How she turned her perceived weaknesses into an advantage; "don't play the game the way everyone else does - find your own way to play and your results will be greater."

  • Tips for reading body language, nervous energy

  • What we both love about the people we've met from the Middle East (despite what is often covered in the media); their incredible generosity and hospitality

  • What it's like to go public after years of being required to keep her life a secred

Podcast: Finding Faith, Courage and Confidence as a Secret Agent—Michele Assad's Pivot from CIA to Breaking Cover

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