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163 A Female CIA Agent’s Story: Breaking Cover With Michele Rigby Assad

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Hi, I’m Alex!

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In a Post-9/11 world, the threat of extremist terrorists is a concerning and much-politicized fear for many. We’ve all seen the movies and read the stories of counter-terrorism efforts by the CIA. It may come as a surprise to you, then, that the CIA’s real front man for many undercover anti-terror missions in the Middle East was not actually a man at all. Against all odds and expectations, Michele Rigby Assad led many successful missions in a male-dominated field within a male-dominated culture. How in the world did she do it?

Today, I sit down with Michele to talk about her upcoming book, Breaking Cover, where she shares how she became a CIA agent, used her knowledge of Arab culture and language to earn her spot in the Debriefing Room, and then go deep undercover over in the Middle East. It was always a little like walking a tightrope between knowing she was the right woman for the job, and dealing with the insecurities and self-doubt that many of us experience even in less dangerous situations. Michele puts on display true empathy, honor, and intelligence, proving that your unique gifts are what make you invaluable, not your appearance and gender. I can’t wait for you to hear her incredible stories today as we navigate what it means to be a woman in the world.

Music Credit: My good friend Lindsay Katt –

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Show Notes:

  • Michele shares what it was like to work as not quite the “type” you assume would be a CIA agent.
  • Battling self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and sexism within the CIA.
  • How Michele walked the tightrope in her career to change the dynamic and earn trust and respect.
  • What we can learn from Virginia Hall.
  • Having the support of her husband and her faith enabled her to advance in her career.
  • We chat about the American ideals of immigration, religious freedom, and free speech.
  • Ways that extremism is being battled in the Middle East.
  • How we can support refugees in our own communities.



Michele’s Book: Breaking Cover

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