CAIRO - Spying on American Muslims and fellow citizens who fight against US troops overseas, an undercover spy is seeking repentance for his operations that led to shedding the blood of many civilians.
"I'm ashamed of some of the things that happened over there," Jara told Los Angeles Times on Monday, March 18."I don't hurt people anymore. My soul couldn't take it."
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A former gangbanger in east Bakersfield in California, Jara converted to Islam four years before the 9/11 attacks.
"Twelve years ago, Fernando was in search of something to believe in," Daymon Johnson, a professor of social science and philosophy, said of the man he considers a friend.
"In Chicano studies class, he hated white America. In philosophy class, he became an atheist and liked to quote Nietzsche. In religious studies, he converted to Islam, studied the Qur'an in Arabic and grew a long Arab beard."
When hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center in 2011, Jara switched his core beliefs again.
He volunteered to work as a spy in Muslim countries with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), using his conversion to Islam as a cover.
Getting extensive gun and fighting training at the CIA, he worked connections among Muslims in California to gain access abroad.
The spy, who got a salary of about $48,000 from CIA subcontractors with no public footprint, got introduced to Muslim leaders in northern California.
Moving to Yemen, he infiltrated Islamic associations, schools and universities to get intelligence for the spy agency.
In Afghanistan, he found routes that foreign fighters used to make their way into battle zones, tracking Americans who had joined fight against US-led troops there.
"I hunted Westerners," he said.
After five years of spying, Jara's psyche started to crack, questioning the mission and the use of the intelligence he was gathering.
"The military ended up bombing certain areas where there were civilian causalities," Professor Johnson said.
"That triggered profound emotional trauma in him."
As his cover was blown up in Yemen, Jara returned to the US in the summer of 2006.
Returning to the US in the summer of 2006, Jara was already struggling with psychological issues, defined later as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
At a nondescript building in Chicago, "I was interrogated and given a polygraph test," said Jara, who was already struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Then I was ordered to turn in all my equipment.
"I had some sort of nervous breakdown. I started bawling like a baby, he said.
"I was left alone," Jara said, adding that he had no help from the government in reentering a world where his skills no longer made sense.
Seven years from that time, he still struggles with nightmares, hyper-vigilance and anxiety attacks.
In his pursuit of spiritual redemption, he is completing his master's degree in divinity and runs Rockhill Farm, the nonprofit rehabilitation program he created.
Aided by his father, Jara's felons and drug addicts work there and live in dorm rooms surrounded by a citrus orchard.
Planting and selling fruits and vegetables, they are given daily counseling and Bible study sessions led by Jara and professors from Claremont School of Theology.
"Ask me what redemption means, and I will point to Rockhill Farm rather than a Nativity scene," said Philip Clayton, dean of faculty at the Claremont campus."It is a sacred place where early-to-rise physical and mental labor transforms the soul."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net