A weird mini-controversy erupted earlier this year when the Department of Defense invited one of the CIA's most important intelligence assets to lecture to the Iran specialists at the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy in Maryland.
The agent had been recruited by the agency from within the ranks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He has since been granted asylum in the United States, converted to Christianity and written a book about his experiences (which I haven't yet read, but will), A Time to Betray, published under the pen-name Reza Kahlili. He also sometimes blogs at the website, PJmedia.
The invitation to Reza Kahlili was strenuously opposed by the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Michael Ledeen, writing at PJMedia also, tells the rest of the story:
Late on Wednesday, the Pentagon bluntly said:
“We can confirm that Mr. Reza Kahlili, who has specialized counterintelligence expertise, occasionally lectures at the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA)…His experiences provide valuable insight to trainees, and he keeps his personal religious beliefs out of the classroom. He does not lecture on or about Islam or any religious treatise, and his personal beliefs are his own.”
It’s an unusually clear statement, and well warranted. If you read the CAIR press release linked above, I think it’s clear that Reza’s conversion was a prime cause of CAIR’s campaign, and it’s good to see the Defense Department slap it down. Freedom of religion (funny how that 1st Amendment keeps showing up) includes the freedom to change your religion if you so choose.
So our analysts will continue to benefit from the unique knowledge of Reza Kahlili.
Congratulations to Reza, and kudos to Secretary Panetta. We could benefit from more such firmness and clarity.