What Works Assignment 4/1

From Student to Spy, and Back Again

The title immediately made me want to read the story.  Most people want to know about spies—who they are, what they do and what becomes of them.  The title conveyed that it would unravel the life story of a spy and that’s intriguing to the reader.

The author begins the story with a soft lead.  I like how the author starts the story by describing Jara’s life now.  By doing this, the author can show the transformation Jara’s life underwent.

The author is able to weave in the past and present throughout the story.  I like how the author is able to capture just how surprising Jara’s acceptance into the CIA is.  I was very shocked and amazed that Jara was able to contact the CIA through an email and that they took him seriously as a tool they could use.  I think this shows just how tumultuous the times were after 9/11 for America and the government’s desperation to track down the people who were responsible.

I also think it’s interesting how the author portrays Jara’s religious journey.   Often times Americans automatically connect Islam and Muslims to 9/11.  However, Jara used his religion as a way to fight for his country.  I really like the parallel there and how the author subtly reminds readers that people can jump to conclusions about a person without even knowing them.

The author does not use flowery language to describe Jara’s story but instead is straightforward in presenting the story.  I do wish the author had described more about what exactly Jara did overseas as a spy.

I do think it’s important that the author shared that two of the main factors of this story—the CIA and FBI—did not contribute any information or interviews with the author.  The author had to rely on fact checking through other means to verify the story.

I really like how the author uses the incident of Jara visiting a friend’s home and seeing the Britney Spears poster to juxtapose America’s obsession with celebrities to the real war that was happening to protect Americans.

Once Jara’s cover was blown and had to return home, he began to have psychological problems due to the war. Jara had little money and even slept in his truck.  He also had problems with the law because of his alcohol addiction.  Jara’s return to civilian life was a hard transition and many soldiers have the same problem.

I wish the author would have given more data about veterans’ problems with unemployment and PTSD after returning home.

The author also writes about the Rockhill Farm, a program to help drug addicts and felons rehabilitate.  However, I really think the author could have used more of the story to describe Rockhill Farm and why Jara decided run the place.

Six sources are interviewed for the story.  Sources include Jara’s friends, wife, lawyer and firearms instructor.

At the top of the story, the author has a slideshow of pictures that include scenes from Rockhill Farm.  Also there is a poll where the reader can vote on whether or not they think Jara served his country well.  Although some limitations arise from the secrecy of the topic, I still think the author could have used a graph that showed data about PTSD that would have added value to the story.  I would have also liked to have seen audio or video of an addict who works at the farm to show another perspective.


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