A Bakersfield man is getting national attention saying he was an undercover spy for the CIA. Fernando Jara says he was embedded with Islamic extremists after the September 11th attacks, looking for terrorists. Jara happens to be Kern County Supervisor, Leticia Perez's husband and his story just happened to break as Perez announced she's running for the 16th District Senate seat.
Jara says the timing is purely coincidence. 17 News told Jara's story in the past, as the person who started Rockhill Farms. But, it wasn't until recently did he want to talk about his life in the CIA.
In 2010, just outside of Bakersfield, 17 News first met Fernando Jara, who started Rockhill Farms. It's part of a Christian church, offering men sober living and a chance to grow themselves and the land.
"When Channel 17 was following my story, I wasn't ready to tell that story yet," said Jara.
That story starts before September 11th. Four years before the attack, Jara had converted to Islam, trying to find his way. He also knew some Arabic. So, after the attacks, wanting to do something for his country, he volunteered himself to the CIA in an e-mail.
"And, I said here's my connections. Here's what I know and then I forgot about it. And, I felt silly that I had sent out that e-mail and a month later, roughly, I got a call," said Jara.
Jara says he trained with the CIA and spent five years embedded in the Middle East, borderline living as a terrorist recruit.
"I spent five years living undercover, basically living as the most extreme type of Muslim radical in the world," said Jara.
When Jara returned, he agreed to keep his service a government secret. But, he says bottling up those five years led to post traumatic stress, demons he tried to bury in the farm he created.
"Rockhill was, at that time, the beginning stages of my own repair of my own life," said Jara.
In January 2013, Jara says the L.A. Times asked him about doing a story on the farm. But, his story always had a five-year gap. So, he decided to close it and share his secret. It just so happened the article didn't print until Monday, the same day Jara's wife, Supervisor Leticia Perez announced she's running for the 16th District Senate seat.
"So it was by coincidence that the L.A. Times, which we had no control over the release date, for them end up releasing the day of my wife's announcement," said Jara.
Jara says sharing his story isn't about him or his wife. He hopes it sheds some light on service members, who can't or won't speak out, and are still haunted by war.
"I just really felt like I had to say to my brothers that it is possible to dig their way out of the pain and soul injuries that they have incurred by defending this country. Even when they come home the war is still with them," said Jara.
Jara converted back to Christianity after his service and is a pastor now. He says since the article, other national news agencies have contacted him about sharing his story.