Program note: Tune in tonight at 10pm ET to hear Suzanne Simons discuss the latest in the CIA bombing case.
CNN Executive Producer
Author, Master of War, Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War
The stunning loss of life for the CIA this week in Afghanistan has reverberated through the small, tight-knit community near Langley, Virginia as one would imagine. Current and former Agency officials are meeting the families of the fallen officers at the airport. There will be hugs, expressions of sympathy and gratitude for the sacrifice made, and offers of support in the form of grief counseling. But a loss in this world isn't quite the same as a loss in any other.
Before the bombing on Wednesday, the Agency had lost just four of its own in the past decade. Jeanine Hayden, wife of former CIA Director Michael Hayden explained it to me this way: In this community, if you pass someone on the street, you may not be able to publicly acknowledge them, even if they had experienced the same life-changing loss as you. These people have to come together quietly. It's hard. They do the bulk of their grieving behind closed doors.
Some of the seven killed on Wednesday were parents, some were contractors assigned to work closely with the CIA teams, none were new to the business. With a range of experience from 8-15 years each, they were some of the most knowledgeable professionals on the forefront of gathering intelligence to help penetrate a seemingly impenetrable enemy. It does make you wonder how something like this could have happened. The Agency won't say, which is hardly surprising, but there have been some news reports that the bomber was being recruited as an informant. It wouldn't be tough to imagine that in an area where having good intelligence from local sources who are able to blend in with the local population is critical. The bomber may not have been searched by locals in a formalized procedure, as his identity would need to be protected. Imagine the risks you'd have to take in order to recruit people amongst a population where many would rather see you dead. The exposure is enormous. The results, as in this case, can be devastating.
Without a formal structure of grief support for families, some former Officials stepped up in 2001 and formed the "CIA Officers Memorial Foundation". If nothing else, at least they could say thanks by helping get the children of the fallen through school. Last year the foundation gave some $289,000 to the children of those who had died. In light of the recent deaths, this year, they might need a little more.
The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation
C/O Arnold and Porter LLP
555 12th street N.W.
Washington, D.C., 20004
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