January 1st, 2010
10:48 PM ET

How a spy's family grieves

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/01/cia.lobby.jpg

Program note: Tune in tonight at 10pm ET to hear Suzanne Simons discuss the latest in the CIA bombing case.

Suzanne Simons
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


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Suzanne Simons • Taliban • Terrorism
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. FCB

    My condolences.
    The long term family's multigeneration impact is enormous, and at times will appear unbearable. My wish is that the public value the ocean of pain with greater regard to the sorely tested children of the fallen or harmed. The strength of love of family, country, and life will eventually prevail with glee. I know this to be true.

    Kind regards,

    January 2, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  2. Walter Allen

    God bless each of the fallen CIA Agents and Contractors for there efforts in keeping us safe from terrorism.

    January 2, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  3. Pablo Enrique

    Just remember that that besides being against human rights, practices like waterboarding are simply useless. Information gathered through torture is unreliable and probably misleading. Of course, you can sometimes get the truth through torture, but you seldom know when.

    That makes the losing of good inteligence professionals the worse. Someone can be tempted to substitute good work with the instant satisfaction provided by revenge.

    January 2, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  4. Tim Gibson

    While the CIA works to help defend our nation our hearts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives, families who lost a father or mother, a husband or wife, a son or daughter, and a brother or sister.

    Yet, this is a real reminder of the danger terrorism is on our lives even here in the US. The reality that an individual would be welcomed into the CIA compound is a warning of the danger our failure to do all possible in our airport security, our homeland security, in fear of being PC or invasive.

    When I traveled to Egypt, the first thing I saw when I stepped off the plane and onto the jetway were men armed with machine guns, they were throughout the streets of Cairo and an additional flight to Luxor came with a bus ride, again with armed men, out onto the tarmac where the plane sat, surrounded by machine guns on the ready. All which made me feel not violated or afraid, but safe in some way.

    We have to drop our misguided ideas of privacy and grasp the reality of what terrorism means. It is real, it is here and until we address it full force we remain open targets marked for death.

    January 2, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  5. vk

    Sacrifice of the few, so a lot of us can experience/enjoy the freedom.

    May god bless their families.

    January 2, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  6. A. Yelvington

    My thoughts and prayers for the families and the rest of the CIA cadre.

    Semper Paratus


    January 2, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  7. Beverly

    These are patriots and heroes to all of us. My heartfelt prayers for their families.

    January 2, 2010 at 7:18 am |
  8. Randy

    God Speed to the families and fallen!! Wish I could something to help!!

    January 2, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  9. dina osullivan

    What a tragedy to happen now and how sad it is that these people have to grieve the way they will have to grieve without names. How sad it is for this country. We have to let go of the Middle East and understand they do't think the way we do and never will. We can't change their culture and shouldn't.

    January 2, 2010 at 6:31 am |
  10. Knife

    To the families affected, my heart goes out to you. Remember their sacrifice and live their dreams. Be strong, for the children's sake. God bless

    January 2, 2010 at 5:16 am |
  11. John

    THANK YOU CIA.& we know your out there 24/7 we can't know who you are, but we can respect you and appreciate you. Thank you, Thank you from an experienced Afghanistan Veteran.


    January 2, 2010 at 5:15 am |
  12. Christy Shaffer

    These CIA agents and contractors have given the highest service one could give.
    Compassion and prayers for you all, may God send you comfort as you pass through this difficult time.

    Praying the agency move forward with courage and strength. Do all you have to do to protect one another, take/use all measures to protect you and yours.

    January 2, 2010 at 3:51 am |
  13. Todd

    There is another group of people that suffer like this: gay soldiers and their partners..

    January 2, 2010 at 3:28 am |
  14. Sue

    Thank You CIA. What a great sacrifice for the country.

    January 2, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  15. Dave H

    Thank you to the men and women of the Agency and their families; whom protect the freedoms we all enjoy, and in this case they made the ultimate sacrifce.
    de Oppresso Liber

    January 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  16. Marc

    Words, can not express what trembilng heart is going through.
    Stay strong.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  17. Laura A.

    Simply, May the families know we are thankful for their service and their ultimate sacrifice.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  18. Kevin Fitz.

    The CIA officers on the frontlines are the bravest of the brave.
    Thank you for publishing the The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation information at the end of the story.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  19. Danny

    A Stunning blow to part of our intelligence comunity finest- my deepest sympaty to their families.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  20. usmcdog

    Words can not express the respect I have for those who have given their lives for my family and my country. May their loved ones be kept safe and secure in their homes through these hard times to come. May God bless them.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  21. let'sgetout

    This is sad I feel bad for the children that have lost their parents. I just wonder how many Americans have to die before we finally bring everyone home.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  22. george

    Thank you for this article. Thank you for giving the address of the foundation. Few people really understand.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  23. GGJackson

    There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go. ~Author Unknown

    What a devastating loss for our country, the United States of America. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these fallen heros.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  24. Sam

    thank you CIA........thanks for everything.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  25. Robert in KY

    The CIA is full of America’s unsung heroes. A group of people that get a lot of attention for their mistakes, but cannot talk about the successes. My thoughts and prayers are with these families. God bless.

    January 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  26. Dee

    There are no words to express my gratitude to these CIA employees and their families for the work they do & sacrifices they make, and the grief and sadness I fell at the loss of their lives and what their families have lost!

    January 1, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  27. Milan

    Thank you so much for your courageous service and the sacrifices you have made, both in the past, and now with the losses of your lives. We owe you tremendous gratitude for all of your efforts in intelligence gathering that keeps us safe in our country. Rest in Peace.

    January 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  28. pattyanna from mass.

    this such a loss for the usa and for the families, my heart goes out to them. the CIA deserves more credit then are given to them for the job they do,,may these men rest in peace.

    January 1, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  29. Jay

    My prayers go out those those families who now have a huge void in their lives. The CIA plays a vital role in what we do here overseas.
    (Marine Security Guard/ Skopje, Macedonia)

    January 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  30. PaJC

    Thank you, CIA. Thank you CIA families. Thank you soldiers. How could anyone think of giving up when your loved ones are shedding blood for us?

    January 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  31. defensebaseactcomp

    I hope the families of the CIA Agents fare better than the families of the Contractors will.
    This is a tremendous loss for all, but the contractors families have a much tougher road ahead of them.

    All are in our thoughts.

    January 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  32. westpacjohn

    may the good Lord bless those who lost there lives (and their loved ones) and give them peace. America needs to realize the cost of freedom is too often the loss of great Americans.

    January 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  33. Jim Kelley

    To the fallen and their families . . . thank you – your service to and sacrifices for our nation are greatly appreciated. God bless.

    January 1, 2010 at 9:15 pm |


    January 1, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  35. Herbert

    LIve by the sword, die by the sword. We don't belong there in the first place. Our presence serves no valid purpose. The loss of life can be stopped by simply leaving.

    January 1, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  36. C in DE

    Thank you CIA for your work, and keeping us safe!

    January 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  37. Loren

    These men and women are heroes. The intelligence that they provide keeps me and my family safe, and I won't forget their sacrifice.
    Thank you.

    January 1, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  38. nicole s.

    Families stay strong. I am sure your relatives would have wanted you too. They were strong and dedicated. Through this action they can still live on. Prayers are out to all.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
  39. thepowerofmeditation

    What a tragedy. It goes without saying that these stalwart heroes made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and fellow citizens. My hat is off to them and my heart goes out to the families. I have two children in the Marines and a son-in-law in the Army. I know something of the worry that always attends their deployment.

    My heartfelt thanks and condolences for those who must work in such difficult and trying situations, particularly without the recognitions they so richly deserve.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  40. JR, a fellow thankful American

    The CIA don't care if you're Democrat, Independent or Republican as their job is to protect America. Thanks for their blind faith in our country and their unabashed dedicated to keeping her safe, we all rest easier at night. Thank you to all who work at the CIA. To those to consistently try ot cripple this fine group of people either through budget cuts, retriction of their activities or other actions, if you persist there may be a day when you sleep with only one eye open. It's an ugly world offshore of America and sometimes these folks have to get just as ugly to keep the beauty of America safe. Waterboarding is tame compared to what alot of the bad actors is this world would like to do to a majority of Americans. Thank God they're there for us and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  41. respectful

    The work of these agents is very much underrated and often unnoticed. We owe a lot of our freedom and safety to these brave individuals. God speed for those lost and those still risking their lives every day.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
  42. Bob (USMC) in Ohio

    These are the behind-the-scenes guys. They are on duty and fully engaged 24-7. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for their service and professionalism to freedom.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  43. Robert in Nebraska

    Thank you CIA for your work. The dedication of the men & women in the intelligence community, who work for the important interests of our country, should be applauded. They quietly sacrifice and cannot get the proper recognition they deserve. My condolences to the families of the officers and contractors who lost their lives in the bombing in Khost. They did not lose their lives in vain as many of us recognize the courageous and dangerous work they performed in the defense of the U.S. and for our way of life. For those who are still on the front lines to those who work stateside supporting the various intelligence operations around the world, thank you for what you do.

    January 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  44. ketopress

    my heart felt prayers for the families. I send you blessings and peace!
    Semper Fi!!!

    January 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  45. Annie Kate

    What an incalculable loss for these families, the agency and the country. These officers gave their utmost in valor for our nation yet we cannot recognize their contribution publicly. I send my condolences to each family and my gratitude to each victim. Thank you for the address for the scholarships so that I can make a more material contribution to help their children as well.

    January 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm |

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