The CIA's loss -- and ours

By Robert Richer
Friday, January 1, 2010

Dec. 30, 2009, marked the greatest loss of life for the Central Intelligence Agency since the 1983 Beirut Embassy bombing. Seven officers on the front lines of the war against terrorism were killed in Afghanistan while doing critical, unheralded work. The CIA employees who died this week were providing vital support to coalition forces and our Afghan allies and protecting our country's national security.

These officers accepted a mission of great risk knowing full well that their efforts would not be publicly rewarded. There are no parades or public testimonials in this business. They knew that they would never wear medals identifying their service to their country and their willingness to stand in harm's way. No, had they completed their missions, they would have come home, been thanked by those who led them and those with whom they serve, and then gotten back to the business that makes the Central Intelligence Agency unique.

Sadly, more stars will soon be added to the Wall of Honor in CIA headquarters. Agency leaders, colleagues, families and a few friends of the fallen will learn of their service and contributions. Many will pause and reflect on this ultimate sacrifice by officers who were doing work that is critical to our country's efforts and so often maligned and misrepresented. In their memory, fellow officers around the world also working at great risk will no doubt redouble their efforts and continue to conduct a mission that many will never fully appreciate but whose impact is felt by all.

As we mourn these brave officers, we should remain mindful that our great country is served well by Americans in and out of uniform. That officers like those killed in this attack place themselves in harm's way at a dangerous crossroads in the war against terrorism. We should be thankful for the sacrifice of these fine Americans. They and their colleagues who compose the thin line of agency officers working in the shadows that surround this war are a national asset that is, sadly, often misunderstood and underappreciated.

We must remember these fine officers for their service and sacrifice. Their devotion to their country and their agency deserves no less.

The writer retired in 2005 as the Central Intelligence Agency's associate deputy director for operations.

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