CIA remembers those lost during covert war on terror

AP, Washington

Mon, May 28, 2012 - Page 7

The CIA is remembering those lost in the hidden, often dangerous world of espionage, by adding a new star to the intelligence agency’s memorial wall and more than a dozen names to its hallowed Book of Honor.

The new star carved into the wall is for Jeffrey Patneau, a young officer killed in a car crash in Yemen in September 2008.

“Jeff proved that he had boundless talent, courage and innovativeness to offer to our country in its fight against terrorism,” CIA Director David Petraeus said at a private ceremony at CIA headquarters last week.

Petraeus’ tribute was the first public identification of Patneau. The stars on the memorial wall at headquarters in Langley, Virginia, bear no names.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was the site of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 US sailors. Patneau was part of the fight against militants in the country in a tense year in which the US embassy in Sanaa was attacked.

With the addition of the star for Patneau, the wall now commemorates the lives of 103 agents who died in service of the CIA, “never for acclaim, always for country,” Petraeus said at the annual event attended by hundreds of employees and family members of those lost. The remembrance came just days ahead of Memorial Day, when the nation remembers its military veterans and those who died in war.

The addition of 15 names to the CIA’s Book of Honor means family members can openly acknowledge where their loved ones worked when they died.

Leslianne Shedd was lost when hijackers forced down her plane over the Indian Ocean, killing more than 125 people.

“Everybody who was on the plane with her who survived said she was not at all scared,” her sister, Corinne Collie, said on Saturday. “She was saying it’s all going to be okay, holding the hand of the person sitting next to her.”

Collie says the agency approached her family a year ago, saying it was now possible to acknowledge her death — likely meaning the cases she had worked on had been wrapped up, or staff she worked with had either retired or were no longer in harm’s way. Collie said being able to share what her sister did had been a relief.

Like Shedd, most of those honored were killed in the clandestine war on terror, the list reading like a grim roll call of terrorist acts over the past three decades.

Matthew Gannon was among the victims of the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Molly Hardy was killed in the August 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi. She urged others to take cover as she was hit by the blast from an al-Qaeda car bomb.

Jacqueline Van Landingham was killed in a terrorist attack in Pakistan in 1995. The CIA did not disclose how she died.

CIA officers face constant threat in Pakistan, hunting and hunted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They often play a cat-and-mouse game with Pakistan’s intelligence service, sometimes able to work with them and sometimes forced to work around them to gather intelligence on al-Qaeda’s militant diaspora. US officials say it receives support from elements of the Pakistani government.

Five of those remembered were victims of the April 1983 suicide bombing of the US embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people.

Among the CIA officers lost was Phyliss Nancy Faraci, “one of the last four Americans evacuated from the Mekong Delta when Saigon fell” during the Vietnam War, according to CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz. Faraci had volunteered to work in war-torn Beirut.

Deborah Hixon, a young officer fluent in French who volunteered for a temporary posting there, also died in the attack. Frank Johnston was a 25-year agency veteran who had accepted the assignment though he was close to retirement.

Paramilitary officer James Lewis, who had joined the CIA after his military career, and his wife, Monique Lewis, were also killed.

Lewis was “only hours into her first day as an agency officer when the bomber struck,” Ebitz said.