January 7, 2010
Suicide Bombing Puts a Rare Face on C.I.A.’s Work
Ms. Hanson’s report, “Faithless Heathens: Scriptural Economics of Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” carried a title far more provocative than its contents, said the professor who advised her. But it may have given a hint of her career to come, as an officer for the Central Intelligence Agency specializing in hunting down Islamic extremists.
That career was cut short last week: Ms. Hanson was one of seven Americans killed in a suicide bombing at a C.I.A. base in the remote mountains of Afghanistan.
In the days since the attack, details of the lives of the victims — five men and two women, including two C.I.A. contractors from the firm formerly known as Blackwater — have begun to trickle out, despite the secretive nature of their work. What emerges is a rare public glimpse of a closed society, a peek into one sliver of the spy agency as it operates more than eight years after the C.I.A. was pushed to the front lines of war.
Their deaths were a significant blow to the agency, crippling a team responsible for collecting information about militant networks in
On Wednesday, the operational leader of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan issued a statement praising the work of the suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, and said that the Khost bombing, which also killed a Jordanian intelligence operative, was revenge for the killings of a number of top militant leaders in C.I.A. drone attacks.
“He detonated his fine, astonishing and well-designed explosive device, which was unseen by the eyes of those who do not believe in the hereafter,” said the statement from the Qaeda leader, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Those who died came from all corners of the
Another, Harold Brown Jr., was a former Army reservist and father of three who had traveled home from
Mr. Brown’s mother, Barbara, said in an interview that her son — she had believed he worked for the State Department — had intended to spend a year in
“The people there just want to live their lives. They’re normal people,” she recalled him saying, adding that he had told her parts of
The base chief, an agency veteran, had traveled to
In a telephone interview, her father, Duane Hanson Jr., said an agency official called several days ago to let him know that his daughter, who he said would have turned 31 next month, had been killed. He knew little of her work, other than that she had been in
The other woman killed, the chief of the Khost base, was, before the Sept. 11 attacks, part of a small cadre of counterterrorism officers focused on the growth of Al Qaeda and charged with finding Osama bin Laden.
Working from a small office near C.I.A. headquarters, the group, known inside the agency as Alec Station, became increasingly alarmed in the summer of 2001 that a major strike was coming. One former officer recalls that the woman had a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Al Qaeda’s top leadership and was so familiar with the different permutations of the leaders’ names that she could take fragments of intelligence and build them into a mosaic of Al Qaeda’s operations.
“She was one of the first people in the agency to tackle Al Qaeda in a serious way,” said the former officer, who, like some others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the victims’ identities remain classified.
Two of the dead, Jeremy Wise, 35, a former member of the Navy Seals from Virginia Beach, Va., and Dane Clark Paresi, 46, of Dupont, Wash., were security officers for Xe Services, the firm formerly known as Blackwater.
The company did not respond to a request for comment about the deaths, but they have been widely reported in local newspapers. The Jeremy Wise Memorial on Facebook had 3,189 fans on Tuesday, filled with recollections of Mr. Wise’s childhood as the son of a doctor in Arkansas; his parents currently live in Hope, Bill Clinton’s hometown.
“RIP, Jeremy Wise, American hero,” one wrote.
The suicide bomber has been identified as a Jordanian double agent who was taken onto the base to meet with American officials who thought he was an informant.
In a message to the C.I.A. work force after the attack, President Obama told agency employees that “your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans.” And indeed, some relatives and friends of the dead did not seem to know of their agency connections.
Ms. Hanson’s economics professor, Michael Donihue, said he was shocked to discover her career path. At Colby, from which she graduated in 2002, she paired her economics major with a minor in Russian language and literature.
“She was a thoughtful person; she had an intellectual curiosity that I really liked,” Professor Donihue said.
“These were not people who wrote things down in the computer or in notebooks. It was all in their heads,” he said. The C.I.A. is “pulling in new people from all over the world, but how long will it take to rebuild the networks, to get up to speed? Lots of it is irrecoverable. Lots of it.”
James Risen and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Alissa J. Rubin from Kabul,
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs