Politics

CIA Pays Tribute to Fallen Officers

The Central Intelligence Agency, which recently added a 90th star to the Memorial Wall in its headquarters building, commemorated the exceptional service and ultimate sacrifice of all employees lost in the line of duty on Monday.

Standing before the Wall, Director Leon Panetta said, "The men and women memorialized here came from all walks of life, and they were joined together by the same demanding mission that we pursue today. They held different jobs in different places, but they were motivated by the same sense of duty, the same sense of purpose that are the heart and soul of the CIA."

Panetta started a new tradition at this year's ceremony, presenting a replica of a star from the Wall to the brothers of Douglas Mackiernan, the first Agency officer killed in service to the United States

Mackiernan was an operations officer whose life was taken in Tibet in 1950 after a long and difficult journey out of China. Each family of the fallen will be given a star sculpted by the artist who engraves them on the Memorial Wall.

The memory of Gregg Wenzel, an operations officer who was killed in Ethiopia in 2003, was also honored Monday. 

A former defense attorney in Florida, Wenzel grew up in Monroe, N.Y., and was a member of the first clandestine service training class to graduate after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. His Agency affiliation was made public at the event

"During months of rigorous training, Gregg stood out as a leader, for his talent and for his intellect, but also for his great sense of humor and a great penchant for fun," Panetta said. "He helped unite the class and kept its spirits high in the toughest moments."

Overseas, Wenzel gathered intelligence on a wide range of national security priorities. 

"At age 33, a promising young officer -- a leader and friend to so many -- was taken from us. We find some measure of solace in knowing that Gregg achieved what he set out to do: He lived for a purpose greater than himself. Like his star on this Wall, that lesson remains with us always," Panetta said.

Panetta also paid tribute to an employee killed in the line of duty last year -- the CIA's 90th star. Due to continuing operational sensitivities, neither the name of the employee nor details of his work can be made public.

"It is an honor for me to lead this extraordinary organization and to know the stories of the heroes reflected in these stars," Panetta said. "Their patriotism and leadership, courage and decency, are models for all of us. Their work is our work now. And their spirit abides with us."

The memorial ceremony is attended each year by hundreds of employees, retirees, and family members and friends of those who have died in service with CIA.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.