(LANGLEY, Va.) — The CIA has revealed the identities of 15 of its fallen officers, some of whose secret ties to the spy agency are being made public for the first time in almost three decades.
Engraved on a memorial wall at the CIA’s headquarters building in Northern Virginia are 103 stars, each representing a CIA officer who perished in the line of duty since the agency’s founding in 1947. For some, the star is all the public recognition they have — many names have still not been made public out of concern for secret operations.
At a memorial ceremony Monday, CIA Director David Petraeus praised their service, saying the “103 souls represented by the stars on the wall behind me all heard the same call to duty and answered it without hesitation — never for acclaim, always for country.”
The latest of the 103 was added this year, honoring Jeff Patneau, who was killed in a 2008 car crash in Yemen. Petraeus described Patneau as having “boundless talent, courage, and innovativeness to offer our country in its fight against terrorism.”
A CIA statement released Tuesday said Patneau was among the 15 names inscribed in the CIA’s Book of Honor this year, which allows “agency officers to publicly acknowledge those who have been represented by stars and whom we have silently mourned for years.”
Some of the individuals whose service as CIA officers was publicly confirmed Tuesday have been the object of speculation in the past as having worked for the spy agency.
For example, Matthew K. Gannon died in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Officially listed as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department, Gannon’s links to the CIA appeared in press reports at the time of the crash. However, the agency never officially confirmed that he was a CIA officer until this week.
Leslianne Shedd died in November 1996 in the high-profile crash of a hijacked plane off the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean. Videotape of the plane’s fatal attempted water landing just off of a crowded tourist beach was seen around the world. Shedd was also described as being a Foreign Service Officer. According to the CIA statement, “Survivors of that flight tell us that Leslianne — an outstanding young woman — spent her final moments comforting those around her. ”
Another victim of terror was Molly N. Hardy, who was killed in the August 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. According to the CIA, Hardy “used her keen situational awareness to warn colleagues to take cover. ”
A former intelligence official told ABC News the CIA takes “very seriously” the process of when to publicly release the names of its fallen officers and publicly acknowledge their ties to the agency.
According to the official, the agency conducts thorough reviews of a fallen officer’s work history and takes into account any security and operational considerations. The official said another factor is “the possible impact that making public the officer’s name might have on current missions and overseas relationships. ”
The seriousness with which the CIA decides when to publicly acknowledge a fallen officer’s links to the agency may be a reason why five of the officers were not named until Wednesday, despite having been killed back in 1983 in a car bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut that killed 63.
The five who are listed as having worked for the agency are Phyliss Nancy Faraci, Deborah M. Hixon, Frank J. Johnston, James F. Lewis and his wife Monique N. Lewis.
According to the CIA statement Faraci “was one of the last four Americans evacuated from the Mekong Delta when Saigon fell. She was an intensely devoted officer who volunteered to work in Beirut. ”
Monique Lewis “was only hours into her first day as an agency officer when the bomber struck that terrible day.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio