Jan. 4, 2010 -- The bodies of seven CIA officers killed in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber were returned to the U.S. today in a private ceremony as authorities confirmed that the assailant was a Jordanian informant who turned against his CIA handlers.
Seven flag-draped coffins were handed over to the officers' families in a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base attended by CIA Director Leon Panetta and other agency and national security officials, CIA spokesman George Little told ABC News.
"These patriots courageously served their nation," Little said.
A senior U.S. intelligence official told ABC News, "Relentless effort and aggressive, successful counterterrorism operations will avenge the Khost attack. Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day."
The attack on the remote CIA listening post in Afghanistan was one of the most devastating in the agency's history, killing some of the most experienced people hunting the Taliban and al Qaeda's leaders, and devastating a base at the center of the effort of killing those leaders.
No cameras were allowed in the ceremony and the names of the fallen officers were not released, although the names of several of the dead have been made public by their families. Two of the victims were female officers and at least one of them had been part of the unit hunting Osama bin Laden since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
An eighth person killed in the attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province near the Pakistani border has been identified as Sharif Ali bin Zeid, a member of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department. The use of the title Sharif indicates that Bin Zeid is a member of the Jordanian royal family and a descendant of the Prophet Muhammmed.
Details of what happened on that remote base and who the suicide bomber was are still emerging.
ABC News had previously reported that the bomber had been recruited as an informer in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan, a region that is a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold. The bomber was not searched before he entered the base for a meeting with a team of top CIA debriefers and agents.
ABC News has learned today from informed sources that the Jordanian intel officer who died in the attack was the person who brought the informer-turned-bomber to the CIA's attention. The CIA often uses Jordanian intelligence to try and infiltrate al Qaeda. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed thanks to information from an informant recruited by Jordanian intelligence.
An official in Kabul who has seen intelligence reports told ABC News the bomber was Jordanian, and The Associated Press reported he was a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited to try and get information on Ayman al Zawahiri, the deputy leader of al Qaeda.
But an official for the Jordanian government told ABC News, "The government has no means to verify the allegation that the suicide bomber was Jordanian."
CIA Bomber Was From Jordan
Jordan also would not confirm that bin Zeid was the person who made contact with the bomber or that he was at the CIA base.
"On Sharif Ali bin Zeid's death in Afghanistan, kindly note that we do not discuss operational details of our soldiers. He was killed on Wednesday in the line of duty as he was taking part in a humanitarian mission carried out by the Jordan Armed Forces in Afghanistan," the official said.
NBC News reported that a former CIA official identified the bomber as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 36-year-old doctor from the Jordanian town of Zarqa. That town has been notorious for the militants it has spawned, the most infamous being Abu Musab al Zarqawi who led attacks against Americans and Shiite Muslims in Iraq that were bloody, even by that war's standards. He was killed by American troops in 2006.
The Associated Press reported that al-Balawi was arrested over a year ago by Jordanian intelligence, and was thought to have been flipped to support U.S. and Jordanian efforts against al Qaeda.
The Taliban claimed last week that they had managed to convince a covert agent working for the CIA to change allegiance and instead attack them as a suicide bomber.
Three of the American dead have been identified by their families.
Scott Roberson, 39, of Ohio, was a former Navy SEAL and an undercover narcotics officer for the Atlanta police department. He was married and his wife is pregnant with their first child. He was working as a security officer at the CIA base.
Harold E. Brown Jr., 37, of Virginia, had served in the Army and worked for the State Department. He is survived by a wife and three children ages 12, 10 and 2.
Jeremy Wise, 35, was also a former Navy SEAL. He was from Virginia Beach, Va. His family has posted a memorial page on Facebook.
"He was one of the friendliest people I've ever met," said Amanda Pearson, who attended intelligence training with Wise in the Navy. "He always wanted to help people."
ABC News' Matthew Cole contributed to this report.