CIA Resolved to Avenge Agents' Deaths

Retired CIA officers take swing at Obama over CIA torture prosecutions.

January 1, 2010, 3:22 PM

Jan. 1, 2010— -- The CIA, reeling from the assassination of seven of its operatives in Afghanistan earlier this week, said today that its resolve to find and attack Taliban and al Qaeda leaders is "greater than ever."

CIA spokesman George Little would not discuss specifics of the Wednesday attack, the deadliest assault on the CIA since the 1983 bombing of the Beirut embassy. Little did suggest, however, that the loss would be avenged.

"There is much about the attack that isn't yet known, but this much is clear: The CIA's resolve to pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations is greater than ever," Little told The Associated Press.

The Association of Former Intelligence Officers said the deaths of the agents "should remind the public that the CIA is truly on the front lines in this war; one that remains officially unrecognized."

Organization president Gene Poteat said he appreciated President Obama's letter of condolences to agency staffers, but criticized Obama for "his silence" on the Department of Justice's effort to prosecute CIA personnel over allegations of torture during the Bush administration.

"Yet we expect these patriots to continue despite such personal and professional risks abroad -- and at home," Poteat said.

Few details have emerged that could be confirmed about the attack and its deadly consequences.

So far, the identity of just one of the dead has been confirmed. The family of Harold Brown Jr., 37, said he was killed in the blast. Brown was originally from Bolton, Mass., but lived with his wife and three children, ages 12, 10 and 2, in Virginia.

Also among the dead was a member of the Jordanian secret service, or Mukhabarat, who was working with the CIA and was at the meeting, ABC News has learned.

Separately, Jordan's official news agency, Petra, reported the death on Wednesday of Capt. Ali bin Zeid, quoting an army spokesman. The report said bin Zeid was Jordan's first soldier to be killed in Afghanistan, though it did not reveal the circumstances of his death.

CNN reported that two of the casualties in the attack that killed CIA personnel were employees of Xe Corporation, the security company formerly known as Blackwater. A spokesman for Xe did not immediately return a call from ABC News.

The Pakistani Taliban today claimed responsibility for the bombing, but that claim was met with skepticism by some.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed that the bombing was carried out by a CIA operative who switched sides and offered to help the Taliban. The Associated Press quoted a commander from the Pakistan Taliban, Qari Hussain, who claimed the attack was in retaliation for the CIA's drone attacks aimed at Taliban leaders across the border in Pakistan. The drone strikes have succeeded in killing several top Taliban commanders, including chief Baitullah Mehsud.

The area of the attack is near a Taliban stronghold where insurgents who use Pakistan as a base flow easily back and forth across the border. Militants in the area are led by the family of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who U.S. officials say is responsible more than any other insurgent leader for attacks on U.S. soldiers. Haqqani's network is allied with the Taliban, but is separate from them.

Suicide Bomber Wasn't Searched Before Meeting CIA Officials

The CIA will try to determine how the bomber managed to avoid being searched before getting on to Forward Operating Base Chapman, a CIA station in Taliban country near the border with Pakistan.

ABC News has learned that the bomber was invited into the heavily guarded camp as a possible informant, but wasn't searched.

a href=""target="_blank">The bomber, who was dressed in an Afghan military uniform, was escorted to the gym for a meeting with a senior CIA debriefer, according to intelligence sources familiar with the incident. When the bomber was brought into the gym he blew himself up, killing seven and seriously injuring an additional six officers who had gathered there to wait for him.

The attack targeted some of the CIA's most important assets in the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, officers who collected intelligence and conducted paramilitary operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. While it's unlikely the officers spent much time in Pakistan, they almost certainly contributed to the drone program that has targeted al Qaeda's senior leadership living in the Pakistani tribal areas.

"This is a tremendous loss for the agency. The agency is a relatively small organization, and its expertise in al Qaeda is even a smaller subset of that overall group," says Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA unit that searched for Osama bin Laden. "We collect information that enables the military to go after our primary targets or to better defend itself. So to the extent we lose the ability to do that -- the experienced personnel to do that -- it harms not only the agency, but it harms the ability of the military to operate effectively in the area."

ABC News' Kirit Radia and Richard Esposito contributed to this report

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