U.S. War on Terrorism

Death of CIA Officer Johnny Micheal Spann

According to a CIA spokesman, Johnny Micheal Spann's middle name is properly spelled "Micheal," not "Michael."

Materials presented chronologically.

Loeb, Vernon, and Josh White. "CIA Reports Officer Killed in Prison Uprising." Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2001, A27. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

A statement by DCI George Tenet on 28 November 2001 acknowledged that CIA Directorate of Operations officer Johnny Micheal [note above] "Mike" Spann had been killed in an uprising by Taliban prisoners near Mazar-i-Sharif on 25 November 2001. Spann's is the first U.S. combat death in Afghanistan since the beginning of the military campaign.

Risen, James. "C.I.A. Names Agent Killed in Fortress." New York Times, 29 Nov. 2001. {http://www.nytimes.com]

"The fact that the first American to die in combat in Afghanistan was an intelligence officer and not a uniformed soldier serves to underscore the scope of the agency's role in the war in Afghanistan. Since the military campaign began, C.I.A. officers have provided training, logistical and intelligence support to American special forces and to the anti-Taliban rebels, both in the country's northern and southern regions."

Shane, Scott. "CIA Officer Died in Jail Revolt." Baltimore Sun, 29 Nov. 2001. [http://www. baltimoresun.com]

"Spann's chief role at the [Qala-i Janghi] fortress [near Mazar-e Sharif] was to interrogate prisoners,... a government official said. 'If you're trying to breach al-Qaida, what better place to look than among all those al-Qaida people?' said J. Ransom Clark, a college administrator who had worked for the CIA from 1964 to 1990. 'Especially among al-Qaida who may be very afraid.... Maybe they could turn some of them.'"

[Tenet, George J.] "Statement by George J. Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, on the Death of a CIA Officer in Afghanistan." Washington, DC: CIA, 28 Nov. 2001. [https://www.cia.gov]

"It is my sad duty to announce that one of our officers at the Central Intelligence Agency has died in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

"Johnny Micheal 'Mike' Spann, who worked in the Directorate of Operations, was where he wanted to be: on the front lines serving his country.

"Given the nature of the CIA's mission, I can publicly discuss his activities and the circumstances surrounding his death only in broad terms.

"Mike was in the fortress of Mazar-e Sharif, where Taliban prisoners were being held and questioned. Although these captives had given themselves up, their pledge of surrender -- like so many other pledges from the vicious group they represent -- proved worthless.

"Their prison uprising -- which had murder as its goal -- claimed many lives, among them that of a very brave American, whose body was recovered just hours ago.

"Mike joined CIA in June 1999. A young man -- only 32 years old -- he was no stranger to challenge or daring. He came to us from the United States Marine Corps, whose traditions he loved and whose values of courage and commitment he carried with him to the end.

"Quiet, serious, and absolutely unflappable, Mike's stoicism concealed a dry sense of humor and a heart of gold. His brand of leadership was founded not on words, but on deeds -- deeds performed in conditions of hazard and hardship.

"His was a career of promise in a life of energy and achievement. A precious life given in a noble cause. Mike fell bringing freedom to a distant people while defending freedom for all of us here at home.

"Mike Spann was an American hero, a man who showed passion for his country and his Agency through his selfless courage. Mike Spann will live forever in our memories. May God grant him eternal peace and give his wonderful family the strength to carry on.

"His CIA family, too, is in mourning. But just as we grieve together, we work together to continue the mission that Mike Spann held sacred. And so we will continue our battle against evil -- with renewed strength and spirit.

"We owe that to Mike and to every man and woman who dreams of a future free of the menace of terrorism."

Washington Post ("From News Sevices"). "CIA Officer's Body Brought Home to Family." 3 Dec. 2001, A13. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 2 December 2001, a military transport plane returned Spann's body to Andrews Air Force Base. "Family, friends and CIA colleagues attended a brief ceremony in which a Marine honor guard carried the coffin, draped in an American flag, to a hearse."

Waller, Douglas. "Inside the CIA's Covert Forces." Time Atlantic, 10 Dec. 2001, 33.

Johnny Micheal Spann "was part of a secretive paramilitary unit of the CIA, a special-operations group of several hundred covert commandos skilled in sabotage, collecting intelligence in war zones and training foreign guerrillas…. The SOG is divided into ground, maritime and air branches that have light arms, surveillance gear, riverboats and small planes." 

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