Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
I often write about the service and sacrifice of our nation's military and their families. Our freedom remains intact due to the selflessness of brave Americans, like them, who are willing to stand up and defend it. An easily overlooked part of this effort is the intelligence community. The dedication and contributions of intelligence specialists are critical to the defense of Americans at home and abroad, and their sacrifice is worthy of our thoughts and prayers this Memorial Day.
The discretion required by their work results in little or no public acknowledgement for their heroic deeds. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) honors its employees who died in the line of duty with austere gold stars on the CIA Memorial Wall in its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Many of the stars are unassociated with specific names in the "Book of Honor" that accompanies the wall. While we get glimmers of information of some of the sacrifices of intelligence personnel, the unnamed heroes remain overtly uncredited for their critical work, even after their passing.
Their contributions assume additional significance as we put increasing value on intelligence in our national defense strategies. General Michael V. Hayden, former CIA and National Security Agency Director and the first Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, said the War on Terror "is an intelligence war, more so than any other war our nation has fought." He said unlike past wars, the enemy is hard to find, putting greater premium on intelligence in this war. Sound intelligence was instrumental in the removal of Osama bin Laden. Close coordination of information has been crucial in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and in preventing attacks on our homeland.
Those in the intelligence field provide their service even though they know public attention could bring additional dangers. Their anonymity often enables them to obtain valuable information, while protecting personal safety and the safety of colleagues, family and friends. Such a life may sound fascinating and has been glamorized frequently in movies. However, this discretion can come with a significant personal price-absences, secrecy from loved ones and even the loss of close relationships.
Sixteen offices and agencies make up the formal U.S. intelligence community. Most of these organizations, aside from the CIA, are part of departments with other operations, and intelligence employees carry out duties while also supporting the other tasks of the departments. As our intelligence community helps keep us safe, we must ensure they have the tools needed to effectively detect and communicate threats in time to thwart attacks and win the War on Terror.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) memorial information webpage includes the following anonymous quote, "Poor is the nation that has no heroes, but beggared is the nation that has and forgets them." Our country has a deep history of honoring our heroes and learning from their great service and sacrifice. This Memorial Day, as we honor our bravest in uniform, let us not forget the many unidentified patriots who provide the intelligence necessary to defend our great nation. To them, we owe our security.
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