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Americans serving country accept risks

February 22, 2013
Dennis Lamb - Columnist , Traer Star-Clipper

Originally from Chelsea, Iowa, Dennis Lamb retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its Directorate of Operations as a Case Officer and as an Intelligence Analyst.

By Dennis Lamb

On Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham threatened to block a vote on Hagel's confirmation and Obama's nomination of John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency unless the White House provides more information about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

With all due respect to Senator Graham, I am tired of hearing him insist on more information about Benghazi. Those who died there knew they were in danger when they went to Libya, but they went because they wanted to serve their country. All members of the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense are in danger abroad - and in the USA. None of them ask for or expect special treatment or protection. They know that risking their lives comes with the job, that if a terrorist or group of terrorists wants to kill them, it can be done.

Ambassador Stevens certainly knew the risks he was taking in going to Benghazi, but he had a job to do and he knew he could not function effectively as a diplomat surrounded by U.S. Marines and security personnel.

My third tour of duty as a CIA Case Officer was in a country where the population was hostile toward the U.S. Government. Just before I arrived in country and just after I left, terrorists fired missiles from a hotel window at the American Embassy. Three months before my tour of duty was to end, a local reporter published an expose of CIA Station personnel. I was the only one whose photo, home address and telephone number were included, which made me a prime target for terrorists.

Just three months earlier, terrorists had set off a bomb in a restaurant frequented by Americans. When they failed to kill a single American but killed 18 local citizens, they called a radio station the next morning and apologized to the public with the explanation: "You understand, we were just trying to kill Americans."

In publishing my photo and address in such an environment, it appeared that the reporter was trying to kill me by proxy. I got my wife and two small children out the house that same day and moved into a hotel. I finished my tour of duty but had my wife and children stand far away whenever I started my car. I never asked for or expected protection.

Had I been assassinated sometime while finishing my tour of duty, no one would have demanded an explanation from the President of the United States as to why I did not have adequate protection.

No one demanded an explanation from the President of the United States as to why Ambassador Adolph Dubs did not have adequate protection when he was killed in a kidnapping attempt in Afghanistan in 1979.

CIA officer Michael Spann became the first American killed during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 when Taliban prisoners rioted, overpowered and killed him while he was questioning them. No one demanded an explanation from President Bush as to why Spann did not have adequate protection or nearby U.S. and allied forces could not have come to Spann's aid.

And no one has ever demanded an explanation from the President of the United States as to why those CIA officers represented by 103 stars on the Memorial Wall at CIA Headquarters did not have adequate protection when they were killed.

The Senate has a legitimate role in reviewing cabinet nominations, but Senator Graham is trying to politicize a tragedy that should not be politicized or discussed other than in closed session. Some things need to remain secret.

All Senator Graham and his colleagues have done in constantly demanding explanations from President Obama has been to surface publicly the fact that CIA officers were in Benghazi at the time of Ambassador Stevens' death. They therewith exposed every American, including tourists, traveling to Benghazi to danger and made it nearly impossible for CIA operatives to carry out their mission in Libya. Secretary of State Clinton expressed it well when she responded to a Senator's badgering with the observation:

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

***The thoughts outlined above represent my personal views and not the views of my former employer.



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