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CIA Officer Laid To Rest

CIA officer Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann was remembered as an American hero Monday as he was buried with full military honors amid the white grave markers of Arlington National Cemetery.

"From his earliest days ... he worked to do what was right," CIA Director George J. Tenet told those gathered, including many members of the CIA. "It was in the quest for right that Mike at his country's call went to Afghanistan. To that place of danger and terror he sought to bring justice and freedom."

The only American to die fighting enemies inside Afghanistan is "an American hero," Tenet said.

Spann knew that "information saved lives, and that collection is a risk worth taking," Tenet said.

Spann's widow, Shannon, carried her infant son, wrapped in a white blanket against the chilly day, to the coffin, draped in an American flag. Spann's two young daughters and other family members stood nearby.

Speaking after Tenet, she told the mourners her husband "served his country by being good." She said her heart was broken two weeks ago "in a place really far from here."

Spann, a paramilitary officer with the CIA's Special Activities Division, was receiving full military honors from the Marine Corps, where he was a captain of artillery before joining the intelligence service 2 1/2 years ago.

He was shot and killed at the Taliban prison uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 25 by rioting prisoners. He had been interviewing Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, including American John Walker, captured after their surrender in the nearby city of Kunduz, a former stronghold for the Islamic fundamentalists.

Tenet and other senior CIA officials attended Spann's burial, along with many of Spann's colleagues in the Directorate of Operations, the clandestine service. The agency allowed covert officers — who try to keep their identities secret — to decide whether to attend.

The CIA will hold a private service for him Tuesday, spokesman Mark Mansfield said. He described employees as saddened but resolute in the agency's counterterrorism effort.

"The importance of the mission is what keeps people energized and focused," Mansfield said.

The length of Spann's military service did not qualify him for burial at Arlington. At his family's request, President Bush signed a waiver allowing him to be buried there, a White House spokesman said. Of the 260,000 people buried at Arlington, only a few hundred were buried there after receiving a waiver.

A memorial service for him was held in his hometown of Winfield, Ala., last week. Spann, 32, lived in a Virginia suburb of Washington.

A graduate of Auburn University, Spann joined the CIA from the Marine Corps in June 1999.

Eight other Americans, all military personnel, have died in connection with the fighting in Afghanistan. Three Green Berets were killed by an errant U.S. bomb near Kandahar. Four U.S. personnel died in accidents; a fifth committed suicide.

The CIA is heavily involved in the Afghnistan conflict, working covertly alongside the more public military effort. CIA officers have been providing weapons, money and intelligence to rebel groups opposing the Taliban and al-Qaida, as well as interrogating prisoners captured during the fighting.

Spann is the 79th CIA employee to die in the line of duty.

The first 78 have a star on the wall in the lobby of the agency's main building in suburban Virginia. Spann's will be added in the coming months.

Slightly more than half of the stars include names. The identities of the rest are kept secret. CIA officials said they had no compelling reason to keep Spann's identity secret, and wanted to honor his sacrifice.

Two CIA officers died in the line of duty in 1998. No information has been released about their deaths. Some of the better-known include Robert Ames, who died in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and William Buckley, who was killed in 1985 after being kidnapped the previous year in Lebanon.

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