WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama paid somber tribute Friday to the seven CIA employees killed in one of the worst attacks in the history of the U.S. intelligence agency, calling them patriots who "served in the shadows and took pride in it" before paying the highest cost for freedom.
The White House released a transcript of Obama's remarks from a memorial service at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., which was closed to the media. More than 1,000 agency workers attended, as did family members of the employees who were killed during the suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan on Dec. 30.
"To their colleagues and all who served with them — those here today, those still recovering, those watching around the world — I say: Let their sacrifice be a summons," Obama said. "To carry on their work. To complete this mission. To win this war, and to keep our country safe."
The seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his cache of explosives at Camp Chapman, a tightly secured CIA base in Khost province, a dangerous region southeast of the Afghan capital Kabul. The CIA had cultivated the bomber — a Jordanian doctor identified as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi — in hopes of obtaining information about al-Qaida's second in command. Al-Balawi turned out to be a double-agent.
In a video broadcast after his death, the bomber said the attack was meant to avenge the death of the former Pakistani Taliban leader in a CIA missile strike.
Obama offered words of comfort to the parents and spouses of those killed. And to their children, he said: "I know that this must be so hard and confusing, but please always remember this. It wasn't always easy for your mom or dad to leave home. But they went to another country to defend our country."
The names of those killed were blacked out from the transcript to preserve confidentiality. Obama said the work of the seven employees, like that of the CIA more broadly, is unknown to Americans but remains recorded forever in the terrorist attacks that were thwarted and the lives that were saved.
"They served in secrecy, but today every American can see their legacy," Obama said.
A recent event to pay tribute to the employees raised about $3.4 million to support the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, more than doubling its net worth. The Washington-based foundation provides benefits to the families of CIA officers killed in the line of duty. It primarily helps pay college expenses for children of fallen officers.
The Jan. 29 fundraiser in Washington attracted hundreds of former and current agency officials, including former CIA directors George Tenet, President George H.W. Bush and Stansfield Turner, along with current CIA director Leon Panetta.