The Washington Post
WASHINGTON – Johnny “Mike” Spann, a CIA paramilitary operations officer, was killed this week during a riot in a fortress in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif where he was interviewing captured soldiers allied with the Taliban militia, the CIA announced Wednesday.
Spann, a former U.S. Marine Corps captain, is the first American killed in action inside Afghanistan since the war on terrorism began and the 79th CIA officer to have died in the line of duty since the agency’s founding in 1947.
After extensive media speculation during the past three days that a CIA officer had been killed in the riot, CIA director George Tenet confirmed Spann’s death in a closed-circuit television address Wednesday morning to all CIA employees. He called Spann “an American hero, a man who showed passion for his country and his agency through his selfless courage.”
While many of the agency’s dead have never been publicly identified to protect the CIA’s sources and methods, Tenet decided that it was “fitting and appropriate” to identify Spann and honor his service, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said.
Tenet ordered the flag outside CIA headquarters to be flown at half-mast and released a statement that outlined Spann’s career but provided only a brief description of the circumstances surrounding his death.
“Mike was in the fortress of Mazar-e-Sharif, where Taliban prisoners were being held and questioned,” Tenet said in the statement. “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.”
Spann joined the CIA in 1999 after serving in the Marines, Tenet said in his statement. Spann is survived by his wife, Shannon Spann, an infant son and two young daughters. He grew up in Winfield, Ala., the son of Johnny and Gail Spann.