Remembering CIA Jennifer Matthews ( December 6 1964 – December 30 2009 )

“Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism. We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives—a safer America.”

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta — December 31, 2009


The Memorial Wall is a memorial at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. the wall honors CIA employees who died in the line of service. Today, there are 125 stars carved into the white Alabama marble wall. [WIKIPEDIA]. Eleven represent women. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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COMMENT — An updated version of this story was posted on December 30 2018 : On This Day — Remembering CIA Jennifer Matthews ( December 6 1964 – December 30 2009 )

The Wall bears the inscription:


The Wall is flanked by the flag of the United States on the left and a flag bearing the CIA seal on the right.

Jennifer Matthews

Jennifer Lynne Matthews was born in Penbrook, Pennsylvania, in 1964. She was a middle child. Her mother was a nurse, her father a commercial printer. She graduated from Central Dauphin East High School in Harrisburg in 1982.

In 1986, she graduated with degrees in broadcast journalism and political science from Cedarville University, a small Christian college in Ohio where she met Anderson.

In 1987, they married and moved to the Washington area, where she wanted to find a job that would enable her to serve God and have an impact on the world.

She sent an application to Langley and landed a job as an intelligence analyst in 1989. Her first assignment involved interpreting aerial photographs from Iran.

Matthews became fixated on Osama bin Laden long before most Americans had ever heard of him. By the mid-1990s, she had been assigned to Alec Station, a special unit based in Northern Virginia that was responsible for targeting al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 intensified Matthews’s job.

Matthews — who was 45 when she died in the most devastating attack on the Agency since the war on terror began in September 2001 — was the CIA chief at Forward Operating Base Chapman, a station near the mountainous Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

On December 30 2009, she was wounded when a Jordanian doctor — who she hoped could lead them to top al-Qaida operatives — blew himself up as he came to meet with the intelligence agents.

She died in a helicopter on the way to a hospital. Six other CIA employees and contractors also were killed: Elizabeth Hanson, Darren LaBonte, Scott Michael Roberson, Dane Clark Paresi, Jeremy Wise and Harold Brown Jr.

Jennifer Lynne Matthews

The Washingtonian magazine published this on-the-record praise from a former top White House intelligence adviser:

“What impressed me about Jennifer was her competence and her commitment to what she was doing,” says Fran Townsend, who was the homeland-security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush and the only former high-ranking official who had met Matthews and would talk on the record.

“You don’t go where she was and you don’t do what she was doing unless you really believe in it.”

Arlington National Cemetery

In popular culture

Osama bin Laden movie “Zero Dark Thirty” may be an entertaining film, but it fails to capture the true nature of the work of those involved in his hunt and capture, according to three former CIA agents.

Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Marty Martin are featured in HBO documentary “Manhunt,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week. It offers an alternative look at the long search by U.S. agents for the al Qaeda leader, who was killed in Pakistan in 2011.

They agreed that the U.S. Navy SEAL team raid scene on bin Laden’s Pakistan compound was well done in the Hollywood movie.

But they were irked by the “Zero Dark Thirty” portrayal of CIA agent “Jessica,” based on Jennifer Matthews (played by Jennifer Ehle).

“I was so angry at this heated depiction of Jennifer as some fluffy-headed schoolgirl … I just lost respect for it right there,” said Storer, an analyst who tracked bin Laden from 1995.

“The portrayal of who we’re supposed to assume is Jennifer Matthews is not accurate. This was not representative of who she was as a person,” Bakos added.

PS: Did you know Jennifer Matthews? Would you like to share a story? Just let us know.

UPDATE — On Monday  May 22 2017, the Central Intelligence Agency held its annual memorial ceremony to pay tribute to the men and women of CIA who have died in the line of duty – courageous Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Eight stars were added to the Memorial Wall this year (2017).

Three of the stars added pay tribute to the lives of David W. Bevan, Darrell A. Eubanks, and John S. Lewis. All three men died when their plane crashed while carrying out a mission in Laos in 1961.

A fourth star was added to honor Mark S. Rausenberger, an Agency officer of eighteen years, who died while serving overseas. The circumstances of his death remain classified.

The names of the other four individuals honored with newly-carved stars this year remain classified.

Obviously, one — or several — of these four individuals could be a woman. We simply do not know.

Moreover, in September 2016, Abigail Jones published a piece in Newsweek titled “Women of the CIA“. Jones wrote:

“There are more women in the CIA than ever before, with women operating at unprecedented levels on every floor of CIA headquarters and throughout its far-flung global outposts. Yet women remain underrepresented in executive-level jobs and the clandestine service.

The Memorial Wall, in the lobby of the CIA in McLean, Virginia, has 117 stars, honoring the agency officers who’ve died in the field. Eleven represent women.”

I wrote a short post about ten of these women. QUESTION: Who is the missing star? Drop a comment or send an email if you know the answer, assuming — of course — that this information is not classified.

Director Leon E. Panetta Honors First Agency Officer Killed in Vietnam at (2011) Annual Memorial Ceremony

During the Agency’s annual memorial ceremony on Monday, May 23, (2011) Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War.


Women of the CIA — Newsweek

The Mystery of Jane Wallis Burrell: The First CIA Officer To Die in the Agency’s Service — CIA news & Information

Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Barbara A. Robbins — CIA Website

Barbara Robbins: A slain CIA secretary’s life and death — WP

Tribute to Women Who Have Died — STUDIES IN INTELLIGENCE

CIA discloses names of 15 killed in line of duty — LA Times

CIA Holds Annual Memorial Ceremony to Honor Fallen Colleagues — CIA Website

Phyllis (Nancy) FaraciHuman Rights & Democracy for Iran


Memorial Service 1983 — CIA Website

Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Jacqueline K. Van Landingham  — CIA Website

U.S. Seeking 3 Gunmen In Karachi — NYT March 10 1995

Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Leslianne Shedd — CIA Website


Keeping Secrets

Osama raid avenged CIA deaths, a secret until now — TODAY

CIA Adds Four Stars to Memorial Wall — CIA website May 21 2006

Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Rachel A. Dean — CIA Website

Khowst – 5 Years Later — Cia Website

Who was Elizabeth Hanson? — COLBY Magazine

Year Later, Some Details Emerge About CIA Officer Killed In Afghanistan — npr

Silent Stars — The Washingtonian

“Zero Dark Thirty” entertaining but inaccurate: ex-CIA agents — Reuters


CIA : A Few Good Women — Jennifer Matthews ( December 6 1964 – December 30 2009 )

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