On This Day — Remembering CIA Ranya Abdelsayed (April 28 1979 – August 28 2013) [UPDATE : Why did they die?]

“I have no doubt Abdelsayed’s death was linked to the stresses of a dangerous assignment tracking Taliban members and other targets.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan (May 2019)

The Memorial Wall is a memorial at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It honors CIA employees who died in the line of service. There are 139 stars (May 23 2022) carved into the white Alabama marble wall. Eleven represent women.

August 28 2020 — The daughter of Egyptian immigrants, Ranya Abdelsayed (04/28/1979) joined the CIA in 2006. On August 28 2013, while serving in Afghanistan, she committed suicide.  Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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RELATED POST: On This Day — Remembering CIA Elizabeth Hanson ( February 14 1979 – December 30 2009 )

RELATED POST: On This Day — Remembering CIA Jennifer Matthews ( December 6 1964 – December 30 2009 )

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A special page  “CIA Book of Honor” has been created. This will allow you to easily find the references to the stars we have already written about. I will try to keep this page up to date.

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“America has been fighting in Afghanistan for 20 years. It has spent more than $2trn on the war. It has lost thousands of its own troops and seen the death of tens of thousands of Afghans— soldiers and civilians alike. Now America is calling an end to the whole sorry adventure, with almost nothing to show for it.”

The Economist (Aug. 2021)

“This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone.”
Roman historian Tacitus — Agricola 27:1 (98 AD)

“How can America save face with this when we made promises that we don’t keep. By leaving Afghanistan, we’ve been defeated. We’re just handing it over to the Taliban.”

Johnny Spann — Father of CIA officer Mike Spann

UPDATE (August 28 2021) — Prior to September 11 2001, 78 stars were chiseled into the CIA marble Memorial wall. Today, the number of stars has grown to 137.

59 stars have been added since 9/11. The CIA has lost many officers in Afghanistan. including Mike Spann, Harold Brown Jr., Elizabeth Hanson, Darren LaBonte, Jennifer Matthews, Dane Clark Paresi, Scott Michael Roberson, Jeremy Wise, and Ranya Abdelsayed.

Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann (March 1, 1969 – November 25, 2001) was a paramilitary operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division (renamed Special Activities Center in 2016).

Spann joined CIA in 1999 as a paramilitary officer. He deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

Spann was the first American killed in combat during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He died at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress in a Taliban prisoner uprising.

Today, his father finds it very difficult to understand why the US left Afghanistan and turned it over to the Taliban.

“All these people died, gave their lives to keep America free because we were taking the fight to the enemy. We were taking it to their land rather than fighting it here on American soil.”

Are we so naïve that we think now that those people don’t hate us anymore? Do we think Afghanistan is not going to be covered up with Al-Qaeda and all the people that say death to America?”

“Within three months, we had liberated Afghanistan, we had defeated the Taliban, we ran Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. And then we started making bad decisions again. If you break it, you’ve got to fix it. Well, we didn’t fix it, we left.’

“Fast forward to today and the last two weeks…we started pulling our generals, our support away from Afghanistan to let the Taliban have free reign.’’

“Is it a slap in the face to all those who have died? Yes, it’s a slap in the face to all Americans, to all the, to all the servicemen.”

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. What would have been wrong with getting all the folks out? What about getting visas for all those who helped the U.S.? To get them out before we let the Taliban take it back over?”

One day, someone will have to answer these questions…


“Dear Molly, Could you tell us how many stars on the Memorial Wall are known to represent women? Regards, Intel Today”

Question to CIA Molly Hale

(Tweet – February 4 2019)

I have long argued that the CIA was “hiding” the identity of a female officer recently honoured by a star on the Memorial Wall. We now know who she was and how she died.

On March 22 2019, the CIA indeed confirmed that 11 stars represent women. And, to the best of my knowledge, only 10 were known to have been “killed in the line of duty.”

On May 20 2019, the Washington Post revealed the name of the mysterious star. And, as I suspected, her story is rather unusual.

RELATED POST: CIA Molly Hale Just Answered Intel Today Question. Well, Not Really… [UPDATE : 11th Female Star Identity Revealed]

Ranya Abdelsayed was less than 48 hours away from returning to the United States when a colleague found her body in her bed at the agency’s Gecko Firebase in Kandahar.

At 34, she had shot herself in the head.

At the 2014 Memorial Ceremony (May 19, 2014), Abdelsayed was honoured with a black star on the CIA’s vaunted Memorial Wall, which pays tribute to members of the CIA who gave their lives in the service of their country.

In 2017, her name was added to the Book of Honor that sits at the base of the wall.

There was no customary news release or public acknowledgment.

“There’s been an erosion of understanding in CIA leadership for at least two decades about what the wall is for and who is it that we’re commemorating. Now we have a suicide star on the wall. That’s not what the wall is for.”

Retired CIA historian Nicholas Dujmovic (May 2019)

Controversial Star

Retired CIA historian Nicholas Dujmovic objected to her name being approved and a star representing her being added to the wall:

Abdelsayed’s inclusion violates the agency’s own criteria and her star “must absolutely come off the wall.”

The famed memorial is reserved for deaths that are “of an inspirational or heroic character” or are the result of enemy actions or hazardous conditions…

Jeremy Butler — chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America — disagrees.

Butler wrote piece in the Washington Post — — explaining why Abdelsayed deserved to be on that wall of heroes. [Honoring a CIA officer who died by suicide is a step in the right direction]

This one star on CIA’s wall is an important step in the right direction. Let us stop stigmatizing and recognize trauma injuries for what they are.

When we plan for war, we plan for physical casualties, and we plan to honor the sacrifices made by those who are injured. We need to think similarly about mental-health injuries.

It is only by talking about these issues constructively and accurately that we will make inroads in addressing the public-health crisis of suicide.

Abdelsayed deserves her star on CIA’s Memorial Wall. Let us all work toward giving hope to those suffering from trauma injuries and preventing more stars like hers from appearing on our memorials.

“Each of the 111 stars carved into the marble wall behind me is an expression of love, respect, and eternal devotion.  Together, they silently testify to nearly seven decades of valor and dedication, virtue and sacrifice, all on behalf of our Republic.”

Director John O. Brennan — CIA Annual Memorial Ceremony (May 19, 2014)

CIA Honors its Fallen in Annual Memorial Ceremony (May 19, 2014)

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Central Intelligence Agency paid tribute to the 111 women and men of the Agency workforce who have died in the line of duty—courageous Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of CIA’s Memorial Wall, and of the original 31 stars that were engraved in the summer of 1974 to honor those who had fallen since the Agency’s founding in 1947.

Standing before the Memorial Wall in the lobby of CIA headquarters, Director John O. Brennan said: “Each of the 111 stars carved into the marble wall behind me is an expression of love, respect, and eternal devotion.  Together, they silently testify to nearly seven decades of valor and dedication, virtue and sacrifice, all on behalf of our Republic.”

Director Brennan emphasized that the constellation of stars is a powerful reminder that freedom comes at a very dear cost.

Director Brennan spoke at length about the extraordinary lives of the four individuals whose stars were added to the Memorial Wall this spring.

“We share your pride in them and what they achieved,” he told the assembled family members, friends, and colleagues.  “We too know the measure of their strong character and generous spirit, and feel deeply privileged and grateful to have served with such selfless patriots.”

During the ceremony, Director Brennan presented the families of the four with a marble replica of their loved one’s star.

CIA’s Memorial Ceremony is attended each spring by hundreds of employees, retirees, and family members of those who died in service with CIA. [CIA Website]


A CIA suicide sparks hard questions about the agency’s Memorial Wall —  Washington Post (May 19 2019)


CIA Memorial Wall — The Mysterious Star : Ranya Abdelsayed (April 28 1979 -August 28 2013)

On This Day — Remembering CIA Ranya Abdelsayed (April 28 1979 -August 28 2013)

On This Day — Remembering CIA Ranya Abdelsayed (April 28 1979 – August 28 2013) [2020]

On This Day — Remembering CIA Ranya Abdelsayed (April 28 1979 – August 28 2013) [UPDATE : Why did they die?]

Our battle with terrorism will be long and difficult. But [they] cannot prevail. And they will not. Not while a single decent person—who not only loves liberty, but is ready to protect it—stands against them.”

Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet (May 31 2002)

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1 Response to On This Day — Remembering CIA Ranya Abdelsayed (April 28 1979 – August 28 2013) [UPDATE : Why did they die?]

  1. It was suicide, was it? How sure are they?

    Does any journals exist to show what was on her thoughts?

    What a cretin that guy is to suggest her star be removed! She died while on a mission ffs!


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