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Strength in the Shadows: A Tribute to the CIA and Navy SEALs

Shrouded even from public thanks are those CIA personnel and Navy SEALs who sacrifice for our nation without fanfare.


From Townhall Magazine's June tribute to "Strength in the Shadows," America's unsung operatives, by Peter Brookes:


Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater during World War II, said “uncommon valor was a common virtue” among American troops in the bloody battle with Japanese forces for the island of Iwo Jima.

Those words uttered some six decades ago in the final year of a global conflict are no less true today for those involved in guarding our national security, as America finds itself enduring more than a decade of conflict overseas.

And while Americans came to know several of the heroes of Iwo Jima, perhaps most notably through the photo of the Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi, today some of America’s wars are being fought by those whose names and faces may never be publicly known because of their decision to embark on careers where exploits on behalf of an unknowing nation must remain cloaked in secrecy. Indeed, these heroes’ feats of skill and bravery may never be known even to their families.


Of all those unapplauded, no national security organization gets less credit—and more public blame when they err—than the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which conducts both intelligence analysis and operations.

To enhance their effectiveness as well as their safety and that of their families, many of its officers live their personal and professional lives under “cover”—with their actual employer unknown to those outside their immediate family.

This “code of silence” has resulted in no shortage of interesting anecdotes from now-grown children who never knew that mom or dad worked for the CIA all those years until the parent made a deathbed confession. Some take their lives as spies to the grave, leaving a surviving spouse to tell to the “kids” the story of mom or dad’s life as an undercover agent.

Of course, when people join “The Company,” they do it knowing full well that they will get no public credit for their important work. Their triumphs may only be known to just a handful of colleagues if others inside CIA headquarters in Langley do not have the “need to know.”

But these shadow warriors are in many cases working alongside their military counterparts in combat zones like Afghanistan, gathering important information or chasing terrorists. .....


Like the CIA, Navy SEALs (and other special operators) live out of the limelight, never asking for—or expecting—public recognition for the difficult and dangerous work they do in peace and war for U.S. national defense.

But in the past few years, the curtain has, on occasion, pulled back ever so slightly on the SEALs’ involvement in some aweinspiring military operations.


There was, for example, the SEAL rescue of the American captain of the U.S.-registered cargo ship Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden in April 2009 by modern-day Somali pirates.

According to news reports, after storming the Maersk Alabama but failing to gain control of the vessel, the pirates left the freighter in one of its lifeboats with the ship’s captain. A Navy destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, was dispatched to the scene to monitor and respond to events.

Navy SEALs stationed in the region, including some crack snipers, were reportedly parachuted into the Gulf of Aden in the vicinity of Bainbridge and came aboard, while negotiations for the release of the hostage continued with the pirates.

Sensing the captain’s life was in danger, the Navy’s on-scene commander ordered SEAL sharpshooters into action. They killed three pirates in the bobbing lifeboat from the pitching fantail of Bainbridge with one simultaneous volley of three shots.

Of course, Americans never saw the faces or knew the names of the SEALs involved in this rescue. Not surprisingly, the same is true for the SEAL team which was called on to hunt down Public Enemy No. 1: Osama bin Laden.

Read more of Peter Brookes' piece in the June isssue of Townhall Magazine.


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