Washington: For a small cadre of CIA
veterans, the death of Osama bin Laden was more than just a
national moment of relief and closure.
It was also a measure of payback, a settling of a
score for a pair of deaths, the details of which have remained
secret for 13 years.
Tom Shah and Molly Huckaby Hardy were among the 44
people killed when a truck bomb exploded outside the US
Embassy in Kenya in 1998.
Though it has never been publicly acknowledged, the
two were working undercover for the CIA.
In al Qaeda`s war on the United States, they are
believed to have been the first CIA casualties.
Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, when
survivors Honor their dead from military or other service to
The names of Hardy and Shah probably will not be among
those read at Memorial Day observances, because like many CIA
officers, their service remained a secret in both life and
death, marked only by anonymous stars on the wall at CIA
headquarters and blank entries in its book of honor.
Their CIA ties were described to a news agency by a half-dozen current and former US officials who spoke on
condition of anonymity because Shaw`s and Hardy`s jobs remain
secret, even now.
The deaths weighed heavily on many at the CIA,
particularly the two senior officers who were running
operations in Africa when the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es
Salaam, Tanzania, were bombed in simultaneous 1998 attacks.
During the past decade, as the CIA waged war against
al Qaeda, those two officers have taken on central roles in
Both were deeply involved in hunting down bin Laden
and planning the raid on the terrorist who killed their
colleagues in Nairobi. "History has shown that tyrants who threaten global
peace and freedom must eventually face their natural enemies:
America`s war fighters, and the silent warriors of our
Intelligence Community," CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in a
Memorial Day message to agency employees.
These silent warriors took very different paths to
Hardy was a divorced mom from Valdosta, Georgia, who
reared a daughter as she travelled to Asia, South America and
Africa during a lengthy career.
At the CIA station in Kenya, she handled the office
finances, including the CIA`s stash of money used to pay
sources and carry out spying operations.
She was a new grandmother and was eager to get back
home when al Qaeda struck.
Shah took an unpredictable route to the nation`s
He was not a solider or a Marine, a linguist or an Ivy
He was a musician from the Midwest. But his story, and
the secret mission that brought him to Africa, was straight
out of a Hollywood spy movie.
"He was a vivacious, upbeat guy who had a very
poignant, self-deprecating sense of humor," said Dan McDevitt,
a classmate and close friend from St Xavier High School in
Cincinnati, Ohio, where Shah was a standout trumpet player.
Shah, whose given name was Uttamlal, was the only
child of an Indian immigrant father and an American mother,
He had a fascination with international affairs. He
participated in the school`s model United Nations and, in the
midst of the Cold War, was one of the school`s first students
to learn Russian.
From time to time, he went to India with his father,
which gave him a rare world perspective.