|Awarded by Central Intelligence Agency|
|Country||United States of America|
|Eligibility||Employees of the Central Intelligence Agency|
|Awarded for||"For a voluntary act or acts of courage performed under hazardous conditions or for outstanding achievements or services rendered with distinction under conditions of grave risk."|
|Next (higher)||Distinguished Intelligence Medal|
|Next (lower)||Intelligence Medal of Merit|
The Intelligence Star is an award given by the Central Intelligence Agency for a "voluntary act or acts of courage performed under hazardous conditions or for outstanding achievements or services rendered with distinction under conditions of grave risk". The award citation is from the Director of Central Intelligence and specifically cites actions of "extraordinary heroism". This is the second highest award for valor in the Central Intelligence Agency after only the Distinguished Intelligence Cross. It is analogous to the Silver Star, the U.S. military award for extraordinary heroism in combat.
- 1 Recipients
- 1.1 Douglas Seymour MacKiernan
- 1.2 Francis Gary Powers
- 1.3 Black Shield pilots
- 1.4 Anthony Alexander Poshepny
- 1.5 Félix Ismael Rodríguez
- 1.6 Grayston L. Lynch
- 1.7 Howard Phillips Hart
- 1.8 William Francis Buckley
- 1.9 André V. Kesteloot
- 1.10 Antonio J. Mendez
- 1.11 Thomas Willard Ray
- 1.12 Larry N. Freedman
- 1.13 Greg V.
- 1.14 Johnny Micheal Spann
- 1.15 Operation Hotel California
- 2 CIA Memorial Wall
- 3 Intelligence Star in popular culture
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Only a few dozen CIA officers have received this award—most posthumously. The majority of recipients were Paramilitary Operations Officers from the CIA's famed Special Activities Division, which hand-picks its members from the U.S. military's most elite units, including the Navy's DEVGRU ('SEAL Team 6') and SEALs; the Army's Delta Force, Special Forces, and Rangers; and the Marine Corps' Force Reconnaissance and MARSOC.
Douglas Seymour MacKiernan
In 1949, Douglas Seymour Mackiernan was a CIA officer in China. MacKiernan volunteered to stay behind while every other U.S. official fled the country, in order to provide the only intelligence available to the President of the United States about the takeover of the Communist forces of Mao Zedong. He was eventually forced to flee on horseback over the Himalayas to India. Armed with machine guns and supported by a few local men employed by the CIA, he lived off the land for several months. While waiting for the opportunity to make the trek over the mountains to Tibet, MacKiernan was killed in a firefight near Lhasa. However, his men made it with his reports and information. The North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel 13 days later, starting the Korean War. The intelligence that MacKiernan passed from China helped U.S. leaders prepare for military action and understand the Chinese involvement in the Korean War.
Francis Gary Powers
Francis Gary Powers (August 17, 1929 – August 1, 1977), was a US Air Force fighter pilot and CIA Special Activities Division officer. Powers was a pilot in the top-secret U-2 spy plane program. On May 1, 1960, he was shot down over the Soviet Union, captured, and convicted of espionage. On February 10, 1962, twenty-one months after his capture, he was exchanged for Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, Germany. Although initially criticized, he was eventually commended for his heroic actions by a US Senate investigation. In 2000, on the anniversary of the U-2 Incident, the Powers family was presented with the Prisoner of War Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star and National Defense Service Medal. In addition, CIA Director George Tenet authorized Powers to posthumously receive the CIA's coveted Intelligence Star for "extreme fidelity and extraordinary courage in the line of duty". He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery along with his wife Sue Powers.
Black Shield pilots
On 26 June 1968, Vice Admiral Rufus L. Taylor, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, presented the Intelligence Star for valor to A-12 spy aircraft pilots Kenneth S. Collins, Ronald L. Layton, Francis J. Murray, Dennis B. Sullivan, and Mele Vojvodich for participation in Operation BLACK SHIELD. The posthumous award to pilot Jack W. Weeks was accepted by his widow. These individuals were part of the top secret joint US Air Force/CIA program to replace the Lockheed U-2 spy plane. The Lockheed A-12 flew three times higher and four times faster than the previous CIA U-2 program. The project was called OXCART and is considered one of the key milestones in aviation history. These pilots undertook extraordinarily dangerous missions, both to test this aircraft and to conduct surveillance flights over Vietnam and North Korea.
Anthony Alexander Poshepny
Anthony Alexander Poshepny (September 18, 1924-July 27, 2003), known as Tony Poe, was a CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer in what is now called Special Activities Division. He trained the United States Secret Army in Laos during the Vietnam War. In 1959, he received the Star for leading these forces in combat. He was assigned with J. Vinton Lawrence to train Hmong hill tribes in Laos to fight North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces. In Laos, Poshepny gained the respect of the Hmong forces with his actions in combat and his victories on the battlefield. He and his Hmong fighters collected the ears of dead enemy soldiers; on at least one occasion, he mailed a bag of ears to the U.S. embassy in Vientiane to prove his body counts. He also dropped severed heads onto enemy locations twice in a grisly form of psy-ops. He was wounded several times, but refused to leave his troops to be evacuated. Over several years, Poshepny grew disillusioned with the U.S. government's management of the war. The CIA extracted him from Laos in 1970 and reassigned him to Thailand until his retirement in 1974. He received another Intelligence Star in 1975 for an undisclosed operation. Several press stories have suggested that Poshepny was the model for Colonel Walter Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now. Poe became a leading advocate to bring the Hmong soldiers that fought for the CIA to the United States and is still revered among the tribes in Laos. He was one of the driving forces behind the Laos Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Félix Ismael Rodríguez
Félix Rodríguez was a Paramilitary Operations Officer from Special Activities Division (SAD). He was born in Cuba in 1941. Rodriguez was infiltrated into Cuba before the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he led a CIA/SAD team into Bolivia that captured Che Guevara, he served in Vietnam and received the Intelligence Star and the Silver Star for his actions in combat as part of a joint CIA/US Military unit called MAC-V SOG and the Phoenix Program. He was also a recipient of nine Crosses for Gallantry from the South Vietnamese government. In addition, Rodriguez was involved in the SAD paramilitary program in Nicaragua which was considered tactically very successful, but politically very controversial. This program eventually became part of the Iran Contra Affair. Rodriguez testified in this matter as a witness only.
Grayston L. Lynch
Grayston Lynch (June 14, 1923 – August 10, 2008) was one of the CIA/SAD Paramilitary Operations Officers who commanded the Cuban rebel army during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He was the first to land on the beach and fired the initial shots of the battle. He is revered among Cuban Americans for his heroics during the failed invasion, which included several voluntary rescue missions to save stranded members of Brigade 2506. The other CIA Paramilitary Officer was William "Rip" Robertson. Lynch had an extraordinary history of valor in service to his country. He was wounded at Normandy, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and Heartbreak Ridge in Korea; served with the Special Forces in Laos; and received three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and one Bronze Star with a "V" for valor. He was selected from the elite to become a Paramilitary Operations Officer in the CIA's famed Special Activities Division in 1960. For his extraordinary heroism during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Lynch was awarded the Intelligence Star, the "CIA's most coveted award". In the six years after the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he ran commando raids into Cuba. Lynch retired from the CIA in 1971. He wrote a book, "Decision for Disaster: Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs", based on his experience leading the Brigade 2506.
Howard Phillips Hart
Howard Hart had a Ph.D. in Asian politics and spoke both the Hindi and Urdu languages. He was recruited and joined the CIA in 1965. He spent two years at Camp Peary in Virginia, attending "the standard two-year course for...aspiring case officers" and then reported to the Directorate of Operations (now called the National Clandestine Service). In 1978, Hart began working the streets of Tehran. His reports that, contrary to over 15 years of CIA estimates, the Shah's rule was far from stable or secure were suppressed by more senior personnel within the CIA. He was captured a few days after the Shah's fall by an armed group of supporters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and escaped summary execution by appealing to speak to a mullah, who agreed that the Koran did not sanction such punishment.
Hart worked as the CIA Chief of Station in Islamabad, Pakistan from May 1981 until 1984. He jump-started the CIA efforts to equip the Afghan resistance with weapons and supplies to allow them to mount an effective campaign during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Hart said, "I was the first chief of station ever sent abroad with this wonderful order: 'Go kill Soviet soldiers’. Imagine! I loved it.” Hart's background as a Paramilitary Operations Officer made him a perfect candidate to be the field general for the covert war in Afghanistan. He was known to lead these efforts from the front lines of Afghanistan. For his heroic actions in leading the resistance to the Soviet occupation, he received the CIA's rare and coveted Intelligence Star.
William Francis Buckley
William Francis Buckley (May 30, 1928 – June 3, 1985) was an Army Special Forces officer and a Paramilitary Operations Officer in the Special Activities Division of the CIA. He died on or about June 3, 1985 after being held captive by members of Hezbollah. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and is commemorated with a star on the Memorial Wall at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. On October 4, 1985, Islamic Jihad announced that it had executed William Buckley. However, Buckley's remains were not recovered until 1991, when his remains were found in a plastic sack on the side of the road en route to the Beirut airport. He had been severely tortured. His body was returned to the United States on December 28, 1991.
A public memorial service was held with full military honors at Arlington on May 13, 1988, just short of three years after his presumed death date. At the service, attended by more than 100 colleagues and friends, CIA Director William H. Webster eulogized Buckley, saying, "Bill's success in collecting information in situations of incredible danger was exceptional, even remarkable." He is buried in Section 59, Lot 346 of Arlington National Cemetery. Among Colonel Buckley's Army awards are the Silver Star, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star with a V-device, two Purple Hearts, Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. He also received the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star from the ARVN. Among his CIA awards are the Intelligence Star, the Exceptional Service Medallion and the Distinguished Intelligence Cross.
André V. Kesteloot
André Kesteloot (born March 13, 1937 in Brussels, Belgium) retired from the CIA in 1994 after having served extensively in the Middle East and Western Europe. He was awarded the Intelligence Star for work he performed in the Middle East.
Antonio J. Mendez
On 12 March 1980, President Jimmy Carter and the Director of Central Intelligence Admiral Stansfield Turner presented Antonio J. Mendez (also known as Tony Mendez) with the CIA's Intelligence Star for his heroic actions in the "Canadian caper," a covert operation in Iran. Mendez was a technical operations officer in the CIA. This position is similar to the job of the fictional character called "Q" in the James Bond series of books and movies. Mendez's primarily skill was creating disguises and exfiltrating assets out of hostile areas. In 1979, Iranian student militants took 52 Americans hostage in the US Embassy in Tehran. Six U.S. embassy employees had managed to escape and hide out at the homes of Canadian diplomats living in the city.
Mendez created a fake movie production company called Studio Six (named for the six hostages). He made up a movie poster and took out advertisements in Hollywood trade papers, announcing the production of Argo, a fictitious film. Mendez flew to Tehran, Iran with six fake Canadian passports and a risky plan to present the assets as Canadian movie-makers. Keeping in mind the potential worst-case scenario—should somebody be caught, "obviously it would go badly for us"— Mendez disguised the American diplomats as Canadian filmmakers looking to make a movie in Iran. He then exfiltrated all the Americans, as Canadians, safely back to the United States. In 2012, Argo was the title of a movie based on the actual story of this rescue, starring and directed by Ben Affleck. Mendez has since retired and now is a very successful artist.
Thomas Willard Ray
In the late 1990s, Captain Thomas Willard Ray and his navigator, Leo Baker, were posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star for their actions in the Bay of Pigs Invasion leading to their capture and execution. The US-trained Cuban Brigade 2506 invaded Cuba on April 17, 1961. Captain Willard Ray, a pilot of the Alabama Air National Guard detailed to the CIA, and his co-pilot Leo Baker were at the Puerto Cabezas air base of the Brigade in Nicaragua. The pilots returning from Cuba brought news that the soldiers of the Brigade were running out of ammunition. Each minute that went by, they were losing positions they had gained the first day when they had supplies. The air battle was not much different. The Air Force pilots of the Brigade with their slow Douglas B-26 were not a match for the T-33 jets of the Cuban government.
Captain Thomas Ray had been designated by the CIA to train and supervise the Air Force of the Brigade in Central America, they did not have to participate in combat operations. At first the Cuban exile pilots did the flying. The pilots returning from operations kept saying that without air support from jet fighters the Brigade would be destroyed. The B-26s, the only combat airplanes of the Brigade, had been modified to be able to fly the long run from Nicaragua to Cuba. The defensive machine guns had been removed to allow carriage of more fuel. The Cuban government pilots immediately noticed this and attacked the airplanes from behind. There had been an air raid on April 15 before the invasion to destroy Cuban government combat aircraft. The White House canceled a second air raid against Cuba’s airfields on April 16. Captain Ray and Baker were aware of their responsibility of the mission and to the Brigade. Disregarding the warnings of the Cuban exile pilots of the danger, he piloted a B-26 to the Bay of Pigs, Cuba. The Cuban government forces shot down the B-26 on April 19, 1961 north of Larga beach. They landed in Cuba and survived. The Cuban army captured them and Major Oscar Fernandez Mell killed them in cold blood. Years later when Cuba returned Ray's body, an autopsy revealed a pistol bullet. The bullet is in the Brigade Museum in Miami 
Eighteen years later Ray's daughter found out that the Cubans had frozen and preserved her father's body. With the help of some US Congressmen, she was able to bring her father’s body back to the United States so he could rest in peace. The other American-born pilots that were shot down while fighting over the Bay of Pigs area were Wade Carrol Gray and Riley W Shamberger.
Larry N. Freedman
On 23 December 1992, CIA Paramilitary Officer Larry Freedman was the first casualty of the conflict in Somalia. Freedman was a former Army Delta Force operator and Special Forces soldier. Freedman served in Vietnam for two years and earned two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart and then served in every conflict that America was involved in both officially and unofficially until his death. Freedman was born into a devoutly Jewish home and nicknamed himself "SuperJew," a nickname also used by his colleagues in Delta Force.
Freedman was killed while conducting special reconnaissance in advance of the entry of U.S. military forces into Somalia. His mission was completely voluntary, as it required entry into a very hostile area without any support. His actions provided US forces with crucial intelligence in order to plan their eventual amphibious landing. Freedman was awarded the Intelligence Star on 5 January 1993 for his heroic actions. Brigadier General Richard Potter gave the eulogy at Fort Bragg's John F. Kennedy Chapel and cited a passage from Isaiah:
"I heard the Lord say: Who shall I send and who will go for us? I answered: Here I am, send me."
On October 9, of 2001 Hamid Karzai entered Afghanistan and linked up with his supporters to seize the town of Tarin Kowt. Taliban forces launched a counterattack against Karzai's lightly armed forces and he was forced to withdraw. On November 3, Karzai contacted a member of the CIA's paramilitary unit identified only as "Greg V." who immediately acted by linking up Karzai and himself with his joint CIA/US Army Special Forces/JSOC team. From there, they made a nighttime insertion back into Tarin Kowt. Karzai then went from village to village seeking support to fight against the Taliban. On November 17, a large battle ensued. Several of Karzai's new recruits fled, but Greg V. took command and ran between defensive positions shouting, "If necessary, die like men!". The line held and as the Director of the CIA George Tenet said in his book Center of the Storm, "It was a seminal moment. Had Karzai position been overrun, as appeared likely for much of November 17, the entire future of the Pashtun rebellion in the south could have ended."
Later on December 5, Karzai was leading his resistance force against the Taliban at Khandahar, their capital and one of their last remaining strongholds. Greg V. was the lead paramilitary advisor to Karzai in this battle when, as a result of a mistake in calculating an air strike, a bomb was dropped on their position. Greg V. threw his body on Karzai and saved his life. The same day Khandahar fell and Karzai was named the interim Prime Minister.
Mr. Tenet wrote, "The routing of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida from Afghanistan in a matter of weeks was accomplished by 110 CIA officers, 316 Special Forces soldiers and score of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) raiders creating havoc behind enemy lines—a band of brothers with the support of U.S. airpower, following a CIA plan, that has to rank as one of the great successes in Agency history." Several Intelligence Stars were awarded for these activities; presumably "Greg V." was one of those.
Johnny Micheal Spann
On 31 May 2002, the Intelligence Star was awarded to Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann after he was killed at the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi in November 2001 in Afghanistan. Spann, a Paramilitary Operations Officer in the CIA's Special Activities Division, was the first American killed during combat in the Global War on Terror. Spann was also awarded the Exceptional Service Medallion. Spann was killed during a riot at the Qala-i-Jangi compound in Mazari Sharif in northern Afghanistan. In the same day, he and another CIA officer were at a military garrison named Qali Jangi near Mazari Sharif and questioned John Walker Lindh. As shown on British television (Channel 4 News), Spann asked "Are you a member of the IRA?" (This question was asked because Lindh was told to claim he was Irish to "avoid problems.") At his memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery they stated that he "fought with his AK-47 until it ran out of ammunition, then drew his pistol and emptied it, before turning to hand to hand combat which saw him shot". According to members of a German television crew who were later trapped in the fort with the other CIA officer named "Dave", Spann asked the prisoners who they were and why they joined the Taliban. They massed around him. "Why are you here?" Spann asked one. "To kill you," came the reply as the man lunged at Spann's neck.
Mike Spann’s family visited the fortress after his murder. Afghan doctors on site at the time of the riot gave the Spann family the following account. They said they "thought Mike might run and retreat, but he held his position and fought using his AK rifle until out of ammo, and then drew and began firing his pistol,” Spann’s father said. While watching Mike fight they were able to jump up and run to safety. They said the only reason that they and several others were able to live was because Mike stood his position and fought off the prisoners while enabling them the time to run to safety. The doctors stated that as they fled toward a safe haven, they saw Mike run out of ammo and then witnessed him fighting hand to hand until he was overcome by the numerous al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners.
Although Spann had served in the United States Marine Corps for ten years, he was no longer in the military at the time of his death. However, because the Intelligence Star is considered the equivalent of the US Military's Silver Star and recognized as equivalent by President George W. Bush, Spann was approved for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Operation Hotel California
Four CIA officers received the Intelligence Star for actions in 2002 and later as part of Special Activities Division (SAD) paramilitary teams in Iraq. The SAD teams, the first U.S. forces to enter Iraq in 2002 in preparation for the March 2003 U.S. invasion, were soon joined by members of the Army's 10th Special Forces Group to form a joint team called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element (NILE). The joint team organized the Kurdish Peshmerga and defeated Ansar al-Islam, an ally of Al Qaeda, in a battle for the northeast corner of Iraq, killing many terrorists and uncovering a chemical weapons facility at Sargat., the only such facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war.
SAD teams also conducted high-risk special reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines to find enemy senior leaders. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his key generals. An initial strike tried and failed to kill Saddam, but did effectively end his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes killed key generals and degraded Iraqi forces' ability to fight the U.S.-led invasion force. SAD operations officers also convinced some key Iraqi Army officers to surrender their units once the fighting started.
Because Turkey refused to allow the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division to enter northern Iraq, the SAD and Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Pershmerga were the entire northern invasion force against Saddam. Still, their efforts kept the Iraqi Army's 5th Corps from moving to contest the invasion's main force to the southeast.
CIA Memorial Wall
The CIA Memorial Wall, located inside the entrance to the CIA's original headquarters building's lobby in Langley, Virginia, honors employees who died in the line of duty. As of May 21, 2012, there were 103 stars carved into the marble wall, each one representing a CIA employee who died in the line of duty. Many officers memorialized on this wall also received the Intelligence Star for their valor in a dangerous situation.
Intelligence Star in popular culture
- In Robert Muchamore's CHERUB book Maximum Security, the CHERUB agents who help the CIA (James and Lauren Adams and Dave Moss) are all awarded Intelligence Stars.
- Tom Clancy's main novel character John Clark was awarded an Intelligence Star multiple times. His other primary protagonist, Jack Ryan, received three Intelligence Stars.
- The Assassin, Andrew Britton, Kensington Books, 2007, which describes a former Special Forces officer who becomes a paramilitary officer in the CIA and eventually receives the Intelligence Star and the Distinguished Intelligence Cross.
- True Honor, a 2003 novel by Dee Henderson is a fictional book about the CIA and US Navy SEALs fighting the Global War on Terror. The main character receives an Intelligence Star for exemplary and heroic actions.
- In the movie The Recruit, Colin Farrell plays a CIA agent whose father is honored with a star on the wall.
- Hetty Lange (Operations Manager of the Office of Special Projects in the TV show NCIS: Los Angeles), is the recipient of an Intelligence Star
- In the 2012 film Argo, Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez who is awarded the Intelligence Star for his work in the Canadian caper
- Awards and decorations of the United States government
- Special Activities Division
- "CIA Medals: Intelligence Star". Factbook on Intelligence. CIA. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
- Bush At War, Bob Woodward, Simon and Schuster, 2002, page 317
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- CIA FOIA - Francis Gary Powers: U-2 Spy Pilot Shot Down by the Soviets
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- [dead link]
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- Tim Weiner, 2007. Legacy of ashes pp368-369.
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- "William Francis Buckley, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery.
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- The Miami Herald, Liz Balmaseda, May 15, 1982, pg. 1-6
- Michael Robert Patterson. "Lawrence N. Freedman, Sergeant Major, United States Army". Arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
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- At the Center of the Storm: My Life at the CIA, George Tenet, Harper Collins, 2007, pages 219–225
- At the Center of the Storm: My Life at the CIA, George Tenet, Harper Collins, 2007, page 225
- "A NATION CHALLENGED: THE BURIAL; Agent Praised as Patriot In Graveside Ceremony". The New York Times. 11 December 2001.
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- Robert Young Pelton. "The Truth about John Walker Lindh". Honor Mike Spann. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- "Johnny Michael Spann, Captain, United States Marine Corps, Central Intelligence Agency Officer". Arlington National Cemetery Website.
- Perry, Alex (December 1, 2001). "Inside the Battle at Qala-I-Jangi". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- Tucker, Mike; Charles Faddis (2008). Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq. The Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-59921-366-8.
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- "Familia". NCIS: Los Angeles. Season 2. Episode 24. May 17, 2011. 37:34 minutes in.