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CIA officer first U.S. combat death in Afghanistan

CIA officer Johnny
CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann was the first American known to be killed in combat in Afghanistan.  

WINFIELD, Alabama (CNN) -- The father of the CIA operative who was the first U.S. combat death in Afghanistan praised his son Wednesday as a hero who died doing "the things no one else wants to do."

"That is exactly what he was doing in Afghanistan, and we're proud of his dedication and his service to our great nation. Mike was a loyal and patriotic American and he loved his country very much," said Johnny Spann, the father of Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann.

The CIA Wednesday said Spann, 32, an officer in its covert operations section and father of three young children, was killed at a fortress compound near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif where Taliban prisoners had staged a bloody uprising.

Asked who he blamed for his son's death, the father simply said, "Osama bin Laden."

For Winfield, Alabama, the death of CIA operative Mike Spann brought the realities of war in Afghanistan home. CNN's Martin Savidge reports (November 29)

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Spann described as a hero 
Father expresses pride, sorrow, anger 

Johnny Spann said there was no special comfort in knowing that his son was the first American to give his life in the fight against terrorism.

"I'm his father. It couldn't hurt me any worse, whether he was the first one or the 50th one," he said.

CIA Director George Tenet said Spann, a former Marine, was "where he wanted to be; on the front lines serving his country."

"Mike Spann was an American hero ... a man who showed passion for his country and his agency through his selfless courage," Tenet said in a statement.

The flag over the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, was lowered to half-staff.

U.S. officials said Spann was in the prison compound at the time of his death, gathering intelligence from Taliban prisoners "about Taliban intentions and whereabouts." Officials believe he was killed Sunday.

"Although these captives had given themselves up, their pledge to surrender -- like so many other pledges from the vicious group they represent -- proved worthless," Tenet said.

Spann joined the CIA in June 1999 after several years with the Marines.

"Knowing Mike, it doesn't surprise me that he found a way to get in the middle of the fight," said Marine Corps Maj. Mike Mullins who was Spann's commanding officer on Okinawa from 1994-95. "He was very serious, and his main concern was that his Marines were prepared to go to battle. That's the kind of guy he was. He told you straight, and stuck to it. He was focused on the mission."

A CIA official told CNN "only today as daylight broke" were U.S. personnel able to reach the part of the prison where Spann's body lay.

Spann's father blasted the news media for reporting his son's death before it had been confirmed by the government, saying that if his son were still alive at the time, such reports put his life in jeopardy.

"I don't have to tell you that I probably feel a little angry about that," he said. "I really think the (news media) in America ought to think about that and when something like this happens again they ought to consider what they do and what they say before they do it."

--CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.


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