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A dated photo of the DIA Memorial Wall, not reflecting additions since 2004

The Defense Intelligence Agency Memorial Wall, commonly known as the Patriots Memorial, is a memorial at DIA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., dedicated to those agency employees who lost their lives in the line of their intelligence work[1] and whose deaths are not classified.

History and description[edit | edit source]

The wall was first dedicated on 14 December 1988 by Director Leonard Perroots at the DIA Headquarters, honoring those DIA personnel "who died in the service of the United States". It "commemorates the profound individual sacrifices made on behalf of the United States by DIA members and acts as a reminder of the selflessness, dedication, and courage required to confront national challenges..."[2]

Criteria for inclusion[edit | edit source]

DIA does not provide detailed criteria on who is eligible for inclusion on the memorial. The wall is presumably not exhaustive due to omission of DIA personnel with links to classified missions, such as DIA officer Charles Dennis McKee, who died as a result of the Lockerbie bombing.[3] McKee is notably absent on the DIA wall, whereas his CIA partner Matthew Gannon is honored on the CIA Memorial Wall. The majority of the disclosed DIA fatalities are either a result of terrorist attacks or accidents and acts of violence directed against overt employees.[4] While CIA has a practice of marking the deaths of its private contractors on its memorial wall,[5] the number of DIA contractor losses, if any, is unknown.

Controversy in counting personnel[edit | edit source]

Unlike the more expansive memorial at DIA's fellow defense agency NSA – which includes members of all military elements operating on behalf of or assigned to the NSA – DIA's interpretation of "personnel" and what it means to die in the line of duty has remained opaque to the public. During Operation Babylift, the U.S. Defense Attache Office (DAO), a branch of DIA, lost 35 personnel, but of these DIA included only five individuals on its memorial wall, excluding the remaining 30 deaths of DAO staff.[6][7] This type of unclear accounting led to some controversy before the DIA memorial was even created. In 1983, an American citizen Jim Poulton threatened to sue the U.S. government for records after repeatedly failing to confirm whether his parents Orin Poulton and June Poulton, who perished during Operation Babylift, were DIA employees. Following years of wrangling, it was revealed that Orin, although working for DIA's Defense Attache Office, was being paid by the Navy and as such was not considered DIA "personnel" for bookkeeping purposes. Similarly, June Poulton was a civilian paid by the Army. Kenneth E. Geisen, the DIA spokesperson at the time, said "I'm not denying it. I'm not confirming it...DIA would have no reason to cover up anything". When asked about honoring these civilians on war memorials, the DIA spokesperson said callously that "Well, [dying while] coming back on an airplane [during the Vietnam War] is just like getting killed on the Beltway here in a car accident". The Poultons were billed thousands of dollars for coffins and their transportation home, but they refused to pay; in the end, the Government did not insist on payment.[8]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Defense Intelligence Agency Patriots Memorial, Retrieved: 25 March 2016
  2. Defense Intelligence Agency Patriots Memorial, Retrieved: 25 March 2016
  3. Rowan, Roy. "Pan Am 103: Why Did They Die?", Time, June 24, 2001
  4. Patriot's Memoria Archived 2013-05-12 at the Wayback Machine., Defense Intelligence Agency, 2012, Retrieved: September 14, 2013
  5. Warrick, Joby. "CIA honors 12 officers, contractors killed in action", The Washington Post, June 8, 2010
  6. DIA History Office, Remembering the First Operation Babylift Flight, April 03, 2014
  7. Honoring Those Who Served, Defense Intelligence Agency, Retrieved: November 15, 2013
  8. George Esper. No Honors Yet for Civilians Who Died in the Vietnam War. Associated Press via The Daily Reporter, 8 September 1983

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