WASHINGTON — The suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a remote outpost in southeastern Afghanistan had been invited onto the base and had not been searched, two former U.S. officials told the Associated Press on Thursday.
A former senior intelligence official says the man was being courted as an informant and that it was the first time he had been brought inside the camp. An experienced CIA debriefer came from Kabul for the meeting, suggesting that the purpose was to gain intelligence, the official said.
The former intelligence official and another former official with knowledge of the attack spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The CIA would not confirm the details, and said it was still gathering evidence on the incident.
A separate U.S. official suggested the bomber may have set off the explosives as he was about to be searched.
The bombing on Wednesday dealt a blow to the tight-knit spy agency. Among those killed was the chief of the CIA post, whom former officials identified as a mother of three. Six more agency personnel were wounded in what was considered the most lethal attack for the CIA since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001 and possibly even since the 1983 embassy bombing in Beirut.
It also was the single deadliest attack for Americans in Afghanistan since eight soldiers were killed in an insurgent attack on a base in the east on Oct. 3.
President Obama and CIA Director Leon Panetta were joined by several leading lawmakers on Thursday in praising agency employees for their work.
"Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism," Panetta said in a statement confirming the deaths. "We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives — a safer America."
The CIA did not release information about the victims, citing the sensitivity of their mission and other ongoing operations.