WATCH | The death of CIA personnel is not something normally discussed publicly by one of the world's most clandestine agencies. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 thrust America into the global war on terror. CIA Director John Brennan recalls the sacrifices the agency has made since then.
Brennan recalls his toughest moments on the job
As CIA Director John Brennan reflects back on his 30-year-plus career, he told Circa some of the most difficult moments have been when CIA officers have lost their lives in the line of duty.
"The toughest moments are when I have to deal with the loss of Agency officers," he said. "Too many have died, too many have suffered, too many have been injured."
Honoring the fallen
At the entrance to the CIA headquarters in Virginia, the Memorial Wall -- made of white marble, finely etched with stars representing CIA officers killed in the line of duty -- overshadows the large agency seal on the lobby floor.
"As of May 2016, there were 117 stars etched on the wall," said CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu. "Approximately a third of CIA deaths since the Agency’s inception in 1947 took place after 9/11.”
The battleground in Afghanistan
U.S. clandestine operations in Afghanistan over the past 15 years have taken its toll on the agency. In 2009, a suicide attack on Camp Chapman in eastern Afghanistan killed seven officers.
"We have CIA officers in particular, along with U.S. military, that have given tremendous amounts of themselves to that country," said Brennan.
He said the effort in Afghanistan to dismantle terror networks is vital.
Brennan personally speaks to the families of those killed in the line of duty. He said their strength has made him a better person.
"Talking with the families is tough, but I must tell you, the family of our officers who have suffered are some of the most remarkable people I've ever met," he said. "The spouses, the children, there is something very special when we say 'CIA family.' We're not just talking about our officers, we're talking about the men, women and children who stand behind and with our officers."
'In their hearts and souls'
Brennan said it's the people he will remember most as he reflects on his tenure as CIA director.
It's "the men and women, Americans who come from the 50 states and territories, who gather together, do something that they know is not going to be widely recognized or celebrated on the outside -- frequently it will be criticized -- but they know in their hearts and souls that what they do is so important to this country. Their families know it."
What's next for Brennan?
So what comes next for Brennan as he closes a chapter on the agency he's given most of his life to?
"Although I'll be departing at CIA, I won't be departing the CIA family," he said.
"I'll still be very much a part of the family -- like the family members whose loved ones are forever emblazoned on our wall."
WATCH | For the news you need, check out our 60 Second Circa.