Every year, intelligence professionals, special operators, and the children of fallen heroes come together for a genuine cause – without a written invitation, and at such a secret time and place, it’s on a need-to-know basis.
A professional keeper of secrets, retired CIA officer Mark Kelton now sits on the board of an event so cap and dagger that even the name is shrouded in secrecy.
“We like to call this a ‘secret concert event’,” he told CBS News’s Catherine Herridge. “We come from a secret world, it’s on a need-to-know basis, and that adds a bit to the mystique of the event.”
Some past artists are far from unknown – ZZ Top, The Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton. One year, Lenny Kravitz rubbed shoulders with a four-star general.
To date, more than $ 3.5 million in scholarships have been raised for the CIA, Special Operations and Defense Intelligence Memorial Foundations.
“These scholarships allowed me to continue my education,” said Alison Spann, host of this year’s concert and scholarship recipient, who is now a reporter on local television. His father, a CIA officer, Mike Spann, was the first American killed in Afghanistan after September 11.
“Every day is Memorial Day for my family,” Spann told CBS News. “We think about my dad all the time. He really believed in America and he believed it was the best country in the world.”
One of Mike Spann’s latest videos showed him questioning John Walker Lindh, who was later referred to as the “American Taliban”. Alison, whose father died in 2001, described how the confidential nature of her father’s job made the grieving process more difficult.
“There are so many unanswered questions, and I think this part is difficult,” she said. “And the truth is, we’ll probably never know exactly what happened there.”
Each year, as more stars are added to the CIA Memorial Wall, the Secret Concert brings together the children of fallen heroes to form new friendships and support their futures.
Maybe one day the event will be declassified, or it will leak – “but not under my watch,” Kelton said.