Virginia Tech®home

America’s Response to 9/11: A CIA Retrospective in the Words of Those Who Led the Way - A Panel Discussion

Thursday, September 9, 2021

9/11 horizontal flyer with guest speaker names, titles, and sponsors.

Date: Thursday, September 9, 2021

Time: 3:30PM - 5:00PM

Location: Burruss Hall Auditorium

*Registration not required for VTCC

Loading player for

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel who were on the ground immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil, CIA personnel key to post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts, and Orwell Prize Winning Author of ‘First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11’, will share their experiences and discuss aspects of the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan and their roles in this unprecedented counter terrorism action. Ken Stiles, lead CIA Counterterrorism Targeter (CIA Retired), will be the moderator.

The panel discussion will take place on Sept. 9, 3:30 p.m. in Burruss Hall auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Masks are required inside Burruss Hall. The event is sponsored by the Virginia Tech Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology and in collaboration with the Corps of Cadets.

 The panel will include the following speakers: 

Ken Stiles (Moderator)

Lead CIA Counterterrorism Targeter (CIA Retired)

In the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Counterterrorism Center (CTC) Special Operations, Ken Stiles created a revolutionary GIS-based targeting system to provide the CIA’s leader of the operation a near real time view of the battlefield. This GIS-based targeting system, named the ‘Magic Box’, allowed each CIA team in the country to have the same targeting data as CIA headquarters and CIA liaison offices within the Department of Defense. Ken provided targeting support to CIA teams, US military teams, and Afghan-trained counter terrrorism teams. The targeting system was 100% successful in deconflicting US military attacks with CIA asset and team presence on the battlefield. This technology changed the way battlefield management is undertaken.

John Bennett

Former Director, National Clandestine Service (CIA Retired)

Bennett served in the CIA as an operations officer for 33 years. He spent 18 years overseas and served as chief of the station four times. His senior positions post 9/11 included Chief Special Activities Division and Director, National Clandestine Service. Prior to joining the CIA, Bennett was an infantry officer in the Marine Corps.

Alex R. Hernandez

Prior to joining the CIA, Hernandez served in the U.S. Army Special Forces-the Green Berets for over 25 years retiring at the rank of Sergeant Major. As a CIA case officer, Hernandez served in the paramilitary component of the Special Activities Division and in the Counterterrorism Center where he held senior and executive level positions.

Colonel Justin Sapp

Military Advisor and Chief of Staff to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Sapp was attending the Special Forces Combat Diver Course (CDQC) as a Green Beret Captain assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group on September 11, 2001. Upon graduating CDQC on 20 September, he was detailed to the CIA’s paramilitary component of the Special Activities Division and joined ‘Team Alpha’ in advance of the infiltration of the first SFODAs into Afghanistan. Col. Sapp continued his career in Army Special Forces where he held various command and staff positions over the past 19 years. He currently serves as the Military Advisor and Chief of Staff to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Toby Harnden

Orwell Prize Winning Author of ‘First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11’

Harnden, a former foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times of London and the Daily Telegraph who reported from thirty-three countries, specializes in terrorism and war. Born in England, Harnden was imprisoned in Zimbabwe, prosecuted in Britain for protecting confidential sources, and vindicated by a $23 million public inquiry in Ireland. A dual British and US citizen, he spent a decade as a Royal Navy officer before becoming a journalist. He holds a First Class degree in modern history from Oxford and is the author of Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh and Dead Men Risen: An Epic Story of War and Heroism in Afghanistan. Previously based in London, Belfast, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Washington, D.C. He now lives in Virginia.


About the Hume Center

The Hume Center leads Virginia Tech's research, education, and outreach programs focused on challenges of cybersecurity, autonomy, and resilience for the national security community. It’s mission is to cultivate the next generation of national security leaders by developing and executing research and experiential learning opportunities to engage students. The Hume Center hosts education programs that provide mentorship, internships, scholarships, and seek to address key challenges in the federal and industry service.

About the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets is a four-year, full-time leadership program that has been a part of the university since its founding in 1872. While the majority of cadets go on to careers in the military, about 20 percent are part of the Citizen-Leader Track, which allows cadets to apply the leadership skills learned through the corps’ military lifestyle directly to career-starting jobs in business, government, and more.

Media Contact: Lindsey Haugh

More information: Colleen Bartos