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Couple bike across U.S. to honor Khost bombing victims

By Greg Miller

Six weeks and some 3,000 miles after setting out, retired CIA officer Rob Richer and his wife Kim were expected to pedal into Coronado, Ca. on Wednesday afternoon -- finishing a cross-country bicycle trip meant to memorialize agency officers killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last year.

The two Marine Corps. veterans tracked the daily progress of their journey on a Web site, recording a visit with former President George W. Bush while passing through Dallas, and posting a letter they received last week from CIA Director Leon E. Panetta praising their efforts.

Richer, 56, said before starting the ride in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. on Sept. 11 that his aim was to honor victims who had "served an important mission, and we need to take care of their families." Through their Web site, the Richers have collected donations for the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, which has said it will provide money to support victims' families and help pay for college tuition for nine children who lost a parent in the attack.

Seven agency employees were killed by a suicide bomber who had convinced CIA officials to invite him to a forward operating base in Khost with the promise that he had long-sought information on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Among those killed were the CIA's base chief, Jennifer Mathews, one of the agency's senior al- Qaeda experts.

Bill Harlow, a former CIA spokesman who worked with the Richers, said it unclear how much money the ride had raised, but that "the American public has been very generous and responsive."

Richer had held overseas posts in the Middle East, and served as a senior operations officer at CIA headquarters in Langley.

In his letter, Panetta said the Richers' ride had helped "heighten the American people's awareness and understanding of what their intelligence agency is doing to protect them."

By Greg Miller  | October 27, 2010; 2:11 PM ET
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