Revealed: The CIA bodyguard unit that protects officers and spies
December 27, 2012 8 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The popular view of Central Intelligence Agency operations officers as gun-brandishing martial arts experts who can kill an adversary using their bare hands could not be further from the truth. Typically, CIA operatives are trained to avoid attracting attention while establishing useful, long-lasting relationships with foreign assets. Broadly speaking, guns are rarely used in day-to-day intelligence work. Increasingly, however, CIA case officers operating on counterterrorism assignments in the post-9/11 environment find themselves in warzones with a level of physical risk rarely encountered during the Cold War. CIA operations planners believe that case officers cannot properly run foreign assets while constantly having to worry about their personal safety, as well as the safety of their recruits. To address this problem, the CIA put together a new unit shortly after 9/11, which goes by the name Global Response Staff (GRS). An article published yesterday in The Washington Post provides the most detailed public examination of this new unit to date. The Post’s Greg Miller and Julie Tate, who authored the article, suggest that the GRS currently has around 250 members, about half of whom are detailed to CIA stations around the world at any given time. Most are contracted by the Agency as retired Special Forces officers, and only work three to four months a year for around $140,000. Recruitment is done largely by word of mouth. The Post quotes an unidentified former US intelligence official, who says that GRS recruits are not required to operate within the typical CIA operational framework: unlike their CIA colleagues, “they don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals and they’re not writing up intelligence reports”. Instead, they are expected to conduct “area familiarization” work, that is, mapping escape routes from places where CIA case officers meet their assets. They then escort the officers to the selected meeting locations, make first-contact with assets, patting them down to check for weapons or explosives, and providing “an envelope of security” so that case officers can operate in relative safety. Miller and Tate claim that GRS duty is considered one of the CIA’s “most dangerous assignments”, having cost the lives of at least five out of 14 CIA employees killed in the line of duty since 2009 alone. Two GRS members were killed last September in Benghazi, Libya, when the United States consulate there came under attack by al-Qaeda-linked militants. Three more lost their lives almost exactly three years ago in Khost, Afghanistan, when a double agent killed eight CIA officers in a suicide attack. The article suggests that Raymond Allen Davis, a CIA officer who was captured by Pakistani officials in 2011, after shooting two men who allegedly tried to rob him in Lahore, was also a GRS member. According to The Post, the new bodyguard unit is considered such a critical component of the CIA’s post-9/11 operations that fresh CIA recruits are now trained on how to interact with their GRS teams when operating abroad. The authors’ conclusion is that the new bodyguard unit is indicative of a “broader expansion” of the CIA’s paramilitary activities in the past decade.