In the years since the Afghanistan invasion, the CIA, long a covert intelligence gathering body, entered a phase of growing militancy that has rendered headline afterheadline in U.S. mainstream media — and that’s due in no small part to its relationship with military operators.
On December 26th, Greg Miller and Julie Tate of the Washington Post published an article about something called the “Global Response Staff” (GRS).
From their post:
The increasingly conspicuous role of the GRS is part of a broader expansion of the CIA’s paramilitary capabilities over the past 10 years. Beyond hiring former U.S. military commandos, the agency has collaborated with U.S. Special Operations teams on missions including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and has killed thousands of Islamist militants and civilians with its fleet of armed drones.
This paramilitary unit, comprised of “scorpions” — the most lethal of American military special operators — is responsible for protecting covert agents and classified drone sites in countries like Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan and Libya (surely among other unnamed places).
GRS members, untrained in local languages and not expected to be writing up intelligence reports, often come with SWAT team or U.S. Special Forces backgrounds. In sensitive situations their actions have brought attention to covert CIA operations.
Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, the two agents who died in the Benghazi incident earlier this year, were both a part of the GRS, which the Post reports has at least 125 overseas employees. Raymond Davis, the “diplomat” captured in Pakistan in early 2011, was also a member of the group.
Their big exposure began in 2011 when Davis opened fired on a couple Pakistani thugs who confronted him in the busy streets of Lahore.
From the Guardian:
Davis, a former special forces soldier, whipped out his 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol and, still behind the wheel, opened fire. Five shots sliced through the windscreen. Muhammad Faheem, a 19-year-old street criminal, fell dead.
Then a rescue detachment speeding the wrong way down the street in a Toyota Land Cruiser ran down a “cosmetics trader” and just kept going.
Kind of the opposite of covert.
A year and a half later, Fox reported that Woods was in a truck “revving the engine” while the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was under attack. Revving because they were supposedly ordered to “stand down” by CIA Agents, a claim the Agency not only denies, but follows up by saying that there was “no delay” in their response time.
Regardless, their response took about a half hour to reach the mission, which was about a mile away, a distance most Navy SEALs can make on foot, in full gear, in about six or seven minutes.
As we’ve covered here at Business Insider already, the actions of Woods and other GRS employees to rescue diplomats at the mission appear to have brought the fight, and thus exposure, to the previously classified CIA Annex.
These missteps by GRS members have given rising comprehension of and recognition to the CIA’s most secretive unit: the Special Activities Division, or SAD.
The Agency’s SAD is itself comprised of case officers and former special operators, and goes hand-in-hand with the growing use of drone warfare since the beginning of the Global War on Terror.
The combination of the high-visibility drone program and partnerships with special operators, for security or daring raids, has brought unprecedented exposure to military-style operations the CIA has carefully expanded over the past 10 or so years.