High-risk assignments draw many from U.S. Special Forces
By Greg Miller and Julie Tate
The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. But the CIA’s ability to fend off a second attack that same night provided a glimpse of a key element in the agency’s defensive arsenal: a secret security force created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA’s Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.
The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.
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Bodyguard details have become so essential to espionage that the CIA has overhauled its training program at the Farm — its case officer academy in southern Virginia — to teach spies the basics of working with GRS teams.
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“They don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals and they’re not writing up intelligence reports,” a former U.S. intelligence official said. Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants and provide an “envelope” of security, the former official said, all while knowing that “if push comes to shove, you’re going to have to shoot.”
Phi Beta Iota: This is nothing less than insane — and grounds for closing down the clandestine service. The whole point of being a case officer is to be invisible and to be able to work anywhere in your assigned area of operations, with a deep knowledge of culture, history, and languages as well as a full understanding of current open sources for contextual vetting. So first CIA decides case officers don’t need to be regionally qualified by knowledge; then it dismisses the language requirement; now it wants to assign a team of body guards to case officers in zones that are slightly dangerous? Robert Young Penton sets the gold standard for a single intelligent person with integrity able to go anywhere anytime. Evidently CIA’s Directorate of Operations is striving to set the dog poop standard and the poor Acting Director and his staff have no clue. So now we have a spy service that is blown from day one in official cover, knows nothing, does not speak the language, and needs bodyguards (and bodyguards need drivers). Insane!