The CIA’s expanding contractor security force

Global Response Staff, a secret security force created after 9/11, is illustrative of CIA militarization

Topics: CIA, GRS, Washington Post, Benghazi attack, global response staff, Terrorism,

The Washington Post on Friday published another revealing report on the U.S.’s sprawling intelligence operations overseas. Greg Miller and Julie Tate reported on the CIA’s Global Response Staff (GRS) –  a secret security force created after 9/11 which recruits “hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.”

It was the GRS who were swift to the scene to fend off a second attack by militants on the U.S. consulate in Libya in September. Largely constituted of contractors working part of the year for substantial fees (up to $140,000), the GRS is one of the most dangerous assignments in the CIA’s increasingly far-reaching tentacles. At any one time, around 125 GRS contractors are assigned around the world and, as the Post noted, “Of the 14 CIA employees killed since 2009, five worked for the GRS, all as contractors. They include two killed at Benghazi, as well as three others who were within the blast radius on Dec. 31, 2009, when a Jordanian double agent detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA compound in Khost, Afghanistan.”

Miller and Tate noted that the GRS’s expanding role evidences a shift in U.S. spywork in recent decades and the CIA’s creeping militarization:



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.

… Spywork used to require slipping solo through cities in Eastern Europe. Now, “clandestine human intelligence involves showing up in a Land Cruiser with some [former] Deltas or SEALs, picking up an asset and then dumping him back there when you are through,” said a former CIA officer who worked closely with the security group overseas.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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