Washington Post Lifts Veil Further on CIA’s Global Response Staff, Raymond Davis

Greg Miller and Julie Tate provide some fascinating reading in today’s Washington Post, where they provide many new details on the CIA’s Global Response Staff and reveal that its most famous (probably now former) member is Raymond Davis.

One thing that we learn is that members of the GRS typically are contractors and that they are paid a “lucrative” salary around $140,000, but with no benefits. I suppose an argument can be made that by hiring contractors, the CIA has an extra layer of deniability, but it still strikes me as completely heartless and stark that people with such important missions and at such high risk are treated in a way that nonprofit foundations have to exist to provide for school expenses for the surviving children when these operatives die while on duty.

What I want to concentrate on here, though, is the description of what GRS does and how that might give us new insight into the Raymond Davis incident. Here are Miller and Tate on what GRS does:

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.

/snip/

CIA veterans said that GRS teams have become a critical component of conventional espionage, providing protection for case officers whose counterterrorism assignments carry a level of risk that rarely accompanied the cloak-and-dagger encounters of the Cold War.

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.

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.

I have always been troubled by the Raymond Davis incident, trying to understand why Davis would have been seen as a target worthy of attacking in the middle of a busy and highly populated urban site. But now I wonder whether Davis was by himself when the incident started. If he was providing security to a high value target, that would provide a much better explanation for why his vehicle was attacked. Also, recall that a Toyota Land Cruiser rushed to the scene from the Lahore consulate, killing a third Pakistani when it went the wrong way down a one-way street. The whole Davis incident would make more sense to me if this Land Cruiser picked up the high value target and, most likely, a second GRS protector and took them back to the Lahore consulate. Recall that as Marcy pointed out, John Kerry subsequently smuggled the Land Cruiser driver out of Pakistan. Did he also remove the high value target and the other GRS protector?

One final note. The article addresses recruitment for GRS, stating “The work is lucrative enough that recruiting is done largely by word of mouth”. I had previously speculated that Davis was a CIA recruiter, but given the GRS duties we now know, the types of recruiting targets I described fit even better into GRS jobs.

 

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
12 replies
  1. What Constitution says:

    Let me guess — they got the idea for these teams by watching the squads who show up after Tommie Lee Jones captures the alien in the desert in Men in Black.

  2. Frank33 says:

    it still strikes me as completely heartless and stark that people with such important missions and at such high risk are treated in a way that nonprofit foundations have to exist to provide for school expenses for the surviving children when these operatives die while on duty.

    Heartless and insane, of course. But important? Important jobs should not go to mercenaries.

    It is heartless to send US government mercenaries into other countries to create USA sponsored terrorism. Then, the people of occupied Irak and Afghanistan resist. The CIA creates more terror and more wars and more repression.

    It is heartless because it is profitable. But the millions of Americans are suffering, while mercenaries are paid $140,000. I do not have enough sympathy to care about them or their children, as they murder other children. We are all victims.

  3. karenjj2 says:

    actually, it’s cia mercenaries whose loyalty has always been to the most recent highest bidder. “working for” the recruiter; and they are supplied with all the latest killer technology including the current “cia” fleet of assassination drones.

  4. What Constitution? says:

    @karenjj2: Saw that movie, too — it was the paramilitary guys attacking the US airport to free the Central American dictator guy in Die Hard 2, right? That’s one reason I’m all in favor of not giving mercenaries health care and retirement benefits, make ’em make do on $140K/year [with cool toys] as they piss off the rest of the world “in a plausibly deniable way”. Where’s John McLane when we need him?

  5. karenjj2 says:

    $140,000/yr is way overpaid –i’m sure there are lots of “war pyro-maniacs” that’d “work” for room and board.

  6. orionATL says:

    interesting thesis.

    but would a well-trained protector leave his vehicle and presumably the usgov agent, in order to chase down and kill the second attacker – as davis did?

    maybe the guy has quite a temper or maybe there is indeed more to this than admitted by usgov.

    but just what seems still illusive?

  7. orionATL says:

    bright idea –

    couldn’t we export a few of our well-armed gun nuts (who’ve been self-trained watching video games) to do some of this work?

  8. Have You Read This? says:

    O/T

    is this is something to look for or is it all bs???

    The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War by Fred Kaplan

    http://www.amazon.com/Insurgents-David-Petraeus-Change-American/dp/1451642636/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356654188&sr=1-1&keywords=the+insurgents

    A General Battles His Own Army
    ‘The Insurgents,’ About David Petraeus, by Fred Kaplan

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/books/the-insurgents-about-david-petraeus-by-fred-kaplan.html?ref=books&_r=0

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