With the release of “The Final Mission of Extortion 17” by Ed Darack, new information is brought to light about one of the most deadly days for coalition troops in the War on Terror. Darack’s work goes in-depth on the subject, probing the technical details of military rotary wing aviation, accidents, and shoot downs overseas. The book also includes unique and personal character studies of the human beings who served and died that fateful day.
“The Final Mission of Extortion 17” is an outstanding work worth giving a read, one that dispels many of the ridiculous conspiracy theories that have unfortunately come to surround the attack. There was one bit of information that I noticed. What has been previously undisclosed is that the SEAL Team Six operators of Gold Squadron who were killed had been previously assigned to the CIA’s Omega Teams.
At the time of the Extortion 17 crash, the SEALs were working for the Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan, not the CIA. However, they were rotating who they were employed by from one deployment to the next. On the previous deployment they had been with Omega and they would have been with that program again on their next deployment had they survived.
Omega consists of small teams conducting sensitive operations. Back in those days, JSOC detached operators to the program for the duration of their deployment overseas. When they got back, no after-action reviews were conducted, no questions were asked. The military didn’t even want to know what the CIA had those guys doing. In some cases, Omega operations were known to get out of control and one team, dubbed Omega-80, came to be disbanded for unspecified reasons.
When the Gold Squadron SEALs were killed in Extortion 17, the loss of that many JSOC operators had a detrimental effect on the Omega program for quite a while as it was now short on personnel, forcing them to make adjustments to keep things running.
Read more about the joint JSOC-CIA Omega Teams below:
In the 1980’s the ugly little proxy wars in Central America between the Soviet Union and the United States were in full swing. With the CIA having lost some of their toys due to the Church Committee hearings amongst other disclosures and America reluctant to deploy military forces en mass after the Vietnam War, creative solutions had to be found in order to prevent communist regimes from sprouting up in America’s backyard. The answer was the take active duty Special Forces soldiers and place them on the financial rolls of the Central Intelligence Agency, deploying them as notional para-military contractors.
One such individual was WO2 James West, an active duty Warrant Officer in 7th Special Forces Group. While the White House had limited the number of actual soldiers who were allowed to deploy to Honduras, this did not apply to “CIA personnel” like West and his teammates. This also provided the White House with plausible deniability, allowing the President to go on television and say that we did not have troops in countries X, Y, and Z.
It is a game as old as time. The military holds Title 10 authorities related to war-time deployments while the CIA holds Title 50 authorities which allow for covert operations. Combining the two authorities by “sheep dipping” active duty military personnel allows for the best of both worlds. Granted, it exploits a legal loophole and circumvents the intent of the law but this gray area is something that politicians, the military, and the CIA are all rather comfortable with.