When I refer to the Scorpion program, I am not referring to the fictional CBS show about a small group of geniuses working for the Department of Homeland Security.
The Scorpion program I am referring to is the National Security Agency’s (NSA) version — albeit on a much smaller scale — of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Global Response Staff, or GRS program. The GRS gained recognition due to the role they played in mounting a rescue operation of U.S. diplomats and staff during the Benghazi attack in 2012. The GRS mission calls for the security, sometimes undercover, of the CIA’s case officers on the ground. Five of the last 14 CIA employees killed in recent years were part of GRS.
The NSA’s much smaller footprint in combat zones overseas requires a much smaller security force, but one that is equally capable as their GRS brethren. The Scorpion program is a force made up of security contractors, many of whom have a distinguished background in the U.S. Special Operations community.
I have never been part of this program, nor have I ever been read on; but if you know where to look, the information regarding the NSA’s overseas operations is out there and open-source. The mission of the NSA in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, etc., is to establish signal-intelligence capabilities where they did not exist previously.
The tapping of phone lines and Internet cables, the manipulation of cell phone towers, and the establishment of satellite up-links in hostile territory are all jobs performed by NSA technicians on the ground. This is not the type of work that can be accomplished from the safety of the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. These technicians and their security contractors operate under the cover of darkness in very small teams in some of the most dangerous hostile territories in order to emplace technology that will directly contribute to the war effort.
In what might be the first time since the force’s inception, the Scorpion program suffered a loss on November 27th, 2014, when one of their security contractors was killed in a firefight at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.
The details are vague and might remain so for a very long time, but this event portrays a U.S. intelligence agency, besides the CIA, that is directly involved in on-the-ground operations.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Iassen Donov and originally published in 2015.