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 back yard. 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 team mates. 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.
The modern-day program of this nature was OMEGA, an obsolete code name no longer used, first started in Afghanistan. In some ways similar to MACV-SOG in the Vietnam War, Omega is a joint program between the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command. Including elements of Delta Force, Dev Group, and the 75th Ranger Regiment, Omega uses Special Operations soldiers to do the heavy lifting while the CIA provides targeting intelligence. The Omega program has not only been active in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but across the globe. Yemen is certainly one country where blended JSOC/CIA teams have operated and other locations could be speculated upon as we notice interesting signatures in certain parts of Africa.
To many Americans, a program like Omega confirms their deepest fears, fears that Special Operations soldiers are being used as “CIA assassins” but the reality is that most Omega missions are not that different from any other Special Operations mission. Capturing and killing High Value Targets, conducting vehicle interdictions, and intelligence gathering is something that the CIA and JSOC can do independently of one another, but rather than having these two bureaucracies competing for the same missions, it is much more profitable to work in a joint environment.
As we point out, such a program is hardly without precedent. Studies and Observations Group (SOG) was a joint CIA/Special Forces program during the Vietnam War. In the 1980’s, a program called “Quail Shooter” was implemented in Central America to counter the influence of communist insurgents by placing active duty Special Forces soldiers on the CIA roster. Today, another program deploys Special Forces soldiers to a country in the Middle East to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA), all under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency.
So why write about Omega now? The program was outed many years ago by the New York Times and Wired Magazine, although neither seems to fully understand what it is. Considering the Times article yesterday about the so-called “Secret History of SEAL Team Six” which talks about Dev Group‘s involvement in Omega, this program is going to be splashed across the newspapers around the world whether any of us like it or not.