Relentless attacks on American military personnel at the height of the Iraq war made the U.S. intelligence community confront a dire problem: They needed real-time intelligence to take Al Qaeda off the battlefield and dismantle its bomb-making factories.
This realization was the start of a highly secretive program, developed by the National Security Agency, to put NSA specialists on the battlefield in order to send “near real-time” intelligence to the troops so they could avoid ambushes and root out insurgents. For the first time, going in depth with Fox News, senior NSA leadership is speaking publicly about that program, called the Real Time Regional Gateway or RT-RG.
“Starting in 2005, we started seeing a big uptick in casualties caused by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and ambushes,” NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett told Fox News. The RT-RG program created to combat those attacks, he said, “was really a complete change in how we provided signals intelligence support to the tactical war fighter.”
The program, parts of which were classified until now, has dispatched thousands of NSA experts into war zones since 9/11. It has put those experts – from an agency most-known for its controversial surveillance programs – at grave risk across multiple theatres. But in the process, officials say, RT-RG has saved the lives of fellow Americans.