Erik Prince (Xe) and proxy crusaders

hmm,,,,

[ Eric Prince, the founder of Blackwater ,,, errrr … Xe … err …on December 2011, Xe changed its name again to “Academi”

[see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academi]

and what will come next in the name change game, only God knows …  and with the large group of spinoff companies, that are  hidden and off the grid and some openly public, and of course, all those Proxies, and Proxies of the Proxies … etc …. ]

Who is more dangerous?

Erik Prince or Anders Breivik?

Search it to see for yourself.

 Erik Prince of Xe! Formally of Blackwater.

Hmm….

Implications for Muslims around the world

Who more dangerous?

Well, Erik Prince of Xe services  is a corporate mercenary group, whereas  Anders Breivik is a so called lone wolf terrorist.

This may depend on if beliefs are stronger or interests.

Hmm… but then there is propaganda, hysteria, etc: other elements in the mix.

Something to start the investigation

>

>

Posted at 09:26 AM ET, 12/12/2011

Ex-Blackwater firm gets a name change, again


Contractors for what was then known as Blackwater engage in a firefight in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004. (Gervasio Sanchez — Associated Press) The private security contractor known as Blackwater renamed itself Xe Services nearly three years ago. Now, the firm is rebranding itself again.

On Monday, Xe announced that it was changing its name to Academi, part of a years-long effort by the company to shed a troubled legacy that critics said made the firm a symbol for mercenaries and impunity in Iraq and elsewhere.

In an interview, the company’s president and chief executive, Ted Wright, said the announcement was about more than a simple name change.

“We want to reflect the changes we made in the company,” he said, noting that the firm has new ownership, new leadership and a “refocused strategy on training and security services.”

The company also has unveiled a new Web site and logo. The tag on the Web site reads: “Elite Training. Trusted Protection.”

Xe was acquired by USTC Holdings, an investor consortium, in December 2010, and since then has tried to undergo a corporate makeover. Erik Prince, the former Navy SEAL who built the company, no longer has ties to the business. The firm formed a new board of directors to manage the company and picked up big Washington names in the process.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft now serves as ethics adviser, and Jack Quinn, a top lobbyist and former counsel to President Bill Clinton, is an independent director.

The company also has a new corporate headquarters, in Arlington, Va. Its main training facility is still in Moyock, N.C.

When Blackwater began calling itself Xe in 2009, a spokesman for the firm said the name had no particular significance. On Monday, Wright said the name change this time had a more deliberate meaning.

Academi, pronounced “academy,” was chosen, he said, in part to evoke the ideas of a Platonic academy, where the ethos is of excellence, honor and discipline.

“That’s what we want our ethos to be in the future — trained thinkers and warriors,” he said

By  |  09:26 AM ET, 12/12/2011

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Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

Adam Ferguson/VII Network

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has a new project.

By and
Published: May 14, 2011

Correction Appended
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

Multimedia
Doug Mills/The New York Times

Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi hired Erik Prince to build a fighting force.

IN THE SAND  The training camp for the foreign force, located on an Emirati military base, includes barracks for the soldiers.

THE PAPER TRAIL A collection of documents about the secret army includes recruits’ permits. Some details have been obscured.

GeoEye, via Google Earth

A satellite image of the camp in the United Arab Emirates built to train an 800-member military unit.

The army is based in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, but will serve all the emirates.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance.

Mr. Prince’s exploits, both real and rumored, are the subject of fevered discussions in the private security world. He has worked with the Emirati government on various ventures in the past year, including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. There was talk, too, that he was hatching a scheme last year to cap the Icelandic volcano then spewing ash across Northern Europe.

The team in the hotel lobby was led by Ricky Chambers, known as C. T., a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked for Mr. Prince for years; most recently, he had run a program training Afghan troops for a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant.

He was among the half-dozen or so Americans who would serve as top managers of the project, receiving nearly $300,000 in annual compensation. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Prince soon began quietly luring American contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and other danger spots with pay packages that topped out at more than $200,000 a year, according to a budget document. Many of those who signed on as trainers — which eventually included more than 40 veteran American, European and South African commandos — did not know of Mr. Prince’s involvement, the former employees said.

Mr. Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.

He and Mr. Prince also began looking for soldiers. They lined up Thor Global Enterprises, a company on the Caribbean island of Tortola specializing in “placing foreign servicemen in private security positions overseas,” according to a contract signed last May. The recruits would be paid about $150 a day.

Within months, large tracts of desert were bulldozed and barracks constructed. The Emirates were to provide weapons and equipment for the mercenary force, supplying everything from M-16 rifles to mortars, Leatherman knives to Land Rovers. They agreed to buy parachutes, motorcycles, rucksacks — and 24,000 pairs of socks.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower — a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

Emirati law prohibits disclosure of incorporation records for businesses, which typically list company officers, but it does require them to post company names on offices and storefronts. Over the past year, the sign outside the suite has changed at least twice — it now says Assurance Management Consulting.

While the documents — including contracts, budget sheets and blueprints — obtained by The Times do not mention Mr. Prince, the former employees said he negotiated the U.A.E. deal. Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”

One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

People involved in the project and American officials said that the Emiratis were interested in deploying the battalion to respond to terrorist attacks and put down uprisings inside the country’s sprawling labor camps, which house the Pakistanis, Filipinos and other foreigners who make up the bulk of the country’s work force. The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

An Eye on Iran

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The Emirates have a small military that includes army, air force and naval units as well as a small special operations contingent, which served in Afghanistan, but over all, their forces are considered inexperienced.

In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country’s security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure.

Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.

“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2’s work.

The contract includes a one-paragraph legal and ethics policy noting that R2 should institute accountability and disciplinary procedures. “The overall goal,” the contract states, “is to ensure that the team members supporting this effort continuously cast the program in a professional and moral light that will hold up to a level of media scrutiny.”

But former employees said that R2’s leaders never directly grappled with some fundamental questions about the operation. International laws governing private armies and mercenaries are murky, but would the Americans overseeing the training of a foreign army on foreign soil be breaking United States law?

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.

But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

Basic operational issues, too, were not addressed, the former employees said. What were the battalion’s rules of engagement? What if civilians were killed during an operation? And could a Latin American commando force deployed in the Middle East really be kept a secret?

Imported Soldiers

The first waves of mercenaries began arriving last summer. Among them was a 13-year veteran of Colombia’s National Police force named Calixto Rincón, 42, who joined the operation with hopes of providing for his family and seeing a new part of the world.

“We were practically an army for the Emirates,” Mr. Rincón, now back in Bogotá, Colombia, said in an interview. “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”

Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned.

He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.

R2 spends roughly $9 million per month maintaining the battalion, which includes expenditures for employee salaries, ammunition and wages for dozens of domestic workers who cook meals, wash clothes and clean the camp, a former employee said. Mr. Rincón said that he and his companions never wanted for anything, and that their American leaders even arranged to have a chef travel from Colombia to make traditional soups.

But the secrecy of the project has sometimes created a prisonlike environment. “We didn’t have permission to even look through the door,” Mr. Rincón said. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.”

The Emirates wanted the troops to be ready to deploy just weeks after stepping off the plane, but it quickly became clear that the Colombians’ military skills fell far below expectations. “Some of these kids couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” said a former employee. Other recruits admitted to never having fired a weapon.

Rethinking Roles

As a result, the veteran American and foreign commandos training the battalion have had to rethink their roles. They had planned to act only as “advisers” during missions — meaning they would not fire weapons — but over time, they realized that they would have to fight side by side with their troops, former officials said.

Making matters worse, the recruitment pipeline began drying up. Former employees said that Thor struggled to sign up, and keep, enough men on the ground. Mr. Rincón developed a hernia and was forced to return to Colombia, while others were dismissed from the program for drug use or poor conduct.

And R2’s own corporate leadership has also been in flux. Mr. Chambers, who helped develop the project, left after several months. A handful of other top executives, some of them former Blackwater employees, have been hired, then fired within weeks.

To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops.

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C. But before moving ahead, U.A.E. military officials have insisted that the battalion prove itself in a “real world mission.”

That has yet to happen. So far, the Latin American troops have been taken off the base only to shop and for occasional entertainment.

On a recent spring night though, after months stationed in the desert, they boarded an unmarked bus and were driven to hotels in central Dubai, a former employee said. There, some R2 executives had arranged for them to spend the evening with prostitutes.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 19, 2011

An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Correction: June 7, 2011

An article on May 15 about efforts to build a battalion of foreign mercenary troops in the United Arab Emirates referred imprecisely to the role played by Erik Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit troops. But Mr. Prince does not run or own the company Reflex Responses, which has a contract with the government of the U.A.E. to train and deliver the troops, according to the company president, Michael Roumi. An article on May 16 repeated the error.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 15, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Secret Desert Force Set Up By Blackwater’s Founder.

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State Department Investigating Legality of Erik Prince’s UAE Private Army

May 16, 2011 in News

US studies legality of American-led private army (Financial Times):

The US state department said on Sunday that it was examining the legality of an American-led private army that is being established in the United Arab Emirates.

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater private security company, is establishing a counter-terrorism force of up to 800 foreign mercenaries in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Mr Prince has been hired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to recruit an American-led force of mainly South American former soldiers, through a company called R2, with a view to countering a perceived threat from Iran and bolstering domestic security, the report said.

“The department is aware of the R2 venture and is currently looking into it to make sure there are no potential International Traffic in Arms Regulations concerns,” a state department spokesman confirmed on Sunday. The regulations govern the sale of defence services as well as defence equipment.

Members of the new force have been trained since last summer by former special forces soldiers from the US, South Africa and European countries in a camp outside Abu Dhabi, the newspaper said.

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder (New York Times):

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

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>

Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater Founder Erik Prince’s Private Army of “Christian Crusaders” in the UAE

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The United Arab Emirates has confirmed hiring a company headed by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of the military firm Blackwater. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign mercenaries. The troops could be deployed if foreign guest workers stage revolts in labor camps, or if the UAE regime were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world. Prince has one rule about the new force: no Muslims. We speak to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill and Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch. [includes rush transcript]

Filed under Jeremy Scahill

Guests:

Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist and author of the bestselling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is the national security correspondent at The Nation magazine and a Democracy Now! correspondent. His most recent blog entry is titled ‘Erik Prince, You’re No Indiana Jones’
Samer Muscati, Iraq and United Arab Emirates researcher at Human Rights Watch

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: The United Arab Emirates has confirmed hiring a company headed by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, or R2, to put together an 800-member battalion of mercenaries.

Documents show the force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from attacks, and put down internal revolts. The troops could be deployed if foreign guest workers stage revolts in labor camps, or if the UAE regime were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world. One contract document describes, quote, “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

The UAE is a close ally with the United States, and it appears the deal has received the Obama administration’s support. One U.S. official told the Times, quote, “The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help. They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

News of the deal also comes just weeks after the UAE’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited President Barack Obama at the White House late last month. A White House statement said Obama and the Crown Prince would discuss, quote, “the strong ties between the United States and the U.A.E. and our common strategic interests in the region.”

A number of U.S. citizens, including former Blackwater employees, have occupied senior positions in the operation. Legal experts have questioned whether those involved might be breaking federal laws prohibiting U.S. citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the U.S. Department of State. The force is reportedly made up of Colombians, South Africans and other foreign troops. Prince reportedly has a strict rule against hiring any Muslims because he’s worried they could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

Prince himself now lives in the United Arab Emirates after moving their last year under a cloud of legal controversy here in the United States. The UAE deal is the first to emerge publicly since Prince sold Blackwater and suggested he would leave the private military business behind.

For more, we’re joined by independent journalist, Democracy Now! correspondent, Nation writer, Jeremy Scahill, author of the award-winning bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Jeremy was the first journalist to report on Prince’s move to the United Arab Emirates, two months before it was publicly confirmed.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jeremy.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of this mercenary army that Prince is setting up for the UAE.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, when Erik Prince decided to move to the United Arab Emirates, he gave an interview to a former CIA employee in Vanity Fair in which he said that he was going to be leaving the soldier of fortune business and said he wanted to go and teach high school, and he said, you know, “I’ll teach history. Even Indiana Jones was a teacher.” Well, it’s true that Indiana Jones was a teacher, but he also was an anti-mercenary. In fact, in a famous scene in the movie, Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, his archnemesis, Belloq, who’s working for the Nazis, accuses Indiana Jones of giving a bad name to mercenaries. So, Erik Prince, rather than pursuing that path, has actually pursued the path of the mercenary.

And when he moved to the United Arab Emirates, he said he did so because it was a free society and a country that respected the free market. Well, it didn’t take long for him to get down to business with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and essentially hatched a plot to build up a mercenary army within the borders of the UAE, relying on labor from Colombia. Blackwater has a long history of working with Colombians. In fact, Blackwater paid Colombians $34 a day to operate in Iraq. And when the Colombians protested their payment, saying that they were getting less than the Bulgarians or the others that were working for Blackwater, the white soldiers, Blackwater threatened them, according to the Colombians, and wouldn’t give them their passports back and said, you know, “We’re just going to release you onto the streets of Baghdad.” And eventually the Colombians left, and they went and they assassinated the recruiter that had hired them for Blackwater. So it’s ironic that Prince is using the Colombians. Now their pay has been increased to something like $150 a day.

And the purpose of this force, as stated in the corporate documents and in the New York Times, is to deal primarily with the internal situation in the United Arab Emirates. Anyone who’s been to the UAE knows that the economy is entirely fueled by migrant workers, people from the Philippines or from Pakistan or Bangladesh. And they live in these camps, and their conditions are not good, to say the least. So, one of the concerns seemed to be that unrest could spread in those camps, and they didn’t want to use UAE forces to quell those rebellions, but instead send in Erik Prince’s.

The other thing, Amy, that I think is significant about this — and we reported on this on Democracy Now! a year ago — Erik Prince gave a speech in late 2009 in which he talked about the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East and talking about how the Iranians were fanning the flames of Shia revolt. The regime in Bahrain has used the justification to crack down on protesters that they’re agents of Iran or that they’re being influenced or supported by Iran. And Prince essentially came up with a plan, in front of this military audience, for the United States to advocate quietly sending in — this is in late 2009 — quietly sending in private forces, run by Americans or other Westerners, into countries in that region with the express purpose of confronting Iranian influence. We now know that part of the UAE’s arrangement with Erik Prince was aimed precisely at that. So this seems like it’s been something in the works for some time.

I spoke to Representative Jan Schakowsky earlier this week, who of course is on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and has been the most ferocious congressional critic of Blackwater. And she’s raising some very serious questions about whether Erik Prince obtained the necessary license to export these types of services to a foreign country. You have to have a license, what’s called an ITAR license, from the State Department that says, hey, this former Navy SEAL, who has had access to top-secret information from the United States, actually is authorized to conduct these services. Blackwater has been fined in the past millions and millions of dollars by the Justice Department for not obtaining those kinds of licenses. So, it could be, if he didn’t obtain these licenses, that he is actually breaking U.S. law in providing these services to the UAE.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about other U.S. Americans going over there?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, look, the fact is that one of the major sources of income, and one of the things that the UAE is becoming famous for, is being a playground for the war game globally. Companies that service the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have set up shop there, because of the tax situation, because of its proximity to these war zones. And so, you have massive, massive presence of the U.S. war industry in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And so, for Erik Prince to set up shop there is no surprise. I mean, I know — when I went to Afghanistan late last year, when you’re in the airport in Dubai, it’s journalists, rich Emiratis, or it’s people in transit to Bangladesh or other countries, or it’s the war industry. You see the 18-inch biceps, the wraparound sunglasses. I mean, it really is sort of a gateway to war and a good place to position yourself if you want to make a killing.

AMY GOODMAN: And the other Americans working with Prince in UAE?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, there’s a former FBI agent who actually — CT Chambers, who actually ran Blackwater’s, quote-unquote, “training operation” in Afghanistan for a shell company that Blackwater set up called Paravant. And it seems as though this company was set up explicitly to keep the name Blackwater out of the contract bidding process. It won that contract, and Blackwater still has these contracts to train Afghan national police and military forces. That company came under an intense investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee led by Senator Carl Levin, exploring whether or not Blackwater and the massive war company Raytheon effectively conspired to win contracts for Blackwater while explicitly shielding or shrouding Blackwater’s involvement in secrecy. Two members of that Blackwater force in Afghanistan were recently convicted of manslaughter stemming from the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians. So the man who ran that program that’s under intense congressional scrutiny right now, and Senator Levin has asked the Justice Department to investigate, is another key player in this Prince operation. He’s supposedly making upwards of $300,000. But the contract is worth $100 million a year, and it started in June, and it’s supposed to go through May of 2015.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to journalist Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the book Blackwater. We’re also joined via Democracy Now! video stream by Samer Muscati. He is the Iraq and UAE researcher for Human Rights Watch, joining us from Toronto. Talk about the human rights situation in UAE, Samer.

SAMER MUSCATI: The human rights situation has gotten worse over the past few weeks. Since April 8, UAE authorities have detained five peaceful activists, including Ahmad Mansour, a prominent rights figure in the UAE and a member of our advisory committee board. And also, they have dissolved the elected boards of two of the country’s longstanding civil society organizations: the Jurists Association and the Teachers’ Association. All this follows calls by citizens for greater electoral rights and greater freedoms. They signed a petition in March, and the associations made a public action in April asking for greater political reforms. And this has been the response of the government. So, unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated further over the past few weeks.

And the UAE also has a long tradition of abusing workers, including the ones that unfortunately this mercenary force appears to be set up to deal with. There’s about 750,000 construction workers and a similar number of domestic workers in the UAE, and they have quite serious complaints, including the fact that they have to pay recruitment fees, which are illegal under UAE law, but they spend thousands of dollars to come to the UAE, and they’re in debt. They work for jobs that pay them very little and in horrible conditions. Even this week, we see temperatures have risen to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit across the UAE, and construction workers are out in the sun, for pennies, basically, slaving away.

AMY GOODMAN: This issue of who lives in the UAE and who would be — whose rebellions would be quelled, if you could talk more about that, Samer, and how much the United States is involved with the UAE, a close U.S. ally?

SAMER MUSCATI: I mean, there is no chance for rebellion, even small protests. We saw in January, the same day that we released our report in the UAE about human rights, about conditions over the past year, the UAE government detained and deported 71 Bangladeshis who had strike because of wage issues. So any sign of discontent or dissent, the UAE authorities act quite quickly to make sure that these type of actions are ended. And even with the latest arrests, I mean, these guys are basically asking for just basic reforms; they’re not asking for an overthrow of the government. And we see the government has come down very hard on them. So the chance of having a widespread movement, that we’ve seen in other countries, I think is not plausible in the UAE.

At the same time, the fact that they’ve taken such draconian measures against these activists, I think, only fuels the idea that reform is needed and, in the long term, undermines the UAE authorities in how they’ve responded to these so-called threats. So it’s — we’re hopeful that these activists will be released soon, but there’s no indication that they will be. And they’re being — basically they’re being looked at for crimes of opposing the government and for insulting the ruling family.

AMY GOODMAN: And the press coverage of what’s going on inside UAE?

SAMER MUSCATI: You know, the press coverage, similar to other press coverage of UAE human rights violations, is minimal locally. Many of the papers are run by the state, and there’s a lot of self-censorship that happens with journalists in the UAE, who are afraid to cover or are unable to cover these issues. It’s fitting that this piece was broken by the New York Times. And what we’ve seen from the UAE local press has been very little coverage of this, of this issue. And the coverage we’ve seen has focused on the statement that was issued by the government, as opposed to a lot of the allegations that have come from the New York Times. But it’s typical. The press in the UAE is not free, and they’re unwilling to report on the serious issues, including this crackdown, and basically present the government’s opinion and analysis, as opposed to what’s happening on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: And unions, Samer?

SAMER MUSCATI: Unions in the UAE, there are no unions. And people who try to formally organize and strike are deported if they’re foreigners. And nationals, if you want to form an association, you have to apply. The regulations are quite stringent. And if they do interfere in what is perceived as politics, what we’ve seen is the UAE government clamps down, dissolves the board, and basically takes over associations. So, there is no notion of unions in the UAE.

AMY GOODMAN: And what can the international community do? I mean, you have a lot of U.S. institutions, as well, not only the U.S. government working with the UAE, of NYU, Guggenheim, a number of institutions that are building branches there and operate there.

SAMER MUSCATI: Absolutely. And we’ve called on these institutions to take a stand. These institutions are partners of the UAE government. They’re saving millions of dollars from the UAE government. And they’re building these branches there, which I think is a good idea, but at the same time, they have to make sure that, you know, they’re not tarnishing their reputation.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are they?

SAMER MUSCATI: New York University is one. We have the Guggenheim. Sorbonne University, whose — one of the lecturers, Nasser bin Ghaith, was actually detained and continues to be detained by the UAE authorities. We’ve written letters to these institutions, asking them to take a stand and not to be complicit in the crackdown. The response we got from Sorbonne University, unfortunately was, you know, they tried to minimize Bin Ghaith’s relationship with the university, as opposed to promising they’d actually voice their concern and demand his freedom. And we haven’t received a response back from the other institutions, who are eager and happy to take money from the UAE, but unfortunately they haven’t been vocal about this latest crackdown, even though the Guggenheim, for instance, has been vocal in China when an artist has been arrested. But closer to home, in the UAE, they’ve been very quiet. And if these institutions don’t speak up — I mean, there in excellent position — then who will? These are institutions that are partnering with the government.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And, well, as Samer talked about, the issue of the UAE military confirming this arrangement with Blackwater, the spin on it was quite interesting in the official statement, because while much of the attention that’s been focused by the New York Times on this issue has revolved around the potential use to suppress an internal rebellion inside of the UAE, the statement from the military there actually praised the work of Prince’s company and other Western companies that have been working with the military, because it’s enabled them to engage in, quote-unquote, “successful” operations in other theaters of operation, like Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Now, this is interesting because there is a ripe opportunity for mercenary forces to engage in Libya, either on contract with some form of a rebel government or alliance there. And so, if Prince’s company is involved with an arrangement through the UAE that somehow involves Libya, that would be the subject of quite a bit of interest, I’m sure, on Capitol Hill and in capitals around the world, because I think it’s just a matter of time before we start to see an incursion of special operations contractors going into Libya, if they’re not there already.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jeremy Scahill, the timing of Erik Prince moving to the United Arab Emirates, what’s happening here at home, and then if you could also comment on John Ashcroft in his new position?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, Erik Prince put the wheels in motion to go to the United Arab Emirates almost immediately after the five Blackwater executives under him were indicted on a range — a 32-count indictment, felony indictment, for weapons violations, allegations of bribery, of lying to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The United Arab Emirates does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. It’s not — I think that Erik Prince knows where so many bodies are buried that he kind of is in pole position in terms of being indicted himself. He’s been grey-mailing, what they call it, the U.S. government by leaking details of operations he’s been a part of, as a way of saying, “If you come after me, I’m going to go Ollie North on you and blow the whole thing open.” And so, I think he more — in terms of strategic viewpoint regarding the investigations and indictments of Blackwater officials, Prince is trying to make it very difficult to be questioned in these matters. And the UAE is a safe place for him to operate.

And if you have the support of the royals there, which he clearly does, and he’s supporting them — you know, it’s a marriage of convenience and love, apparently — then he has very little to worry about from them. Despite the fact that this Crown Prince can sit with President Obama one day and then be hatching mercenary plots with Erik Prince the next day, is a stunning commentary on how little things have changed from Bush to Obama on this issue of mercenaries.

AMY GOODMAN: And John Ashcroft, the former attorney general?

JEREMY SCAHILL: You know, John Ashcroft has been named — I mean, you can’t make this stuff up — has been named the chief ethics officer for the new Blackwater, that’s actually being run by Bobby Ray Inman, who, you know, was a major figure under the Clinton administration, was picked to take over as defense secretary for Les Aspin, and his nomination was broiled in controversy.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was national security adviser.

JEREMY SCAHILL: And he was the former national security adviser. So they’re sort of trying to rebrand Blackwater. But, I mean —

AMY GOODMAN: New name, Xe, X-E?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, it changes every day. It’s Xe, or it’s United States Training Center. I mean, there’s —

AMY GOODMAN: USTC.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, there’s — I mean, Blackwater has all these shadow entities around the world. I mean, we’ve seen — a new one pops up every day. Now it’s Reflex Response now, R2, Paravant, Greystone. I mean, I could list probably — I could sit here for 10 minutes listing their various shell companies for you.

But, I mean, putting John Ashcroft in charge of ethics at Blackwater is like asking the fox to take care of the baby chicks, you know, on a farm somewhere and hoping everything is going to be fine. I mean, he’s going to devour the very idea of ethics. If you look at his track record when he was attorney general, I mean, this is not an ethical man and not anyone that has any business overseeing the ethics of a notorious mercenary firm.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Nisoor Square, the latest on it, the killings by Blackwater forces in Iraq?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, the five Blackwater guards, as they’re called, were indicted by the federal government for the shooting at Nisoor Square, and the case was dismissed largely on technical grounds and because of malfeasance on the part of prosecutors. The government — of federal prosecutors. The government appealed that decision. And recently, there was — excuse me — there was a ruling favorable to the government. And so, that case very well could move toward settlement, because the guards probably don’t want to stand trial, or it could go to trial, in which case there is going to be a question of how secret it’s going to be.

There is one civil case still remaining against Blackwater, that we’ve covered extensively on Democracy Now!, brought by the father of the youngest victim of the Nisoor Square shootings, the nine-year-old boy named Ali Kinani. That case has been moving forward quietly and could very well go to state court in North Carolina, where if it hits trial, there would be no cam on damages that could be awarded. So that really is the wild card to watch. It could be the one place where there’s any accountability for Blackwater at Nisoor Square.

AMY GOODMAN: And to sum up, this issue of no Muslims in this force that UAE has contracted Erik Prince for, this idea of a private Christian militia in the Middle East?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, you know, I do not need to wax on my opinion about this. We can look at documents submitted in federal court cases from Prince’s own former employees, who say that he is — he views himself as a Christian crusader whose role in the world is wiping out Muslims and Islam in general. They said that he set a tone at Blackwater that rewarded the taking of Muslim life, viewed the operations in Iraq as, quote, “payback for 9/11,” even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So the idea that he would implement a policy that had at its core that Muslims would not fire on other Muslims, if they were working for this kind of a force, is consistent with everything we’ve heard out of Blackwater about Mr. Prince’s worldview regarding religion and the supremacy of Christianity over Islam.

It’s very dangerous, Amy, when you have these kinds of forces in such volatile environments, with all of the uprisings happening. The last thing that region needs is a Christian crusader force that appears to have the legitimacy or backing of the United States government, regardless of if it actually does. You know, it’s incendiary, and it’s just — it’s dousing an already burning fire with gasoline. And it’s very, very dangerous. The Obama administration, if they’re not supporting this, they need to do something about it. If they are, well, then that’s serious, and they need to answer questions about what on earth they’re doing continuing this business with Erik Prince’s Christian crusader force.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is a Nation fellow, a Puffin fellow, writes for The Nation at thenation.com, and is a Democracy Now! correspondent. Samer Muscati, thanks for being with us, Iraq and UAE researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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Jeremy Scahill

Secret Erik Prince Tape Exposed

May 3, 2010
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Erik Prince, the reclusive owner of the Blackwater empire, rarely gives public speeches and when he does he attempts to ban journalists from attending and forbids recording or videotaping of his remarks. On May 5, that is exactly what Prince is trying to do when he speaks at DeVos Fieldhouse as the keynote speaker for the “Tulip Time Festival” in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. He told the event’s organizers no news reporting could be done on his speech and they consented to the ban. Journalists and media associations in Michigan are protesting this attempt to bar reporting on his remarks.

Despite Prince’s attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

In the speech, Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, specifically to target Iranian influence. He expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and described Blackwater’s secretive operations at four Forward Operating Bases he controls in Afghanistan. He called those fighting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” Prince also revealed details of a July 2009 operation he claims Blackwater forces coordinated in Afghanistan to take down a narcotrafficking facility, saying that Blackwater “call[ed] in multiple air strikes,” blowing up the facility. Prince boasted that his forces had carried out the “largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history.” He characterized the work of some NATO countries’ forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations “should just pack it in and go home.” Prince spoke of Blackwater working in Pakistan, which appears to contradict the official, public Blackwater and US government line that Blackwater is not in Pakistan.

Prince also claimed that a Blackwater operative took down the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W Bush in Baghdad and criticized the Secret Service for being “flat-footed.” He bragged that Blackwater forces “beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene” during Katrina and claimed that lawsuits, “tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills” and political attacks prevented him from deploying a humanitarian ship that could have responded to the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami that hit Indonesia.

Several times during the speech, Prince appeared to demean Afghans his company is training in Afghanistan, saying Blackwater had to teach them “Intro to Toilet Use” and to do jumping jacks. At the same time, he bragged that US generals told him the Afghans Blackwater trains “are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.” Prince also revealed that he is writing a book, scheduled to be released this fall.

The speech was delivered January 14 at the University of Michigan in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, ROTC commanders and cadets, businesspeople and military veterans. The speech was titled “Overcoming Adversity: Leadership at the Tip of the Spear” and was sponsored by the Young Presidents’ Association (YPO), a business networking association primarily made up of corporate executives. “Ripped from the headlines and described by Vanity Fair magazine, as a Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier and Spy, Erik Prince brings all that and more to our exclusive YPO speaking engagement,” read the event’s program, also obtained by The Nation. It proclaimed that Prince’s speech was an “amazing don’t miss opportunity from a man who has ‘been there and done that’ with a group of Cadets and Midshipmen who are months away from serving on the ‘tip of the spear.'” Here are some of the highlights from Erik Prince’s speech:


Send the Mercs into Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria

Prince painted a global picture in which Iran is “at the absolute dead center… of badness.” The Iranians, he said, “want that nuke so that it is again a Persian Gulf and they very much have an attitude of when Darius ran most of the Middle East back in 1000 BC. That’s very much what the Iranians are after.” [NOTE: Darius of Persia actually ruled from 522 BC-486 BC]. Iran, Prince charged, has a “master plan to stir up and organize a Shia revolt through the whole region.” Prince proposed that armed private soldiers from companies like Blackwater be deployed in countries throughout the region to target Iranian influence, specifically in Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. “The Iranians have a very sinister hand in these places,” Prince said. “You’re not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries. It’s way too politically sensitive. The private sector can operate there with a very, very small, very light footprint.” In addition to concerns of political expediency, Prince suggested that using private contractors to conduct such operations would be cost-effective. “The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they’re going to look for ways, they’re going to have to have ways to become more efficient,” he said. “And there’s a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint.”

Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. “There’s more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There’s even some evidence it’s going to fund terrorist organizations,” Prince alleged. “These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that’s $800,000. That’s not a bad take for organized crime.” Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.

Blackwater and the Geneva Convention

Prince scornfully dismissed the debate on whether armed individuals working for Blackwater could be classified as “unlawful combatants” who are ineligible for protection under the Geneva Convention. “You know, people ask me that all the time, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”

It is significant that Prince mentioned his company operating in Pakistan given that Blackwater, the US government and the Pakistan government have all denied Blackwater works in Pakistan.

Taking Down the Iraqi Shoe Thrower for the ‘Flat-Footed’ Secret Service

Prince noted several high-profile attacks on world leaders in the past year, specifically a woman pushing the Pope at Christmas mass and the attack on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying there has been a pattern of “some pretty questionable security lately.” He then proceeded to describe the feats of his Blackwater forces in protecting dignitaries and diplomats, claiming that one of his men took down the Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President Bush in Baghdad in December 2008. Prince referred to al-Zaidi as the “shoe bomber:”

About the Author

Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater…

Also by The Author

Renditions, an underground prison and a new CIA base are elements of an intensifying US war, according to a Nation investigation in Mogadishu.

“The implications of allowing a US citizen to assemble a legion in any foreign country, and especially in a combustible region like the Middle East, are serious and wide-ranging,” they allege.

“A little known fact, you know when the shoe bomber in Iraq was throwing his shoes at President Bush, in December 08, we provided diplomatic security, but we had no responsibility for the president’s security–that’s always the Secret Service that does that. We happened to have a guy in the back of the room and he saw that first shoe go and he drew his weapon, got a sight picture, saw that it was only a shoe, he re-holstered, went forward and took that guy down while the Secret Service was still standing there flat-footed. I have a picture of that–I’m publishing a book, so watch for that later this fall–in which you’ll see all the reporters looking, there’s my guy taking the shoe thrower down. He didn’t shoot him, he just tackled him, even though the guy was committing assault and battery on the president of the United States. I asked a friend of mine who used to run the Secret Service if they had a written report of that and he said the debrief was so bad they did not put it in writing.”
While the Secret Service was widely criticized at the time for its apparent inaction during the incident, video of the event clearly showed another Iraqi journalist, not security guards, initially pulling al-Zaidi to the floor. Almost instantly thereafter, al-Zaidi was swarmed by a gang of various, unidentified security agents.

Blackwater’s Forward Operating Bases

Prince went into detail about his company’s operations in Afghanistan. Blackwater has been in the country since at least April 2002, when the company was hired by the CIA on a covert contract to provide the Agency with security. Since then, Blackwater has won hundreds of millions of dollars in security, counter-narcotics and training contracts for the State Department, Defense Department and the CIA. The company protects US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other senior US officials, guards CIA personnel and trains the Afghan border police. “We built four bases and we staffed them and we run them,” Prince said, referring to them as Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). He described them as being in the north, south, east and west of Afghanistan. “Spin Boldak in the south, which is the major drug trans-shipment area, in the east at a place called FOB Lonestar, which is right at the foothills of Tora Bora mountain. In fact if you ski off Tora Bora mountain, you can ski down to our firebase,” Prince said, adding that Blackwater also has a base near Herat and another location. FOB Lonestar is approximately 15 miles from the Pakistan border. “Who else has built a [Forward Operating Base] along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?” Prince said earlier this year.

Blackwater’s War on Drugs

Prince described a Narcotics Interdiction Unit Blackwater started in Afghanistan five years ago that remains active. “It is about a 200 person strike force to go after the big narcotics traffickers, the big cache sites,” Prince said. “That unit’s had great success. They’ve taken more than $3.5 billion worth of heroin out of circulation. We’re not going after the farmers, but we’re going after the traffickers.” He described an operation in July 2009 where Blackwater forces actually called in NATO air strikes on a target during a mission:
“A year ago, July, they did the largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history, down in the south-east. They went down, they hit five targets that our intel guys put together and they wound up with about 12,000 pounds of heroin. While they were down there, they said, ‘You know, these other three sites look good, we should go check them out.’ Sure enough they did and they found a cache–262,000 kilograms of hash, which equates to more than a billion dollars street value. And it was an industrialized hash operation, it was much of the hash crop in Helmand province. It was palletized, they’d dug ditches out in the desert, covered it with tarps and the bags of powder were big bags with a brand name on it for the hash brand, palletized, ready to go into containers down to Karachi [Pakistan] and then out to Europe or elsewhere in the world. That raid alone took about $60 million out of the Taliban’s coffers. So, those were good days. When the guys found it, they didn’t have enough ammo, enough explosives, to blow it, they couldn’t burn it all, so they had to call in multiple air strikes. Of course, you know, each of the NATO countries that came and did the air strikes took credit for finding and destroying the cache.”
December 30, 2009 CIA Bombing in Khost

Prince also addressed the deadly suicide bombing on December 30 at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. Eight CIA personnel, including two Blackwater operatives, were killed in the bombing, which was carried out by a Jordanian double-agent. Prince was asked by an audience member about the “failure” to prevent that attack. The questioner did not mention that Blackwater was responsible for the security of the CIA officials that day, nor did Prince discuss Blackwater’s role that day. Here is what Prince said:
“You know what? It is a tragedy that those guys were killed but if you put it in perspective, the CIA has lost extremely few people since 9/11. We’ve lost two or three in Afghanistan, before that two or three in Iraq and, I believe, one guy in Somalia–a landmine. So when you compare what Bill Donovan and the OSS did to the Germans and the Japanese, the Italians during World War II–and they lost hundreds and hundreds of people doing very difficult, very dangerous work–it is a tragedy when you lose people, but it is a cost of doing that work. It is essential, you’ve got to take risks. In that case, they had what appeared to be a very hot asset who had very relevant, very actionable intelligence and he turned out to be a bad guy… That’s what the intelligence business is, you can’t be assured success all the time. You’ve got to be willing to take risks. Those are calculated risks but sometimes it goes badly. I hope the Agency doesn’t draw back and say, ‘Oh, we have to retrench and not do that anymore,’ all the rest. No. We need you to double down, go after them harder. That is a cost of doing business. They are there to kill us.”
Prince to Some NATO Countries in Afghanistan: ‘Go Home’

Prince spoke disparagingly of some unnamed NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan, saying they do not have the will for the fight. “Some of them do and a lot of them don’t,” he said. “It is such a patchwork of different international commitments as to what some can do and what some can’t. A lot of them should just pack it in and go home.” Canada, however, received praise from Prince. “The Canadians have lost per capita more than America has in Afghanistan. They are fighting and they are doing it and so if you see a Canadian thank them for that. The politicians at home take heavies for doing that,” Prince said. He did not mention the fact that his company was hired by the Canadian government to train its forces.

Prince also described how his private air force (which he recently sold) bailed out a US military unit in trouble in Afghanistan. According to Prince, the unit was fighting the Taliban and was running out of ammo and needed an emergency re-supply. “Because of, probably some procedure written by a lawyer back in Washington, the Air Force was not permitted to drop in an uncertified drop zone… even to the unit that was running out of ammo,” Prince said. “So they called and asked if our guys would do it and, of course, they said, ‘Yes.’ And the cool part of the story is the Army guys put their DZ mark in the drop zone, a big orange panel, on the hood of their hummer and our guys put the first bundle on the hood of that hummer. We don’t always get that close, but that time a little too close.”

Blackwater: Teaching Afghans to Use Toilets

Prince said his forces train 1300 Afghans every six weeks and described his pride in attending “graduations” of Blackwater-trained Afghans, saying that in six weeks they radically transform the trainees. “You take these officers, these Afghans and it’s the first time in their life they’ve ever been part of something that’s first class, that works. The instructors know what they’re talking about, they’re fed, the water works, there’s ammunition for their guns. Everything works,” Prince said. “The first few days of training, we have to do ‘Intro to Toilet Use’ because a lot of these guys have never even seen a flushed toilet before.” Prince boasted: “We manage to take folks with a tribal mentality and, just like the Marine Corps does more effectively than anyone else, they take kids from disparate lifestyles across the United States and you throw them into Parris Island and you make them Marines. We try that same mentality there by pushing these guys very hard and, it’s funny, I wish I had video to show you of the hilarious jumping jacks. If you take someone that’s 25 years old and they’ve never done a jumping jack in their life–some of the convoluted motions they do it’s comical. But the transformation from day one to the end of that program, they’re very proud and they’re very capable.” Prince said that when he was in Afghanistan late last year, “I met with a bunch of generals and they said the Afghans that we train are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.”

Prince also discussed the Afghan women he says work with Blackwater. “Some of the women we’ve had, it’s amazing,” Prince said. “They come in in the morning and they have the burqa on and they transition to their cammies (camouflage uniforms) and I think they enjoy the baton work,” he said, adding, “They’ve been hand-cuffing a little too much on the men.”

Hurricane Katrina and Humanitarian Mercenaries

Erik Prince spoke at length about Blackwater’s deployment in 2005 in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, bragging that his forces “rescued 128 people, sent thousands of meals in there and it worked.” Prince boasted of his company’s rapid response, saying, “We surged 145 guys in 36 hours from our facility five states away and we beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene.” What Prince failed to mention was that at the time of the disaster, at least 35% of the Louisiana National Guard was deployed in Iraq. One National Guard soldier in New Orleans at the time spoke to Reuters, saying, “They (the Bush administration) care more about Iraq and Afghanistan than here… We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but almost all of our guys are in Iraq.” Much of the National Guard’s equipment was in Iraq at the time, including high water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators.

Prince also said that he had a plan to create a massive humanitarian vessel that, with the generous support of major corporations, could have responded to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe. “I thought, man, the military has perfected how to move men and equipment into combat, why can’t we do that for the humanitarian side?” Prince said. The ship Prince wanted to use for these missions was an 800 foot container vessel capable of shipping “1700 containers, which would have lined up six and a half miles of humanitarian assistance with another 250 vehicles” onboard. “We could have gotten almost all those boxes donated. It would have been boxes that would have had generator sets from Caterpillar, grain from ADM [Archer Daniels Midland], anti-biotics from pharmaceutical companies, all the stuff you need to do massive humanitarian assistance,” Prince said, adding that it “would have had turnkey fuel support, food, surgical, portable surgical hospitals, beds cots, blankets, all the above.” Prince says he was going to do the work for free, “on spec,” but “instead we got attacked politically and ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills the last few years. It’s an unfortunate misuse of resources because a boat like that sure would have been handy for the Haitian people right now.”

Outing Erik Prince

Prince also addressed what he described as his outing as a CIA asset working on sensitive US government programs. He has previously blamed Congressional Democrats and the news media for naming him as working on the US assassination program. The US intelligence apparatus “depends heavily on Americans that are not employed by the government to facilitate greater success and access for the intelligence community,” Prince said. “It’s unprecedented to have people outed by name, especially ones that were running highly classified programs. And as much as the left got animated about Valerie Plame, outing people by name for other very very sensitive programs was unprecedented and definitely threw me under the bus.”

May 3, 2010

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Private securitySaracen, another Erik Prince company, in trouble in Somalia

Published 27 January 2011

Despite claims to the contrary, Erik Prince, the founder and owner of the private military company Xe, formally known as Blackwater Worldwide, is part of the management team of another troubled security firm — Saracen; the Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) signed a contract with Saracen calling on the company to maintian peace, security, and stability in the country — only for UN and African union observers to realize that the company signed a separate security-related agreement with the separatist Puntland region in the north, in violation of the UN arms embargo

Saracen’s alleged Puntland anti-piracy training camp // Source: biyokulule.com

Despite claims by spokesman Mark Corallo that Erik Prince, American founder and owner of the private military company Xe, formally known as Blackwater Worldwide, has had “no financial role” in the backing of South African private security company Saracen, information disclosed by the African Union (AU), the umbrella organization of the African states, indicates that Prince was listed, in accordance to the Saracen contract, “at the top of the management chain” and had contributed some of his personal capital to the agreement.

The African Union has suspended the contract until later on in the week, although representatives Abdulkareem Jama, minister of information for the transitional federal government are voicing their unease: “At this point, our collective thinking is that this is not a good thing,” and Abdulhakim Mohamoud Haji Faqi, Somalia’s defense minister, followed Jama’s comment with: “We will not accept any mercenaries.”

To add to the already considerable problems of establishing order in the eastern African country, the contract’s dealings have been mired by uncertain actions taken by key representatives. In a copy of a letter dated 15 May 2010 from Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Somalia’s previous prime minister, to Lafras Luitingh, Saracen’s chief operations officer and former officer in South Africa’s Civil Cooperation Bureau, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) agreed to enter into a contract with Saracen in order that the company would maintain peace, security, and stability within the country along with “develop[ing] primary operational planning and will participate in [sic] law enforcement campaign…” According to a report by the New York Times, Sharmarke denied writing this letter.

As was the case with Blackwater USA, the special operations school established on the Great Dismal Swamp area of North Carolina in 1997, Saracen does not have a clean record either. The company’s Uganda subsidiary was implicated in training rebels in Congo who massacred civilians and stole “viable natures resources — coltan, diamonds, timber, and gold” according to a 2002 UN Security Council report.

If the contract had been followed through, Saracen’s assistance would have been hard tried in the effort to quell the 20-year long civil war. Along with Jama’s and Faqi’s denunciation of the contract, the representatives also noted the desperate need for the improvement of their country’s security forces against the approximately 5,000-strong Islamic insurgent group, al Shabaab, or the Mujahideen Youth Movement that has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government. Faqi said that he was willing to use private security contractors to improve the “capacity” of government troops, as long as another nation paid for it.

Further up the coast, Puntland officials have grown impatient with the federal government’s slow progress, and have signed a separate security-related agreement with Saracen to tackle the pirate-infested waters of the area. UN officials have disclosed that agents from the security company may have illegally imported weapons into Puntland, a violation of the arms embargo on Somalia, which has a long history of ethnic strife.

Jama hopes for Puntland to “follow the direction of the federal government and not continue with Saracen.”

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‘Prince of Mercenaries’ who wreaked havoc in Iraq turns up in Somalia

Blackwater founder sets up new force to tackle piracy

By Guy Adams in Los Angeles

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Blackwater employee on patrol in Baghdad AFP/GettyBlackwater employee on patrol in Baghdad

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Erik Prince, the American founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, has cropped up at the centre of a controversial scheme to establish a new mercenary force to crack down on piracy and terrorism in the war-torn East African country of Somalia.

The project, which emerged yesterday when an intelligence report was leaked to media in the United States, requires Mr Prince to help train a private army of 2,000 Somali troops that will be loyal to the country’s United Nations-backed government. Several neighbouring states, including the United Arab Emirates, will pay the bills.

Mr Prince is working in Somalia alongside Saracen International, a murky South African firm which is run by a former officer from the Civil Co-operation Bureau, an apartheid-era force notorious for killing opponents of the white minority government.

News of his latest project has alarmed, though hardly surprised, critics of Blackwater. The firm made hundreds of millions of dollars from the “war on terror”, but was severely tarnished by a string of incidents in post-invasion Iraq, in which its employees were accused of committing dozens of unlawful killings.

Mr Prince, a 41-year-old former US Navy Seal with links to the Bush administration, subsequently rebranded the company “Xe Services” and sold his stake in it. But he remains entangled in a string of lawsuits pertaining to the alleged recklessness of the firm.

For most of the past year, he has been living in Abu Dhabi, where he has close relations with the government and feels better positioned to dodge lawsuits. In an interview with a men’s magazine, he recently declared that the UAE’s opaque legal system will make it “harder for the jackals to get my money”.

The exact nature of his sudden presence in Somalia remains unclear. The Associated Press said yesterday that the army Mr Prince is training will focus on fighting pirates and Islamic rebels.

The leaked intelligence report which prompted the news agency’s story was compiled by the African Union, an organisation of African nations. It claimed that Mr Prince’s money had enabled Saracen International to gain the contract to train and run the private militia. But that element of the report was flatly contradicted by a spokesman for the Blackwater founder, who claimed that Mr Prince had “no financial role of any kind in this matter”.

In a written statement, the spokesman, Mark Corallo, added: “it is well known that he has long been interested in helping Somalia overcome the scourge of piracy. To that end, he has at times provided advice to many different anti-piracy efforts.” He declined to answer any further questions.

Whatever the exact details of Mr Prince’s role, his presence in Somalia will inevitably lead to renewed soul-searching about the growing privatisation of warfare. Critics of mercenary organisations, which are often prepared to operate where traditional armies fear to tread, claim they are often trigger-happy and lack proper accountability. In Iraq, Blackwater employees shot dead dozens of civilians; 17 people were killed in one incident alone in Nisour Square, Baghdad.

Criminal charges were eventually brought in the US against five Blackwater employees. However, they were dropped in 2009 after a federal judge ruled that the defendants’ rights had been violated during the gathering of evidence. Iraq’s Interior Ministry subsequently expelled all contractors who had worked with the firm at the time of the Nisour Square shooting.

Somalia, where the country’s UN-backed regime is fighting a civil war against al-Shabaab, a group of Islamic insurgents with links to al-Qa’ida, is, if anything, a more volatile country than post-invasion Iraq.

The government controls only a small portion of the capital, Mogadishu, where it has the support of 8,000 UN troops from Uganda and Burundi. It is training an army to extend its reach, but observers fear that its ranks will be weakened by the arrival of Mr Prince – who will pay his troops a far better wage.

Saracen’s shady corporate structure has not inspired confidence in its accountability. In 2002, the UN accused its Ugandan subsidiary of training rebel paramilitaries in the Congo. Recently, the firm has claimed to be registered to addresses in Lebanon, Liberia, Uganda and the UAE, some of which seemed not to exist when reporters tried visiting.

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Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Is Said To Back African Mercenaries

Blackwater Somalia

KATHARINE HOURELD   01/20/11 11:20 PM ET   AP

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Erik Prince, whose former company Blackwater Worldwide became synonymous with the use of private U.S. security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has quietly taken on a new role in helping to train troops in lawless Somalia.

Prince is involved in a multimillion-dollar program financed by several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, to mobilize some 2,000 Somali recruits to fight pirates who are terrorizing the African coast, according to a person familiar with the project and an intelligence report seen by The Associated Press.

Prince’s name has surfaced in the Somalia conflict amid the debate over how private security forces should be used in some of the world’s most dangerous spots. Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, became a symbol in Washington of contractors run amok after a series of incidents, including one in 2007 in which its guards were charged with killing 14 civilians in the Iraqi capital.

A U.S. federal judge later threw out the charges on the grounds that the defendants’ constitutional rights were violated. Last year, Iraq’s Interior Ministry gave all contractors who had worked with Blackwater at the time of the shooting one week to get out of the country or face arrest for visa violations.

Though Somali pirates have seized ships flying under various flags, most governments are reluctant to send ground troops to wipe out pirate havens in a nation that has been in near-anarchy for two decades and whose weak U.N.-backed administration is confined to a few neighborhoods of the capital. The forces now being trained are intended to help fill that void. They will also go after a warlord linked to Islamist insurgents, one official said.

In response to requests for an interview with Prince, his spokesman e-mailed a brief statement that the Blackwater founder is interested in “helping Somalia overcome the scourge of piracy” and has advised antipiracy efforts. Spokesman Mark Corallo said Prince has “no financial role” in the project and declined to answer any questions about Prince’s involvement.

Prince’s role revives questions about the use of military contractors. Critics say it could undercut the international community’s effort to train and fund Somali forces to fight al-Qaida-linked Islamist insurgents.

The European Union is training about 2,000 Somali soldiers with U.S. support, and an African Union force of 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers is propping up the government.

By introducing contractors, “You could see the privatization of war, with very little accountability to the international community,” said E.J. Hogendoorn, a Nairobi-based analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank. “Who are these private companies accountable to and what prevents them from changing clients when it’s convenient for them?”

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Although Hogendoorn’s concerns are shared by some U.S. officials, the director of one private security company welcomed the effort and Prince’s involvement.

“There are 34 nations with naval assets trying to stop piracy and it can only be stopped on land,” said John Burnett, director of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants. “With Prince’s background and rather illustrious reputation, I think it’s quite possible that it might work.”

Prince, now based in the United Arab Emirates, is no longer with Blackwater. He has stoutly defended the company, telling Vanity Fair magazine that “when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.”

Last month, the AP reported that the Somalia project encompassed training a 1,000-man antipiracy force in Somalia’s northern semiautonomous region of Puntland and presidential guards in Mogadishu, the ruined seaside capital. The story identified Saracen International, a private security company, as being involved, along with a former U.S. ambassador, Pierre Prosper; a senior ex-CIA officer, Michael Shanklin; and an unidentified Muslim donor nation. Prosper and Shanklin confirmed they were working as advisers to the Somali government.

Since then, AP has learned from officials and documents that Prince is involved and that a second 1,000-man antipiracy force is planned for Mogadishu, where insurgents battle poorly equipped government forces.

Lafras Luitingh, the chief operating officer of Beirut-registered Saracen International, said the company had sought to keep the project secret to surprise the pirates. He said his company signed a contract with the Somali government in March. He declined to say whether Prince was involved in the project and said he was not part of Saracen.

Since the signing, a new Somali government has taken office and has appointed a panel to investigate the Saracen deal and others, said Minister of Information Abdulkareem Jama. He said he had not been aware of Prince’s involvement. Separately, the U.N. is quietly investigating whether the Somalia projects have broken the blanket embargo on arms supplies to Somali factions.

The money is moving through a web of international companies, the addresses of which didn’t always check out when the AP sought to verify them.

There are at least three Saracens – the one registered in Lebanon, and two run by Luitingh’s business partner and based in Uganda, where government office employees told the AP the registration papers have disappeared. An AP reporter in Beirut could not find the address Luitingh’s company provided in the Somali contract. Lebanese authorities had no address listed for Saracen in Lebanon and said it is based in the United Arab Emirates.

Afloat Leasing, which owns two ships that have been working with Saracen, said it was Liberian-registered, but an AP reporter didn’t find it at the address given or in Liberian records.

The force’s mission may be more than just curbing piracy.

A former U.S. government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to talk to the media, said that besides targeting pirates, the new force in Puntland will go after a warlord who allegedly supplies weapons to al-Shabab, Somalia’s most feared insurgent group. Luitingh said he had never heard of such a plan.

Luitingh was a founding member of Executive Outcomes, a controversial South African mercenary outfit linked in the 1990s to conflicts in Sierra Leone, Angola and as far away as Papua New Guinea.

He said Saracen will ensure it does not recruit child soldiers, will pay recruits regularly, and will be legally answerable to the Somali government. One group of 150 recruits finished training in November in Puntland and a second batch will soon complete the training course there. Training has not yet begun in Mogadishu.

Saracen has declined to disclose the source of its financing. A person familiar with the project, insisting on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said Prince is overseeing the antipiracy training.

The intelligence report, in which the United Arab Emirates was identified as a funder and Prince as a participant, was given to the AP on condition its author and agency not be disclosed because the document was confidential. Several Western security officials said in interviews that those findings were trustworthy.

Pirates use long stretches of Somali coastline as a base to prey on busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Al-Shabab controls most of south and central Somalia and much of Mogadishu. Western governments fear Somalia could be used as a base for attacks on the West.

Some American officials worry that the Saracen projects encourage the idea that more guns and money – rather than better governance and transparent defense training – can defeat the insurgency. The Somali army has been weakened by defections because a series of corrupt administrations has been incapable of paying its soldiers.

The Somalis being trained by the European Union are supposed to earn $100 a month. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said Saracen is offering $300 a month during training and $500 a month after graduation.

That could lure the best trained people away from the Somali army, the U.S. official said, and lessen the burden on the government to follow higher standards.

Many nations, including the Gulf states, have offered Somalia assistance. Several Arab nations who gave cash then found that the money could not be accounted for, said Hogendoorn, the Somalia analyst. That could be one reason for Arab rulers to support the Saracen project, he said.

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AP writers Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Godfrey Olukya in Kampala, Uganda; Bassem Mroue in Beirut; Juan Zamorano in Panama City, Panama; Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia; and Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman in Washington contributed to this report.

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Blackwater Watch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Merge-arrow.svg
It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Blackwater Worldwide. (Discuss) Proposed since June 2010.
Anti-Xe/Blackwater logotype

Blackwater Watch (now known as Xe Watch to match the change in company name) is a non-profit, non-governmental watchdog organization derived from North Carolina Stop Torture Now in 2007 to monitor Blackwater Worldwide, plus private armies and mercenaries with respect to human rights, legal immunity, cronyism, war profiteering, lobbying, war, and conflict.

In September 2007 the organization brought investigative journalist and Blackwater author Jeremy Scahill to North Carolina Central University. In October 2007 Blackwater Watch and the Catholic Worker Movement staged the first-ever demonstration at Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina.[1][2]

The headquarters of the lobbying firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice was the target of a Blackwater Watch-organized protest and held on the one-year anniversary of the Nisour Square massacre of September 16, 2007. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, WCSR is the third lobbying firm hired by Blackwater since October 2007.

Blackwater Watch representatives have been quoted in The Seattle Times,[3], the Chicago Tribune[4] and The Guardian.[5]

[edit] References

  1. ^ press coverage
  2. ^ film of the event on YouTube
  3. ^Blackwater shooting incident — bane or boon?” Seattle Times, 20 September 2007
  4. ^Blackwater in gray area again“, the Chicago Tribune 19 September 2007
  5. ^Iraq’s hired hands under fire as the pot of gold starts to run low“, the Guardian, 22 September 2007

[edit] External links

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Erik Prince

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  > HERE

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Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror By Robert Young Pelton

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Scandal

Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy

Erik Prince, recently outed as a participant in a C.I.A. assassination program, has gained notoriety as head of the military-contracting juggernaut Blackwater, a company dogged by a grand-jury investigation, bribery accusations, and the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees, set for next month. Lashing back at his critics, the wealthy former navy seal takes the author inside his operation in the U.S. and Afghanistan, revealing the role he’s been playing in America’s war on terror.

January 2010
Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm (recently renamed Xe), at the company’s Virginia offices. Photograph by Nigel Parry.
Iput myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.Erik Prince has an image problem—the kind that’s impervious to a Madison Avenue makeover. The 40-year-old heir to a Michigan auto-parts fortune, and a former navy seal, he has had the distinction of being vilified recently both in life and in art. In Washington, Prince has become a scapegoat for some of the Bush administration’s misadventures in Iraq—though Blackwater’s own deeds have also come in for withering criticism. Congressmen and lawyers, human-rights groups and pundits, have described Prince as a war profiteer, one who has assembled a rogue fighting force capable of toppling governments. His employees have been repeatedly accused of using excessive, even deadly force in Iraq; many Iraqis, in fact, have died during encounters with Blackwater. And in November, as a North Carolina grand jury was considering a raft of charges against the company, as a half-dozen civil suits were brewing in Virginia, and as five former Blackwater staffers were preparing for trial for their roles in the deaths of 17 Iraqis, The New York Timesreported in a page-one story that Prince’s firm, in the aftermath of the tragedy, had sought to bribe Iraqi officials for their compliance, charges which Prince calls “lies … undocumented, unsubstantiated [and] anonymous.” (So infamous is the Blackwater brand that even the Taliban have floated far-fetched conspiracy theories, accusing the company of engaging in suicide bombings in Pakistan.)

In Hollywood, meanwhile, a town that loves nothing so much as a good villain, Prince, with his blond crop and Daniel Craig mien, has become the screenwriters’ darling. In the film State of Play, a Blackwater clone (PointCorp.) uses its network of mercenaries for illegal surveillance and murder. On the Fox series 24, Jon Voight has played Jonas Hodges, a thinly veiled version of Prince, whose company (Starkwood) helps an African warlord procure nerve gas for use against U.S. targets.

But the truth about Prince may be orders of magnitude stranger than fiction. For the past six years, he appears to have led an astonishing double life. Publicly, he has served as Blackwater’s C.E.O. and chairman. Privately, and secretly, he has been doing the C.I.A.’s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into “denied areas”—places U.S. intelligence has trouble penetrating—to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies. Prince, according to sources with knowledge of his activities, has been working as a C.I.A. asset: in a word, as a spy. While his company was busy gleaning more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009—by acting, among other things, as an overseas Praetorian guard for C.I.A. and State Department officials—Prince became a Mr. Fix-It in the war on terror. His access to paramilitary forces, weapons, and aircraft, and his indefatigable ambition—the very attributes that have galvanized his critics—also made him extremely valuable, some say, to U.S. intelligence. (Full disclosure: In the 1990s, before becoming a journalist for CBS and then NBC News, I was a C.I.A. attorney. My contract was not renewed, under contentious circumstances.)

But Prince, with a new administration in power, and foes closing in, is finally coming in from the cold. This past fall, though he infrequently grants interviews, he decided it was time to tell his side of the story—to respond to the array of accusations, to reveal exactly what he has been doing in the shadows of the U.S. government, and to present his rationale. He also hoped to convey why he’s going to walk away from it all.

To that end, he invited Vanity Fair to his training camp in North Carolina, to his Virginia offices, and to his Afghan outposts. It seemed like a propitious time to tag along.

Split Personality

Erik Prince can be a difficult man to wrap your mind around—an amalgam of contradictory caricatures. He has been branded a “Christian supremacist” who sanctions the murder of Iraqi civilians, yet he has built mosques at his overseas bases and supports a Muslim orphanage in Afghanistan. He and his family have long backed conservative causes, funded right-wing political candidates, and befriended evangelicals, but he calls himself a libertarian and is a practicing Roman Catholic. Sometimes considered arrogant and reclusive—Howard Hughes without the O.C.D.—he nonetheless enters competitions that combine mountain-biking, beach running, ocean kayaking, and rappelling.

The common denominator is a relentless intensity that seems to have no Off switch. Seated in the back of a Boeing 777 en route to Afghanistan, Prince leafs through Defense News while the film Taken beams from the in-flight entertainment system. In the movie, Liam Neeson plays a retired C.I.A. officer who mounts an aggressive rescue effort after his daughter is kidnapped in Paris. Neeson’s character warns his daughter’s captors:

If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills … skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you [don’t] let my daughter go now … I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

Prince comments, “I used that movie as a teaching tool for my girls.” (The father of seven, Prince remarried after his first wife died of cancer in 2003.) “I wanted them to understand the dangers out there. And I wanted them to know how I would respond.”

You can’t escape the impression that Prince sees himself as somehow destined, his mission anointed. It comes out even in the most personal of stories. During the flight, he tells of being in Kabul in September 2008 and receiving a two a.m. call from his wife, Joanna. Prince’s son Charlie, one year old at the time, had fallen into the family swimming pool. Charlie’s brother Christian, then 12, pulled him out of the water, purple and motionless, and successfully performed CPR. Christian and three siblings, it turns out, had recently received Red Cross certification at the Blackwater training camp.

But there are intimations of a higher power at work as the story continues. Desperate to get home, Prince scrapped one itinerary, which called for a stay-over at the Marriott in Islamabad, and found a direct flight. That night, at the time Prince would have been checking in, terrorists struck the hotel with a truck bomb, killing more than 50. Prince says simply, “Christian saved Charlie’s life and Charlie saved mine.” At times, his sense of his own place in history can border on the evangelical. When pressed about suggestions that he’s a mercenary—a term he loathes—he rattles off the names of other freelance military figures, even citing Lafayette, the colonists’ ally during the Revolutionary War.

Prince’s default mode is one of readiness. He is clenched-jawed and tightly wound. He cannot stand down. Waiting in the security line at Dulles airport just hours before, Prince had delivered a little homily: “Every time an American goes through security, I want them to pause for a moment and think, What is my government doing to inconvenience the terrorists? Rendition teams, Predator drones, assassination squads. That’s all part of it.”

Such brazenness is not lost on a listener, nor is the fact that Prince himself is quite familiar with some of these tactics. In fact Prince, like other contractors, has drawn fire for running a company that some call a “body shop”—many of its staffers having departed military or intelligence posts to take similar jobs at much higher salaries, paid mainly by Uncle Sam. And to get those jobs done—protecting, defending, and killing, if required—Prince has had to employ the services of some decorated vets as well as some ruthless types, snipers and spies among them.

Erik Prince flies coach internationally. It’s not just economical (“Why should I pay for business? Fly coach, you arrive at the same time”) but also less likely to draw undue attention. He considers himself a marked man. Prince describes the diplomats and dignitaries Blackwater protects as “Al Jazeera–worthy,” meaning that, in his view, “bin Laden and his acolytes would love to kill them in a spectacular fashion and have it broadcast on televisions worldwide.”

Stepping off the plane at Kabul’s international airport, Prince is treated as if he, too, were Al Jazeera–worthy. He is immediately shuffled into a waiting car and driven 50 yards to a second vehicle, a beat-up minivan that is native to the core: animal pelts on the dashboard, prayer card dangling from the rearview mirror. Blackwater’s special-projects team is responsible for Prince’s security in-country, and except for their language its men appear indistinguishable from Afghans. They have full beards, headscarves, and traditional knee-length shirts over baggy trousers. They remove Prince’s sunglasses, fit him out with body armor, and have him change into Afghan garb. Prince is issued a homing beacon that will track his movements, and a cell phone with its speed dial programmed for Blackwater’s tactical-operations center.

Prince in the tactical-operations center at a company base in Kabul. Photograph by Adam Ferguson.

Once in the van, Prince’s team gives him a security briefing. Using satellite photos of the area, they review the route to Blackwater’s compound and point out where weapons and ammunition are stored inside the vehicle. The men warn him that in the event that they are incapacitated or killed in an ambush Prince should assume control of the weapons and push the red button near the emergency brake, which will send out a silent alarm and call in reinforcements.

Black Hawks and Zeppelins

Blackwater’s origins were humble, bordering on the primordial. The company took form in the dismal peat bogs of Moyock, North Carolina—not exactly a hotbed of the defense-contracting world.

In 1995, Prince’s father, Edgar, died of a heart attack (the Evangelical James C. Dobson, founder of the socially conservative Focus on the Family, delivered the eulogy at the funeral). Edgar Prince left behind a vibrant auto-parts manufacturing business in Holland, Michigan, with 4,500 employees and a line of products ranging from a lighted sun visor to a programmable garage-door opener. At the time, 25-year-old Erik was serving as a navy seal (he saw service in Haiti, the Middle East, and Bosnia), and neither he nor his sisters were in a position to take over the business. They sold Prince Automotive for $1.35 billion.

Erik Prince and some of his navy friends, it so happens, had been kicking around the idea of opening a full-service training compound to replace the usual patchwork of such facilities. In 1996, Prince took an honorable discharge and began buying up land in North Carolina. “The idea was not to be a defense contractor per se,” Prince says, touring the grounds of what looks and feels like a Disneyland for alpha males. “I just wanted a first-rate training facility for law enforcement, the military, and, in particular, the special-operations community.”

Business was slow. The navy seals came early—January 1998—but they didn’t come often, and by the time the Blackwater Lodge and Training Center officially opened, that May, Prince’s friends and advisers thought he was throwing good money after bad. “A lot of people said, ‘This is a rich kid’s hunting lodge,’” Prince explains. “They could not figure out what I was doing.”

Blackwater outpost near the Pakistan border, used for training Afghan police. Photograph by Adam Ferguson.

Today, the site is the flagship for a network of facilities that train some 30,000 attendees a year. Prince, who owns an unmanned, zeppelin-esque airship and spent $45 million to build a fleet of customized, bomb-proof armored personnel carriers, often commutes to the lodge by air, piloting a Cessna Caravan from his home in Virginia. The training center has a private landing strip. Its hangars shelter a petting zoo of aircraft: Bell 412 helicopters (used to tail or shuttle diplomats in Iraq), Black Hawk helicopters (currently being modified to accommodate the security requests of a Gulf State client), a Dash 8 airplane (the type that ferries troops in Afghanistan). Amid the 52 firing ranges are virtual villages designed for addressing every conceivable real-world threat: small town squares, littered with blown-up cars, are situated near railway crossings and maritime mock-ups. At one junction, swat teams fire handguns, sniper rifles, and shotguns; at another, police officers tear around the world’s longest tactical-driving track, dodging simulated roadside bombs.

In keeping with the company’s original name, the central complex, constructed of stone, glass, concrete, and logs, actually resembles a lodge, an REI store on steroids. Here and there are distinctive touches, such as door handles crafted from imitation gun barrels. Where other companies might have Us Weekly lying about the lobby, Blackwater has counterterror magazines with cover stories such as “How to Destroy Al Qaeda.”

In fact, it was al-Qaeda that put Blackwater on the map. In the aftermath of the group’s October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, in Yemen, the navy turned to Prince, among others, for help in re-training its sailors to fend off attackers at close range. (To date, the company says, it has put some 125,000 navy personnel through its programs.) In addition to providing a cash infusion, the navy contract helped Blackwater build a database of retired military men—many of them special-forces veterans—who could be called upon to serve as instructors.

When al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. mainland on 9/11, Prince says, he was struck with the urge to either re-enlist or join the C.I.A. He says he actually applied. “I was rejected,” he admits, grinning at the irony of courting the very agency that would later woo him. “They said I didn’t have enough hard skills, enough time in the field.” Undeterred, he decided to turn his Rolodex into a roll call for what would in essence become a private army.

After the terror attacks, Prince’s company toiled, even reveled, in relative obscurity, taking on assignments in Afghanistan and, after the U.S. invasion, in Iraq. Then came March 31, 2004. That was the day insurgents ambushed four of its employees in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. The men were shot, their bodies set on fire by a mob. The charred, hacked-up remains of two of them were left hanging from a bridge over the Euphrates.

“It was absolutely gut-wrenching,” Prince recalls. “I had been in the military, and no one under my command had ever died. At Blackwater, we had never even had a firearms training accident. Now all of a sudden four of my guys aren’t just killed, but desecrated.” Three months later an edict from coalition authorities in Baghdad declared private contractors immune from Iraqi law.

Subsequently, the contractors’ families sued Blackwater, contending the company had failed to protect their loved ones. Blackwater countersued the families for breaching contracts that forbid the men or their estates from filing such lawsuits; the company also claimed that, because it operates as an extension of the military, it cannot be held responsible for deaths in a war zone. (After five years, the case remains unresolved.) In 2007, a congressional investigation into the incident concluded that the employees had been sent into an insurgent stronghold “without sufficient preparation, resources, and support.” Blackwater called the report a “one-sided” version of a “tragic incident.”

After Fallujah, Blackwater became a household name. Its primary mission in Iraq had been to protect American dignitaries, and it did so, in part, by projecting an image of invincibility, sending heavily armed men in armored Suburbans racing through the streets of Baghdad with sirens blaring. The show of swagger and firepower, which alienated both the locals and the U.S. military, helped contribute to the allegations of excessive force. As the war dragged on, charges against the firm mounted. In one case, a contractor shot and killed an Iraqi father of six who was standing along the roadside in Hillah. (Prince later told Congress that the contractor was fired for trying to cover up the incident.) In another, a Blackwater firearms technician was accused of drinking too much at a party in the Green Zone and killing a bodyguard assigned to protect Iraq’s vice president. The technician was fired but not prosecuted and later settled a wrongful-death suit with the man’s family.

Those episodes, however, paled in comparison with the events of September 16, 2007, when a phalanx of Blackwater bodyguards emerged from their four-car convoy at a Baghdad intersection called Nisour Square and opened fire. When the smoke cleared, 17 Iraqi civilians lay dead. After 15 months of investigation, the Justice Department charged six with voluntary manslaughter and other offenses, insisting that the use of force was not only unjustified but unprovoked. One guard pleaded guilty and, in a trial set for February, is expected to testify against the others, all of whom maintain their innocence. The New York Times recently reported that in the wake of the shootings the company’s top executives authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi higher-ups in order to buy their silence—a claim Prince dismisses as “false,” insisting “[there was] zero plan or discussion of bribing any officials.”

Nisour Square had disastrous repercussions for Blackwater. Its role in Iraq was curtailed, its revenue dropping 40 percent. Today, Prince claims, he is shelling out $2 million a month in legal fees to cope with a spate of civil lawsuits as well as what he calls a “giant proctological exam” by nearly a dozen federal agencies. “We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the U.S. government,” says Prince. “Now we pay lawyers.”

Does he ever. In North Carolina, a federal grand jury is investigating various allegations, including the illegal transport of assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in dog-food sacks. (Blackwater denied this, but confirmed hiding weapons on pallets of dog food to protect against theft by “corrupt foreign customs agents.”) In Virginia, two ex-employees have filed affidavits claiming that Prince and Blackwater may have murdered or ordered the murder of people suspected of cooperating with U.S. authorities investigating the company—charges which Blackwater has characterized as “scandalous and baseless.” One of the men also asserted in filings that company employees ran a sex and wife-swapping ring, allegations which Blackwater has called “anonymous, unsubstantiated and offensive.”

Meanwhile, last February, Prince mounted an expensive rebranding campaign. Following the infamous ValuJet crash, in 1996, ValuJet disappeared into AirTran, after a merger, and moved on to a happy new life. Prince, likewise, decided to retire the Blackwater name and replace it with the name Xe, short for Xenon—an inert, non-combustible gas that, in keeping with his political leanings, sits on the far right of the periodic table. Still, Prince and other top company officials continued to use the name Blackwater among themselves. And as events would soon prove, the company’s reputation would remain as combustible as ever.

Prince at a Kandahar airfield. Photograph Adam Ferguson.

Spies and Whispers

Last June, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta met in a closed session with the House and Senate intelligence committees to brief them on a covert-action program, which the agency had long concealed from Congress. Panetta explained that he had learned of the existence of the operation only the day before and had promptly shut it down. The reason, C.I.A. spokesman Paul Gimigliano now explains: “It hadn’t taken any terrorists off the street.” During the meeting, according to two attendees, Panetta named both Erik Prince and Blackwater as key participants in the program. (When asked to verify this account, Gimigliano notes that “Director Panetta treats as confidential discussions with Congress that take place behind closed doors.”) Soon thereafter, Prince says, he began fielding inquisitive calls from people he characterizes as far outside the circle of trust.

It took three weeks for details, however sketchy, to surface. In July, The Wall Street Journal described the program as “an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives.” The agency reportedly planned to accomplish this task by dispatching small hit teams overseas. Lawmakers, who couldn’t exactly quibble with the mission’s objective, were in high dudgeon over having been kept in the dark. (Former C.I.A. officials reportedly saw the matter differently, characterizing the program as “more aspirational than operational” and implying that it had never progressed far enough to justify briefing the Hill.)

On August 20, the gloves came off. The New York Times published a story headlined cia sought blackwater’s help to kill jihadists. The Washington Post concurred: cia hired firm for assassin program. Prince confesses to feeling betrayed. “I don’t understand how a program this sensitive leaks,” he says. “And to ‘out’ me on top of it?” The next day, the Times went further, revealing Blackwater’s role in the use of aerial drones to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders: “At hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan … the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Erik Prince, almost overnight, had undergone a second rebranding of sorts, this one not of his own making. The war profiteer had become a merchant of death, with a license to kill on the ground and in the air. “I’m an easy target,” he says. “I’m from a Republican family and I own this company outright. Our competitors have nameless, faceless management teams.”

Prince blames Democrats in Congress for the leaks and maintains that there is a double standard at play. “The left complained about how [C.I.A. operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. A special prosecutor [was even] appointed. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.” As in the Plame case, though, the leaks prompted C.I.A. attorneys to send a referral to the Justice Department, requesting that a criminal investigation be undertaken to identify those responsible for providing highly classified information to the media.

By focusing so intently on Blackwater, Congress and the press overlooked the elephant in the room. Prince wasn’t merely a contractor; he was, insiders say, a full-blown asset. Three sources with direct knowledge of the relationship say that the C.I.A.’s National Resources Division recruited Prince in 2004 to join a secret network of American citizens with special skills or unusual access to targets of interest. As assets go, Prince would have been quite a catch. He had more cash, transport, matériel, and personnel at his disposal than almost anyone Langley would have run in its 62-year history.

The C.I.A. won’t comment further on such assertions, but Prince himself is slightly more forthcoming. “I was looking at creating a small, focused capability,” he says, “just like Donovan did years ago”—the reference being to William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who, in World War II, served as the head of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the modern C.I.A. (Prince’s youngest son, Charles Donovan—the one who fell into the pool—is named after Wild Bill.) Two sources familiar with the arrangement say that Prince’s handlers obtained provisional operational approval from senior management to recruit Prince and later generated a “201 file,” which would have put him on the agency’s books as a vetted asset. It’s not at all clear who was running whom, since Prince says that, unlike many other assets, he did much of his work on spec, claiming to have used personal funds to road-test the viability of certain operations. “I grew up around the auto industry,” Prince explains. “Customers would say to my dad, ‘We have this need.’ He would then use his own money to create prototypes to fulfill those needs. He took the ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach.”

According to two sources familiar with his work, Prince was developing unconventional means of penetrating “hard target” countries—where the C.I.A. has great difficulty working either because there are no stations from which to operate or because local intelligence services have the wherewithal to frustrate the agency’s designs. “I made no money whatsoever off this work,” Prince contends. He is unwilling to specify the exact nature of his forays. “I’m painted as this war profiteer by Congress. Meanwhile I’m paying for all sorts of intelligence activities to support American national security, out of my own pocket.” (His pocket is deep: according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.)

Clutch Cargo

The Afghan countryside, from a speeding perch at 200 knots, whizzes by in a khaki haze. The terrain is rendered all the more nondescript by the fact that Erik Prince is riding less than 200 feet above it. The back of the airplane, a small, Spanish-built eads casa C-212, is open, revealing Prince in silhouette against a blue sky. Wearing Oakleys, tactical pants, and a white polo shirt, he looks strikingly boyish.

A Blackwater aircraft en route to drop supplies to U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan in September. Photograph by Adam Ferguson.

As the crew chief initiates a countdown sequence, Prince adjusts his harness and moves into position. When the “go” order comes, a young G.I. beside him cuts a tether, and Prince pushes a pallet out the tail chute. Black parachutes deploy and the aircraft lunges forward from the sudden weight differential. The cargo—provisions and munitions—drops inside the perimeter of a forward operating base (fob) belonging to an elite Special Forces squad.

Five days a week, Blackwater’s aviation arm—with its unabashedly 60s-spook name, Presidential Airways—flies low-altitude sorties to some of the most remote outposts in Afghanistan. Since 2006, Prince’s company has been conscripted to offer this “turnkey” service for U.S. troops, flying thousands of delivery runs. Blackwater also provides security for U.S. ambassador Karl Eikenberry and his staff, and trains narcotics and Afghan special police units.

Once back on terra firma, Prince, a BlackBerry on one hip and a 9-mm. on the other, does a sweep around one of Blackwater’s bases in northeast Afghanistan, pointing out buildings recently hit by mortar fire. As a drone circles overhead, its camera presumably trained on the surroundings, Prince climbs a guard tower and peers down at a spot where two of his contractors were nearly killed last July by an improvised explosive device. “Not counting civilian checkpoints,” he says, “this is the closest base to the [Pakistani] border.” His voice takes on a melodramatic solemnity. “Who else has built a fob along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?” It doesn’t quite have the ring of Lawrence of Arabia’s “To Aqaba!,” but you get the picture.

Going “Low-Pro”

Blackwater has been in Afghanistan since 2002. At the time, the C.I.A.’s executive director, A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, responding to his operatives’ complaints of being “worried sick about the Afghans’ coming over the fence or opening the doors,” enlisted the company to offer protection for the agency’s Kabul station. Going “low-pro,” or low-profile, paid off: not a single C.I.A. employee, according to sources close to the company, died in Afghanistan while under Blackwater’s protection. (Talk about a tight-knit bunch. Krongard would later serve as an unpaid adviser to Blackwater’s board, until 2007. And his brother Howard “Cookie” Krongard—the State Department’s inspector general—had to recuse himself from Blackwater-related oversight matters after his brother’s involvement with the company surfaced. Buzzy, in response, stepped down.)

As the agency’s confidence in Blackwater grew, so did the company’s responsibilities, expanding from static protection to mobile security—shadowing agency personnel, ever wary of suicide bombers, ambushes, and roadside devices, as they moved about the country. By 2005, Blackwater, accustomed to guarding C.I.A. personnel, was starting to look a little bit like the C.I.A. itself. Enrique “Ric” Prado joined Blackwater after serving as chief of operations for the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC). A short time later, Prado’s boss, J. Cofer Black, the head of the CTC, moved over to Blackwater, too. He was followed, in turn, by his superior, Rob Richer, second-in-command of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Of the three, Cofer Black had the outsize reputation. As Bob Woodward recounted in his book Bush at War, on September 13, 2001, Black had promised President Bush that when the C.I.A. was through with al-Qaeda “they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.” According to Woodward, “Black became known in Bush’s inner circle as the ‘flies-on-the-eyeballs guy.’” Richer and Black soon helped start a new company, Total Intelligence Solutions (which collects data to help businesses assess risks overseas), but in 2008 both men left Blackwater, as did company president Gary Jackson this year.

Prince in his Virginia office. His company took in more than $1 billion from government contracts during the George W. Bush era. Photograph by Nigel Parry.
Off and on, Black and Richer’s onetime partner Ric Prado, first with the C.I.A., then as a Blackwater employee, worked quietly with Prince as his vice president of “special programs” to provide the agency with what every intelligence service wants: plausible deniability. Shortly after 9/11, President Bush had issued a “lethal finding,” giving the C.I.A. the go-ahead to kill or capture al-Qaeda members. (Under an executive order issued by President Gerald Ford, it had been illegal since 1976 for U.S. intelligence operatives to conduct assassinations.) As a seasoned case officer, Prado helped implement the order by putting together a small team of “blue-badgers,” as government agents are known. Their job was threefold: find, fix, and finish. Find the designated target, fix the person’s routine, and, if necessary, finish him off. When the time came to train the hit squad, the agency, insiders say, turned to Prince. Wary of attracting undue attention, the team practiced not at the company’s North Carolina compound but at Prince’s own domain, an hour outside Washington, D.C. The property looks like an outpost of the landed gentry, with pastures and horses, but also features less traditional accents, such as an indoor firing range. Once again, Prince has Wild Bill on his mind, observing that “the O.S.S. trained during World War II on a country estate.”

Among the team’s targets, according to a source familiar with the program, was Mamoun Darkazanli, an al-Qaeda financier living in Hamburg who had been on the agency’s radar for years because of his ties to three of the 9/11 hijackers and to operatives convicted of the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa. The C.I.A. team supposedly went in “dark,” meaning they did not notify their own station—much less the German government—of their presence; they then followed Darkazanli for weeks and worked through the logistics of how and where they would take him down. Another target, the source says, was A. Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani scientist who shared nuclear know-how with Iran, Libya, and North Korea. The C.I.A. team supposedly tracked him in Dubai. In both cases, the source insists, the authorities in Washington chose not to pull the trigger. Khan’s inclusion on the target list, however, would suggest that the assassination effort was broader than has previously been acknowledged. (Says agency spokesman Gimigliano, “[The] C.I.A. hasn’t discussed—despite some mischaracterizations that have appeared in the public domain—the substance of this effort or earlier ones.”)

The source familiar with the Darkazanli and Khan missions bristles at public comments that current and former C.I.A. officials have made: “They say the program didn’t move forward because [they] didn’t have the right skill set or because of inadequate cover. That’s untrue. [The operation continued] for a very long time in some places without ever being discovered. This program died because of a lack of political will.”

When Prado left the C.I.A., in 2004, he effectively took the program with him, after a short hiatus. By that point, according to sources familiar with the plan, Prince was already an agency asset, and the pair had begun working to privatize matters by changing the team’s composition from blue-badgers to a combination of “green-badgers” (C.I.A. contractors) and third-country nationals (unaware of the C.I.A. connection). Blackwater officials insist that company resources and manpower were never directly utilized—these were supposedly off-the-books initiatives done on Prince’s own dime, for which he was later reimbursed—and that despite their close ties to the C.I.A. neither Cofer Black nor Rob Richer took part. As Prince puts it, “We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability. If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the chief of station, the ambassador, or anyone to bail us out.” He insists that, had the team deployed, the agency would have had full operational control. Instead, due to what he calls “institutional osteoporosis,” the second iteration of the assassination program lost steam.

Sometime after 2006, the C.I.A. would take another shot at the program, according to an insider who was familiar with the plan. “Everyone found some reason not to participate,” says the insider. “There was a sick-out. People would say to management, ‘I have a family, I have other obligations.’ This is the fucking C.I.A. They were supposed to lead the charge after al-Qaeda and they couldn’t find the people to do it.” Others with knowledge of the program are far more charitable and question why any right-thinking officer would sign up for an assassination program at a time when their colleagues—who had thought they had legal cover to engage in another sensitive effort, the “enhanced interrogations” program at secret C.I.A. sites in foreign countries—were finding themselves in legal limbo.

America and Erik Prince, it seems, have been slow to extract themselves from the assassination business. Beyond the killer drones flown with Blackwater’s help along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (President Obama has reportedly authorized more than three dozen such hits), Prince claims he and a team of foreign nationals helped find and fix a target in October 2008, then left the finishing to others. “In Syria,” he says, “we did the signals intelligence to geo-locate the bad guys in a very denied area.” Subsequently, a U.S. Special Forces team launched a helicopter-borne assault to hunt down al-Qaeda middleman Abu Ghadiyah. Ghadiyah, whose real name is Badran Turki Hishan Al-Mazidih, was said to have been killed along with six others—though doubts have emerged about whether Ghadiyah was even there that day, as detailed in a recent Vanity Fair Web story by Reese Ehrlich and Peter Coyote.

And up until two months ago—when Prince says the Obama administration pulled the plug—he was still deeply engaged in the dark arts. According to insiders, he was running intelligence-gathering operations from a secret location in the United States, remotely coordinating the movements of spies working undercover in one of the so-called Axis of Evil countries. Their mission: non-disclosable.

Exit Strategy

Flying out of Kabul, Prince does a slow burn, returning to the topic of how exposed he has felt since press accounts revealed his role in the assassination program. The firestorm that began in August has continued to smolder and may indeed have his handlers wondering whether Prince himself is more of a liability than an asset. He says he can’t understand why they would shut down certain high-risk, high-payoff collection efforts against some of America’s most implacable enemies for fear that his involvement could, given the political climate, result in their compromise.

He is incredulous that U.S. officials seem willing, in effect, to cut off their nose to spite their face. “I’ve been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services,” Prince observes. After 12 years building the company, he says he intends to turn it over to its employees and a board, and exit defense contracting altogether. An internal power struggle is said to be under way among those seeking to define the direction and underlying mission of a post-Prince Blackwater.

He insists, simply, “I’m through.”

In the past, Prince has entertained the idea of building a pre-positioning ship—complete with security personnel, doctors, helicopters, medicine, food, and fuel—and stationing it off the coast of Africa to provide “relief with teeth” to the continent’s trouble spots or to curb piracy off Somalia. At one point, he considered creating a rapidly deployable brigade that could be farmed out, for a fee, to a foreign government.

For the time being, however, Prince contends that his plans are far more modest. “I’m going to teach high school,” he says, straight-faced. “History and economics. I may even coach wrestling. Hey, Indiana Jones taught school, too.”

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Jeremy Scahill: Is Blackwater’s Erik Prince Starting a Proxy War Against Iran?

HERE

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Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater Founder Erik Prince’s Private Army of “Christian Crusaders” In the UAE

HERE

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Jeremy Scahill: on Erik Prince (youtube)

HERE

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January 2010
Scandal

Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy

Erik Prince, recently outed as a participant in a C.I.A. assassination program, has gained notoriety as head of the military-contracting juggernaut Blackwater, a company dogged by a grand-jury investigation, bribery accusations, and the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees, set for next month. Lashing back at his critics, the wealthy former navy seal takes the author inside his operation in the U.S. and Afghanistan, revealing the role he’s been playing in America’s war on terror.
Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm (recently renamed Xe), at the company’s Virginia offices. Photograph by Nigel Parry.
Iput myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.Erik Prince has an image problem—the kind that’s impervious to a Madison Avenue makeover. The 40-year-old heir to a Michigan auto-parts fortune, and a former navy seal, he has had the distinction of being vilified recently both in life and in art. In Washington, Prince has become a scapegoat for some of the Bush administration’s misadventures in Iraq—though Blackwater’s own deeds have also come in for withering criticism. Congressmen and lawyers, human-rights groups and pundits, have described Prince as a war profiteer, one who has assembled a rogue fighting force capable of toppling governments. His employees have been repeatedly accused of using excessive, even deadly force in Iraq; many Iraqis, in fact, have died during encounters with Blackwater. And in November, as a North Carolina grand jury was considering a raft of charges against the company, as a half-dozen civil suits were brewing in Virginia, and as five former Blackwater staffers were preparing for trial for their roles in the deaths of 17 Iraqis, The New York Timesreported in a page-one story that Prince’s firm, in the aftermath of the tragedy, had sought to bribe Iraqi officials for their compliance, charges which Prince calls “lies … undocumented, unsubstantiated [and] anonymous.” (So infamous is the Blackwater brand that even the Taliban have floated far-fetched conspiracy theories, accusing the company of engaging in suicide bombings in Pakistan.)

In Hollywood, meanwhile, a town that loves nothing so much as a good villain, Prince, with his blond crop and Daniel Craig mien, has become the screenwriters’ darling. In the film State of Play, a Blackwater clone (PointCorp.) uses its network of mercenaries for illegal surveillance and murder. On the Fox series 24, Jon Voight has played Jonas Hodges, a thinly veiled version of Prince, whose company (Starkwood) helps an African warlord procure nerve gas for use against U.S. targets.

But the truth about Prince may be orders of magnitude stranger than fiction. For the past six years, he appears to have led an astonishing double life. Publicly, he has served as Blackwater’s C.E.O. and chairman. Privately, and secretly, he has been doing the C.I.A.’s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into “denied areas”—places U.S. intelligence has trouble penetrating—to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies. Prince, according to sources with knowledge of his activities, has been working as a C.I.A. asset: in a word, as a spy. While his company was busy gleaning more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009—by acting, among other things, as an overseas Praetorian guard for C.I.A. and State Department officials—Prince became a Mr. Fix-It in the war on terror. His access to paramilitary forces, weapons, and aircraft, and his indefatigable ambition—the very attributes that have galvanized his critics—also made him extremely valuable, some say, to U.S. intelligence. (Full disclosure: In the 1990s, before becoming a journalist for CBS and then NBC News, I was a C.I.A. attorney. My contract was not renewed, under contentious circumstances.)

But Prince, with a new administration in power, and foes closing in, is finally coming in from the cold. This past fall, though he infrequently grants interviews, he decided it was time to tell his side of the story—to respond to the array of accusations, to reveal exactly what he has been doing in the shadows of the U.S. government, and to present his rationale. He also hoped to convey why he’s going to walk away from it all.

To that end, he invited Vanity Fair to his training camp in North Carolina, to his Virginia offices, and to his Afghan outposts. It seemed like a propitious time to tag along.

Split Personality

Erik Prince can be a difficult man to wrap your mind around—an amalgam of contradictory caricatures. He has been branded a “Christian supremacist” who sanctions the murder of Iraqi civilians, yet he has built mosques at his overseas bases and supports a Muslim orphanage in Afghanistan. He and his family have long backed conservative causes, funded right-wing political candidates, and befriended evangelicals, but he calls himself a libertarian and is a practicing Roman Catholic. Sometimes considered arrogant and reclusive—Howard Hughes without the O.C.D.—he nonetheless enters competitions that combine mountain-biking, beach running, ocean kayaking, and rappelling.

The common denominator is a relentless intensity that seems to have no Off switch. Seated in the back of a Boeing 777 en route to Afghanistan, Prince leafs through Defense News while the film Taken beams from the in-flight entertainment system. In the movie, Liam Neeson plays a retired C.I.A. officer who mounts an aggressive rescue effort after his daughter is kidnapped in Paris. Neeson’s character warns his daughter’s captors:

If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills … skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you [don’t] let my daughter go now … I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

Prince comments, “I used that movie as a teaching tool for my girls.” (The father of seven, Prince remarried after his first wife died of cancer in 2003.) “I wanted them to understand the dangers out there. And I wanted them to know how I would respond.”

You can’t escape the impression that Prince sees himself as somehow destined, his mission anointed. It comes out even in the most personal of stories. During the flight, he tells of being in Kabul in September 2008 and receiving a two a.m. call from his wife, Joanna. Prince’s son Charlie, one year old at the time, had fallen into the family swimming pool. Charlie’s brother Christian, then 12, pulled him out of the water, purple and motionless, and successfully performed CPR. Christian and three siblings, it turns out, had recently received Red Cross certification at the Blackwater training camp.

But there are intimations of a higher power at work as the story continues. Desperate to get home, Prince scrapped one itinerary, which called for a stay-over at the Marriott in Islamabad, and found a direct flight. That night, at the time Prince would have been checking in, terrorists struck the hotel with a truck bomb, killing more than 50. Prince says simply, “Christian saved Charlie’s life and Charlie saved mine.” At times, his sense of his own place in history can border on the evangelical. When pressed about suggestions that he’s a mercenary—a term he loathes—he rattles off the names of other freelance military figures, even citing Lafayette, the colonists’ ally during the Revolutionary War.

Prince’s default mode is one of readiness. He is clenched-jawed and tightly wound. He cannot stand down. Waiting in the security line at Dulles airport just hours before, Prince had delivered a little homily: “Every time an American goes through security, I want them to pause for a moment and think, What is my government doing to inconvenience the terrorists? Rendition teams, Predator drones, assassination squads. That’s all part of it.”

Such brazenness is not lost on a listener, nor is the fact that Prince himself is quite familiar with some of these tactics. In fact Prince, like other contractors, has drawn fire for running a company that some call a “body shop”—many of its staffers having departed military or intelligence posts to take similar jobs at much higher salaries, paid mainly by Uncle Sam. And to get those jobs done—protecting, defending, and killing, if required—Prince has had to employ the services of some decorated vets as well as some ruthless types, snipers and spies among them.

Erik Prince flies coach internationally. It’s not just economical (“Why should I pay for business? Fly coach, you arrive at the same time”) but also less likely to draw undue attention. He considers himself a marked man. Prince describes the diplomats and dignitaries Blackwater protects as “Al Jazeera–worthy,” meaning that, in his view, “bin Laden and his acolytes would love to kill them in a spectacular fashion and have it broadcast on televisions worldwide.”

Stepping off the plane at Kabul’s international airport, Prince is treated as if he, too, were Al Jazeera–worthy. He is immediately shuffled into a waiting car and driven 50 yards to a second vehicle, a beat-up minivan that is native to the core: animal pelts on the dashboard, prayer card dangling from the rearview mirror. Blackwater’s special-projects team is responsible for Prince’s security in-country, and except for their language its men appear indistinguishable from Afghans. They have full beards, headscarves, and traditional knee-length shirts over baggy trousers. They remove Prince’s sunglasses, fit him out with body armor, and have him change into Afghan garb. Prince is issued a homing beacon that will track his movements, and a cell phone with its speed dial programmed for Blackwater’s tactical-operations center.

Prince in the tactical-operations center at a company base in Kabul. Photograph by Adam Ferguson.

Once in the van, Prince’s team gives him a security briefing. Using satellite photos of the area, they review the route to Blackwater’s compound and point out where weapons and ammunition are stored inside the vehicle. The men warn him that in the event that they are incapacitated or killed in an ambush Prince should assume control of the weapons and push the red button near the emergency brake, which will send out a silent alarm and call in reinforcements.

Black Hawks and Zeppelins

Blackwater’s origins were humble, bordering on the primordial. The company took form in the dismal peat bogs of Moyock, North Carolina—not exactly a hotbed of the defense-contracting world.

In 1995, Prince’s father, Edgar, died of a heart attack (the Evangelical James C. Dobson, founder of the socially conservative Focus on the Family, delivered the eulogy at the funeral). Edgar Prince left behind a vibrant auto-parts manufacturing business in Holland, Michigan, with 4,500 employees and a line of products ranging from a lighted sun visor to a programmable garage-door opener. At the time, 25-year-old Erik was serving as a navy seal (he saw service in Haiti, the Middle East, and Bosnia), and neither he nor his sisters were in a position to take over the business. They sold Prince Automotive for $1.35 billion.

Erik Prince and some of his navy friends, it so happens, had been kicking around the idea of opening a full-service training compound to replace the usual patchwork of such facilities. In 1996, Prince took an honorable discharge and began buying up land in North Carolina. “The idea was not to be a defense contractor per se,” Prince says, touring the grounds of what looks and feels like a Disneyland for alpha males. “I just wanted a first-rate training facility for law enforcement, the military, and, in particular, the special-operations community.”

Business was slow. The navy seals came early—January 1998—but they didn’t come often, and by the time the Blackwater Lodge and Training Center officially opened, that May, Prince’s friends and advisers thought he was throwing good money after bad. “A lot of people said, ‘This is a rich kid’s hunting lodge,’” Prince explains. “They could not figure out what I was doing.”

Blackwater outpost near the Pakistan border, used for training Afghan police. Photograph by Adam Ferguson.

Today, the site is the flagship for a network of facilities that train some 30,000 attendees a year. Prince, who owns an unmanned, zeppelin-esque airship and spent $45 million to build a fleet of customized, bomb-proof armored personnel carriers, often commutes to the lodge by air, piloting a Cessna Caravan from his home in Virginia. The training center has a private landing strip. Its hangars shelter a petting zoo of aircraft: Bell 412 helicopters (used to tail or shuttle diplomats in Iraq), Black Hawk helicopters (currently being modified to accommodate the security requests of a Gulf State client), a Dash 8 airplane (the type that ferries troops in Afghanistan). Amid the 52 firing ranges are virtual villages designed for addressing every conceivable real-world threat: small town squares, littered with blown-up cars, are situated near railway crossings and maritime mock-ups. At one junction, swat teams fire handguns, sniper rifles, and shotguns; at another, police officers tear around the world’s longest tactical-driving track, dodging simulated roadside bombs.

In keeping with the company’s original name, the central complex, constructed of stone, glass, concrete, and logs, actually resembles a lodge, an REI store on steroids. Here and there are distinctive touches, such as door handles crafted from imitation gun barrels. Where other companies might have Us Weekly lying about the lobby, Blackwater has counterterror magazines with cover stories such as “How to Destroy Al Qaeda.”

In fact, it was al-Qaeda that put Blackwater on the map. In the aftermath of the group’s October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, in Yemen, the navy turned to Prince, among others, for help in re-training its sailors to fend off attackers at close range. (To date, the company says, it has put some 125,000 navy personnel through its programs.) In addition to providing a cash infusion, the navy contract helped Blackwater build a database of retired military men—many of them special-forces veterans—who could be called upon to serve as instructors.

When al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. mainland on 9/11, Prince says, he was struck with the urge to either re-enlist or join the C.I.A. He says he actually applied. “I was rejected,” he admits, grinning at the irony of courting the very agency that would later woo him. “They said I didn’t have enough hard skills, enough time in the field.” Undeterred, he decided to turn his Rolodex into a roll call for what would in essence become a private army.

After the terror attacks, Prince’s company toiled, even reveled, in relative obscurity, taking on assignments in Afghanistan and, after the U.S. invasion, in Iraq. Then came March 31, 2004. That was the day insurgents ambushed four of its employees in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. The men were shot, their bodies set on fire by a mob. The charred, hacked-up remains of two of them were left hanging from a bridge over the Euphrates.

“It was absolutely gut-wrenching,” Prince recalls. “I had been in the military, and no one under my command had ever died. At Blackwater, we had never even had a firearms training accident. Now all of a sudden four of my guys aren’t just killed, but desecrated.” Three months later an edict from coalition authorities in Baghdad declared private contractors immune from Iraqi law.

Subsequently, the contractors’ families sued Blackwater, contending the company had failed to protect their loved ones. Blackwater countersued the families for breaching contracts that forbid the men or their estates from filing such lawsuits; the company also claimed that, because it operates as an extension of the military, it cannot be held responsible for deaths in a war zone. (After five years, the case remains unresolved.) In 2007, a congressional investigation into the incident concluded that the employees had been sent into an insurgent stronghold “without sufficient preparation, resources, and support.” Blackwater called the report a “one-sided” version of a “tragic incident.”

After Fallujah, Blackwater became a household name. Its primary mission in Iraq had been to protect American dignitaries, and it did so, in part, by projecting an image of invincibility, sending heavily armed men in armored Suburbans racing through the streets of Baghdad with sirens blaring. The show of swagger and firepower, which alienated both the locals and the U.S. military, helped contribute to the allegations of excessive force. As the war dragged on, charges against the firm mounted. In one case, a contractor shot and killed an Iraqi father of six who was standing along the roadside in Hillah. (Prince later told Congress that the contractor was fired for trying to cover up the incident.) In another, a Blackwater firearms technician was accused of drinking too much at a party in the Green Zone and killing a bodyguard assigned to protect Iraq’s vice president. The technician was fired but not prosecuted and later settled a wrongful-death suit with the man’s family.

Those episodes, however, paled in comparison with the events of September 16, 2007, when a phalanx of Blackwater bodyguards emerged from their four-car convoy at a Baghdad intersection called Nisour Square and opened fire. When the smoke cleared, 17 Iraqi civilians lay dead. After 15 months of investigation, the Justice Department charged six with voluntary manslaughter and other offenses, insisting that the use of force was not only unjustified but unprovoked. One guard pleaded guilty and, in a trial set for February, is expected to testify against the others, all of whom maintain their innocence. The New York Times recently reported that in the wake of the shootings the company’s top executives authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi higher-ups in order to buy their silence—a claim Prince dismisses as “false,” insisting “[there was] zero plan or discussion of bribing any officials.”

Nisour Square had disastrous repercussions for Blackwater. Its role in Iraq was curtailed, its revenue dropping 40 percent. Today, Prince claims, he is shelling out $2 million a month in legal fees to cope with a spate of civil lawsuits as well as what he calls a “giant proctological exam” by nearly a dozen federal agencies. “We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the U.S. government,” says Prince. “Now we pay lawyers.”

Does he ever. In North Carolina, a federal grand jury is investigating various allegations, including the illegal transport of assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in dog-food sacks. (Blackwater denied this, but confirmed hiding weapons on pallets of dog food to protect against theft by “corrupt foreign customs agents.”) In Virginia, two ex-employees have filed affidavits claiming that Prince and Blackwater may have murdered or ordered the murder of people suspected of cooperating with U.S. authorities investigating the company—charges which Blackwater has characterized as “scandalous and baseless.” One of the men also asserted in filings that company employees ran a sex and wife-swapping ring, allegations which Blackwater has called “anonymous, unsubstantiated and offensive.”

Meanwhile, last February, Prince mounted an expensive rebranding campaign. Following the infamous ValuJet crash, in 1996, ValuJet disappeared into AirTran, after a merger, and moved on to a happy new life. Prince, likewise, decided to retire the Blackwater name and replace it with the name Xe, short for Xenon—an inert, non-combustible gas that, in keeping with his political leanings, sits on the far right of the periodic table. Still, Prince and other top company officials continued to use the name Blackwater among themselves. And as events would soon prove, the company’s reputation would remain as combustible as ever.

Prince at a Kandahar airfield. Photograph Adam Ferguson.

Spies and Whispers

Last June, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta met in a closed session with the House and Senate intelligence committees to brief them on a covert-action program, which the agency had long concealed from Congress. Panetta explained that he had learned of the existence of the operation only the day before and had promptly shut it down. The reason, C.I.A. spokesman Paul Gimigliano now explains: “It hadn’t taken any terrorists off the street.” During the meeting, according to two attendees, Panetta named both Erik Prince and Blackwater as key participants in the program. (When asked to verify this account, Gimigliano notes that “Director Panetta treats as confidential discussions with Congress that take place behind closed doors.”) Soon thereafter, Prince says, he began fielding inquisitive calls from people he characterizes as far outside the circle of trust.

It took three weeks for details, however sketchy, to surface. In July, The Wall Street Journal described the program as “an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives.” The agency reportedly planned to accomplish this task by dispatching small hit teams overseas. Lawmakers, who couldn’t exactly quibble with the mission’s objective, were in high dudgeon over having been kept in the dark. (Former C.I.A. officials reportedly saw the matter differently, characterizing the program as “more aspirational than operational” and implying that it had never progressed far enough to justify briefing the Hill.)

On August 20, the gloves came off. The New York Times published a story headlined cia sought blackwater’s help to kill jihadists. The Washington Post concurred: cia hired firm for assassin program. Prince confesses to feeling betrayed. “I don’t understand how a program this sensitive leaks,” he says. “And to ‘out’ me on top of it?” The next day, the Times went further, revealing Blackwater’s role in the use of aerial drones to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders: “At hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan … the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Erik Prince, almost overnight, had undergone a second rebranding of sorts, this one not of his own making. The war profiteer had become a merchant of death, with a license to kill on the ground and in the air. “I’m an easy target,” he says. “I’m from a Republican family and I own this company outright. Our competitors have nameless, faceless management teams.”

Prince blames Democrats in Congress for the leaks and maintains that there is a double standard at play. “The left complained about how [C.I.A. operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. A special prosecutor [was even] appointed. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.” As in the Plame case, though, the leaks prompted C.I.A. attorneys to send a referral to the Justice Department, requesting that a criminal investigation be undertaken to identify those responsible for providing highly classified information to the media.

By focusing so intently on Blackwater, Congress and the press overlooked the elephant in the room. Prince wasn’t merely a contractor; he was, insiders say, a full-blown asset. Three sources with direct knowledge of the relationship say that the C.I.A.’s National Resources Division recruited Prince in 2004 to join a secret network of American citizens with special skills or unusual access to targets of interest. As assets go, Prince would have been quite a catch. He had more cash, transport, matériel, and personnel at his disposal than almost anyone Langley would have run in its 62-year history.

The C.I.A. won’t comment further on such assertions, but Prince himself is slightly more forthcoming. “I was looking at creating a small, focused capability,” he says, “just like Donovan did years ago”—the reference being to William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who, in World War II, served as the head of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the modern C.I.A. (Prince’s youngest son, Charles Donovan—the one who fell into the pool—is named after Wild Bill.) Two sources familiar with the arrangement say that Prince’s handlers obtained provisional operational approval from senior management to recruit Prince and later generated a “201 file,” which would have put him on the agency’s books as a vetted asset. It’s not at all clear who was running whom, since Prince says that, unlike many other assets, he did much of his work on spec, claiming to have used personal funds to road-test the viability of certain operations. “I grew up around the auto industry,” Prince explains. “Customers would say to my dad, ‘We have this need.’ He would then use his own money to create prototypes to fulfill those needs. He took the ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach.”

According to two sources familiar with his work, Prince was developing unconventional means of penetrating “hard target” countries—where the C.I.A. has great difficulty working either because there are no stations from which to operate or because local intelligence services have the wherewithal to frustrate the agency’s designs. “I made no money whatsoever off this work,” Prince contends. He is unwilling to specify the exact nature of his forays. “I’m painted as this war profiteer by Congress. Meanwhile I’m paying for all sorts of intelligence activities to support American national security, out of my own pocket.” (His pocket is deep: according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.)

Clutch Cargo

The Afghan countryside, from a speeding perch at 200 knots, whizzes by in a khaki haze. The terrain is rendered all the more nondescript by the fact that Erik Prince is riding less than 200 feet above it. The back of the airplane, a small, Spanish-built eads casa C-212, is open, revealing Prince in silhouette against a blue sky. Wearing Oakleys, tactical pants, and a white polo shirt, he looks strikingly boyish.

A Blackwater aircraft en route to drop supplies to U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan in September. Photograph by Adam Ferguson.

As the crew chief initiates a countdown sequence, Prince adjusts his harness and moves into position. When the “go” order comes, a young G.I. beside him cuts a tether, and Prince pushes a pallet out the tail chute. Black parachutes deploy and the aircraft lunges forward from the sudden weight differential. The cargo—provisions and munitions—drops inside the perimeter of a forward operating base (fob) belonging to an elite Special Forces squad.

Five days a week, Blackwater’s aviation arm—with its unabashedly 60s-spook name, Presidential Airways—flies low-altitude sorties to some of the most remote outposts in Afghanistan. Since 2006, Prince’s company has been conscripted to offer this “turnkey” service for U.S. troops, flying thousands of delivery runs. Blackwater also provides security for U.S. ambassador Karl Eikenberry and his staff, and trains narcotics and Afghan special police units.

Once back on terra firma, Prince, a BlackBerry on one hip and a 9-mm. on the other, does a sweep around one of Blackwater’s bases in northeast Afghanistan, pointing out buildings recently hit by mortar fire. As a drone circles overhead, its camera presumably trained on the surroundings, Prince climbs a guard tower and peers down at a spot where two of his contractors were nearly killed last July by an improvised explosive device. “Not counting civilian checkpoints,” he says, “this is the closest base to the [Pakistani] border.” His voice takes on a melodramatic solemnity. “Who else has built a fob along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?” It doesn’t quite have the ring of Lawrence of Arabia’s “To Aqaba!,” but you get the picture.

Going “Low-Pro”

Blackwater has been in Afghanistan since 2002. At the time, the C.I.A.’s executive director, A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, responding to his operatives’ complaints of being “worried sick about the Afghans’ coming over the fence or opening the doors,” enlisted the company to offer protection for the agency’s Kabul station. Going “low-pro,” or low-profile, paid off: not a single C.I.A. employee, according to sources close to the company, died in Afghanistan while under Blackwater’s protection. (Talk about a tight-knit bunch. Krongard would later serve as an unpaid adviser to Blackwater’s board, until 2007. And his brother Howard “Cookie” Krongard—the State Department’s inspector general—had to recuse himself from Blackwater-related oversight matters after his brother’s involvement with the company surfaced. Buzzy, in response, stepped down.)

As the agency’s confidence in Blackwater grew, so did the company’s responsibilities, expanding from static protection to mobile security—shadowing agency personnel, ever wary of suicide bombers, ambushes, and roadside devices, as they moved about the country. By 2005, Blackwater, accustomed to guarding C.I.A. personnel, was starting to look a little bit like the C.I.A. itself. Enrique “Ric” Prado joined Blackwater after serving as chief of operations for the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC). A short time later, Prado’s boss, J. Cofer Black, the head of the CTC, moved over to Blackwater, too. He was followed, in turn, by his superior, Rob Richer, second-in-command of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Of the three, Cofer Black had the outsize reputation. As Bob Woodward recounted in his book Bush at War, on September 13, 2001, Black had promised President Bush that when the C.I.A. was through with al-Qaeda “they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.” According to Woodward, “Black became known in Bush’s inner circle as the ‘flies-on-the-eyeballs guy.’” Richer and Black soon helped start a new company, Total Intelligence Solutions (which collects data to help businesses assess risks overseas), but in 2008 both men left Blackwater, as did company president Gary Jackson this year.

Prince in his Virginia office. His company took in more than $1 billion from government contracts during the George W. Bush era. Photograph by Nigel Parry.
Off and on, Black and Richer’s onetime partner Ric Prado, first with the C.I.A., then as a Blackwater employee, worked quietly with Prince as his vice president of “special programs” to provide the agency with what every intelligence service wants: plausible deniability. Shortly after 9/11, President Bush had issued a “lethal finding,” giving the C.I.A. the go-ahead to kill or capture al-Qaeda members. (Under an executive order issued by President Gerald Ford, it had been illegal since 1976 for U.S. intelligence operatives to conduct assassinations.) As a seasoned case officer, Prado helped implement the order by putting together a small team of “blue-badgers,” as government agents are known. Their job was threefold: find, fix, and finish. Find the designated target, fix the person’s routine, and, if necessary, finish him off. When the time came to train the hit squad, the agency, insiders say, turned to Prince. Wary of attracting undue attention, the team practiced not at the company’s North Carolina compound but at Prince’s own domain, an hour outside Washington, D.C. The property looks like an outpost of the landed gentry, with pastures and horses, but also features less traditional accents, such as an indoor firing range. Once again, Prince has Wild Bill on his mind, observing that “the O.S.S. trained during World War II on a country estate.”

Among the team’s targets, according to a source familiar with the program, was Mamoun Darkazanli, an al-Qaeda financier living in Hamburg who had been on the agency’s radar for years because of his ties to three of the 9/11 hijackers and to operatives convicted of the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa. The C.I.A. team supposedly went in “dark,” meaning they did not notify their own station—much less the German government—of their presence; they then followed Darkazanli for weeks and worked through the logistics of how and where they would take him down. Another target, the source says, was A. Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani scientist who shared nuclear know-how with Iran, Libya, and North Korea. The C.I.A. team supposedly tracked him in Dubai. In both cases, the source insists, the authorities in Washington chose not to pull the trigger. Khan’s inclusion on the target list, however, would suggest that the assassination effort was broader than has previously been acknowledged. (Says agency spokesman Gimigliano, “[The] C.I.A. hasn’t discussed—despite some mischaracterizations that have appeared in the public domain—the substance of this effort or earlier ones.”)

The source familiar with the Darkazanli and Khan missions bristles at public comments that current and former C.I.A. officials have made: “They say the program didn’t move forward because [they] didn’t have the right skill set or because of inadequate cover. That’s untrue. [The operation continued] for a very long time in some places without ever being discovered. This program died because of a lack of political will.”

When Prado left the C.I.A., in 2004, he effectively took the program with him, after a short hiatus. By that point, according to sources familiar with the plan, Prince was already an agency asset, and the pair had begun working to privatize matters by changing the team’s composition from blue-badgers to a combination of “green-badgers” (C.I.A. contractors) and third-country nationals (unaware of the C.I.A. connection). Blackwater officials insist that company resources and manpower were never directly utilized—these were supposedly off-the-books initiatives done on Prince’s own dime, for which he was later reimbursed—and that despite their close ties to the C.I.A. neither Cofer Black nor Rob Richer took part. As Prince puts it, “We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability. If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the chief of station, the ambassador, or anyone to bail us out.” He insists that, had the team deployed, the agency would have had full operational control. Instead, due to what he calls “institutional osteoporosis,” the second iteration of the assassination program lost steam.

Sometime after 2006, the C.I.A. would take another shot at the program, according to an insider who was familiar with the plan. “Everyone found some reason not to participate,” says the insider. “There was a sick-out. People would say to management, ‘I have a family, I have other obligations.’ This is the fucking C.I.A. They were supposed to lead the charge after al-Qaeda and they couldn’t find the people to do it.” Others with knowledge of the program are far more charitable and question why any right-thinking officer would sign up for an assassination program at a time when their colleagues—who had thought they had legal cover to engage in another sensitive effort, the “enhanced interrogations” program at secret C.I.A. sites in foreign countries—were finding themselves in legal limbo.

America and Erik Prince, it seems, have been slow to extract themselves from the assassination business. Beyond the killer drones flown with Blackwater’s help along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (President Obama has reportedly authorized more than three dozen such hits), Prince claims he and a team of foreign nationals helped find and fix a target in October 2008, then left the finishing to others. “In Syria,” he says, “we did the signals intelligence to geo-locate the bad guys in a very denied area.” Subsequently, a U.S. Special Forces team launched a helicopter-borne assault to hunt down al-Qaeda middleman Abu Ghadiyah. Ghadiyah, whose real name is Badran Turki Hishan Al-Mazidih, was said to have been killed along with six others—though doubts have emerged about whether Ghadiyah was even there that day, as detailed in a recent Vanity Fair Web story by Reese Ehrlich and Peter Coyote.

And up until two months ago—when Prince says the Obama administration pulled the plug—he was still deeply engaged in the dark arts. According to insiders, he was running intelligence-gathering operations from a secret location in the United States, remotely coordinating the movements of spies working undercover in one of the so-called Axis of Evil countries. Their mission: non-disclosable.

Exit Strategy

Flying out of Kabul, Prince does a slow burn, returning to the topic of how exposed he has felt since press accounts revealed his role in the assassination program. The firestorm that began in August has continued to smolder and may indeed have his handlers wondering whether Prince himself is more of a liability than an asset. He says he can’t understand why they would shut down certain high-risk, high-payoff collection efforts against some of America’s most implacable enemies for fear that his involvement could, given the political climate, result in their compromise.

He is incredulous that U.S. officials seem willing, in effect, to cut off their nose to spite their face. “I’ve been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services,” Prince observes. After 12 years building the company, he says he intends to turn it over to its employees and a board, and exit defense contracting altogether. An internal power struggle is said to be under way among those seeking to define the direction and underlying mission of a post-Prince Blackwater.

He insists, simply, “I’m through.”

In the past, Prince has entertained the idea of building a pre-positioning ship—complete with security personnel, doctors, helicopters, medicine, food, and fuel—and stationing it off the coast of Africa to provide “relief with teeth” to the continent’s trouble spots or to curb piracy off Somalia. At one point, he considered creating a rapidly deployable brigade that could be farmed out, for a fee, to a foreign government.

For the time being, however, Prince contends that his plans are far more modest. “I’m going to teach high school,” he says, straight-faced. “History and economics. I may even coach wrestling. Hey, Indiana Jones taught school, too.”

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jellyfish???

Sons of Blackwater Open Corporate Spying Shop

Veterans from the most infamous private security firm on Earth and one of the military’s most controversial datamining operations are teaming up to provide the Fortune 500 with their own private spies.

Take one part Blackwater, and another part Able Danger, the military data-mining op that claimed to have identified members of al-Qaida living in the United States before 9/11. Put ‘em together, and you’ve got a new company called Jellyfish.

Jellyfish is about corporate-information dominance. It swears it’s leaving all the spy-world baggage behind. No guns, no governments digging through private records of its citizens.

“Our organization is not going to be controversial,” pledges Keith Mahoney, the Jellyfish CEO, a former Navy officer and senior executive with Blackwater’s intelligence arm, Total Intelligence Solutions. Try not to make a joke about corporate mercenaries.

His partners know from controversy. Along with Mahoney, there’s Michael Yorio, the executive vice president for business development and another Blackwater vet; Yorio recently prepped the renamed Xe Services for its life after founder Erik Prince sold it.

Jellyfish’s chief technology officer is J.D. Smith, who was part of Able Danger until lawyers for the U.S. Special Operations Command shut the program down in 2000. Also from Able Danger is Tony Shaffer, Jellyfish’s “military operations adviser” and the ex-Defense Intelligence Agency operative who became the public face of the program in dramatic 2005 congressional testimony.

But Jellyfish isn’t about merging mercenaries with data sifters. And it’s not about going after short money like government contracts. (Although, the firm is based in D.C., where the intel community is and the titans of corporate America aren’t.)

During a Thursday press conference in Washington that served as a coming-out party for the company, Jellyfish’s executives described an all-purpose “private-sector intelligence” firm.

What’s that mean? Through a mouthful of corporate-speak (“empowering the C-suite” to make crucial decisions) Mahoney describes a worldwide intelligence network of contacts, ready to collect data on global hot spots that Jellyfish can pitch to deep-pocketed clients. Does your energy firm need to know if Iran will fall victim to the next Mideast uprising? Jellyfish’s informants in Tehran can give a picture. (They insist it’s legal.)

They’ve got “long-established relationships” everywhere from Bogota to Belgrade, Somalia to South Korea, says Michael Bagley, Jellyfish’s president, formerly of the Osint Group. A mix of “academia, think tanks, military or government” types.

That’s par for the course. It sometimes seems like every CIA veteran over the last 15 years has set up or joined a consulting practice, tapping their agency contacts for information they can peddle to businesses. Want to sell your analysis of the geostrategic picture to corporate clients? Congratulations — Stratfor beat you to it.

That’s where Smith comes in. “The Able Danger days, that’s like 1,000 years ago,” he says. Working with a technology firm called 4th Dimension Data, Jellyfish builds clients a dashboard to search and aggregate data from across its proprietary intel database, the public internet and specifically targeted information sources.

If you’re in maritime shipping, for instance, Jellyfish can build you a search-and-aggregation app, operating up in the cloud, that can put together weather patterns with Jellyfish contacts in Somalia who know about piracy.

Of course, there’s a security element to all of this, too. Jellyfish will train your staff in network security, as well as “physical security,” Yorio says. But Mahoney quickly adds, “Jellyfish Intelligence has no interest in guns and gates and guards.”

Message: This isn’t Blackwater — or even “Xe.” Mahoney says Jellyfish isn’t trading on its executives’ ties to the more infamous corners of the intelligence and security trades. Sure, there’s a press release that announced Jellyfish’s origins in Blackwater and Able Danger. And some companies doing business in high-risk areas might consider ties to Blackwater, which never lost a client’s life, to be an advantage.

But Mahoney says he’s just trying to be up front about his executives’ histories before some enterprising journalist Googles it out and makes it a thing. Put the moose on the table, or however the corporate cliche goes. (According to Smith, the father of 4th Dimension Data’s founder worked with Smith in an “unnamed intelligence organization.”) “Our brand enhancement,” he says, “will be the success our clients have.”

Photo: Danger Room’s Blackwater logo contest

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011 00:11

Blackwater is working to identify important locations in Syria

Blackwater is working to identify important locations in Syria

The American Author Charles Glass stressed that there are foreign parties that are seeking to agitate the situation in Syria and increase the violence through smuggling weaponry into it.

He cited many reports relayed by several western media outlets that spoke of an intensive movement in smuggling weapons through the Lebanese and Turkish borders to Syria.

The Czech journalist and writer Radim Ghonda criticized the fierce media campaign launched by the international forces against Syria and which aims to distort the facts and contribute to disrupting the stability in preparation for foreign interventions.

The American writer added: Foreign interference in Syrian affairs is not limited to smuggling weapons, but surpasses that to secret intelligence operations conducted by American security companies that include Black Waters, the famous security company which is responsible for heinous crimes against the Iraqis. Eric Prince confessed in an interview with Vanity Fair that his company upheld intelligence signals to identify important locations in Syria.

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Who is behind mystery spy devices dropped over Syria?

December 23, 2011 by 3 Comments

Radio transmitters found in Afrin, SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On December 14, residents of a small town in northern Syria reported seeing unidentified aircraft circling overhead, and dropping several small items attached to mini-parachutes. Two days ago, one local resident, Adnan Mustafa, posted on Facebook several photographs of some of these items, which were found scattered around the area. The gadgets, pictured here, look suspiciously like surreptitious listening devices. Residents say the question is: who dropped them, and why? The devices were found in the hills around Afrin, a predominantly ethnic-Kurdish town 20 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border. Local townsfolk said the flight patterns of the planes observed on December 14 resembled those of previous sightings of Turkish aircraft, which routinely invade Syrian airspace before returning to the Turkish air base in Incirlik, about 100 miles north of Afrin. Syrian newspaper Al-Hakikah (The Truth), which supports the opposition Syrian National Council for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, said the suspected spy gadgets weigh about 90 grams each and bear “Made in Germany” labels, as well as “GRAW DFM-06” inscriptions. Graw is a Nuremberg-based German company that produces radiosondes, small radio transmitters used in weather balloons, that measure various atmospheric parameters and transmit them to fixed receivers. But Al-Hakikah reports that the devices found in Afrin seem to transmit GPS coordinates, and appear to have been modified to intercept radio communications. Some suspect that the devices are aimed at eavesdropping on the communications of Syrian government troops and of Syrian Air Force planes, which are engaged in an increasingly bloody conflict against the opposition Syrian National Council. This, says Al-Hakikah might point to American intelligence agencies, which are known to support the opposition Syrian Free Army, as the originators of the modified radiosondes. But others speculate that the devices may have been dropped by Turkish military planes, in an attempt to monitor suspected activities of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group fighting the Turkish state, which is known to operate from bases in northern Syria. Last August, leading Turkish newspaper Zaman published a classified report from Turkey’s main intelligence directorate, the MİT, which said that the Syrian government had started to support PKK guerrillas in an attempt to win over Syria’s ethnic Kurds in its fight against the opposition Syrian National Council.

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U.S. Military “Holy Crusade” Uncovered?
Saturday, January 22, 2011 3:09
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From Blackwater to Xe, the Templar Crusade
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Blackwater/Xe CEO and founder Erik Prince

by Zen Gardner

The recent announcement by veteran reporter Seymour Hersh that a “holy crusade” is being carried out by members of secret orders in the military is a bombshell.

Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has broken some massive stories in his day, but uncovering secret societies within the highest echelons of America’s military would probably be the biggest of his career.

Well, get ready for the media storm, because that’s essentially what Hersh told an audience in Doha, Qatar recently, according to a report published earlier this week by Foreign Policy.

Speaking at a campus operated by Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Hersh said he was working on a new book that details “how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government.”

Hersh was quoted as saying. “Don’t they get it? We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody’s gonna give a damn.’ That’s the attitude. We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC].”

He further claimed that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Vice Admiral William McRaven and others in the JSOC were members of the “Knights of Malta” and “Opus Dei,” two little known Catholic orders.

“They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally,” Hersh reportedly continued. “They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.” (Source)

Nothing New Under the Sun

Actually, these types of connections have been documented for some time, especially with Blackwater/Xe. But that Hersh is saying it, never mind in front of a Jesuit Georgetown bunch, and being specific about top military brass, IS new.

Either this is controlled propaganda, which is likely noting the source and all the filters this “news” has to pass through, or Hersh could be about to be hushed up. If it is a psyop we’ll see what they’re covering for, who they’re trying to take down, or whatever their game plan is as it unfolds in the weeks to come.

No Gentleman’s Club

It’s strange to me how most people take this knighthood thing as some kind of eccentric club for wealthy old gentlemen. They figure it’s just a vestigal ornament of the past that has no real function except parties and fundraisers.

How very wrong. These secret societies are as alive as ever, only they have more money and modern weapons. And they truly are on a “crusade”.

So shouldn’t we know something about these shady organizations such as the Knights Templar, the Knights of Malta, Opus Dei, the Freemasons, and the many other tradition, ceremony and occult ritual drenched secret and royal societies and their agendas? And how are they intertwined?

The Knights Templar have peculiar and dark origins

Wikipedia’s watered-down brief version says:

The full title of this Order is The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta, and it is an international philanthropic chivalric order affiliated with Freemasonry.

Throughout history it has been claimed that Freemasonry itself was founded by the Knights Templar or that the Knights Templar took refuge in Freemasonry after their persecution. (Wikipedia)

Persecution? Yes, this seemingly noble bunch was so powerful and had amassed such financial wealth they were considered a threat and often forced to leave countries. Sound familiar? They were such rabid, ruthless unconditional slaves to the bidding of the Pope they were hunted down and killed at one point, Friday the 13th being the day of the French surprise attack on this violent and subversive bunch; Friday, October 13, 1307. (Keep an eye on that date–the Templars do not forget and they do not forgive.) Hence the superstitious nature of the date and the number.

These Knights Templar mercenaries of their day had grown to be such a threat they were forced to flee Europe, whereupon they allegedly regrouped in Scotland and even Newfoundland, long before Columbus supposedly discovered North America, morphing into several occult societies, including various Orders of Knights and what has become modern freemasonry.

Who Are the Knights Templar?

The Templar Knights or ‘Poor Knights of Christ’ . They took a vow of poverty which was rare for knights, and had to supply themselves with a horse, armor and weapons.

The Templars were were a monastic order of knights founded in 1112 A.D. to protect the pilgrims along the path from Europe to the Holy Lands (Jerusalem). The Templars were well connected and quickly became prime movers in the international politics of the Crusades period. In time, they were endowed with several extraordinary Papal bulls that permitted them, among other things, to levy taxes and accept tithing in the areas under their direct control, facilitating their quick rise to institutional power.

Some Templars were devoted solely to banking, as the Order was often trusted with precious goods by participants in the Crusades. But the majority of the Knights Templar were dedicated to warfare. It was primarily a military order directly responsible only to the Pope. Some consider the Knights Templar to be the forerunner of the modern professional army and elite special forces units.

Seal of the Knights Templar

The Templars became very powerful and influential in European political circles since Pope Innocent II exempted the Templars from all authority except the Pope.

Banking System

Because they regularly transmitted money and supplies from Europe to Palestine, they gradually developed an efficient banking system unlike any the world had seen before. Their military might and financial acumen caused them to become both feared and trusted. They soon had an army and a fleet as well as surplus money. Combined with massive grants from the Pope, their financial power was assured from the beginning. (Source)

Enter the Knights of Malta and today’s secret government

https://i2.wp.com/2.bp.blogspot.com/_SiI8xMJXktY/S9gdPVE9hHI/AAAAAAAABFw/yeUYteyJhqU/s1600/knights+of+malta.jpg

Remember from above that “The full title of this Order is The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta.

So who are the Knights of Malta?

Albert Mackey explains:

“This Order (of the Knights Templar), which at various times in the progress of its history received the names of Knights Hospitalers, Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Rhodes, and lastly, Knights of Malta, was one of the most important of the religious and military orders of knighthood which sprang into existence during the Crusades which were instituted for the recovery of the Holy Land.

“The degree of Knight of Malta is conferred in the United States as “an appendant Order” in a Commandery of Knights Templar. There is a ritual attached to the degree, but very few are in possession of it, and it is generally communicated after the candidate has been created a Knights Templar….”

The Knights of Malta are the militia of the Pope, and are sworn to total obedience by a blood oath which is taken extremely seriously and to the death. The Pope as the head of the Vatican is also the head of a foreign national power.” -”Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences” by Albert G. Mackey 33rd degree Mason

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The painful saga of modern Arab-Muslim history evokes the battles fought in Crusades of the 11th century – when the Knights of Malta began their operations as a Christian militia whose mission it was to defend the land conquered by the Crusaders.

These memories return violently to mind with the discovery of links between the so-called security firms in Iraq such as Blackwater have historic links with the Order of Malta. You cannot exaggerate it. The Order of Malta is a hidden government or the most mysterious government in the world.
– Jordanian MP Jamal Muhammad Abidat. (Abidat describes the role played by the Knights of Malta during the Crusades, and that the Order is playing a similar role in the Middle East today, citing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Beware the Grand Scheme of the Controllers

This has virtually nothing to do with the Roman Catholic religion, and everything to do with being a participant in one of the four major “player-organizations” for world domination – those players being:

  • British Freemasonry
  • French Freemasonry
  • International Zionism
  • The Vatican

This symbolizes the desire of a predatory elite with virtually unlimited resources, to totally dominate the entire world under a New World Order global government system using secrecy, manipulation, coercion and terror with the ends justifying the means.

The Militant Catholic Church and World Domination

Jesuitism stepping on the neck of Protestantism.

Few would believe what the Vatican has been up to all these centuries. Vietnam was commonly known as Spelly’s War, named after Cardinal Spellman. Why?

https://i0.wp.com/2.bp.blogspot.com/_cQ2xhpZfenk/SqEnWB7CdpI/AAAAAAAAKhc/X89tx1BZxQo/s400/WWII+Frank+Card+Spellman.JPG

Cardinal Spellman gives mass to the troops in WW2


Successor to Fascist Dictator Francisco Franco and Knight of Malta, King Juan Carlos, with Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Andrew Cardinal Bertie

Knight of Malta Amschel Mayer Rothschild (1744–1812)

The Knights of Malta is not merely a “charitable organization”.

That’s just an elaborate front, as should become clear to you later. As the name Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) confirms, it is a military order based on the crusader Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem and is interwoven with Freemasonry. Most people have never even heard of SMOM, much less that it is a part of Freemasonry. But that is the way the aristocratic elite like it.

(same double eagle as Freemasonry–ed.)

One of the symbols of the military orders of the Vatican, the masonic double-headed eagle emblazoned with the Maltese cross, signifies omnipotent royal dominion over both East and West. The orb signifies temporal dominion over the globe of Earth, and the scepter signifies control over the spiritual and religious impulses of humanity.

This eagle symbol is used in the masonic rite of Memphis and Misraim, under which it reads, “Order Out of Chaos”, the Hegelian method of crisis creation. It is found on the seals of many European and Eurasian nation states including that of Russia, indicating direct Vatican control over those countries. (Source)

More on the Double-headed Eagle and the ‘Redshilds’

The two-headed eagle emblem of the Byzantine Empire (Roman Empire) on a Red Shield was adopted in 1743 by the infamous goldsmith Amschel Moses Bauer. He opened a coin shop in Frankfurt, Germany and hung above his door this Roman eagle on a red shield. The shop became known as the “Red Shield firm”. The German word for ‘red shield’ is Rothschild. After this point, the Rothschilds became the bankers to kings and pontiffs alike, among the richest families in the world. Ever since, they have financed both sides of every major war and revolution using the Hegelian Dialectic to engineer society toward their New World Order.

The Rothschilds and their agents, such as the Rockefellers, have been engineering America and its foreign policy almost since its inception. They and their Skull and Bones Wall Street partners staged and funded both sides in WWII, and out of that hellish nightmare was born their infant global government, the United Nations, and their tool of tyranny, the CIA. The father of the CIA, “Wild Bill” Donovan, was a Knight of Malta. In order to be a director of the CIA you must be a crusading Knight of Malta and it doesn’t hurt if you are a member of Skull and Bones either. In order to reach the highest levels in the Pentagon establishment, you must be an illuminated Freemason and/or a Knight of one order or another. Notable US military members of SMOM include top crusading generals such as Alexander Haig, William Westmoreland, and Charles A. Willoughby, an admitted Fascist.

Other notable members include:

  • Reinhard Gehlen (Nazi war criminal)
  • Heinrich Himmler (Nazi war criminal)
  • Kurt Waldheim (Nazi war criminal)
  • Franz von Papen (Hitler enabler)
  • Fritz Thyssen (Hitler’s financier)
  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Tony Blair
  • Pat Buchanan
  • William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • Precott Bush, Jr.
  • Edward Egan (Archbishop NY)
  • Licio Gelli
  • Ted Kennedy
  • David Rockefeller
  • Phyllis Schlafly (Dame)
  • J. Edgar Hoover
  • Joseph Kennedy
  • Henry Luce
  • Thomas ‘Tip’ O’Neill
  • Ronald E. Reagan
  • Giscard d’Estaing
  • Allen Dulles
  • Avery Dulles
  • Frank C Carlucci
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Rick Santorum
  • Juan Carlos (King of Spain and Jerusalem)
  • Oliver North
  • George H.W Bush
  • Augusto Pinochet
  • William Randolph Hearst
  • Francis L. Kellogg

The Blackwater/Xe Connection

Such a list should make you sit up and pay attention, but it is only the tip of the iceberg unfortunately. Then we come to another SMOM member, important to what is transpiring in Iraq. Educated at the Jesuit Georgetown University, former Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Edward Schmitz, Blackwater’s operations chief, is a member of both SMOM and Opus Dei.

https://i0.wp.com/www.acuitytsi.com/images/schmitz.jpg

Former Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Edward Schmitz quit in 2005 to work for Blackwater. He is a member of Opus Dei and Knights of Malta. At least $2 trillion went “missing” from the Pentagon during his watch.

The Knights of Malta in Iraq?

Malta Star | Sep 29, 2007

An American investigative journalist compared the US firm Blackwater, the biggest security services provider in post war Iraq, to the Knights of Malta.

The company is currently in the midst of a controversy after some of its 20,000 personnel stationed in Iraq killed a number of civilians.

In his book, ‘Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army’, Jeremy Scahill links the modern security firm to the Knights of Malta.

The writer argues that “Blackwater’s employees… share the same religious zeal of ancient crusaders”, the Egyptian weekly newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

All the top Nazis in our government are connected in some way to the Vatican, Jesuits and Knights of Malta and have been for decades, as were the Italian Fascists and German Nazis of WWII. After all, what was their favorite symbol after the swastika? The Maltese Cross of course!(Dejan Lucic–source)

Earlier Malta boys formed the “intelligence” agencies..

Who formed the CIA? It was a Catholic Knight of Malta, William “Wild Bill” Donovan. He was considered the “father of the CIA.” he was also the former head of the OSS before he was used to create the CIA.

Donovan was given an especially prestigious form of knighthood that has only been given to a hundred other men in history.
Over the years there have been many CIA bosses who were also Knights of Malta and/or jesuit trained.
And Who Formed the FBI?
It was a powerful Roman Catholic who was also a Knight of Malta and a trustee of The Catholic University of America. Charles Joseph Bonaparte.

“The degree of Knight of Malta is conferred in the United States as “an appendant Order” in a Commandery of Knights Templar. ~Source

Blackwater/Xe – more than just a “private army”

Blackwater/Xe is more than just a “private army”, much more than just another capitalist war-profiteering business operation.

It is an army operating outside all laws, outside and above the US Constitution and yet is controlled by people within and outside our government whose allegiance is primarily to the foreign Vatican state. In other words, Blackwater/Xe is a religious army serving the Pope in Rome through the Order of Malta, which is itself considered under international law, as a sovereign entity with special diplomatic powers and privileges.

Like Blackwater, the Order of Malta is “untouchable” because it is at the heart of the elite aristocracy. ~Source

Operating ‘Outside the Law’

The ‘beauty’ of private mercenaries, a growing trend worldwide as we move toward a fascist global state, is that they’re not held accountable like regular military bodies are, and can operate outside the confines of such things as international law, political restraints, or the immobility of large armies. However, when their loyalties can be traced to an over-riding allegiance to a foreign state or other seditious influence, we have serious problems.

Recent Terrorist Activities Linked to Blackwater/Xe

..again, “Order Out of Chaos”, the Hegelian method of crisis creation…watch for the pattern

Blackwater/Xe Believed Involved in Hijacked Pakistani Airplane

August 29, 2010 Islamabad, Pakistan – ..Media reports (indicate) that the Government of Pakistan is  developing “hard evidence” (that) the Jet Blue Airbus 320 that crashed July 28th outside Islamabad was a terrorist hijacking  tied to rogue American security forces operating inside that country.

Sources indicate that the plane crash was an unsuccessful hijacking attempt  intended to crash into the nuclear  weapons facility at Kahuta, outside Islamabad.  Such an attack may have been blamed on India and would likely have led to retaliation which could easily have escalated to a nuclear exchange between these two nations that have spent decades at each other’s throats.

Suspicions were raised inside Pakistan’s military and intelligence organizations when American military contractors employed by Blackwater/Xe showed up on the scene immediately after the crash, seizing the black box and “other materials.” (Source)

Here’s another:

Blackwater/Xe accused of Bhutto & Hariri assassinations

http://in.reuters.com/resources/r/?m=02&d=20100330&t=2&i=84300966&w=320&fh=&fw=&ll=&pl=&r=img-2010-03-30T225810Z_01_NOOTR_RTRMDNC_0_India-473338-1

TEHRAN – Pakistan’s former chief of army staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg (ret.), has said the U.S. private security company Blackwater (Xe) was directly involved in the assassinations of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

General Beg recently told the Saudi Arabian daily Al Watan that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had given Blackwater the green light to carry out terrorist operations in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Quetta. (source)

Is Blackwater/Xe Today’s Crusading Templars/Knights of Malta?

(from sodahead.com)

Erik Prince, the founder and owner of the now infamous US corporation, Blackwater/Xe, hails from Holland, Michigan where his family was both powerful and prominent in two institutions – (1) the Republican Party and (2) the evangelical Christian Church. After scandals hit his large and lucrative firm, Prince ordered a curious rebranding that changed its name to Xe.

https://i0.wp.com/www.allgov.com/Images/eouploader.28f4b8cb-d2fb-4f8a-affa-6e03ccf061f5.1.data.jpg

X is an archaic form of abbreviation for Christ and/or Christian that was derived from the cross and the Greek Alphabet. X or Chi is the Greek letter that is the initial of “Christos” – X – which at the same time served as a symbol for the cross. Sometimes written Chi-Rho, (Xp) is another abbreviation for Christos and his followers, the Christians. From the perspective of medieval Christian symbology, ‘Xe’ is a combination of the Christic cross and the Greek letter, Epsilon, the first letter in the Greek word, Evangelion, glad tidings or gospel. From the perspective of a modern member of the Knights Templar, Xe is immediately recognizable as it symbolizes Christian Evangelism.

Prince’s background

http://wondersofpakistan.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/557-us-news-usiraq-blackwater-rstandaloneprod_affiliate91.jpg

Now there’s an honest face…

The Catholic ConnectionUnlike his family, which is part of the Christian Reformed Church, Erik Prince is a Catholic.  Interestingly enough, most of the leadership at Blackwater/Xe is also Catholic, albeit a conservative wing of the church that is quite reactionary. Erik Prince is personally connected to conservative Catholic groups like Catholic Answer, Crisis magazine, and a Grand Rapids-based group, the Acton Institute.

Prince’s relationship to what Scahill calls the “Theocon” movement is not marginal. Prince himself writes about this relationship and it’s importance, particularly with the mission of Blackwater. Prince says “Everybody carries guns, just like the Prophet Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel – a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.”

https://i0.wp.com/static.open.salon.com/files/jesus-machine-gun1242140842.jpg

Erik Prince’s personal Crusade

Among his personnel at Xe, Prince is known to be a high-profile Islamophobe who believes his personal mission in life is to bring about the total extinction of the Muslim population of this planet in what he has described as a global campaign of genocide or a, “Crusade.”

https://i0.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/gen/96941/thumbs/s-IRAQ-BLACKWATER-large.jpg

Here is an excerpt of an article about Prince that appeared in The Economist:

In an affidavit lodged with a court in Virginia, one of the witnesses said that Mr Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” The statement continues

“To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.”

Blackwater/Xe Headquarters in Moyock, N.C.

Beware: They’re Proliferating

(from a recent news article) Through a network of 30 subsidiaries and shell corporations, Blackwater-linked entities provided “intelligence, training and security services” to a cache of major multinational firms, including: Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained.

Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince — who has himself been linked to the CIA — helped train companies through two other firms he controlled: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center. (Source)

Conclusion…

eye.jpg image by Jack5150

Imagine a worldwide Mafia with many ‘families’…

There’s so much more to this than can be covered here, but it’s certainly worth investigating. These secretive controllers  have many arms, many disguises, but all carefully controlled and working in concert…although I’m sure these evil forces have their differences, such as reconciling the particular goals and methods of Zionism, Freemasonry and the arch-catholic Vatican/Jesuit agenda, but they all converge at the apex somehow, and for some reason something’s going on with Jerusalem.

It’s also apparent the ‘Powers That Be’ love these ‘free hands’ of blindly commited ‘crusaders’ we’ve described here to wreak havoc, vengeance, chaos, conflict, anything to justify their continued war on humanity until it’s beaten into a fascist one world state of submission. Know, too, all the ‘intelligence’ agencies CIA, Mossad, MI6, ISI, etc. are all connected with these boys and many others, which is why it’s so hard to clearly expose the perfidy of what’s happening since they’re all in it together in an unholy alliance.

The Goal is to Terrorize, Divide and Conquer–then Unite Under their ‘Illumined Leadership’

So they hope. Evil cannot triumph in the long run–they can only flail against the Truth which stands indominable, inextinguishable and eternal. Their only temporal power is in fear and ignorance, which is why we need to do all we can to enlighten and empower those around us.

And it’s not all black and white, nor anything to get paranoid about. Many of those on the inside want out, but cannot escape. Many are working to change this pattern, or alert their fellow man, such as the man who testified about Erik Prince. Look for it.  We are the power. There are very few of them. All we need to do is wake up–and stay awake. We’ll know what to do next.

But we must be informed and connect these dots for ourselves. And this is only part of the picture.  Once people realize it’s not paranoia to realize there are very real agendas afoot, things start to clear up. Although it can be frightening at first…

“Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.” – President Woodrow Wilson

But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are to remain in the dark or hide our heads in the sand.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.crooksandliars.com/files/uploads/2009/02/no-ostrich_0_20c70.gif

It gets clearer all the time. As dear Bill Hicks put it;

Everything makes sense if you just put on the right glasses.

Love, Zen

(Hat tip to Activist Post for newsbreak and inspiration 😉

www.zengardner.com

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