Author Topic: Blackwater Founder Tells of Extensive Government-Contracted Assassinations  (Read 3171 times)

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Offline bigron

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Blackwater Founder Tells of Extensive Government-Contracted Assassinations

by Yana Kunichoff


Truthout, December 4, 2009

The head of Blackwater revealed the details of his collaboration with the CIA to locate and assassinate top al Qaeda operatives as part of a covert antiterror operation Tuesday, and blamed Democrats for the leak that ended the program.

In an article published in Vanity Fair, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, spoke about the extent of his involvement with the CIA, which ranged from putting together, funding and executing operations to bring personnel into "denied areas" to targeting specific people for assassination who were deemed enemies by the US government.

Prince was one of a secret network of American citizens with special skills or access chosen to help the CIA access targets of interest. The program was kept secret for nearly eight years until it was revealed to lawmakers in a closed session with the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. During this meeting, CIA director Leon E. Panetta named both Prince and Blackwater as major players.

Prince blames Congressional Democrats for the leak. "[W]hen it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus," he said. "The left complained about how [CIA operative] Valerie Plame's identity was compromised for political reasons. 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."

According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that they did not need to inform Congress about the program because they were already legally authorized to kill al Qaeda leaders. Under an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the CIA was barred from carrying out assassinations. But President George W. Bush took the position shortly after 9/11 that killing al Qaeda members was comparable to killing enemy soldiers in battle, and therefore assassinations were permissible. Prince was hired in 2004.

A former Navy Seal, Prince said, "I've been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services." In his role as a contractor for the covert CIA program, according to The New York Times, Prince's Blackwater employees assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto remotely piloted aircraft – work previously performed by authorized and trained CIA employees.

Prince says he and a team of foreign nationals located a target for assassination in October 2008, but did not complete the job. He alleges two of these trips brought him and his team into Germany and Dubai - without the knowledge of their governments.

He further said that Blackwater resources were never used, but that he used his personal finances and was later reimbursed by the government. Prince has personally spent $45 million to finance a fleet of armored personnel carriers, and according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater itself had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.

Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services for Xenon, the noncombustible gas, was founded in 1997 and has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. In 2004, coalition forces in Baghdad declared private contractors, which included Blackwater employees, immune from Iraqi law.

Largely assigned to act as bodyguards for American diplomats and provide security for military and intelligence stations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Prince's employees have on more than one occasion been accused of wanton force, which has resulted in civilian deaths.

A shooting by Blackwater bodyguards in Baghdad in September 2009 resulted in the death of 17 civilians, and the Justice Department has since charged six people with voluntary manslaughter, among other offenses, calling the use of force both unjustified and unprovoked.

A contractor also shot and killed a man standing on a roadside, who later turned out to be a father of six, and a bodyguard who was assigned to protect Iraq's vice president. In both cases, the contractors were fired but not prosecuted.

Following these incidents, Iraqi officials have refused to give Blackwater an operating license. As a result of this, its revenue dropped 40 percent, and Prince says he is now paying more than $2 million a month in legal fees.

"We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the US government," says Prince. "Now we pay lawyers."

The company is also facing a grand jury investigation and bribery accusations along with the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees for Iraqis killed in September 2007.

American agencies have in the past outsourced interrogations , but many worry that the contracting out of the authority to kill brings a new set of problems.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. "It is too easy to contract out work that you don't want to accept responsibility for."

Blackwater, which received more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, regularly offers its training area in North Carolina to CIA operatives and continues to help fly killer drones along the border between and Afghanistan and Pakistan – President Obama is said to have authorized more than three dozen of these hits.

Philip Alston, an Australian human-rights lawyer who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, said  that drone attacks also operate in "an accountability void."

Prince said that until two months ago, he was still working on intelligence-gathering operations from an undisclosed location in America and coordinating the movements of spies who were working undercover in the Axis of Evil countries. However, Prince, who was rejected by the CIA when he applied for a position, now plans to curtail his work with Blackwater and teach economics and history in high school.


Offline bigron

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Re: Blackwater Founder Tells of Extensive Government-Contracted Assassinations
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2009, 08:39:41 am »
Blackwater's Prince raising concern in Washington

By Suzanne Simons, CNN Executive Producer


-CIA dealing with revelations by Erik Prince, founder of military contractor Blackwater

-He paints himself in magazine article as entrenched in sensitive CIA secret missions

-Suzanne Simons says many are annoyed Prince complains about government that pays him well

-She says military contractors have more people in Afghanistan than U.S. troops there


-Erik Prince
Central Intelligence Agency
-U.S. Department of Defense

Editor's note: Suzanne Simons is the author of "Master of War, Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War."

Erik Prince, chairman of Blackwater USA, at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing October 2, 2007.

(CNN) -- There's a lot of head-scratching at the CIA over an article in Vanity Fair magazine that dubs Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater, a "tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy."

In the piece, he comes across as so entrenched with the CIA that the agency needs him to perform the most sensitive secret missions, including those involving hunting down and taking out al Qaeda operatives.

It's true that Prince, as the sole owner of one of the most well-connected private military contractors in modern history, is in a position of enormous trust within the government. So why is it that he's lashing out publicly at that same government?

Prince, a 40-year-old former Navy SEAL, inherited what he called a sizable amount of money when his father died in the late '90s. He's used that money to help climb to the top of an industry that has mushroomed since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

He built Blackwater, now operating under the name Xe, from the ground up, into a sprawling complex with enough tanks, planes and ammunition to launch a small war of its own.

When President Obama addressed the nation and talked about his Afghanistan strategy, he didn't talk about the shadow army already employed there. There are more private contractors in Afghanistan on the U.S. payroll than there are U.S. troops.

While Prince is a huge beneficiary of U.S. contract dollars, he has long been frustrated by two things. First, he doesn't like the reputation his company has gained, with his men painted as ruthless cowboys -- which some are, but some aren't.

Second, he believes some people in the government just don't appreciate him the way they should.

Prince uses the Vanity Fair article to re-air a lot of his complaints, but the story contains a great deal of classified information, with details about covert programs that involved him.

So does that mean that when convenient, he uses that information to help express his frustration?

Prince unabashedly criticizes parts of the government he doesn't like. And some current and former government sources question whether that's a smart move.

They ask whether, as a man who benefits financially from those contracts, he should really go public with his criticisms of the same government that signs his checks.

Although the CIA has never publicly confirmed Prince's involvement -- it has become common knowledge in the industry he disclosed details of that relationship to me, among many other things, in the book I wrote on him that was published earlier this year.

A lot of those details came up again in this latest article, but Prince went even further this time.

The Vanity Fair article reports that Prince is "privately and secretly doing the CIA'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."

Some former CIA officials are, quite frankly, annoyed.

Not only do they believe that Prince is overplaying any role he may have had or still has with the agency, but they believe he is exploiting it for personal gain.

Few of the sources I talked with wanted their names associated with Prince or his company, but when asked about the Vanity Fair article, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano told me the agency has never "talked about what role contractors may or may not have played in ... initiatives over the years. But what no one should forget or overlook is the fact that this agency has the talent, tools, and authorities to go after terrorists, and has done so successfully."

In other words: We can do our own jobs just fine, thank you very much, Mr. Prince.

Another source with former ties to the CIA was outraged by the article, saying that Prince was putting a target on the backs of his own men by alluding to a close relationship between Blackwater and the agency. He fears that all around the world, Blackwater contractors would be perceived as agents of the CIA.

A government official who also thought that the article exaggerated Prince's role in the CIA put it this way:

"Blackwater has good people. They do hard work, sharing the burdens of service overseas. But they're not well-served by strange tales, the kind of stuff you saw in Vanity Fair about miraculous penetrations of hard intelligence targets or private assassination squads with their fingers on the trigger.

"That should all be shelved under fiction, the kind of stories that end with the alarm clock going off and mom calling you down to breakfast," the official said.

What the article doesn't say is just how much of a PR headache Prince has become. One of the lessons that has come with the marriage between private and military is that for a private business, PR can be crucial to your survival; for a covert operation, it can be deadly.

Striking a balance between the two has been the source of much hand-wringing in Washington. But no matter how you feel about private military contracting, it is here to stay.

All of the major U.S. agencies -- the State Department, the Department of Defense, the CIA -- do business with Prince, and all are dependent on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I flew with Prince to Afghanistan shortly after the shootings in a Baghdad traffic circle in September of 2007 that killed 17 people. Blackwater guards were accused. Four pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial; a fifth struck a deal with prosecutors.

Prince's frustration was obvious. He felt like he had given everything to his country and that his country had let him down in countless ways; namely by not defending him publicly when his company came under fire after the shootings.

Prince says he does what he does for love of country, but of course, he doesn't do it for free.

His companies have received well over a billion dollars in the process. I asked his spokesperson to comment on concerns that Prince might be jeopardizing agency programs by going public with the details -- after all, he does have a security clearance.

The response was this: "Truth is he is a quiet hero, a great patriot and American. We need more men like him."

Quiet? Really?

Links referenced within this article

Erik Prince
Central Intelligence Agency
U.S. Department of Defense
Master of War, Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War
Department of Defense


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