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Blackwater's Private CIA

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    Blackwater s Private CIA By Jeremy Scahill The Nation http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/87200/? page=entire&ses=1222abf473b35fcc655b3e89ec5c088f The notorious
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2008
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      Blackwater's Private CIA
      By Jeremy Scahill
      The Nation
      http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/87200/?
      page=entire&ses=1222abf473b35fcc655b3e89ec5c088f


      The notorious mercenary company now offers spy "services" to Fortune
      500 companies, for the right price.

      This past September, the secretive mercenary company Blackwater USA
      found its name splashed across front pages throughout the world
      after the company's shooters gunned down seventeen Iraqi civilians
      in Baghdad's Nisour Square. But by early 2008, Blackwater had
      largely receded from the headlines save for the occasional blip on
      the media radar sparked by Congressman Henry Waxman's ongoing
      investigations into its activities. Its forces remained deployed in
      Iraq and Afghanistan, and business continued to pour in. In the two
      weeks directly following Nisour Square, Blackwater signed more than
      $144 million in contracts with the State Department for "protective
      services" in Iraq and Afghanistan alone and, over the following
      weeks and months, won millions more in contracts with other federal
      entities like the Coast Guard, the Navy and the Federal Law
      Enforcement Training Center.

      Blackwater's Iraq contract was extended in April, but the company is
      by no means betting the house on its long-term presence there. While
      the firm is quietly maintaining its Iraq work, it is aggressively
      pursuing other business opportunities. In September it was revealed
      that Blackwater had been "tapped" by the Pentagon's Counter
      Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office to compete for a share of a
      five-year, $15 billion budget "to fight terrorists with drug-trade
      ties." According to the Army Times, the contract "could include
      antidrug technologies and equipment, special vehicles and aircraft,
      communications, security training, pilot training, geographic
      information systems and in-field support." A spokesperson for
      another company bidding for the work said that "80 percent of the
      work will be overseas." As Richard Douglas, a deputy assistant
      secretary of defense, explained, "The fact is, we use Blackwater to
      do a lot of our training of counternarcotics police in Afghanistan.
      I have to say that Blackwater has done a very good job."

      Such an arrangement could find Blackwater operating in an arena with
      the godfathers of the war industry, such as Lockheed Martin,
      Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. It could also see Blackwater
      expanding into Latin America, joining other private security
      companies well established in the region. The massive US security
      company DynCorp is already deployed in Colombia, Bolivia and other
      countries as part of the "war on drugs." In Colombia alone, US
      military contractors are receiving nearly half the $630 million in
      annual US military aid for the country. Just south of the US border,
      the United States has launched Plan Mexico, a $1.5 billion
      counternarcotics program. This and similar plans could provide
      lucrative business opportunities for Blackwater and other
      companies. "Blackwater USA's enlistment in the drug war," observed
      journalist John Ross, would be "a direct challenge to its stiffest
      competitor, DynCorp -- up until now, the Dallas-based corporation
      has locked up 94 percent of all private drug war security
      contracts." The New York Times reported that the contract could be
      Blackwater's "biggest job ever."

      As populist movements grow stronger in Latin America, threatening US
      financial interests as well as the standing of right-wing US
      political allies in the region, the "war on drugs" is becoming an
      increasingly central part of US counterinsurgency efforts. It allows
      for more training of foreign security forces through the private
      sector -- away from Congressional oversight -- and a deployment of
      personnel from US war corporations. With US forces stretched thin,
      sending private security companies to Latin America offers
      Washington a "small footprint" alternative to the politically and
      militarily problematic deployment of active-duty US troops. In a
      January report by the United Nations working group on mercenaries,
      international investigators found that "an emerging trend in Latin
      America but also in other regions of the world indicates situations
      of private security companies protecting transnational extractive
      corporations whose employees are often involved in suppressing the
      legitimate social protest of communities and human rights and
      environmental organizations of the areas where these corporations
      operate."

      If there is one quality that is evident from examining Blackwater's
      business history, it is the company's ability to take advantage of
      emerging war and conflict markets. Throughout the decade of
      Blackwater's existence, its creator, Erik Prince, has aggressively
      built his empire into a structure paralleling the US national
      security apparatus. "Prince wants to vault Blackwater into the major
      leagues of U.S. military contracting, taking advantage of the
      movement to privatize all kinds of government security," reported
      the Wall Street Journal shortly after Nisour Square. "The company
      wants to be a one-stop shop for the U.S. government on missions to
      which it won't commit American forces. This is a niche with few
      established competitors."

      In addition to providing armed forces for war and conflict zones and
      a wide range of military and police training services, Blackwater
      does a robust, multimillion-dollar business through its aviation
      division. It also has a growing maritime division and other national
      and international initiatives. Among these, Blackwater is in Japan,
      where its forces protect the US ballistic missile defense system,
      which, according to Stars and Stripes, "points high-powered radio
      waves westward toward mainland Asia to hunt for enemy missiles
      headed east toward America or its allies." Meanwhile, early this
      year, Defense News reported, "Blackwater is training members of the
      Taiwanese National Security Bureau's (NSB's) special protection
      service, which guards the president. The NSB is responsible for the
      overall security of the country and was once an instrument of
      terrorism during the martial law period. Today, according to its Web
      site, the NSB is responsible for 'national intelligence work,
      special protective service and unified cryptography.'" Former
      Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto reportedly tried to hire
      Blackwater to protect her as she campaigned for the presidency in
      2007. Conflicting reports indicated that either the US State
      Department or the Pakistani government vetoed the plan. She was
      assassinated in December.

      What could prove to be one of Blackwater's most profitable and
      enduring enterprises is one of the company's most secretive
      initiatives -- a move into the world of privatized intelligence
      services. In April 2006, Prince quietly began building Total
      Intelligence Solutions, which boasts that it "brings CIA-style"
      services to the open market for Fortune 500 companies. Among its
      offerings are "surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed
      intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or
      other key assets."

      As the United States finds itself in the midst of the most radical
      privatization agenda in its history, few areas have seen as dramatic
      a transformation to privatized services as the world of
      intelligence. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted
      to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and
      functions that were normally done by the intelligence community,"
      says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin
      Goodman. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack
      of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of
      control. It's outrageous."

      Last year R.J. Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine
      world of private contractors and US intelligence, obtained documents
      from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI)
      showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private
      intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means
      70 percent of the US intelligence budget is going to private
      companies. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the head of DNI is
      Mike McConnell, the former chair of the board of the Intelligence
      and National Security Alliance, the private intelligence industry's
      trade association.

      Total Intelligence, which opened for business in February 2007, is a
      fusion of three entities bought up by Prince: the Terrorism Research
      Center, Technical Defense and The Black Group -- Blackwater vice
      chair Cofer Black's consulting agency. The company's leadership
      reads like a Who's Who of the CIA's "war on terror" operations after
      9/11. In addition to the twenty-eight-year CIA veteran Black, who is
      chair of Total Intelligence, the company's executives include CEO
      Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the agency's
      Directorate of Operations and the second-ranking official in charge
      of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the
      CIA's Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran clandestine
      operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his
      duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan's King Abdullah, a key US
      ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the
      burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.

      Total Intelligence's chief operating officer is Enrique "Ric" Prado,
      a twenty-four-year CIA veteran and former senior executive officer
      in the Directorate of Operations. He spent more than a decade
      working in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and ten years with the
      CIA's "paramilitary" Special Operations Group. Prado and Black
      worked closely at the CIA. Prado also served in Latin America with
      Jose Rodriguez, who gained infamy late last year after it was
      revealed that as director of the National Clandestine Service at the
      CIA he was allegedly responsible for destroying videotapes of
      interrogations of prisoners, during which "enhanced interrogation
      techniques," including waterboarding, were reportedly used. Richer
      told the New York Times he recalled many conversations with
      Rodriguez, about the tapes. "He would always say, 'I'm not going to
      let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,'"
      Richer said of his former boss. Before the scandal, there were
      reports that Blackwater had been "aggressively recruiting"
      Rodriguez. He has since retired from the CIA.

      The leadership of Total Intelligence also includes Craig Johnson, a
      twenty-seven-year CIA officer who specialized in Central and South
      America, and Caleb "Cal" Temple, who joined the company straight out
      of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he served from 2004 to '06
      as chief of the Office of Intelligence Operations in the Joint
      Intelligence Task Force -- Combating Terrorism. According to his
      Total Intelligence bio, Temple directed the "DIA's 24/7 analytic
      terrorism target development and other counterterrorism intelligence
      activities in support of military operations worldwide. He also
      oversaw 24/7 global counterterrorism indications and warning
      analysis for the U.S. Defense Department." The company also boasts
      officials drawn from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.
      Total Intelligence is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a
      building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia. Its "Global
      Fusion Center," complete with large-screen TVs broadcasting
      international news channels and computer stations staffed by
      analysts surfing the web, "operates around the clock every day of
      the year" and is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorist center,
      once run by Black. The firm employs at least sixty-five full-time
      staff -- some estimates say it's closer to 100. "Total Intel brings
      the...skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the
      board room," Black said when the company launched. "With a service
      like this, CEOs and their security personnel will be able to respond
      to threats quickly and confidently -- whether it's determining which
      city is safest to open a new plant in or working to keep employees
      out of harm's way after a terrorist attack."

      Black insists, "This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no
      laws. We don't go anywhere near breaking laws. We don't have to."

      But what services Total Intelligence is providing, and to whom, is
      shrouded in secrecy. It is clear, though, that the company is
      leveraging the reputations and inside connections of its executives.

      "Cofer can open doors," Richer told the Washington Post in 2007. "I
      can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see.
      We don't help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we
      can deal with the right minister or person."

      Black told the paper he and Richer spend a lot of their time
      traveling. "I am discreet in where I go and who I see. I spend most
      of my time dealing with senior people in governments, making
      connections."

      But it is clear that the existing connections from the former
      spooks' time at the agency have brought business to Total
      Intelligence.

      Take the case of Jordan. For years, Richer worked closely with King
      Abdullah, as his CIA liaison. As journalist Ken Silverstein
      reported, "The CIA has lavishly subsidized Jordan's intelligence
      service, and has sent millions of dollars in recent years for
      intelligence training. After Richer retired, sources say, he helped
      Blackwater land a lucrative deal with the Jordanian government to
      provide the same sort of training offered by the CIA. Millions of
      dollars that the CIA 'invested' in Jordan walked out the door with
      Richer -- if this were a movie, it would be a cross between Jerry
      Maguire and Syriana. 'People [at the agency] are pissed off,' said
      one source. 'Abdullah still speaks with Richer regularly, and he
      thinks that's the same thing as talking to us. He thinks Richer is
      still the man.' Except in this case it's Richer, not his client,
      yelling 'show me the money.'"

      In a 2007 interview on the cable business network CNBC, Black was
      brought on as an analyst to discuss "investing in Jordan." At no
      point in the interview was Black identified as working for the
      Jordanian government. Total Intelligence was described as "a
      corporate consulting firm that includes investment strategy,"
      while "Ambassador Black" was introduced as "a twenty-eight-year
      veteran of the CIA," the "top counterterror guy" and "a key planner
      for the breathtakingly rapid victory of American forces that toppled
      the Taliban in Afghanistan." Black heaped lavish praise on Jordan
      and its monarchy.

      "You have leadership, King Abdullah, His Majesty King Abdullah, who
      is certainly kind towards investors, very protective," Black
      said. "Jordan is, in our view, a very good investment. There are
      some exceptional values there." He said Jordan is in a region where
      there are "numerous commodities that are being produced and doing
      well."

      With no hint of the brutality behind the exodus, Black argued that
      the flood of Iraqi refugees fleeing the violence of the US
      occupation was good for potential investors in Jordan. "We get
      something like 600 - 700,000 Iraqis that have moved from Iraq into
      Jordan that require cement, furniture, housing and the like. So it
      is a -- it is an island of growth and potential, certainly in that
      immediate area. So it looks good," he said. "There are opportunities
      for investment. It is not all bad. Sometimes Americans need to watch
      a little less TV. ... But there is -- there is opportunity in
      everything. That's why you need situation awareness, and that's one
      of the things that our company does. It provides the kinds of
      intelligence and insight to provide situational awareness so you can
      make the best investments."

      Black and other Total Intelligence executives have turned their CIA
      careers, reputations, contacts and connections into business
      opportunities. What they once did for the US government, they now do
      for private interests. It is not difficult to imagine clients
      feeling as though they are essentially hiring the US government to
      serve their own interests. In 2007 Richer told the Post that now
      that he is in the private sector, foreign military officials and
      others are more willing to give him information than they were when
      he was with the CIA. Richer recalled a conversation with a foreign
      general during which he was surprised at the
      potentially "classified" information the general revealed. When
      Richer asked why the general was giving him the information, he said
      the general responded, "If I tell it to an embassy official I've
      created espionage. You're a business partner."

      In May, Erik Prince gave a speech in front of his family and
      supporters in his home state of Michigan. Security was extremely
      tight, and Blackwater barred cameras and tape recorders from the
      event. "The idea that we are a secretive facility, and nefarious, is
      just ridiculous," Prince told the friendly crowd of 750 gathered at
      the Amway Grand Plaza. In Iraq, Blackwater has banked on the idea
      that it is a sort of American Express card for the occupation. But
      for the future, Prince has a different corporate model, as he
      indicated in his speech. "When you send something overseas, do you
      use FedEx or the postal service?" he asked.

      There are serious problems with this analogy. When you send
      something by FedEx, you can track your package and account for its
      whereabouts at all times. You can have your package insured against
      loss or damage. That has not been the case with Blackwater. The
      people who foot the sizable bill for its "services" almost never
      know, until it is too late, what Blackwater is doing, and there are
      apparently no consequences for Blackwater when things go lethally
      wrong. "We are essentially a robust temp agency," Prince told his
      fans in Michigan. He's right about that one. A temp agency serving
      the most radical privatization agenda in history.

      *********************************************************************

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