[News] Blackwater's Private CIA

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 10 11:24:54 EDT 2008

Blackwater's Private CIA


June 10, 2008 By Jeremy Scahill
Source: The Nation

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 

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 

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.

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the international bestseller, 
<http://www.blackwaterbook.com/buy.php>Blackwater: The Rise of the 
World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, which has just been released in 
updated paperback form.

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