[News] Blackwater: CIA Assassins?

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Fri Aug 21 10:50:55 EDT 2009



Blackwater: CIA Assassins?



By

<http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/jeremy_scahill>Jeremy Scahill



August 20, 2009

In April 2002, the CIA paid Blackwater more than 
$5 million to deploy a small team of men inside 
Afghanistan during the early stages of US 
operations in the country. A month later, Erik 
Prince, the company's owner and a former Navy 
SEAL, flew to Afghanistan as part of the original 
twenty-man Blackwater contingent. Blackwater 
worked for the CIA at its station in Kabul as 
well as in Shkin, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan 
border, where they operated out of a mud fortress 
known as the Alamo. It was the beginning of a 
long relationship between Blackwater, Prince and the CIA.

<http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/jeremy_scahill>Jeremy 
Scahill: Despite the State Department's 
announcement canceling Blackwater's contracts in 
Iraq, the Obama administration will pay the 
company more than $174 million for security services in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the New York Times is 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&hp>reporting 
that in 2004 the CIA hired Blackwater "as part of 
a secret program to locate and assassinate top 
operatives of Al Qaeda." According to the Times, 
"it is unclear whether the CIA had planned to use 
the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda 
operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance."

The Times reports that "the CIA did not have a 
formal contract with Blackwater for this program 
but instead had individual agreements with top 
company officials, including the founder, Erik D. 
Prince, a politically connected former member of 
the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune." 
A retired intelligence officer "intimately 
familiar with the assassination program" 
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/%20AR2009081904315.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2009082001015>told 
the Washington Post, "Outsourcing gave the agency 
more protection in case something went wrong." 
The Post reported that Blackwater "was given 
operational responsibility for targeting 
terrorist commanders and was awarded millions of 
dollars for training and weaponry, but the 
program was canceled before any missions were conducted."

"What the agency was doing with Blackwater scares 
the hell out of me," said Jack Rice, a former CIA 
field operator who worked for the directorate of 
operations, which runs covert paramilitary 
activities for the CIA. "When the agency actually 
cedes all oversight and power to a private 
organization, an organization like Blackwater, 
most importantly they lose control and don't 
understand what's going on," Rice told The 
Nation. "What makes it even worse is that you 
then can turn around and have deniability. They 
can say, 'It wasn't us, we weren't the ones 
making the decisions.' That's the best of both 
worlds. It's analogous to what we hear about 
torture that was being done in the name of 
Americans, when we simply handed somebody over to 
the Syrians or the Egyptians or others and then 
we turn around and say, 'We're not torturing people.'"

Reached by telephone, Illinois Democrat Jan 
Schakowsky, a member of the House Intelligence 
Committee, said that because of her oath of 
secrecy on sensitive intelligence issues, she 
could neither confirm nor deny that Congress was 
aware of Blackwater's involvement in this program 
before the Times report. Schakowsky also declined 
to comment on whether Blackwater came up at a 
June briefing by CIA director Leon Panetta, which 
she attended. That briefing sparked calls for an 
investigation into whether Vice President Dick 
Cheney ordered the CIA to conceal an assassination program from Congress.

"What we know now, if this is true, is that 
Blackwater was part of the highest level, the 
innermost circle strategizing and exercising 
strategy within the Bush administration," 
Schakowsky told The Nation. "Erik Prince operated 
at the highest and most secret level of the 
government. Clearly Prince was more trusted than 
the US Congress because Vice President Cheney 
made the decision not to brief Congress. This 
shows that there was absolutely no space 
whatsoever between the Bush administration and Blackwater."

As The Nation has 
<http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090817/scahill2>reported, 
Blackwater continues to operate on the US 
government payroll in both Iraq and Afghanistan, 
where it works for the State Department and the 
Defense Department. The CIA will not confirm 
whether Blackwater continues to work for the 
agency (or, for that matter, if it ever has).

Blackwater's work for the CIA was the result of 
meetings in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 
between Prince and Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, 
then-executive director of the CIA, the agency's 
number-three man. Krongard and Prince, according 
to a former Blackwater executive interviewed by 
The Nation, "were good buddies." In a 2006 
interview for my book, 
<http://blackwaterbook.com/>Blackwater: The Rise 
of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, 
Krongard said that the company was hired to 
provide security for the CIA in Afghanistan. 
"Blackwater got a contract because they were the 
first people that could get people on the 
ground," Krongard said. "The only concern we had 
was getting the best security for our people. If 
we thought Martians could provide it, I guess we would have gone after them."

The relationship between Krongard and Prince 
apparently got chummier after the contract was 
signed. One former Blackwater executive said in 
2006, "Krongard came down and visited Blackwater 
[at company headquarters in North Carolina], and 
I had to take his kids around and let them shoot 
on the firing range a number of times." That 
visit took place after the CIA contract was 
signed, according to the former executive, and 
Krongard "may have come down just to see the company that he had just hired."

The relationship between Blackwater and the CIA 
quickly evolved. Shortly after Prince arrived in 
Afghanistan in May 2002, according to a former 
Blackwater executive who was with Prince, the 
Blackwater owner focused on winning more business 
with government agencies, providing private 
soldiers for hire. In 2002 Prince, along with 
former CIA operative Jamie Smith, created 
Blackwater Security Consulting, which would put 
former Navy SEALs and other special ops on the market.

Prince subsequently tried to join the CIA but was 
reportedly denied when his polygraph test came 
back inconclusive. Still, he maintained close 
ties with the agency. He reportedly was given a 
"green badge" that permitted him access to most 
CIA stations. "He's over there [at CIA 
headquarters] regularly, probably once a month or 
so," a CIA source told Harper's journalist Ken 
Silverstein in 2006. "He meets with senior 
people, especially in the [directorate of operations]."

Prince would also go on to hire many senior 
Bush-era CIA officials to work at Blackwater. In 
July 2007 Buzzy Krongard joined the company's 
board; Prince offered him a $3,500 honorarium per 
meeting attended plus all expenses paid. "Your 
experience and insight would be ideal to help our 
team determine where we are and where we are 
going," Prince wrote in a letter to Krongard. At 
the time his brother, Howard "Cookie" Krongard, 
was the State Department inspector general 
responsible for overseeing Blackwater's work for 
the State Department. In September 2007 
California Democratic Representative Henry Waxman 
accused Cookie Krongard of impeding a Justice 
Department investigation into Blackwater over 
allegations the company was illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq.

Prince hired several other former CIA officials 
to run what amounted to his own private CIA. Most 
notable among these was J. Cofer Black, who was 
running the CIA's counterterrorism operations and 
leading the hunt for Osama bin Laden when 
Blackwater was initially hired by the CIA in 
2002. Black left the government in 2005 and took 
a job at Blackwater running Prince's private 
intelligence company, Total Intelligence Solutions.

While at the CIA, Black ran the "extraordinary 
rendition" program and coordinated the CIA 
"Jawbreaker" team sent into Afghanistan to kill 
or capture bin Laden and senior Al Qaeda leaders. 
In the days immediately after 9/11, he told Bush 
that his men would aim to kill Al Qaeda 
operatives. "When we're through with them, they 
will have flies walking across their eyeballs," 
Black promised Bush. When Black told Bush the 
operation would not be bloodless, the president 
reportedly said, "Let's go. That's war. That's what we're here to win."

Before the CIA Jawbreaker team deployed on 
September 27, 2001, Black gave his men direct and 
macabre directions: "I don't want bin Laden and 
his thugs captured, I want them dead.... They 
must be killed. I want to see photos of their 
heads on pikes. I want bin Laden's head shipped 
back in a box filled with dry ice. I want to be 
able to show bin Laden's head to the president. I 
promised him I would do that." According to CIA 
operative Gary Schroen, a member of the 
Jawbreaker team, it was the first time in his 
thirty-year career he had been ordered to 
assassinate an adversary rather than attempt a capture.

In September 2002, five months after Blackwater's 
first known contract with the CIA in Afghanistan, 
Black testified to Congress about the new 
"operational flexibility" employed in the "war on 
terror." "There was a before 9/11, and there was 
an after 9/11," Black said. "After 9/11 the 
gloves come off." Black outlined a "no-limits, 
aggressive, relentless, worldwide pursuit of any 
terrorist who threatens us," saying it "is the 
only way to go and is the bottom line." Black 
would later brag, in 2004, that "over 70 percent" 
of Al Qaeda's leadership had been arrested, 
detained or killed, and that "more than 3,400 of 
their operatives and supporters have also been 
detained and put out of an action." The Times 
reports that the Blackwater-CIA assassination 
program "did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects."

In addition to Black, Total Intelligence's 
executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former 
associate deputy director of the CIA's 
Directorate of Operations and 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 
covert operations in 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.

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.

Representative Schakowsky says the House 
Intelligence Committee is investigating the CIA 
assassination program and will probe alleged 
links to Blackwater. "The presidential memos 
(often referred to as 'findings') authorizing 
covert action like the lethal activities of the 
CIA and Blackwater have not yet surfaced," says 
Ray McGovern, a retired twenty-seven-year CIA 
analyst who once served as George H.W. Bush's 
national security briefer. "They will, in due 
course, if knowledgeable sources continue to put 
the Constitution and courage above secrecy oaths."

Blackwater Strikes Back

The Times report comes as Prince and his 
Blackwater empire are facing the prospect of a 
potentially explosive civil trial over the 
killing of Iraqi civilians. Attorney Susan Burke 
and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), 
who are suing Prince and his companies on behalf 
of their Iraqi victims, have alleged that Prince 
is "equivalent to a top mafia boss who is 
responsible for all the day-to-day crimes 
committed at his direction and behest." If the 
case proceeds, the process of discovery could 
blow the lid off some of the darkest secrets of 
the powerful security contractor and its 
secretive owner. Burke and CCR are suing Prince 
and his companies directly rather than his 
individual employees because they say Prince 
"wholly owns and personally controls all 
Defendants." Burke also alleges that Prince has 
committed "violations of the Racketeer Influenced 
and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal statute 
permitting private parties to seek redress from 
criminal enterprises who damage their property." 
Among the allegations are war crimes, 
extra-judicial killings and assault and battery of Iraqis.

Since the first case was filed by Iraqi civilians 
against Prince and Blackwater over the killing of 
seventeen Iraqis at Baghdad's Nisour Square on 
September 16, 2007, the company's high-powered 
lawyers have fought feverishly to have that and 
four other cases dismissed. Now, facing a crucial 
August 28 hearing in federal court in Virginia, 
they are putting forward a new argument: instead 
of Prince and Blackwater standing trial, the US 
government should be the defendant.

In a motion filed August 12, Blackwater's lawyers 
asked federal Judge T.S. Ellis III to order "that 
the United States 'be substituted as the party 
defendant,' in place of all of the current 
Defendants." In his motion, Blackwater lawyer 
Peter White of the powerhouse firm Mayer Brown 
argued that the company was working for the State 
Department in Iraq and therefore was on official 
business when the alleged killings and injuries 
of Iraqis took place. White cites the 1988 
Westfall Act, which prohibits suits against 
government employees for their actions on behalf 
of the government and states that the government 
will assume liability for any lawsuits against employees.

Federal tort law defines "employees" in this 
context as "persons acting on behalf of a federal 
agency in an official capacity, temporarily or 
permanently in the service of the United States, 
whether with or without compensation." The fact 
that the defendants are "corporate entities" in 
this instance, White claims, "does not alter that 
conclusion." In the motion, Blackwater's 
attorneys note that the company, which recently 
renamed itself Xe Services, now does business 
with the government under the name US Training Center (USTC).

"The idea that the United States government 
should accept liability for the unprovoked 
criminal manslaughter of seventeen innocent 
Iraqis by Blackwater mercenaries, and place it on 
the back of taxpayers, is corporate animism run 
amok," says Ralph Nader, who has spent his entire 
career fighting against corporate personhood. "If 
Blackwater wants to be treated like a person, 
then its latest mutation, USTC, should be 
prosecuted, convicted and given the equivalent 
penalty of corporate capital punishment by 
revoking its charter and terminating its corporate operations."

The Westfall Act was passed in 1988 as an 
amendment to the Federal Torts Claim Act "to 
protect federal employees from personal liability 
for common law torts committed within the scope 
of their employment, while providing persons 
injured by the common law torts of federal 
employees with an appropriate remedy against the 
United States." After Westfall, the government 
assumed legal responsibility for suits filed 
against federal employees and made the sole 
remedy for victims suits against the government.

Blackwater has asked Attorney General Eric Holder 
to intervene in the case and to assume liability 
for the allegations against Blackwater. If that 
were to happen, legal experts say, the case would 
be dead in the water. "It's clear that if they 
win this motion and the government is 
substituted, since the wrongs occurred in a 
foreign country, the government is absolutely 
immune and the case will be dismissed," says Alan 
Morrison, a former federal prosecutor who is now 
the associate dean for public interest at George 
Washington Law School. "This is an effort [by 
Blackwater and Prince] to absolve themselves...of 
any liability for the alleged wrongs to the 
plaintiffs." He adds: "A gigantic, for-profit 
corporation is seeking to use this statute, 
designed to protect government employees, to 
shield themselves from any responsibility for the 
deaths and injuries" of Iraqis.

"When Blackwater chooses to interpose itself in 
the middle and to make profit off these 
individual employees in the relationship with the 
government, the notion that Blackwater itself, a 
corporation, could be an employee is unusual to 
say the least," says Morrison. "Why would 
Congress want to, in effect, transfer liability 
from a large, well-heeled corporation like 
Blackwater to the United States taxpayers for 
this kind of conduct? What they'd be saying [if 
Blackwater's interpretation of the Westfall Act 
is accepted] is they would have wanted to assume 
liability for that which they didn't have any liability in the first place."

The Justice Department has not yet issued a 
position in this case. "Unfortunately, there's 
nothing we can provide in regard to your inquiry 
at this time," an official wrote in an e-mail. 
Earlier, in response to questions from The 
Nation, a Justice Department spokesperson sent a 
memo filed by the department earlier this year in 
a similar case against Blackwater in federal 
court in Florida, in which the department had 
rejected the company's attempt to make the 
government responsible. "Defendants' request for 
Westfall Act certification should be denied 
because only natural persons can be considered 
'employee[s] of the government,'" Assistant 
Attorney General Tony West wrote on June 8 in a 
thirty-five-page filing opposing Blackwater's motion.

Several legal experts interviewed by The Nation 
said they could not foresee the Justice 
Department intervening on Blackwater's behalf. 
But the Westfall Act has been used by attorneys 
general in both the Bush and Obama 
administrations to attempt to absolve senior Bush 
officials of liability for their alleged role in 
crimes and to make the government liable. On June 
26 Holder's office intervened in a lawsuit filed 
by CCR against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 
and twenty-three other military and medical 
officials "for their role in the illegal 
detention, torture, inhumane conditions and 
ultimate deaths" of two Guantánamo prisoners.

Citing the Westfall Act, Tony West wrote that 
"the type of activities alleged against the 
individual defendants were 'foreseeable' and were 
'a direct outgrowth' of their responsibility to 
detain and gather intelligence from suspected 
enemy combatants." In defending the government's 
position, West cited case law stating that 
"genocide, torture, forced relocation, and cruel, 
inhuman, and degrading treatment by individual 
defendants employed by Department of Defense and 
State Department were within scope of employment" 
and similar cases justifying CIA torture as part of official duty.

"It is essentially saying torture is all in a 
day's work when it comes to holding people in 
military detention," says Shane Kadidal, who 
heads the Guantánamo project at CCR. In that 
case, the issue was not whether Rumsfeld and the 
others were "employees" but whether they were 
doing official business. Blackwater's argument is 
a tougher sell, says Morrison. "Does it hold 
water?" he asks. "It holds Blackwater."

Meanwhile, in another development, Prince's 
lawyers have responded to explosive allegations 
made against Prince by two former employees. In 
sworn affidavits submitted by lawyers 
representing the Iraqis suing Blackwater, the two 
alleged that Prince may have murdered or 
facilitated the murder of individuals who were 
cooperating with federal authorities 
investigating the company. One of the former 
employees alleges that Prince "views himself as a 
Christian crusader tasked with eliminating 
Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," 
and that Prince's companies "encouraged and 
rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." They 
also charge that Prince was profiting from 
illegal weapons smuggling. In a motion filed 
August 10, Prince's lawyers asked Judge Ellis to 
strike from the record the sworn statements of 
the two former employees, saying that "the 
conclusory allegations they contain are 
inadmissible on multiple grounds, including lack 
of foundation, hearsay, irrelevance, and unfair 
prejudice." They charge that the lawyers suing 
Blackwater are attempting to "use this litigation 
as a 'megaphone' to increase their ability to 
influence the public's perceptions regarding the 
use of contractors in military battlefield 
situations, the Iraq War, and most particularly 
about Erik Prince and the other defendants. 
Unsubstantiated statements made in filings in 
this Court become 'newsworthy' simply because 
they appear in those filings." The lawyers 
characterize the allegations as "scandalous, 
baseless, inadmissible, and highly prejudicial." 
Interestingly, nowhere do Prince's lawyers say 
flatly that the allegations are untrue.

As the cases against Prince move forward, the 
company continues to do a robust business with 
the federal government, particularly in 
Afghanistan. Schakowsky has called for a review 
of all of the companies' current contracts, and 
she has called on Secretary of State Hillary 
Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to 
stop awarding the company contracts. The "Obama 
administration should at the very least cancel 
and debar [Blackwater's] present and pending 
government contracts," says Nader. "Otherwise 
corporate crimes, privileges and immunities continue to pay and pay and pay."


About Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing 
Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of 
the bestselling 
<http://www.amazon.com/dp/156858394X/ref=nosim/?tag=nationbooks08-20>Blackwater: 
The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary 
Army, published by Nation Books. He is an 
award-winning investigative journalist and 
correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!.




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