[News] Blackwater's Black Ops

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Mon Sep 20 10:41:18 EDT 2010

Published on The Nation (<http://www.thenation.com>http://www.thenation.com)


Blackwater's Black Ops

Jeremy Scahill | September 15, 2010

Over the past several years, entities closely 
linked to the private security firm Blackwater 
have provided intelligence, training and security 
services to US and foreign governments as well as 
several multinational corporations, including 
Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal 
Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants 
Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to 
documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's 
work for corporations and government agencies was 
contracted using two companies owned by 
Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: 
Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism 
Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the 
chairman of both companies in internal company 
documents, which show how the web of companies 
functions as a highly coordinated operation. 
Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and 
Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) 
did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the 
documents is that Blackwater, through Total 
Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of 
Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to 
infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services 
and counterterrorism training from Prince's 
companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the 
Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as 
well as several US military bases, including Fort 
Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations 
Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military 
interrogators are trained, according to the 
documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through 
the companies for the Defense Intelligence 
Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

On September 3 the New York Times reported that 
Blackwater had "created a web of more than 30 
shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain 
millions of dollars in American government 
contracts after the security company came under 
intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq." 
The documents obtained by The Nation reveal 
previously unreported details of several such 
companies and open a rare window into the 
sensitive intelligence and security operations 
Blackwater performs for a range of powerful 
corporations and government agencies. The new 
evidence also sheds light on the key roles of 
several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.

The coordinator of Blackwater's covert CIA 
business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique 
"Ric" Prado, set up a global network of foreign 
operatives, offering their "deniability" as a 
"big plus" for potential Blackwater customers, 
according to company documents. The CIA has long 
used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions 
or to shield US government involvement in 
unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, 
these "deniable" foreign forces don't even know 
who they are working for. Prado and Prince built 
up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater 
was at the center of the CIA's assassination 
program, beginning in 2004. They trained special 
missions units at one of Prince's properties in 
Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism 
suspects globally, often working with foreign 
operatives. A former senior CIA official said the 
benefit of using Blackwater's foreign operatives 
in CIA operations was that "you wouldn't want to 
have American fingerprints on it."

While the network was originally established for 
use in CIA operations, documents show that Prado 
viewed it as potentially valuable to other 
government agencies. In an e-mail in October 2007 
with the subject line "Possible Opportunity in 
DEA­Read and Delete," Prado wrote to a Total 
Intelligence executive with a pitch for the Drug 
Enforcement Administration. That executive was an 
eighteen-year DEA veteran with extensive 
government connections who had recently joined 
the firm. Prado explained that Blackwater had 
developed "a rapidly growing, worldwide network 
of folks that can do everything from surveillance 
to ground truth to disruption operations." He 
added, "These are all foreign nationals (except 
for a few cases where US persons are the conduit 
but no longer 'play' on the street), so 
deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

The executive wrote back and suggested there "may 
be an interest" in those services. The executive 
suggested that "one of the best places to start 
may be the Special Operations Division, (SOD) 
which is located in Chantilly, VA," telling Prado 
the name of the special agent in charge. The SOD 
is a secretive joint command within the Justice 
Department, run by the DEA. It serves as the 
command-and-control center for some of the most 
sensitive counternarcotics and law enforcement 
operations conducted by federal forces. The 
executive also told Prado that US attachés in 
Mexico; Bogotá, Colombia; and Bangkok, Thailand, 
would potentially be interested in Prado's 
network. Whether this network was activated, and 
for what customers, cannot be confirmed. A former 
Blackwater employee who worked on the company's 
CIA program declined to comment on Prado's work 
for the company, citing its classified status.

In November 2007 officials from Prince's 
companies developed a pricing structure for 
security and intelligence services for private 
companies and wealthy individuals. One official 
wrote that Prado had the capacity to "develop 
infrastructures" and "conduct ground-truth and 
security activities." According to the pricing 
chart, potential customers could hire Prado and 
other Blackwater officials to operate in the 
United States and globally: in Latin America, 
North Africa, francophone countries, the Middle 
East, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and Central 
and Southeast Asia. A four-man team headed by 
Prado for countersurveillance in the United 
States cost $33,600 weekly, while "safehouses" 
could be established for $250,000, plus 
operational costs. Identical services were 
offered globally. For $5,000 a day, clients could 
hire Prado or former senior CIA officials Cofer 
Black and Robert Richer for "representation" to 
national "decision-makers." Before joining 
Blackwater, Black, a twenty-eight-year CIA 
veteran, ran the agency's counterterrorism 
center, while Richer was the agency's deputy 
director of operations. (Neither Black nor Richer 
currently works for the company.)

As Blackwater became embroiled in controversy 
following the Nisour Square massacre, Prado set 
up his own company, Constellation Consulting 
Group (CCG), apparently taking some of 
Blackwater's covert CIA work with him, though he 
maintained close ties to his former employer. In 
an e-mail to a Total Intelligence executive in 
February 2008, Prado wrote that he "recently had 
major success in developing capabilities in Mali 
[Africa] that are of extreme interest to our 
major sponsor and which will soon launch a 
substantial effort via my small shop." He 
requested Total Intelligence's help in analyzing 
the "North Mali/Niger terrorist problem."

In October 2009 Blackwater executives faced a 
crisis when they could not account for their 
government-issued Secure Telephone Unit, which is 
used by the CIA, the National Security Agency and 
other military and intelligence services for 
secure communications. A flurry of e-mails were 
sent around as personnel from various Blackwater 
entities tried to locate the device. One former 
Blackwater official wrote that because he had 
left the company it was "not really my problem," 
while another declared, "I have no 'dog in this 
fight.'" Eventually, Prado stepped in, e-mailing 
the Blackwater officials to "pass my number" to 
the "OGA POC," meaning the Other Government 
Agency (parlance for CIA) Point of Contact.

What relationship Prado's CCG has with the CIA is 
not known. An early version of his company's 
website boasted that "CCG professionals have 
already conducted operations on five continents, 
and have proven their ability to meet the most 
demanding client needs" and that the company has 
the "ability to manage highly-classified 
contracts." CCG, the site said, "is uniquely 
positioned to deliver services that no other 
company can, and can deliver results in the most 
remote areas with little or no outside support." 
Among the services advertised were "Intelligence 
and Counter-Intelligence (human and electronic), 
Unconventional Military Operations, Counterdrug 
Operations, Aviation Services, Competitive 
Intelligence, Denied Area Access...and Paramilitary Training."

The Nation has previously reported on 
Blackwater's work for the CIA and JSOC in 
Pakistan. New documents reveal a history of 
activity relating to Pakistan by Blackwater. 
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto 
worked with the company when she returned to 
Pakistan to campaign for the 2008 elections, 
according to the documents. In October 2007, when 
media reports emerged that Bhutto had hired 
"American security," senior Blackwater official 
Robert Richer wrote to company executives, "We 
need to watch this carefully from a number of 
angles. If our name surfaces, the Pakistani press 
reaction will be very important. How that plays 
through the Muslim world will also need 
tracking." Richer wrote that "we should be 
prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate 
of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces (BW). That will 
impact the security profile." Clearly a word is 
missing in the e-mail or there is a typo that 
leaves unclear what Richer meant when he 
mentioned the Al Qaeda communiqué. Bhutto was 
assassinated two months later. Blackwater 
officials subsequently scheduled a meeting with 
her family representatives in Washington, in January 2008.

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism 
Research Center, Blackwater also did business 
with a range of multinational corporations. 
According to internal Total Intelligence 
communications, biotech giant Monsanto­the 
world's largest supplier of genetically modified 
seeds­hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship 
between the two companies appears to have been 
solidified in January 2008 when Total 
Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich 
to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto's security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail 
to other Blackwater executives, including to 
Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail 
addresses. Black wrote that Wilson "understands 
that we can span collection from internet, to 
reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis 
protecting the Monsanto [brand] name.... Ahead of 
the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is 
looking for." Black added that Total Intelligence 
"would develop into acting as intel arm of 
Monsanto." Black also noted that Monsanto was 
concerned about animal rights activists and that 
they discussed how Blackwater "could have our 
person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) 
legally." Black wrote that initial payments to 
Total Intelligence would be paid out of 
Monsanto's "generous protection budget" but would 
eventually become a line item in the company's 
annual budget. He estimated the potential 
payments to Total Intelligence at between 
$100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, 
Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting 
with Black in Zurich, Monsanto's Wilson initially 
said, "I'm not going to discuss it with you." In 
a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson 
confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that 
Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and 
worked with the company until early 2010. He 
denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating 
animal rights groups, stating "there was no such 
discussion." He claimed that Total Intelligence 
only provided Monsanto "with reports about the 
activities of groups or individuals that could 
pose a risk to company personnel or operations 
around the world which were developed by 
monitoring local media reports and other publicly 
available information. The subject matter ranged 
from information regarding terrorist incidents in 
Asia or kidnappings in Central America to 
scanning the content of activist blogs and 
websites." Wilson asserted that Black told him 
Total Intelligence was "a completely separate entity from Blackwater."

Monsanto was hardly the only powerful corporation 
to enlist the services of Blackwater's 
constellation of companies. The Walt Disney 
Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a 
"threat assessment" for potential film shoot 
locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials 
Black and Richer reaching out to their former 
Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The 
job provided a "good chance to impress Disney," 
one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney 
was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided 
intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche 
Bank. "The Chinese technical counterintelligence 
threat is one of the highest in the world," a TRC 
analyst wrote, adding, "Many four and five star 
hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored 
with both audio and video" by Chinese 
intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs 
and other electronic devices left unattended in 
hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the 
Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have 
their microphones remotely activated, meaning 
they could operate as permanent listening 
devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps 
should "bring no electronic equipment into 
China." Warning of the use of female Chinese 
agents, the analyst wrote, "If you don't have 
women coming onto you all the time at home, then 
you should be suspicious if they start coming 
onto you when you arrive in China." For these and 
other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

TRC also did background checks on Libyan and 
Saudi businessmen for British banking giant 
Barclays. In February 2008 a TRC executive 
e-mailed Prado and Richer revealing that Barclays 
asked TRC and Total Intelligence for background 
research on the top executives from the Saudi 
Binladin Group (SBG) and their potential 
"associations/connections with the Royal family 
and connections with Osama bin Ladin." In his 
report, Richer wrote that SBG's chair, Bakr 
Mohammed bin Laden, "is well and favorably known 
to both arab and western intelligence service[s]" 
for cooperating in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. 
Another SBG executive, Sheikh Saleh bin Laden, is 
described by Richer as "a very savvy businessman" 
who is "committed to operating with full 
transparency to Saudi's security services" and is 
considered "the most vehement within the extended 
BL family in terms of criticizing UBL's actions and beliefs."

In August Blackwater and the State Department 
reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of 
violations of US export control regulations. 
Among the violations cited was the unauthorized 
export of technical data to the Canadian 
military. Meanwhile, Blackwater's dealings with 
Jordanian officials are the subject of a federal 
criminal prosecution of five former top 
Blackwater executives. The Jordanian government 
paid Total Intelligence more than $1.6 million in 2009.

Some of the training Blackwater provided to 
Canadian military forces was in Blackwater/TRC's 
"Mirror Image" course, where trainees live as a 
mock Al Qaeda cell in an effort to understand the 
mindset and culture of insurgents. Company 
literature describes it as "a classroom and field 
training program designed to simulate terrorist 
recruitment, training, techniques and operational 
tactics." Documents show that in March 2009 
Blackwater/TRC spent $6,500 purchasing local 
tribal clothing in Afghanistan as well as 
assorted "propaganda materials­posters, Pakistan 
Urdu maps, etc." for Mirror Image, and another 
$9,500 on similar materials this past January in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to internal documents, in 2009 alone 
the Canadian military paid Blackwater more than 
$1.6 million through TRC. A Canadian military 
official praised the program in a letter to the 
center, saying it provided "unique and valid 
cultural awareness and mission specific 
deployment training for our soldiers in 
Afghanistan," adding that it was "a very 
effective and operationally current training 
program that is beneficial to our mission."

This past summer Erik Prince put Blackwater up 
for sale and moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab 
Emirates. But he doesn't seem to be leaving the 
shadowy world of security and intelligence. He 
says he moved to Abu Dhabi because of its "great 
proximity to potential opportunities across the 
entire Middle East, and great logistics," adding 
that it has "a friendly business climate, low to 
no taxes, free trade and no out of control trial 
lawyers or labor unions. It's pro-business and 
opportunity." It also has no extradition treaty with the United States.

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