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The US military’s secret military
Special US commandos are deployed in about 75 countries around the world – and that number is expected to grow.
Nick Turse Last Modified: 08 Aug 2011 06:05
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US special forces, like the Navy Seals, are now more actively engaged in more overseas operations[GALLO/GETTY]

Somewhere on this planet a US commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you’re done … for the day. Without the knowledge of much of the general American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has generally been ignored by the mainstream media, and deserves further attention.

After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the US military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight.  It was atypical.  While it’s well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has often remained out of the public scrutiny.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency.  By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of travelling – a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence – in about 60 per cent of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged – is evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

The rise of the military’s secret military

Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight US service members died, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate.

Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army’s “Green Berets” and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialised helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialised and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.

One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes US citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal “kill/capture” campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls “an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine”.

This assassination programme has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia,Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.

Growth industry

From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command. Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM’s baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3bn to $6.3bn. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8bn in these years.  Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.

Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, the former head of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command – the last of the service branches to be incorporated into SOCOM in 2006 – indicated, for instance, that he foresees a doubling of his former unit of 2,600. “I see them as a force someday of about 5,000, like equivalent to the number of SEALs that we have on the battlefield. Between [5,000] and 6,000,” he said at a June breakfast with defence reporters in Washington. Long-term plans already call for the force to increase by 1,000.

During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, the incoming SOCOM chief and outgoing head of JSOC (which he commanded during the bin Laden raid) endorsed a steady manpower growth rate of 3 per cent to 5 per cent a year, while also making a pitch for even more resources, including additional drones and the construction of new special operations facilities.

A former SEAL who still sometimes accompanies troops into the field, McRaven expressed a belief that, as conventional forces are drawn down in Afghanistan, special ops troops will take on an ever greater role. Iraq, he added, would benefit if elite US forces continued to conduct missions there past the December 2011 deadline for a total American troop withdrawal. He also assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that “as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard at Yemen and at Somalia”.

During a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium earlier this year, Navy Admiral Eric Olson, the outgoing chief of Special Operations Command, pointed to a composite satellite image of the world at night. Before September 11, 2001, the lit portions of the planet – mostly the industrialised nations of the global north – were considered the key areas. “But the world changed over the last decade,” he said.  “Our strategic focus has shifted largely to the south … certainly within the special operations community, as we deal with the emerging threats from the places where the lights aren’t.”

To that end, Olson launched “Project Lawrence“, an effort to increase cultural proficiencies – like advanced language training and better knowledge of local history and customs – for overseas operations. The programme is, of course, named after the British officer, Thomas Edward Lawrence (better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”), who teamed up with Arab fighters to wage a guerrilla war in the Middle East during World War I.  Mentioning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, and Indonesia, Olson added that SOCOM now needed “Lawrences of Wherever”.

While Olson made reference to only 51 countries of top concern to SOCOM, Col. Nye told me that on any given day, Special Operations forces are deployed in approximately 70 nations around the world. All of them, he hastened to add, at the request of the host government. According to testimony by Olson before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, approximately 85 per cent of special operations troops deployed overseas are in 20 countries in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The others are scattered across the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, some in small numbers, others as larger contingents.

Special Operations Command won’t disclose exactly which countries its forces operate in. “We’re obviously going to have some places where it’s not advantageous for us to list where we’re at,” says Nye. “Not all host nations want it known, for whatever reasons they have – it may be internal, it may be regional.”

But it’s no secret (or at least a poorly kept one) that so-called black special operations troops, like the SEALs and Delta Force, are conducting kill/capture missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, while “white” forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous partners as part of a worldwide secret war against al-Qaeda and other militant groups. In the Philippines, for instance, the US spends $50m a year on a 600-person contingent of Army Special Operations forces, Navy Seals, Air Force special operators, and others that carries out counterterrorist operations with Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf.

Last year, as an analysis of SOCOM documents, open-source Pentagon information, and a database of Special Operations missions compiled by investigative journalist Tara McKelvey (for the Medill School of Journalism’s National Security Journalism Initiative) reveals, the US’ most elite troops carried out joint-training exercises in Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Germany, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Panama, and Poland.

So far in 2011, similar training missions have been conducted in the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Romania, Senegal, South Korea, and Thailand, among other nations. In reality, Nye told me, training actually went on in almost every nation where Special Operations forces are deployed. “Of the 120 countries we visit by the end of the year, I would say the vast majority are training exercises in one fashion or another. They would be classified as training exercises.”

The Pentagon’s power elite

Once the neglected stepchildren of the military establishment, Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorised to create its own Joint Task Forces – like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines – a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.

With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defense Department budget, andinfluential advocates in Congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon. With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research likeelectronically beaming messages into people’s heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM’s prime contracts awarded to small businesses – those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons – have jumped six-fold.

Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, but operating out of theatre commands spread out around the globe, including Hawaii, Germany, and South Korea, and active in the majority of countries on the planet, Special Operations Command is now a force unto itself. As outgoing SOCOM chief Olson put it earlier this year, SOCOM “is a microcosm of the Department of Defense, with ground, air, and maritime components, a global presence, and authorities and responsibilities that mirror the Military Departments, Military Services, and Defense Agencies”.

Tasked to coordinate all Pentagon planning against global terrorism networks and, as a result, closely connected to other government agencies, foreign militaries, and intelligence services, and armed with a vast inventory of stealthy helicopters, manned fixed-wing aircraft, heavily-armed drones, high-tech guns-a-go-go speedboats, specialised Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, as well as other state-of-the-art gear (with more on the way), SOCOM represents something new in the military.

Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army“, today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive’s private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.

In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinationslow-level targeted killingscapture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids,joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.

That aura now benefits from a well-honed public relations campaign which helps them project a superhuman imageat home and abroad, even while many of their actual activities remain in the ever-widening shadows. Typical of the vision they are pushing was this statement from Admiral Olson: “I am convinced that the forces … are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative, and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers, and warriors that any nation has to offer.”

Recently at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, Olson offered up similarly gilded comments and some misleading information, too, claiming that US Special Operations forces were operating in just 65 countries and engaged in combat in only two of them. When asked about drone strikes in Pakistan, he reportedly replied, “Are you talking about unattributed explosions?”

What he did let slip, however, was telling. He noted, for instance, that black operations like the bin Laden mission, with commandos conducting heliborne night raids, were now exceptionally common. A dozen or so are conducted every night, he said. Perhaps most illuminating, however, was an offhand remark about the size of SOCOM. Right now, he emphasised, US Special Operations forces were approximately as large as Canada’s entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where the US’ elite troops now operate each year, and it’s only set to grow larger.

Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a “special” force this large, this active, and this secret – and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available. It just won’t be coming from Olson or his troops. “Our access [to foreign countries] depends on our ability to not talk about it,” he said in response to questions about SOCOM’s secrecy. When missions are subject to scrutiny like the bin Laden raid, he said, the elite troops object. The military’s secret military, said Olson, wants “to get back into the shadows and do what they came in to do”.

Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. The associate editor of TomDispatch.comand a new senior editor at Alternet.org, his latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books).

A version of this article originally appeared on TomDispatch.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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Blackwater Founder Forms Secret Army for UAE

Sunday 15 May 2011
by: Mark Mazzetti and Emily B. Hager, The New York Times News Service | Report

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance.

Mr. Prince’s exploits, both real and rumored, are the subject of fevered discussions in the private security world. He has worked with the Emirati government on various ventures in the past year, including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. There was talk, too, that he was hatching a scheme last year to cap the Icelandic volcano then spewing ash across Northern Europe.

The team in the hotel lobby was led by Ricky Chambers, known as C. T., a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked for Mr. Prince for years; most recently, he had run a program training Afghan troops for a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant.

He was among the half-dozen or so Americans who would serve as top managers of the project, receiving nearly $300,000 in annual compensation. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Prince soon began quietly luring American contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and other danger spots with pay packages that topped out at more than $200,000 a year, according to a budget document. Many of those who signed on as trainers — which eventually included more than 40 veteran American, European and South African commandos — did not know of Mr. Prince’s involvement, the former employees said.

Mr. Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.

He and Mr. Prince also began looking for soldiers. They lined up Thor Global Enterprises, a company on the Caribbean island of Tortola specializing in “placing foreign servicemen in private security positions overseas,” according to a contract signed last May. The recruits would be paid about $150 a day.

Within months, large tracts of desert were bulldozed and barracks constructed. The Emirates were to provide weapons and equipment for the mercenary force, supplying everything from M-16 rifles to mortars, Leatherman knives to Land Rovers. They agreed to buy parachutes, motorcycles, rucksacks — and 24,000 pairs of socks.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower — a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

Emirati law prohibits disclosure of incorporation records for businesses, which typically list company officers, but it does require them to post company names on offices and storefronts. Over the past year, the sign outside the suite has changed at least twice — it now says Assurance Management Consulting.

While the documents — including contracts, budget sheets and blueprints — obtained by The Times do not mention Mr. Prince, the former employees said he negotiated the U.A.E. deal. Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”

One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

People involved in the project and American officials said that the Emiratis were interested in deploying the battalion to respond to terrorist attacks and put down uprisings inside the country’s sprawling labor camps, which house the Pakistanis, Filipinos and other foreigners who make up the bulk of the country’s work force. The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

An Eye on Iran

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The Emirates have a small military that includes army, air force and naval units as well as a small special operations contingent, which served in Afghanistan, but over all, their forces are considered inexperienced.

In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country’s security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure.

Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.

“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2’s work.

The contract includes a one-paragraph legal and ethics policy noting that R2 should institute accountability and disciplinary procedures. “The overall goal,” the contract states, “is to ensure that the team members supporting this effort continuously cast the program in a professional and moral light that will hold up to a level of media scrutiny.”

But former employees said that R2’s leaders never directly grappled with some fundamental questions about the operation. International laws governing private armies and mercenaries are murky, but would the Americans overseeing the training of a foreign army on foreign soil be breaking United States law?

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.

But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

Basic operational issues, too, were not addressed, the former employees said. What were the battalion’s rules of engagement? What if civilians were killed during an operation? And could a Latin American commando force deployed in the Middle East really be kept a secret?

Imported Soldiers

The first waves of mercenaries began arriving last summer. Among them was a 13-year veteran of Colombia’s National Police force named Calixto Rincón, 42, who joined the operation with hopes of providing for his family and seeing a new part of the world.

“We were practically an army for the Emirates,” Mr. Rincón, now back in Bogotá, Colombia, said in an interview. “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”

Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned.

He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.

R2 spends roughly $9 million per month maintaining the battalion, which includes expenditures for employee salaries, ammunition and wages for dozens of domestic workers who cook meals, wash clothes and clean the camp, a former employee said. Mr. Rincón said that he and his companions never wanted for anything, and that their American leaders even arranged to have a chef travel from Colombia to make traditional soups.

But the secrecy of the project has sometimes created a prisonlike environment. “We didn’t have permission to even look through the door,” Mr. Rincón said. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.”

The Emirates wanted the troops to be ready to deploy just weeks after stepping off the plane, but it quickly became clear that the Colombians’ military skills fell far below expectations. “Some of these kids couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” said a former employee. Other recruits admitted to never having fired a weapon.

Rethinking Roles

As a result, the veteran American and foreign commandos training the battalion have had to rethink their roles. They had planned to act only as “advisers” during missions — meaning they would not fire weapons — but over time, they realized that they would have to fight side by side with their troops, former officials said.

Making matters worse, the recruitment pipeline began drying up. Former employees said that Thor struggled to sign up, and keep, enough men on the ground. Mr. Rincón developed a hernia and was forced to return to Colombia, while others were dismissed from the program for drug use or poor conduct.

And R2’s own corporate leadership has also been in flux. Mr. Chambers, who helped develop the project, left after several months. A handful of other top executives, some of them former Blackwater employees, have been hired, then fired within weeks.

To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops.

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C. But before moving ahead, U.A.E. military officials have insisted that the battalion prove itself in a “real world mission.”

That has yet to happen. So far, the Latin American troops have been taken off the base only to shop and for occasional entertainment.

On a recent spring night though, after months stationed in the desert, they boarded an unmarked bus and were driven to hotels in central Dubai, a former employee said. There, some R2 executives had arranged for them to spend the evening with prostitutes.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.

The article “Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder” originally appeared in The New York Times. 

© 2011 The New York Times Company
Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.
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Blackwater founder Erik Prince building American-led army of revolution-crushing mercenaries in UAE

Xeni Jardin at 7:25 PM Saturday, May 14, 2011

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Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater (now rebranded “Xe”) is building a stealth, American-led mercenary army in the United Arab Emirates “with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.” The business plan, at least in part, appears to be to help autocratic regimes crush popular democratic uprisings—a response to “Arab Spring.” Oh, this will turn out well. Snip from the New York Times’ exclusive:

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year. The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said.

Read the rest of the story here.

The New York Times also published a copy of the executed contract. (PDF)

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Here is a Google Maps link for the Blackwater UAE compound (via Kurt Brown).

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Jeremy Scahill on Twitter, cryptically: “The breaking Blackwater story in NYT is, in part, a limited hangout. Follow the Libyan road.”

(Photo: In 2007, Blackwater Chief Executive Erik Prince testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington. At the time, Prince’s company was under investigation over deadly incidents in Iraq, and lawmakers took aim at the company’s actions in a shooting in which 11 Iraqis were killed.)

, , , , • Tags: Arab, Arms, Blackwater, Egypt, Mercenary, Middle East, Muslim, UAE, United Arab Emirates, Xe

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Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

Adam Ferguson/VII Network

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has a new project.

By and
Published: May 14, 2011

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

By and

Correction Appended
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance.

Mr. Prince’s exploits, both real and rumored, are the subject of fevered discussions in the private security world. He has worked with the Emirati government on various ventures in the past year, including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. There was talk, too, that he was hatching a scheme last year to cap the Icelandic volcano then spewing ash across Northern Europe.

The team in the hotel lobby was led by Ricky Chambers, known as C. T., a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked for Mr. Prince for years; most recently, he had run a program training Afghan troops for a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant.

He was among the half-dozen or so Americans who would serve as top managers of the project, receiving nearly $300,000 in annual compensation. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Prince soon began quietly luring American contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and other danger spots with pay packages that topped out at more than $200,000 a year, according to a budget document. Many of those who signed on as trainers — which eventually included more than 40 veteran American, European and South African commandos — did not know of Mr. Prince’s involvement, the former employees said.

Mr. Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.

He and Mr. Prince also began looking for soldiers. They lined up Thor Global Enterprises, a company on the Caribbean island of Tortola specializing in “placing foreign servicemen in private security positions overseas,” according to a contract signed last May. The recruits would be paid about $150 a day.

Within months, large tracts of desert were bulldozed and barracks constructed. The Emirates were to provide weapons and equipment for the mercenary force, supplying everything from M-16 rifles to mortars, Leatherman knives to Land Rovers. They agreed to buy parachutes, motorcycles, rucksacks — and 24,000 pairs of socks.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower — a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

Emirati law prohibits disclosure of incorporation records for businesses, which typically list company officers, but it does require them to post company names on offices and storefronts. Over the past year, the sign outside the suite has changed at least twice — it now says Assurance Management Consulting.

While the documents — including contracts, budget sheets and blueprints — obtained by The Times do not mention Mr. Prince, the former employees said he negotiated the U.A.E. deal. Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”

One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

People involved in the project and American officials said that the Emiratis were interested in deploying the battalion to respond to terrorist attacks and put down uprisings inside the country’s sprawling labor camps, which house the Pakistanis, Filipinos and other foreigners who make up the bulk of the country’s work force. The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

An Eye on Iran

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The Emirates have a small military that includes army, air force and naval units as well as a small special operations contingent, which served in Afghanistan, but over all, their forces are considered inexperienced.

In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country’s security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure.

Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.

“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2’s work.

The contract includes a one-paragraph legal and ethics policy noting that R2 should institute accountability and disciplinary procedures. “The overall goal,” the contract states, “is to ensure that the team members supporting this effort continuously cast the program in a professional and moral light that will hold up to a level of media scrutiny.”

But former employees said that R2’s leaders never directly grappled with some fundamental questions about the operation. International laws governing private armies and mercenaries are murky, but would the Americans overseeing the training of a foreign army on foreign soil be breaking United States law?

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.

But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

Basic operational issues, too, were not addressed, the former employees said. What were the battalion’s rules of engagement? What if civilians were killed during an operation? And could a Latin American commando force deployed in the Middle East really be kept a secret?

Imported Soldiers

The first waves of mercenaries began arriving last summer. Among them was a 13-year veteran of Colombia’s National Police force named Calixto Rincón, 42, who joined the operation with hopes of providing for his family and seeing a new part of the world.

“We were practically an army for the Emirates,” Mr. Rincón, now back in Bogotá, Colombia, said in an interview. “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”

Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned.

He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.

R2 spends roughly $9 million per month maintaining the battalion, which includes expenditures for employee salaries, ammunition and wages for dozens of domestic workers who cook meals, wash clothes and clean the camp, a former employee said. Mr. Rincón said that he and his companions never wanted for anything, and that their American leaders even arranged to have a chef travel from Colombia to make traditional soups.

But the secrecy of the project has sometimes created a prisonlike environment. “We didn’t have permission to even look through the door,” Mr. Rincón said. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.”

The Emirates wanted the troops to be ready to deploy just weeks after stepping off the plane, but it quickly became clear that the Colombians’ military skills fell far below expectations. “Some of these kids couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” said a former employee. Other recruits admitted to never having fired a weapon.

Rethinking Roles

As a result, the veteran American and foreign commandos training the battalion have had to rethink their roles. They had planned to act only as “advisers” during missions — meaning they would not fire weapons — but over time, they realized that they would have to fight side by side with their troops, former officials said.

Making matters worse, the recruitment pipeline began drying up. Former employees said that Thor struggled to sign up, and keep, enough men on the ground. Mr. Rincón developed a hernia and was forced to return to Colombia, while others were dismissed from the program for drug use or poor conduct.

And R2’s own corporate leadership has also been in flux. Mr. Chambers, who helped develop the project, left after several months. A handful of other top executives, some of them former Blackwater employees, have been hired, then fired within weeks.

To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops.

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C. But before moving ahead, U.A.E. military officials have insisted that the battalion prove itself in a “real world mission.”

That has yet to happen. So far, the Latin American troops have been taken off the base only to shop and for occasional entertainment.

On a recent spring night though, after months stationed in the desert, they boarded an unmarked bus and were driven to hotels in central Dubai, a former employee said. There, some R2 executives had arranged for them to spend the evening with prostitutes.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 19, 2011

An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Correction: June 7, 2011

An article on May 15 about efforts to build a battalion of foreign mercenary troops in the United Arab Emirates referred imprecisely to the role played by Erik Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit troops. But Mr. Prince does not run or own the company Reflex Responses, which has a contract with the government of the U.A.E. to train and deliver the troops, according to the company president, Michael Roumi. An article on May 16 repeated the error.

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Blackwater/Xe mercs arrive in Somalia, Al-Shabab says

12/01/2010 11:32:00 AM GMT  Comments (0)  Add a comment  Print  E-mail to friend

At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between rival factions in southern and central Somalia, and there are reports that Blackwater/Xe mercenaries have entered the country.

A battle broke out between the pro-government Ahlu Sunnah militia and Hizbul Islam fighters in the town of Baladwayne on Sunday and went well into Monday, during which at least 13 people lost their lives, witnesses said.In addition, five people were killed when Hizbul Islam fighters engaged Al-Shabab fighters in the town of Dhobley near the Kenyan border, Reuters reported.There are also allegations of US-sponsored bomb plots in the capital.

The bombings will be carried out in order to create a pretext to launch a campaign against Al-Shabab, a spokesman of the group, Sheikh Ali Mohammed Rage, told Reuters.

“We have discovered that US agencies are going to launch suicide bombings in public places in Mogadishu,” he told reporters. “They have tried it in Algeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan… We warn of these disasters. They want to target Bakara Market and mosques, then use that to malign us.”

At a meeting with tribal elders in Mogadishu on Monday, the Al-Shabab spokesman said that mercenaries of the Xe private security firm — formerly known as Blackwater — have arrived in the Somali capital, the Press TV correspondent in Mogadishu reported on Monday.

Blackwater/Xe mercenaries plan to carry out bombings in Mogadishu in order to accuse Al-Shabab of being the culprits in the attacks, the Al-Shabab spokesman added.

He went on to say that the Blackwater/Xe mercenaries have already recruited many lackeys to help them carry out bombings targeting prominent individuals and innocent civilians.

The Al-Shabab spokesman also told the tribal elders that a system based on Islam should be established in Somalia

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Blackwater (Xe): The Secret US War in Pakistan

Top 25 of 2011

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At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives inside and outside Pakistan. The Blackwater operatives also gather intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

Student Researchers:

  • Andrew Hobbs, Kelsea Arnold, and Brittney Gates (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators:

  • Elaine Wellin and Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)

Captain John Kirby, the spokesperson for Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Nation, “We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature.” Meanwhile a defense official specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. “We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period,” the official said. “There has not been, and are not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services.” The Pentagon has stated bluntly, “There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”

Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in an interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

Jeremy Scahill’s military intelligence source said that the previously unreported program is distinct from the CIA assassination program, which the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. “This is a parallel operation to the CIA,” said the source. “They are two separate beasts.” The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the US has not declared war—knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the US and Pakistan. In 2006, the two countries struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the US is not supposed to have any active military operations in that country.

Blackwater, which also goes by the names Xe Services and US Training Center, has denied that the company operates in Pakistan. “Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the US government,” Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to the Nation, adding that the company has “no other operations of any kind in Pakistan.”

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in “counterterrorism” operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces that now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan.

The covert program in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007. The current head of JSOC is Vice Admiral William McRaven, who took over the post from General Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is “not really visible, and that’s why nobody has cracked down on it,” said Scahill’s military source. Blackwater’s operations in Pakistan, he adds, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified defense contracts. “It’s Blackwater via JSOC, and it’s a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis.”

Blackwater’s first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.

According to Scahill’s source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have “conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up.” Blackwater’s Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said.

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone-bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, 2009, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The number of strike orders by the Obama administration has now surpassed the number during the Bush era in Pakistan, inciting fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths.

The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone-bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC’s drone bombings as well. “It’s Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC,” said the source. When civilians are killed, “people go, ‘Oh, it’s the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.’ Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that’s JSOC [hitting] somebody they’ve identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they’ve culled the intelligence themselves or it’s been shared with them and they take that person out and that’s how it works.”

In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps, and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan.

Blackwater’s ability to survive against odds by reinventing and rebranding itself is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA, and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals.

Sources:

Jeremy Scahill, “The Secret US War in Pakistan,” Nation, November 23, 2009, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091207/scahill.

Jeremy Scahill, “Blackwater Wants to Surge Its Armed Force in Afghanistan,” Antiwar.com, January 20, 2010, http://original.antiwar.com/scahill/2010/01/19/blackwater-wants-to-surge.

David Edwards and Muriel Kane, “Ex-employees Claim Blackwater Pimped Out Young Iraqi Girls,” Raw Story, August 7, 2009.

Similar Posts:


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Blackwater Worldwide [US Mercenary Inc] (now called Xe, and dozens of other names in affiliates, sub contractors, fronts ) i.e mercenaries

800px-Blackwater_casa212_over_afghanistan

{ Blackwater CASA 212 over Afghanistan dropping supplies to U.S. Army troops }

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackwater_Worldwide

<> 2009

<>Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder:

“… men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company ….  also 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….

Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe”:

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.”

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090817/scahill

Iraq_for_sale_poster

<> Ex-guards’ statements implicate Blackwater founder in Iraq crimes CNN August 4, 2009

•     Story Highlights

•     Statements are part of civil suit brought by Iraqi families who’ve lost loved ones

•     The witnesses — “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” — fear retaliatory “violence”

•     Affidavits say founder Erik Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader”

•     Company statement says plaintiffs ignore “actual facts” and “slander” Prince

updated 10:47 p.m. EDT, Tue August 4, 2009

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/08/04/iraq.blackwater.lawsuit/

<> Blackwater Rebrands But Some Are Still Skeptical NPR

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103108471&ft=1&f=1003

<> Audit Finds That U.S. Overpaid Blackwater JUNE 17, 2009

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124511068419617063.html#mod=todays_us_page_one

(Newser Summary) – The US overpaid Blackwater by $55 million for its security work in Iraq, a government audit has found. The company, since renamed Xe, didn’t employ enough guards, medics, and other personnel to protect high-level officials but still collected full payment from the State Department, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Insufficient manning exposed the department to unnecessary risk,” the auditors said. Blackwater also overcharged for airfare to Iraq.

A rep for the company said it’s been “fully compliant with the terms and conditions of the contract.” In 2007, a Blackwater security team was involved in a shooting that killed 17 Iraqis. Iraq refused to renew its operating license, and the company has pulled out of the country. But Xe is seeking new government contracts in Afghanistan. —Sarah Quinn

http://www.newser.com/story/61976/blackwater-bilked-us-out-of-55m-for-iraq-security-audit.html?commentid=144989#comment_144989

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<> Pakistan Expels Blackwater Mercenary?

“…CAII told Pakistani authorities it needed to hire security guards for protection. The security guards, it turns out, were none other than Blackwater’s military-trained hired guns. They were used the CAII cover to conduct a range of covert activities in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province….A large number of retired Pakistani military officers, academics and even journalists have been quietly recruited at generous compensations by several US government agencies. These influential Pakistanis are supposed to provide information, analysis, contacts and help in pleading the case for US interests in the Pakistani media, in subtle ways. Pakistanis would be surprised that some prominent names well known to television audiences are in this list…”

http://thecurrentaffairs.com/pakistan-expels-blackwater-mercenary.html

and

http://www.defence.pk/forums/general-images-multimedia/31233-blackwater-crusaders-msnbc-news-coverage.html

blackwat-2009-08-01_CAII+(2)

<> Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill

from reviews “Jeremy Scahill has written a meticulously documented book about an all-too-real threat to democracy. And not just in war zones, where Blackwater operates in concert with U.S. forces, but without the accountability, however flawed, of the official military. They appeared, as Scahill documents, on the streets of New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast as a security force.

<> http://www.blackwaterwatch.com/

<> Keith Olberman and Jeremy Scahill Discuss Blackwater’s Christian Crusade to Exterminate Muslims

http://rebelreports.com/

<> Erik Prince’s father co-founded the Family Research Council with Gary Bauer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_Prince

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<> ‘Family’: Fundamentalism, Friends In High Places

In the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, author Jeff Sharlet examines the power wielded by a secretive Christian group known as the Family, or the Fellowship.

Excerpt: ‘The Family’ by Jeff Sharlet

“….David Coe….”You guys, David said, ‘are here to learn how to rule the world.'”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106115324

family_200

<>  Blackwater Worldwide (XE) From Right Web { http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/ }

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/beta/profile/Blackwater_Worldwide/

<>>>>>

Q: What’s the difference between Daniel Boyd and

Blackwater’s Erik Prince?

A: Prince worked on behalf of the U.S. government. Boyd is in jail.

12 AUG 2009

In an affidavit filed last week in federal court in Virginia, FBI informants made allegations against Erik Prince, president of N.C.-based company Blackwater (in a feat of PR-scrubbing, now renamed Xe), that are strikingly similar to, and even exceed, those lodged against suspected terrorist Daniel Boyd.

The differences: Taxpayers footed the bill for Prince’s alleged terrorist activities. Prince is free; Boyd is in jail. Prince is a Christian, not a Muslim. Boyd’s foreign target was allegedly Israel; Prince’s was Iraq. —Lisa Sorg

⇒ See related storyA new—and timely—biography of the man behind Blackwater USA

⇒ Download table JPG (464 KB) PDF (427 KB)

Daniel Boyd and his seven co-defendants Erik Prince and Blackwater
FBI informer says Boyd wanted to go on Jihad to fight the Kuffar. FBI informer says Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.”
FBI sources say Boyd radicalized Muslim youth and encouraged them to go on Jihad. FBI informers say Prince “intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, known and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis.”
FBI alleges that Boyd intended to give material support to unnamed overseas terrorists. FBI informers say that Prince illegally transported weapons to Iraq. These weapons are thought to have been sold on the black market to the PKK, a Kurdistan group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.
FBI informers allege Boyd and his followers practiced and trained in military tactics. One of the accused allegedly bought a book on military sniper tactics. Blackwater operates a camp in Moyock, N.C., that trains people in military sniper tactics.
Boyd and his co-defendants allegedly had money that they intended to use for Jihad. Until the U.S. State Department nullified its contract with Blackwater, the company had entered into more than $1 billion in federal government contracts from 2004-2008.
FBI informer alleges that Boyd and Co. “conspired to kidnap, maim and harm” people in a foreign country. Blackwater has participated in extraordinary rendition and has been accused of interrogating people in foreign countries.
Boyd is accused of conspiring to kill foreigners— “intending to go to Israel and commit violent Jihad”—even though there is no evidence he committed any violence. A Blackwater employee pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and five more employees have been indicted in connection with the Nisour Square massacre in Iraq. Blackwater and Prince have also been accused by an FBI informer of murdering or ordering the murder of federal witnesses.
Sources: CNN, The Nation, MSNBC, The New York Times, BBC and the federal indictment against Daniel Boyd and his co-defendantshttp://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A399355

Lets see that again please!!!!

Download table at >>>


JPG (464 KB)

or

PDF (427 KB)

Sources: CNN, The Nation, MSNBC, The New York Times, BBC and the federal indictment against Daniel Boyd and his co-defendants


http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A399355


We can add to these differences:

http://supportdanielboyd.wordpress.com/what%E2%80%99s-the-difference-between-boyd-and-blackwater%E2%80%99s-prince

<> Reports CIA hired Blackwater to help assassinate terrorists

The agency employed the controversial firm to assist with ‘planning, training, and surveillance’ – and possibly to kill and capture – Al Qaeda operatives, according to news reports.

By Arthur Bright from the August 20, 2009 edition

A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

The CIA in 2004 outsourced portions of a secret program to kidnap or assassinate terrorists to the controversial private security firm Blackwater USA, now called Xe Services, according to news reports.

The New York Times reports that according to current and former government officials, Blackwater’s involvement was a key factor in CIA Director Leon Panetta’s decision to cancel the program and divulge it to Congress during an emergency meeting with Congress in June. Congress had not been informed previously of the program’s existence, allegedly under orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last month.

The New York Times reports:

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects….

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

The Washington Post reports that the program existed in three iterations over eight years, and Blackwater became involved after several former CIA officials joined the firm.

“Outsourcing gave the agency more protection in case something went wrong,” said a retired intelligence officer intimately familiar with the assassination program.

The contract was awarded to Blackwater … in part because of its close ties to the CIA and because of its record in carrying out covert assignments overseas, the officials said. The security contractor’s senior management has included high-ranking former CIA officials – among them J. Cofer Black, the agency’s former top counterterrorism official, who joined the company in early 2005, three months after retiring from government service.

The Post adds that although the program never became operational, “the Blackwater phase involved ‘lots of time spent training,’ mostly near the CIA’s covert facility near Williamsburg,” according to a former government official.

The Times and Post reports came after Joseph Finder, an author of espionage thrillers, claimed in The Daily Beast earlier this week that Mr. Panetta jumped the gun when he brought the assassination program to the attention of Congress earlier this year, as the program “wasn’t much more than a PowerPoint presentation and a task force assigned to think it through.”

It wasn’t really a coherent program at all so much as a collection of schemes, each attempting to achieve the same objective: to kill terrorists. This was one of perhaps dozens of ideas that had been kicked around at Langley since September 2001, when George W. Bush issued a presidential “finding” authorizing the agency to use deadly force against Osama bin Laden or other terrorists.

Under three successive CIA directors, these plans for paramilitary hit squads had been given three different names…. But they never got off the ground. The logistical, legal, and political obstacles proved to be insurmountable. George Tenet gave up on it — too many moving parts. Porter Goss took another stab at it, but nothing, and then Gen. Michael V. Hayden’s team studied it for a while but envisioned nothing but trouble. So there was a reason that none of the last three CIA directors had briefed Congress about it: There was nothing to brief.

Mr. Finder says that as a result of misunderstanding the status of the assassination program, Panetta incorrectly accused the CIA of lying to Congress. But the CIA said Finder’s article is incorrect, writes Congressional Quarterly’s SpyTalk blog.

“This story rests on the mistaken premise that Director Panetta told the Congress the CIA had broken the law,” [CIA spokesman George] Little told SpyTalk.

“He did not. It’s also wrong to suggest that the Director said the Agency had misled the Congress. He did no such thing. He decided that the time had come to brief Congress on a counterterrorism effort that was, in fact, much more than a PowerPoint presentation.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0820/p99s01-duts.html

<>  C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill

Jihadists

By MARK MAZZETTI

Published: August 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

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Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

Blackwater security contractors flew over Baghdad in 2007. For years, Blackwater played a significant role in the Iraq operation.

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Times Topics: Blackwater Worldwide

Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, canceled a program to locate and kill the leaders of Al Qaeda.

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Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. 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. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&hp

<>

Former CIA Intelligence Officer in charge of Blackwater Xe in Peshawar

Written by Faisal Muqadam Local Nov 4, 2009

Fomer CIA Intelligence Officer Steven Cash is in charge of Blackwater operations in Peshawar. The Blackwater supervisory team in Peshawar includes James Bill William, Copper, Steven Cash, Roderick Christopher and Alisha Cambel. They have hired several Pakistani government officials and retired army personnel at remunerations as high as $2,000 per day.

Various journalists have been approached and offered bribes by these officials to implement the PSYOPs in newspapers and electronic media in Pakistan. They are pushing journalists to publish news stories of Talibans, as the Psychological Operations group of US Army has planned.

They are paying as high as $1000 per published news story to journalists. Meetings are held in various houses rented in University Town, Peshawar and residents have reported activities with tinted glasses jeeps during late night hours.

Steven Cash is a former senior U.S. government official. Mr. Cash served as an Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, first as an Assistant General Counsel, and then with the Directorate of Operations.

He also served as Chief Counsel to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, and as Minority Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. From 2001 to 2003 he was a Professional Staff Member and Counsel for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

http://www.daily.pk/former-cia-intelligence-officer-in-charge-of-blackwater-xe-in-peshawar-12870/

<>

Top al Qaeda leader blames Blackwater for Peshawar blasts

From Saad Abedine
CNN

November 12, 2009 — Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)

Pakistani police stand beside the wreckage from a suicide car bomb in Peshawar on November 10.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Audio message said to be from Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s commander of operations in Afghanistan
  • Said muslims not behind the attacks because they are fighting to protect the honor and lives of other Muslims
  • Critics of Blackwater cite the company’s actions in Iraq as evidence of its malevolent intents
  • Iraq refused to renew the license of the company after its guards killed 17 civilians two years ago

RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) — A senior al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan has blamed the U.S. security firm formerly known as Blackwater as being behind the recent spate of deadly attacks in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

An audio message said to be from Mustafa Abu Yazid, released Thursday, said Muslims could not have been behind the attacks, because they are fighting to protect the honor and lives of other Muslims.

The mujahadeen, as Yazid called the militants, target only security forces who are far from civilian gathering places, he said.

“Today, everyone knows what Blackwater and the criminal security contractors are doing after they came to Pakistan with the support of the criminal, corrupt government and its intelligence and security apparatus,” Yazid said.

“They are the ones who commit these heinous acts, then accuse the mujahadeen of their crimes.”

Yazid is al Qaeda’s commander of operations in Afghanistan and its No. 3 man.

The tape was posted on several Islamist Web sites, known to carry statements from the radical Islamic group.

CNN could not immediately determine the authenticity of the tape.

Blackwater, now known as Xe, is a ready bogeyman for Pakistanis who cite the company’s actions in Iraq as evidence of its malevolent intents in their country.

Iraq refused to renew the license of the private security company after its security guards killed 17 civilians two years ago.

Peshawar — the capital of the North West Frontier Province — has repeatedly come under attack in recent days. Intelligence officials say the attacks are retaliation against an army offensive to rout militants from their havens along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

On Tuesday, a suicide car bomber struck a congested traffic circle outside Peshawar, killing at least 26 people — including children — and wounding 60 others.

A suicide bombing at a police checkpoint on Peshawar’s Ring Road killed at least three people Monday. A suicide car bombing killed 17 people in the city Sunday, including an area mayor.

And on October 28, a massive car bomb tore through the heart of a bustling marketplace in Peshawar, killing at least 100 people and wounding at least 200 others.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/11/12/pakistan.peshawar.blasts.blackwater/

Pakistani-Pashtuns Say Blackwater USA (Xe Services) Responsible for Peshawar Bomb

  • Text size

Xinhua
October 30, 2009

Chief of Pakistani- Pashtun Movement in Pakistan Hakimullah Mehsud has blamed the controversial American private firm Blackwater [Xe Services] for the bomb blast in Peshawar which killed over 117 [Pakistani] people, local news agency NNI reported Thursday.

The bomb, exploded at a crowded market at Chowk Yadgar [in Peshawar, Pakistan] on Wednesday [28 October 2009], also injured more than 250 [Pakistani] people.

Hakimullah Mehsud told media that if Pakistani-Pashtuns can carry out attacks in Islamabad and target Pakistan Army’s headquarters, then why they should target general public.

He claimed that American security agency Blackwater [Xe Services] and Pakistani agencies are involved in attacks in public places to [maliciously] blame the militants.

When asked that the people also think that the militants are involved in such attacks, the Pakistani-Pashtun leader was quoted as saying: “Our war is against the [PPP-ANP-MQM-JUIF corrupt and tyrannical] government and the security forces [of Pakistan] and not against the [Pakistani] people. We are not involved in blasts.”

Azam Tariq, the Pakistani-Pashtun spokesman, who was accompanying Hakimullah [Mehsud], warned that those [corrupt] media organizations [Geo News TV, ARY News TV, Dawn News TV, Dunya News TV, Samaa TV, Express News TV, Aaj TV, Business Plus TV, Channel 5 TV, Indus News TV, News One TV, PTV,  Radio Pakistan, and other corrupt mercenary media of Pakistan] could be targeted which are [illegally and maliciously] defaming Pakistani-Pakhtoons.

Information Minister of Northwest Frontier Province [NWFP] Iftikhar Hussain and the Pakistan Army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas had [falsely, fraudulently and maliciously] blamed militants [without any legal evidence or prosecutable proof] for the Peshawar blast, [wrongly] saying that the militants are facing defeat in South Waziristan tribal region and are now targeting the people.

Pakistan Car Bomb Toll Passes 100

LONDON, UK, 29 October 2009 (BBC) – The head of the Pakistani-Pakhtoon Movement has denied responsibility for the [U.S. drone-missile or bomb] attack [of 28 October 2009 in Peshawar, Pakistan].

Hakimullah Mehsud told the BBC that the latest attack was orchestrated by the Americans and Pakistani intelligence agencies “to malign the name of the Pakistani-Pakhtoons”.

“If we are able to attack sensitive installations… as well as the [Pakistan Army] General Headquarters [GHQ], then why would we need to attack ordinary people?” he asked in brief telephone interview.

“Our war is only against the [corrupt and tyrannical PPP-ANP-MQM-JUIF] government and the security forces [of Pakistan]. The common people are not part of it”, he replied.

Pakistan Car Bomb Toll Passes 100

LONDON, UK, 29 October 2009 (BBC) – The head of the Pakistani-Pakhtoon Movement has denied responsibility for the [U.S. drone-missile or bomb] attack [of 28 October 2009 in Peshawar, Pakistan].

Hakimullah Mehsud told the BBC that the latest attack was orchestrated by the Americans and Pakistani intelligence agencies “to malign the name of the Pakistani-Pakhtoons”.

“If we are able to attack sensitive installations… as well as the [Pakistan Army] General Headquarters [GHQ], then why would we need to attack ordinary people?” he asked in brief telephone interview.

“Our war is only against the [corrupt and tyrannical PPP-ANP-MQM-JUIF] government and the security forces [of Pakistan]. The common people are not part of it”, he replied.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad [Pakistan] says that Mr. [Hakimullah] Mehsud’s denial of Pakistani-Pashtuns’ involvement is likely to be met with much scepticism, even though an increasing number of people do not rule out the involvement of U.S. security agencies in attacks in the country.

Can American War Criminal Hillary Rodham Clinton Control U.S. CIA in illegally Occupied Afghanistan?

http://www.ahmedquraishi.com/article_detail.php?id=842

<>

Taliban blame ‘Blackwater’ for

Peshawar bombings

By Bill Roggio October 30, 2009 10:35 AM

A street is ablaze in the aftermath of the blast in Peshawar. AFP photo.

The Taliban have denied involvement in this week’s deadly bombing near a bazaar in Peshawar that has now killed 119 people and wounded 500 more. Instead, Hakeemullah Mehsud said, the US contracting firm “Blackwater” (which changed its name and is now known Xe) and “Pakistani agencies” carried out the deadly attack. An excerpt from the report at Outlook India is below.

Pakistani Taliban chief Haemullah Mehsud has claimed that the controversial American security firm Blackwater was behind the deadly bomb attack on a market in Peshawar that killed over 100 people.

Hakeemullah questioned why the Taliban should target the public when it was capable of carrying out attacks in Islamabad and targeting the army’s General Headquarters.

In an interview with BBC Urdu, he claimed Blackwater and “Pakistani agencies” were involved in attacks in public places to discredit the militants.

Reports in the Pakistani media have claimed that Blackwater has established a presence in the country by tying up with local security firms but these allegations have been rejected by the US administration.

When Hakeemullah was asked about the perception among people that militants are involved in attacks on public places, he said: “Our war is against the government and the security forces and not against the people. We are not involved in blasts.”

Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq, who was present along with Hakeemullah, warned that the militants could target media organisations that are “defaming” the Taliban.

A couple of points:

1) It is humorous that Hakeemullah and spokesman Tariq Azam express shock that the Taliban could possibly be accused of conducting such an attack on a civilian target, then they turn around and threaten the Pakistani media for “defaming” the Taliban.

2) According to Indian terrorism expert B. Raman, the Taliban may actually have a degree of plausible deniability. “Sources in the ANP [the Awami National Party, the ruling Pashtun arty in the Northwest Frontier Province] seem to believe that the repeated attacks on civilians in Peshawar are being carried out by elements in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, both allied to Al Qaeda,” Raman reported. “This serves the purpose of discrediting the ANP-led Government in the NWFP and at the same time sparing the TTP [the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] of unpopularity for slaughtering innocent Pashtun civilians.” Even if the IMU and IJU have targeted civilians and the Taliban have not played a role (highly unlikely), the Taliban provides them sanctuary and thus are complicit.

3) By blaming “Blackwater,” Hakeemullah is tapping into the very dangerous conspiratorial current that is running through Pakistan. Many Pakistanis believe that US contracting firms are secretly plotting to take over the state and are fighting a shadow war within the country (see articles here, here, and here in The Nation, for a small taste). This conspiratorial attitude is encouraged by Pakistani officials who insist on blaming the US, India, Israel, and anyone but the terrorists in their own midst who are actually conducting the attacks.
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2009/10/taliban_blame_blackwater_for_p.php#ixzz0Wfz4Lgyh

http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2009/10/taliban_blame_blackwater_for_p.php

<>

<>

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan

By Jeremy Scahill

November 23, 2009

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

Blackwater

The Rachel Maddow Show : The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill on the revelation that Blackwater bribed local Iraqis following the Nisour Square massacre.

Arms Spending & Proliferation

Tom Engelhardt: Armed drone aircraft in Afghanistan and Pakistan are only the latest wonder weapon to promise us the world.

» More

Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill: Inside sources reveal that the firm works with the US military in Karachi to plan targeted assassinations and drone bombings, among other sensitive counterterrorism operations.

Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill: Top Blackwater staff authorized attempted bribes of Iraqi officials in the wake of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, the New York Times has reported.

US Military

Jeremy Scahill: Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Carol Shea-Porter argue that since Adam Hermanson died while working on a Defense Department contract, the DoD is obliged to investigate.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so “compartmentalized” that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, “We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature.” A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. “We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period,” the official said. “There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services.”

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. “This is a parallel operation to the CIA,” said the source. “They are two separate beasts.” The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war–knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. “Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government,” Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has “no other operations of any kind in Pakistan.”

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater’s covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, “From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct,” adding, “There’s no question that’s occurring.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me because we’ve outsourced nearly everything,” said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater’s role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater’s involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. “Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don’t have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it’s that simple. It would not surprise me.”

The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi

The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is “not really visible, and that’s why nobody has cracked down on it,” said the source. Blackwater’s operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. “It’s Blackwater via JSOC, and it’s a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis.” The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. “It’s a very rudimentary operation,” says the source. “I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It’s very bare bones, and that’s the point.”

Blackwater’s work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA’s counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a “media-scouring/open-source network,” according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. “They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them,” he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.

The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater’s classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, “The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you’re doing is really one military guy to another.” Blackwater’s first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified “black” operations. “With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above ‘secret’–even though you have no business doing so,” said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that “do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust,” he added. “Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That’s exactly what it is: a circle of love.” Blackwater, therefore, has access to “all source” reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. “That’s how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors,” said the source. “We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don’t unless they ask.”

According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have “conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up,” he said, adding, “They have a sizable force in Pakistan–not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way–but to support a legitimate contract that’s classified for JSOC.” Blackwater’s Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT “was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it.” Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. “Nobody even gives them a second thought.”

The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as “Qatar cubed,” in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. “This is supposed to be the brave new world,” he says. “This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it’s meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It’s strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don’t have to deal with that because they’re operating under a classified mandate.”

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. “That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don’t know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan,” he said. “So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?”

Pakistan’s Military Contracting Maze

Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. “The SELECT personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going after targets,” he said. “It’s not like Blackwater SELECT people are running around assassinating people.” Instead, US Special Forces teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The military intelligence source drew a distinction between the Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he calls “Blackwater Vanilla,” and the seasoned Special Forces veterans who work on the JSOC program. “Good or bad, there’s a small number of people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That’s probably a good thing,” said the source. “It’s the Blackwater SELECT people that have and continue to plan these types of operations because they’re the only people that know how and they went where the money was. It’s not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD [Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill innocent civilians. They’re very good at what they do.”

The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said, “that’s not entirely accurate.” While he concurred with the military intelligence source’s description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan, not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. While Kestral’s main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in several other countries.

A spokesperson for the US State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The Nation that Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work with Kestral. “We cannot help you,” said department spokesperson David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials. “You’ll have to contact the companies directly.” Blackwater’s Corallo said the company has “no operations of any kind” in Pakistan other than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to inquiries from The Nation.

According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues “regarding [Kestral’s] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States.” Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October 2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.

For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive. “Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship,” he said. “They’ve met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for one another.” Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.

According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also integrate with Kestral’s forces in sensitive counterterrorism operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry’s paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as “frontier scouts”). The Blackwater personnel are technically advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets blurred in the field. Blackwater “is providing the actual guidance on how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral’s folks are carrying a lot of them out, but they’re having the guidance and the overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams when they’re executing the job,” he said. “You can see how that can lead to other things in the border areas.” He said that when Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. “You’ve got BW guys that are assisting… and they’re all going to want to go on the jobs–so they’re going to go with them,” he said. “So, the things that you’re seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military group came in and raided this house or did this or did that–in some of those cases, you’re going to have Western folks that are right there at the house, if not in the house.” Blackwater, he said, is paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. “That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, ‘Hey, no, we don’t have any Westerners doing this. It’s all local and our people are doing it.’ But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work.”

The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the Frontier Corps, saying, “There’s no real oversight. It’s not really on people’s radar screen.”

In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying the weapons were being used by “a private American security contractor.” The statement said, “Kestral Logistics is a private logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan. All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments.”

Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.

In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the CIA at “hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft.” In February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.

The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. “Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it’s JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes.” The Pentagon has stated bluntly, “There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”

The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC’s drone bombings as well. “It’s Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC,” said the source. When civilians are killed, “people go, ‘Oh, it’s the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.’ Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that’s JSOC [hitting] somebody they’ve identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they’ve culled the intelligence themselves or it’s been shared with them and they take that person out and that’s how it works.”

The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. “Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that,” he says. “Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don’t care. If there’s one person they’re going after and there’s thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That’s the mentality.” He added, “They’re not accountable to anybody and they know that. It’s an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?”

In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the military intelligence source.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious questions about the norms of international relations. “The immediate question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?” asks Zaidi, who is currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language daily in Pakistan. “Let’s forget Blackwater for a second. What this is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan that aren’t about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force inside of Pakistani territory.”

JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney’s Extra Special Force

Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General McChrystal’s elevation as the military commander of the Afghan war–which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan–there is a concomitant rise in JSOC’s power and influence within the military structure. “I don’t see how you can escape that; it’s just a matter of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it’s inevitable, I think,” Wilkerson told The Nation. He added, “I’m alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported force is Special Operations Command,” under which JSOC operates. “That’s backward. But that’s essentially what we have today.”

From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Blackwater’s 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC controls the Army’s Delta Force, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces operators–which several former military officials pointed to as the basis for Blackwater’s alleged contracts with JSOC.

Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing the highly specialized work they did in uniform. “The Blackwater individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are retired military, and they’ve been around twenty to thirty years and have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don’t,” said retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces. “They’re known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their capabilities are, and they’ve got the experience. They’re very valuable.”

“They make much more money being the smarts of these operations, planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia,” said the military intelligence source. “They were there for all of these things, they know what the hell they’re talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back people that used to work for them and had already planned and executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts of money to plan future operations. It’s a ridiculous revolving door.”

While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. “What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing,” said Colonel Wilkerson. “That’s dangerous, that’s very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don’t tell the theater commander what you’re doing.”

Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. “I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good,” says Wilkerson. “I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions.” He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld “built up initially because Rumsfeld didn’t get the responsiveness. He didn’t get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse’s mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch–read: Cheney and Rumsfeld–wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier.”

Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the United States across the globe. “When these teams started hitting capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld] didn’t tell the State Department either. The only way we found out about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, ‘Who the hell are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking around our capital cities?’ So we discovered this, we discovered one in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered him–we rendered him home.”

As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive JSOC operations. The SSB was created using “reprogrammed” funds “without explicit congressional authority or appropriation,” according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the military chain of command and circumvented the CIA’s authority on clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end “near total dependence on CIA.” Under US law, the Defense Department is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special Operations forces may “conduct clandestine HUMINT operations…before publication” of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld unilateral control over clandestine operations.

The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the “darkest acts” in part to keep them concealed from Congress. “Everything can be justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress,” said the source. “They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A, it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all of the PowerPoints: ‘Preparing the Battlefield.'”

The significance of the flexibility of JSOC’s operations inside Pakistan versus the CIA’s is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress,” she said. “If they are not, that is a violation of the law.”

Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan

For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about Blackwater’s alleged growing presence in the country. For the most part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated, Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater’s operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been involved–almost from the beginning of the “war on terror”–with clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater’s presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, “Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan.” In her trip to Pakistan in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the Pakistani press about Blackwater’s rumored Pakistani operations. Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater “provides security for a US-backed aid project” in Peshawar, suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing to use as a consulate in the city. “We have no contracts in Pakistan,” Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently. “We’ve been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there.”

Reports of Blackwater’s alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. “The US [intelligence] agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are hiding in Karachi and Peshawar,” he said. “That is why [Blackwater] agents are operating in these two cities.” Ambassador Patterson has said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are “wildly incorrect,” saying they had compromised the security of US personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has “found refuge from potential U.S. attacks” in Karachi “with the assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence service.”

In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater allegedly submitted by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to the federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and vehicles through Karachi’s Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did say, “The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in.”

The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has acquired “bungalows” in the Defense Housing Authority in the city. According to the DHA website, it is a large residential estate originally established “for the welfare of the serving and retired officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan.” Its motto is: “Home for Defenders.” The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.

The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it’s the contractors’ fault, not the government’s. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. “We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention,” said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. “In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it’s almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations.” Addicott added, “If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That’s one of the reasons we’re not members of the International Criminal Court.”

If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater’s alleged Pakistan operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of its new frontier. “Having learned its lessons after the private security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger and anticipating other places we’re going to go as a nation that are dangerous,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

About Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling 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!. more…

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091207/scahill

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Blackwater launching missions from Karachi’

* US paper says Blackwater assisting CIA in assassinations of Taliban, Al Qaeda operatives, ‘sensitive action inside, outside Pakistan’
* Blackwater’s help to secret US military drone attacks runs parallel to well-documented CIA predator strikes

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Members of an elite division of Blackwater (Xe Services) are conducting a secret programme from Karachi in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigative report by US-based newspaper The Nation has revealed.

Citing a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus, the paper said the covert forward operating base, run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), is assisted by Blackwater operatives in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes.

The source, which The Nation said has worked on covert US military programmes for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, had direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement.

The source told the paper that the programme was so “compartmentalised” that senior figures within President’s Barack Obama’s administration and the US military chain of command might not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not comment on the story, The Nation said.

A defence official denied that Blackwater worked on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan, saying they “don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period”.

The paper’s source said the Blackwater programme was distinct from the CIA assassination programme that the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had cancelled in June 2009.

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the source’s claim that the company was working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC.

He even said Blackwater was also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm “that puts Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces”.

The Nation said the covert JSOC programme with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the source. Blackwater’s work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source.

“While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi,” he said, “it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince”.

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http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\11\26\story_26-11-2009_pg7_14

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The Nation: Blackwater involved in secret war in Pakistan

By Troy Reimink | The Grand Rapids Press

November 25, 2009, 6:17PM

The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill is reporting on the “secret war” waged in Pakistan by Blackwater, the security firm founded by Holland native Erik Prince. The story begins:

“At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found.”
He also reports that the company is involved in a previously undisclosed drone program similar to CIA predator strikes.

The White House is not answering questions. A spokesman for Blackwater (now called Xe) denies the program exists. A defense official denies that any contracts with Blackwater exist in Pakistan.

Scahill, who wrote “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” and who previously broke news of allegations of murder and weapons smuggling, quotes anonymous sources within the government and the company.

He writes: “The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war–knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan.”

Democracy Now! interviewed Scahill about his story.

Some other recent Blackwater headlines:

• U.S. to drop manslaughter, weapons charges against Blackwater guard for 2007 shooting in Baghdad

• New York Times: Blackwater paid $1 million in bribes to Iraqi officials after civilian shootings in 2007

Explosive allegations place Blackwater founder Erik Prince in the crosshairs — again

• Reports: Ex-Blackwater guards implicate Erik Prince in lawsuit statements

• AP source: CIA hired Blackwater in 2004 to kill al-Qaida leaders

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/11/the_nation_blackwater_involved.html

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‘Blackwater’ men nabbed, released

By: Ashraf Javed | Published: December 09, 2009

LAHORE – Security agencies arrested four suspected members of notorious Blackwater agency while they were trying to force their entry into the Cantonment Area here on Tuesday evening, sources informed.
However, they were released two hours later on the intervention of the US Consulate.
According to well-placed sources, the officials of security agencies intercepted three vehicles with tinted glasses near Sherpao Bridge, as security was on high alert, a day after twin bomb blasts hit Moon Market, Lahore’s leading shopping mall, leaving more than 54 people dead and 150 others wounded.
The arrested suspects believed to be Cobra operatives failed to produce authentic identification and their purpose for entering into the most sensitive area during cross-questioning with the security agency officials. The sources revealed that the suspects were apparently foreigners and they had no proper travel documents. However, the suspects refused to go with the security agencies for further interrogation and started arguing with security agency personnel, creating a terrible traffic mess at the leading artery of the City. Hundreds of motorists remained trapped in the traffic mess for about two hours.
The news of arrest of members of notorious and private spy agency, Blackwater, spread in the City like jungle fire as people stared calling one another to share the development.
Meanwhile, on the intervention of the US Consulate, the law enforcement agencies released the vehicles after the
Consulate personnel arrived and produced the documents.
It is important to mention here that whenever the security agencies nab such private spies, they are released on the intervention of US Embassy or Consulate.
When contacted, spokesperson for US Consulate, Jami Dragon, admitted that the vehicles impounded for some hours belonged to the US Consulate Lahore.
He said that three diplomatic vehicles of the Consulate were stopped at a check-post for routine checking in Cantonment area, which later were released when the some US Consulate staff members reached the spot and produced documents and identification.
Ironically, Jami Dragon very naively said that he did not know about the law and regulations regarding prohibition on the use of tinted glasses in Pakistan.
The spokesman did not know whether the vehicles were taken to any other place. However he said, the checking took a couple of hours, for which he said, he did not know the reason.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/09-Dec-2009/Blackwater-men-nabbed-released

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Proofs of Blackwater (Xe Services) Presence in Karachi

Blackwater’s activities are at the Peak.
*
The notorious mercenary forces are enjoying the support of the most powerful party in the city.
*
Office bearers of the two major political parties are providing [not known whether in their individual capacity or with party lines] to Blackwater besides helping them in getting houses.
*
Nearly half dozen of the houses are provided by a federal minister who is also helping them in clearing the shipments [weapons and hummer] at Port Qasim.
*
Black water has acquired dozens of houses while its strength has reached to 60, 32 out of which are retired officers of Pakistani Law enforcement agencies. No need to mention that the owner of disband Inter Risk is also a retired Captain of Pakistan Army.
*
Blackwater has also acquired the seventh floor of five stars Hotel in the Karachi which is believed to be the new operational Headquarter. Previously a Bungalow in the Khyaban-e-Shamshir area of DHA was used as operational centre.
*
The American School in KDA scheme one has 8 housing units. One house is used by a senior American diplomat while the remaining seven houses are given to Xe Services (Blackwater) for their lodging.
*
Blackwater has got seven houses near the houses of Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf and Gen Moinuddin Hayder in the General colony, near Zamzama DHA. Some Japanese and Koreans are hired and accommodated there to doge Pakistani agencies.
*
Another house is acquired in Karsaz Area which is situated near the Muslim League House. The street has been blocked.
*
Two Vehicles of BB and BD numbers are used by Blackwater in Karachi, the numbers which are assigned to the MNAs and MPAs only. No one will be able to stop them.
*
According to Ummat, the plot reserved for children park in China ground [Kashmir Road] is also given to Xe Services (Blackwater)

http://www.pakistaniscandals.com/post/477/Proofs-of-Blackwater-%28Xe-Services%29-Presence-in-Karachi-.html

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Blackwater black ops behind Pakistan terror wave?

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sun, 12/06/2009 – 01:07.

The Lahore High Court chief justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif served notice on Pakistan‘s Interior Ministry for not replying to a petition demanding full disclose on the activities of Blackwater in the country, and warned that if the interior secretary does not reply by Dec. 14 he could be prosecuted for contempt of court. Sharif also called for a detailed report from the Foreign Ministry on a request to search of the US embassy to recover illegal weapons. Hashim Shaukat Khan, president of Pakistan’s Watan Party, had filed the petition. His attorney, Barrister Zafarullah, said the day Blackwater stepped into Pakistan, terrorism and suicide attacks stepped up. He also alleged that illegal arms are being stored in the US embassy, which were being used for “sabotage acts” in the country. (Pakistan Daily Times, Dec. 5)

At least 40 were killed and scores injured Dec. 4 when a pair of suicide bombers stormed a crowded mosque in Rawalpindi during Friday prayers, joined by assailants who hurled grenades and sprayed gunfire among the worshipers. (WP, Dec. 5) Another three were killed in a blast at a KFC outlet in Peshawar. (BBC News, Dec. 5)

A tip of the hat to the relentlessly paranoid Citizens for Legitimate Government for these news tips.

Xe Services (aka Blackwater)

Submitted by cstalberg (not verified) on Tue, 12/08/2009 – 08:47.

Xe Services (aka Blackwater) is associated with assassinations, kidnapping, prostitution, tax evasion, gun running, weapons stockpiling, recruiting death squad paramilitary personnel from Latin America and defrauding US taxpayers. Blackwater operates without oversight, transparency or accountability. For more information visit http://xewatch.info

http://www.ww4report.com/node/8034

http://freedetainees.org/7547

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US Blackwater nightmare for Peshawaris

US Blackwater Nightmare for Peshawaris
By  Aamir Latif, IOL Correspondent

PESHAWAR — Already shaken by a spate of unrest in their homeland, people in Peshawar now have another source of fear on their city’s streets, the notorious US security firm Blackwater.

“We are deeply scared by their presence and movement as they have posed a serious threat to our lives and properties,” Ahmed Yar Khan, a local businessman, told IslamOnline.net.

According to intelligence sources, the company, which gained world notoriety over involvement in dozens of unprovoked civilian killings in Iraq, has set up different stations in Peshawar and its vicinity.

Sporting black gaggles and carrying sophisticated assault rifles, Blackwater members move freely in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and its adjoining districts.

They are often seen in their black-colored armored vehicles carrying diplomatic number plates.

“Officially, Blackwater is providing security to the US, European and Afghan diplomats and officials working on various development projects financed by the US government in federally administered tribal areas,” a senior intelligence official told IOL, requesting anonymity for not being authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

But residents say that Blackwater agents spur fear and awe, with many of them openly standing guard on the streets and behaving rudely with the locals.

“If they are stuck in a traffic jam, they don’t allow any vehicle to come near them. And if someone mistakenly does that, they shout and point guns at them,” fumed Khan.

Some residents have even filed complaints with the authorities over mistreatment by Blackwater members, but officials turned deaf ears.

“Nothing has so far happened despite several complaints,” Khan lamented. “It seems as if these streets have been sold out to Blackwater.”

Established 10 years ago by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, the South Carolina-based security firm has grown into what US investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill describes as the “world’s most powerful mercenary army.”

Riding machine-gun mounted utility vehicles, Blackwater’s armed contractors have gained notoriety for shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later.

A US congressional report has blamed Blackwater of involvement in 195 shooting incidents since 2005, mostly unprovoked.

Taliban Showdown

Peshawar residents also fear a possible showdown between Taliban groups and Blackwater.

“We have sent a detailed report to the higher authorities that the free movement of Blackwater members is posing a serious threat to the security of Peshawar,” the senior intelligence official said.

One main task for Blackwater recently was tracking down Taliban fighters.

They are reportedly running a spy network in the tribal belt with the aim of hunting down Taliban.

“We have concrete information that mercenaries are involved in covert operations ranging from distribution of funds among anti-Taliban tribesmen to hiring of former military officers and commandoes to work for them,” said the intelligence official.

Blackwater has also hired the services of some local security agencies to work for them in some of the province’s areas where white-skinned agents cannot enter, he added.

“Taliban may carry out suicide bombings in the residential areas, where they (Blackwater members), are stationed.”

Some 18 people were killed and 46 injured on June 9 in a suicide attack at Pearl Continental Hotel Peshawar, which was believed to be a headquarters for Blackwater.

The US embassy in Islamabad denied the killing of any Blackwater members in the attack.

But government and intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the deaths of several agents.

Some residents are so fearful of troubles because of the presence of Blackwater that they decided to leave Peshawar.

“We are trying to sell our house, but no one is ready to buy even at a much cheaper price,” said Khan, the local businessman.

“We are sure that the day is very near when a suicide bomber will rock our area because of them.”

It is true XE is in Islamabad

IT IS TRUE XE IS IN ISLAMABAD
Dear All, i have lived in Islamabad all my life and I vouch, that yes these people are really in Islamabad now. I know from an Islamabad airport security gaurd that one aircraft per day is coming with Americans and equipment on board and they move from the airprot with no checking of any sort. i have seen several houses turned into forts for these people in different sectors of Islamabad. Even the closed down American Center Library has been renovated and is being fortified. This govt has sold the entire nation to these mercenaries, plz is there no one in Pakistan who can overthrow this govt and get us a true and honest ruler??? I am sick of being barricaded in my own home city while govt officials and these mercenaries do as they like….am i a slave??? is pakistan a free country any more???? i want to cry …..my country has been sold out,…we are once again heading toward GORA rule…..f..k this govt…they are selling us out!!!!!
BlackWater for USA = AlQaeda for UIM
BlackWater is to the USA what AlQaeda is to the United Islamic Militancy. . . BlackWater’s founder is a us army special forces son of a billionaire. . . A Qaeda’s founder is an Islamic militant special forces leader and son of a billionaire family. . . AlQaida accused of illegal militant activities. Blackwater accused of illegal militant activities. AlQaida clandestine operations. Blackwater clandestine operations even the CIA cannot do. Difference. AlQaida illegal because no backing. BlackWate backed by the Americans backed by NATO. . .

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1248187485512&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

See also

http://blackwaterwatch.net/

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C.I.A. Agents Going Rogue: Is Erik Prince another Osama bin Ladin?

The Nation | By Jeremy Scahill | 4 December 2009

Is Erik Prince ‘Graymailing’ the US Government?

The in-depth Vanity Fair profile of the infamous owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince, is remarkable on many levels–not least among them that Prince appeared to give the story’s author, former CIA lawyer Adam Ciralsky, unprecedented access to information about sensitive, classified and lethal operations not only of Prince’s forces, but Prince himself. In the article, Prince is revealed not just as owner of a company that covertly provided contractors to the CIA for drone bombings and targeted assassinations, but as an actual CIA asset himself. While the story appears to be simply a profile of Prince, it might actually be the world’s most famous mercenary’s insurance policy against future criminal prosecution. The term of art for what Prince appears to be doing in the VF interview is graymail: a legal tactic that has been used for years by intelligence operatives or assets who are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. In short, these operatives or assets threaten to reveal details of sensitive or classified operations in order to ward off indictments or criminal charges, based on the belief that the government would not want these details revealed. “The only reason Prince would do this [interview] is that he feels he is in very serious jeopardy of criminal charges,” says Scott Horton, a prominent national security and military law expert. “He absolutely would not do these things otherwise.”

There is no doubt Prince is in the legal cross-hairs: There are reportedly two separate Grand Juries investigating Blackwater on a range of serious charges, ranging from gun smuggling to extralegal killings; multiple civil lawsuits alleging war crimes and extrajudicial killings; and Congress is investigating the assassination program in which Prince and his company were central players. “Obviously, Prince does know a lot and the government has to realize that once they start prosecuting him,” says Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “In some ways, graymail is what any good defense lawyer would do. This is something that’s in your arsenal.”

Perhaps the most prominent case of graymail was by Oliver North when he and his lawyers used it to force dismissal of the most serious charges against him stemming from his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair. In another case, known as Khazak-gate, a US businessman, James Giffen, allegedly paid $78 million in bribes to former Khazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev in an attempt to win contracts for western oil companies to develop the Tengiz oil fields in the 1990s. In 1993, he was charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the largest overseas bribery case in history. After Giffen was indicted, he claimed that if he did what he was accused of, he did it in the service of US intelligence agencies. The case has been in limbo ever since.

“This is as old as the hills as a tactic and it has a long track record of being very effective against the government,” says Horton. “It’s basically a threat to the government that if you prosecute me, I’ll disclose all sorts of national security-sensitive information. The bottom line here is it’s like an act of extortion or a threat: you do X and this is what I’m going to do.” Horton said that the Vanity Fair article was Prince “essentially putting out the warning to the Department of Justice: ‘You prosecute me and all this stuff will be out on the record.’”

According to Ciralsky’s article, Prince was a “full-blown asset” of “the C.I.A.’s National Resources Division [which] recruited Prince in 2004 to join a secret network of American citizens with special skills or unusual access to targets of interest:”

Two sources familiar with the arrangement say that Prince’s handlers obtained provisional operational approval from senior management to recruit Prince and later generated a “201 file,” which would have put him on the agency’s books as a vetted asset. It’s not at all clear who was running whom, since Prince says that, unlike many other assets, he did much of his work on spec, claiming to have used personal funds to road-test the viability of certain operations…

Prince was developing unconventional means of penetrating “hard target” countries–where the C.I.A. has great difficulty working either because there are no stations from which to operate or because local intelligence services have the wherewithal to frustrate the agency’s designs. “I made no money whatsoever off this work,” Prince contends. He is unwilling to specify the exact nature of his forays. “I’m painted as this war profiteer by Congress. Meanwhile I’m paying for all sorts of intelligence activities to support American national security, out of my own pocket.”

“I think that [Prince] will use all of his information and his knowledge of these secret dealings in basically what is an extortion play: ‘You come after me, and I’ll spill the beans on everything,’” says Horton. “That’s the essence of graymail and the Department of Justice will usually get its feathers all ruffled up and they’ll say, ‘You can’t deal with the government like this. This is unfair and improper.’ But in the end, it usually works.”

In the Vanity Fair article, Prince alleges that he was outed–by whom he does not say, but the implication is that CIA Director Leon Panetta named him in a closed door hearing of the Intelligence Committee last June, and then the name was leaked by one of the attendees of that hearing. Sloan, the former federal prosecutor, said that if what Prince says in the Vanity Fair article about his role in secret CIA programs is true, he has a case that laws were broken in revealing his identity. “I’m not his fan, but he’s not wrong. For somebody to leak his identity as a CIA asset clearly merits a criminal investigation,” Sloan said. “Whether they should have ever hired Erik Prince or made him into an asset is a separate question. Assuming he really was a CIA asset, basically a spy, an undercover operative, and somebody decided to leak that, that’s not acceptable and that is a violation of the same law that leaking Valerie [Plame]’s identity was. If you can’t leak one person, you can’t leak any person, not just the people you like versus the people you don’t like.”

While much of the focus in the Vanity Fair story was on Prince’s work with the CIA, the story also confirmed that Blackwater has an ongoing relationship with the US Special Forces, helping plan missions and providing air support. As The Nation reported, Blackwater has for years been working on a classified contract with the Joint Special Operations Command in a drone bombing campaign in Pakistan, as well as planning snatch-and-grab missions and targeted assassinations. Part of what may be happening behind closed doors is that the CIA is, to an extent, cutting Blackwater and Prince off. But, as sources have told The Nation, the company remains a central player in US Special Forces operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Prince’s choice of Adam Ciralsky to tell his story is an interesting one as well. Ciralsky was a CIA lawyer who in 1997 was suspended under suspicion he was having unauthorized contacts with possible Israeli intelligence agents. Ciralsky vehemently denied the allegations, saying he was the victim of a “witch-hunt” at the Agency. In any case, there is no question that Prince would view Ciralsky through the lens of his own struggle against the CIA. “When I saw the article, the first thing that just leapt off the page was his name. I thought, ‘My god, why would he go to Adam?’” said Horton. “And then I read the article and I thought, of course he’d go to Adam. There is this legal theme being developed in the article and Adam, as a lawyer who had dealt with the CIA, fully understands that. I mean I think he fully understood he was going to do a piece that would help Prince develop his legal defense and that’s what this is. The amazing thing to me is that Vanity Fair printed it. Do the editors of Vanity Fair not understand what’s going on here?”

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling 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!.

Source: The Nation

http://afpakwar.com/blog/2009/12/10/c-i-a-agents-going-rogue-is-erik-prince-another-osama-bin-ladin/


Is Erik Prince ‘Graymailing’ the US Government?

By Jeremy Scahill

December 4, 2009

The in-depth Vanity Fair profile of the infamous owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince, is remarkable on many levels–not least among them that Prince appeared to give the story’s author, former CIA lawyer Adam Ciralsky, unprecedented access to information about sensitive, classified and lethal operations not only of Prince’s forces, but Prince himself. In the article, Prince is revealed not just as owner of a company that covertly provided contractors to the CIA for drone bombings and targeted assassinations, but as an actual CIA asset himself. While the story appears to be simply a profile of Prince, it might actually be the world’s most famous mercenary’s insurance policy against future criminal prosecution. The term of art for what Prince appears to be doing in the VF interview is graymail: a legal tactic that has been used for years by intelligence operatives or assets who are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. In short, these operatives or assets threaten to reveal details of sensitive or classified operations in order to ward off indictments or criminal charges, based on the belief that the government would not want these details revealed. “The only reason Prince would do this [interview] is that he feels he is in very serious jeopardy of criminal charges,” says Scott Horton, a prominent national security and military law expert. “He absolutely would not do these things otherwise.”

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Jeremy Scahill: Did Blackwater’s owner speak to Vanity Fair to send a message to the Justice Department about the government secrets he could reveal?

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Jeremy Scahill: Inside sources reveal that the firm works with the US military in Karachi to plan targeted assassinations and drone bombings, among other sensitive counterterrorism operations.

There is no doubt Prince is in the legal cross-hairs: There are reportedly two separate Grand Juries investigating Blackwater on a range of serious charges, ranging from gun smuggling to extralegal killings; multiple civil lawsuits alleging war crimes and extrajudicial killings; and Congress is investigating the assassination program in which Prince and his company were central players. “Obviously, Prince does know a lot and the government has to realize that once they start prosecuting him,” says Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “In some ways, graymail is what any good defense lawyer would do. This is something that’s in your arsenal.”

Perhaps the most prominent case of graymail was by Oliver North when he and his lawyers used it to force dismissal of the most serious charges against him stemming from his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair. In another case, known as Khazak-gate, a US businessman, James Giffen, allegedly paid $78 million in bribes to former Khazakh Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev in an attempt to win contracts for western oil companies to develop the Tengiz oil fields in the 1990s. In 1993, he was charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the largest overseas bribery case in history. After Giffen was indicted, he claimed that if he did what he was accused of, he did it in the service of US intelligence agencies. The case has been in limbo ever since.

“This is as old as the hills as a tactic and it has a long track record of being very effective against the government,” says Horton. “It’s basically a threat to the government that if you prosecute me, I’ll disclose all sorts of national security-sensitive information. The bottom line here is it’s like an act of extortion or a threat: you do X and this is what I’m going to do.” Horton said that the Vanity Fair article was Prince “essentially putting out the warning to the Department of Justice: ‘You prosecute me and all this stuff will be out on the record.'”

According to Ciralsky’s article, Prince was a “full-blown asset” of “the C.I.A.’s National Resources Division [which] recruited Prince in 2004 to join a secret network of American citizens with special skills or unusual access to targets of interest:”

Two sources familiar with the arrangement say that Prince’s handlers obtained provisional operational approval from senior management to recruit Prince and later generated a “201 file,” which would have put him on the agency’s books as a vetted asset. It’s not at all clear who was running whom, since Prince says that, unlike many other assets, he did much of his work on spec, claiming to have used personal funds to road-test the viability of certain operations…

Prince was developing unconventional means of penetrating “hard target” countries–where the C.I.A. has great difficulty working either because there are no stations from which to operate or because local intelligence services have the wherewithal to frustrate the agency’s designs. “I made no money whatsoever off this work,” Prince contends. He is unwilling to specify the exact nature of his forays. “I’m painted as this war profiteer by Congress. Meanwhile I’m paying for all sorts of intelligence activities to support American national security, out of my own pocket.”

“I think that [Prince] will use all of his information and his knowledge of these secret dealings in basically what is an extortion play: ‘You come after me, and I’ll spill the beans on everything,'” says Horton. “That’s the essence of graymail and the Department of Justice will usually get its feathers all ruffled up and they’ll say, ‘You can’t deal with the government like this. This is unfair and improper.’ But in the end, it usually works.”

In the Vanity Fair article, Prince alleges that he was outed–by whom he does not say, but the implication is that CIA Director Leon Panetta named him in a closed door hearing of the Intelligence Committee last June, and then the name was leaked by one of the attendees of that hearing. Sloan, the former federal prosecutor, said that if what Prince says in the Vanity Fair article about his role in secret CIA programs is true, he has a case that laws were broken in revealing his identity. “I’m not his fan, but he’s not wrong. For somebody to leak his identity as a CIA asset clearly merits a criminal investigation,” Sloan said. “Whether they should have ever hired Erik Prince or made him into an asset is a separate question. Assuming he really was a CIA asset, basically a spy, an undercover operative, and somebody decided to leak that, that’s not acceptable and that is a violation of the same law that leaking Valerie [Plame]’s identity was. If you can’t leak one person, you can’t leak any person, not just the people you like versus the people you don’t like.”

While much of the focus in the Vanity Fair story was on Prince’s work with the CIA, the story also confirmed that Blackwater has an ongoing relationship with the US Special Forces, helping plan missions and providing air support. As The Nation reported, Blackwater has for years been working on a classified contract with the Joint Special Operations Command in a drone bombing campaign in Pakistan, as well as planning snatch-and-grab missions and targeted assassinations. Part of what may be happening behind closed doors is that the CIA is, to an extent, cutting Blackwater and Prince off. But, as sources have told The Nation, the company remains a central player in US Special Forces operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Prince’s choice of Adam Ciralsky to tell his story is an interesting one as well. Ciralsky was a CIA lawyer who in 1997 was suspended under suspicion he was having unauthorized contacts with possible Israeli intelligence agents. Ciralsky vehemently denied the allegations, saying he was the victim of a “witch-hunt” at the Agency. In any case, there is no question that Prince would view Ciralsky through the lens of his own struggle against the CIA. “When I saw the article, the first thing that just leapt off the page was his name. I thought, ‘My god, why would he go to Adam?'” said Horton. “And then I read the article and I thought, of course he’d go to Adam. There is this legal theme being developed in the article and Adam, as a lawyer who had dealt with the CIA, fully understands that. I mean I think he fully understood he was going to do a piece that would help Prince develop his legal defense and that’s what this is. The amazing thing to me is that Vanity Fair printed it. Do the editors of Vanity Fair not understand what’s going on here?”

About Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling 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!. more…

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091221/scahill2

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2010

<> Iraq Baghdad Nisar Square Massacre

The public anger has never faded

By Kim Sengupta, our correspondent who was in Nisur Square at the time of the attack

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Sitting swathed in bandages at Baghdad’s Yarmukh Hospital, a day after he had been shot four times in the back by Blackwater guards, Hassan Jabar Salman, shook his head “This is not the first time they have killed innocent people in our country, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will be done. You’ll see.”

I was in Nisour Square on Baghdad’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ when Mr Salman and around 40 others were shot. The eruption of gunfire was sudden and ferocious, round after round mowing down terrified men women and children, slamming into cars as they collided and overturned with drivers frantically trying to escape. Some vehicles were set alight by exploding petrol tanks. A mother and her infant child died in one of them, trapped in the flames.

Related articles

Even by the standards of the savage violence of Iraq at the time, the massacre at Mansour with families out in a shopping district making up most of the victims, brought a sense of profound shock . What happened had been witnessed by Iraqi policemen as they sought shelter from the bullets, American soldiers who arrived in the blood strained streets soon afterwards shook their heads in incomprehension.

There was overwhelming evidence that this was a case of unprovoked killings and it sparked one of the most bitter public disputes between the Iraqi government and its American patrons, and brings into sharp focus the often violent conduct of the Western private armies operating in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, immune from scrutiny or prosecution.

Yet, many Iraqis would agree with Mr Salman, a 42 year old lawyer, that the trigger happy guards would get away with what they had done. Amid widespread public anger Iraq revoked Blackwater’s licence to operate — only to back-track after just three days under pressure from Washington which still employed the company to provide security for State Department staff.

But the public anger over what happened at Nisour Square did not fade. Investigations were launchd by both the US administration and the Iraqi government and a number of Blackwater guards were eventually arrested and charged in connection with the deaths and injuries. The company, mired in criticism of its conduct, even changed its name — – to the more anonymous ‘Xe’.

The ruling which clears Blackwater will cofirm for Mr Salman and others in Iraq the belief that foreigners were above the law, that, in Western eyes, Iraqi lives did not, somehow, matter.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-public-anger-has-never-faded-1855402.html

<>

Welcome to Pashtunistan: the aim of America’s secret war?

Shaukat Qadir

  • Last Updated: December 22. 2009 1:01AM UAE / December 21. 2009 9:01PM GMT

Few people by now can be unaware of Blackwater, later known as Blackwater Worldwide and now as Xe. The private security agency formed in 1997 and based in North Carolina is owned by Erik Prince, a former member of the US Navy Seal special forces, and has long-standing links with both the CIA and the FBI.

Its presence in Pakistan has been an open secret for some years. The investigative journalist and writer Jeremy Scahill, an authority on Blackwater and author of the bestselling Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, revealed last month that it has been there since 2006. He says Blackwater is being employed for covert ops, essentially intended to target high-value al Qa’eda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, but it has also assisted in providing information for drone attacks and has kidnapped suspects and transported them covertly to the US for interrogation.

In other words, it is an American agency with a licence to kill or kidnap, thus exonerating official American agencies that might one day be held accountable. (Although personally I doubt if the CIA will ever be held accountable. I continue to aver that it is the only real rogue intelligence agency in the world. Mossad might enjoy liberty of action for any operation, but it cannot undertake one without the approval of the Israeli prime minister: no such restriction applies to the CIA.)

Mr Scahill does not engage in speculation, and is not to be taken lightly. So when he states that Xe is sitting in Karachi, he is not likely to be wrong. He has added that the operation is so secret that many senior people in the Obama administration were unaware of it.

However, he seems to have erred in one respect: Xe is not only in Karachi. It also has a massive presence in Islamabad and Peshawar, where I understand the organisation has rented up to seven adjacent houses. Neighbours who heard muffled explosions soon after the houses were occupied suspect that they are linked by underground tunnels.

That the former president Pervez Musharraf permitted Blackwater entry to Pakistan does not surprise me in the least; he would have been ready to bark if George Bush wanted him to, not that Asif Ali Zardari is much different; both have been acceding to every US demand at every opportunity.

There is no doubt that for the past year or so US drone attacks have been far more successful in targeting militants than before, although, with the exception of Baitullah Mehsud, only in taking out low-level soldiers. My information is that the CIA/Xe have improved their human intelligence, and with its presence in Peshawar it is possible that Xe might have contributed to this improved performance of drone attacks.

But what else is it doing there? If its purpose is to kidnap suspected terrorists and convey them to the US, then clearly no one can know how many they have managed to extract since the operations would be covert; but, equally clearly, none has been high profile, or their disappearance would have been noted. All major non-Pashtun names on the US list of terrorists still roam at large in Karachi and Punjab.

If Xe is meant to target al Qa’eda, again they don’t seem to have had much success. The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to assert that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, without offering concrete evidence; and if he is, why has the professional and highly paid Xe failed to kill or capture him? For such an expensive operation, Xe seems to have little to show to justify its continued presence in Pakistan.

The latest twist is that the organisation’s founder and owner, Mr Prince, has given an interview to the American magazine Vanity Fair, apparently in a fit of pique, in which he claims to have been a CIA asset since 2004 with a mission to hunt down and kill al Qa’eda militants for the US government. Describing the backlash after his employees shot dead 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, Mr Prince said: “When it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under a bus.”

He now says he is severing all ties with Xe, and after the interview the CIA said it was cancelling all contracts with the organisation. Nevertheless, there appears to be no evidence of its impending departure from Pakistan. This is a security agency that is available to anyone who can afford it. If its contract has indeed been terminated by the CIA, what is it still doing in Pakistan? Either the “termination” was a farce for public consumption, or Xe has found other paymasters.

I am not a subscriber to conspiracy theories. However, sometimes there seems to be no alternative logical explanation, and/or the conspiracy theory appears logical in itself. When this happens, one is forced to become a believer. This seems to be one such instance.

Pakistan’s conspiracy theorists have long held that the real object of Xe, acting on behalf of the CIA, is to destabilise Pakistan so as to have an excuse to take over or destroy its nuclear assets, because Israel and the US remain uncomfortable with a nuclear Pakistan. I have long disputed this theory, but am finding it increasingly difficult to continue doing so.

The Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar has suggested that the US wants to leave behind a united Pashtunistan, consisting of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Afghanistan, an independent Balochistan and a weak, truncated Pakistan. The argument is a clever mix of fact and fiction; Jeremy Scahill he is not.

But then, what is Xe doing in Pakistan? All official statements from the US, Pakistan and Xe itself have denied its presence; but we all know it is there and, if my conclusions are correct, apparently serving no visibly useful purpose. All the denials can only give credence to one conspiracy theory or another: take your pick.

Brig Gen Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer

http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091222/OPINION/712219926/1080

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Xe (BLACKWATER) services aim for

$ 1 BILLION

Afghan Deal

Xe Services aims for $1 billion Afghan deal

Re-branded Blackwater firm bids to train police force despite legal woes

An Iraqi traffic policeman inspects a car destroyed by a Blackwater security detail in al-Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sept. 25, 2007.

View related photos

//Khalid Mohammed / AP

WASHINGTON – Blackwater Worldwide’s legal woes haven’t dimmed the company’s prospects in Afghanistan, where it’s a contender to be a key part of President Barack Obama’s strategy for stabilizing the country.

Now called Xe Services, the company is in the running for a Pentagon contract potentially worth $1 billion to train Afghanistan’s troubled national police force. Xe has been shifting to training, aviation and logistics work after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.

Yet even with a new name and focus, the expanded role would seem an unlikely one for Xe because Democrats have held such a negative opinion of the company following the Iraqi deaths, which are still reverberating in Baghdad and Washington.

During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Obama’s secretary of state, backed legislation to ban Blackwater and other private security contractors from Iraq.

Xe eventually lost its license to operate as guardian of U.S. diplomats in Iraq and the State Department, with Clinton at the helm, elected not to rehire the company when the contract expired in 2009. Delays in getting a new company in place led to a temporary extension of the State contract.

A federal judge on New Year’s Eve dismissed criminal charges against five of the Blackwater guards, citing repeated missteps by federal prosecutors. The Iraqi government has vowed to pursue the case, a new strain on relations between the U.S. and Iraq.

Xe on Wednesday reached a settlement in a series of civil lawsuits in which dozens of Iraqis accused the company of cultivating a reckless culture that allowed innocent civilians to be killed. On Thursday, however, two former Blackwater contractors were arrested on murder charges in the shootings of two Afghans after a traffic accident last year.

Reliance on Xe
Despite the scrutiny, the U.S. relies heavily on Xe — pronounced “zee” — for support in Afghanistan and the workload may grow significantly.

Xe spokesman Mark Corallo declined to comment on whether the company, based in Moyock, N.C., is bidding for the Afghan police training contract. But a U.S. official knowledgeable of the deliberations said Xe is competing. The official requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information about the federal contracting process.

Xe provides security services in Afghanistan, though on a smaller scale than it did in Iraq. As of November, Xe had more than 200 security personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, according to documents highlighting Xe’s operations.

Two Xe guards were killed Dec. 30 during a suicide bombing attack at a CIA base in southeastern Afghanistan, again raising questions about services the company provides for the CIA.

Late last year, CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated the use of Xe personnel in loading and other logistics for airborne drones used to hunt militants in Pakistan.

Click for related content

2 ex-Blackwater guards charged with murder
Blackwater settles lawsuits over shootings
Judge dismisses Blackwater shooting charges

Prolific provider of aviation services
Xe is also a prolific provider of aviation services in Afghanistan, where travel on land is complicated by the country’s rugged terrain and roadside bombs. In airplanes and helicopters, Xe has ferried thousands of passengers and millions of pounds of cargo and mail under contracts with U.S. Transportation Command with a potential value of more than $750 million, according to the company documents.

In 2009 alone, Xe projected total revenues at $669 million, the documents state, and three-quarters of the total stems from federal contracts to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Afghan national police training contract is expected to be awarded soon and Xe is among five companies eligible to compete.

Obama is ramping up efforts to expand and improve the Afghan army and national police into a force able to handle the country’s security burden so U.S. troops can begin withdrawing in July 2011. The private sector’s help is needed because the U.S. doesn’t have a deep enough pool of trainers and mentors with law enforcement experience.

Xe Services aims for $1 billion Afghan deal

Border police training
Under an existing defense contract, Xe already trains the Afghan border police — an arm of the national police — and drug interdiction units in volatile southern Afghanistan, according to the documents.

The Defense Department’s plan is to fold the border police training into the broader contract.

Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School, says Xe’s foothold in Afghanistan could give it an edge over other competitors. And defense officials considering bids for the police training work may pay more attention to Xe’s resume in Afghanistan than as a security contractor in Iraq, he added.


“Blackwater’s current contract for the border police means it already has assets — experience, a proven record and existing capacity and personnel in Afghanistan — for a contract to train the Afghan national police,” said Tiefer, a member of the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting.

The top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, wants to build the Afghan national police to a force of 160,000 by 2013 — up from the roughly 94,000 now.

The Afghan army is in better shape than the national police, an organization riddled with corruption and generally unable to control crime or combat the Taliban.

Distancing itself from Blackwater brand
At a hearing in December held by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Fred Roitz, Xe’s executive vice president of contracts and sales, sought to burnish the company’s credentials. He said the company trains Afghan law enforcement units to operate effectively “in one of the most dangerous border regions in the world.”

Roitz added that Xe has a new chief executive officer, Joseph Yorio, who replaced the company’s founder, Erik Prince, in March. Prince’s decision to step aside underscored the company’s efforts to distance itself from the Blackwater brand.

Since 2003, DynCorp International of Falls Church, Va., has held a large State Department contract for training Afghanistan’s national police. The most recent installment of the training contract was awarded in August 2008 and it generates about $20 million in revenue a month for DynCorp, according to company spokesman Douglas Ebner.

But a decision by McChrystal to give U.S. military officials control over all police training contracts is ending DynCorp’s run and creating a major opportunity for Xe and the other companies.

DynCorp has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the approach is “procedurally and legally flawed,” according to company vice president Donald Ryder.

Military authorities gave responsibility for managing the expanded contract to a Navy office in Dahlgren, Va. The Counter NarcoTerrorism Technology Program Office has five pre-approved vendors: Xe, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and ARINC Engineering Services.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34778920/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/

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Blackwater’s Black Ops

Published on The Nation (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 DEA—Read 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 Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired 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 materials—posters, 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.


Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/154739/blackwaters-black-ops

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September 16, 2010

The Nation: Docs Reveals Blackwater-Linked Companies Provided Intel & Security to Multinationals Like Monsanto, Chevron

“Blackwater’s Black Ops”—that’s the title of an explosive new article in The Nation magazine that reveals how entities closely linked with the private security firm Blackwater have provided security and intelligence services to a range of powerful corporations over the past several years. The companies include Monsanto, Chevron, Deutsche Bank and others. Blackwater has also provided intelligence and training services to foreign governments, including Jordan, the Canadian military and the Dutch police. We speak with investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill. [includes rush transcript]

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Jeremy Scahill, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute and the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

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AMY GOODMAN: “Blackwater’s Black Ops”—that’s the title of an explosive new article in The Nation magazine that reveals how entities closely linked with the private security firm Blackwater have provided security and intelligence services to a range of powerful corporations over the past several years. The companies include Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Blackwater has also provided intelligence and training services to foreign governments, including the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Dutch police. In 2007, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto worked with Blackwater when she returned to Pakistan to campaign for the general elections. Bhutto was assassinated in December of 2007.

The new revelations come from documents obtained by The Nation. They show that Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center. Both companies are owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince.

Today also marks the third anniversary of the Nisoor Square massacre, when Blackwater guards gunned down seventeen Iraqi civilians and wounded twenty in a fifteen-minute shooting spree in Baghdad.

For more, we’re joined now from New York by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill. He’s a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute. He’s a Democracy Now! correspondent and author of the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. His new article in online at thenation.com.

Jeremy, welcome to Democracy Now! How did you get a hold of these documents?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Amy, as you know, journalists who do this kind of sensitive work have an obligation to protect their sources, so I’m not going to go into any detail about where these documents came from because of ethical obligations that I have as an investigative journalist to protect my sources. And we’re living in a climate right now where there is really a war against whistleblowers and others, so I prefer to leave it at that.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what you found. Tell us how many documents you got and what’s in them.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I was provided with an extensive array of documents that included internal company emails from various entities controlled by Erik Prince, including Total Intelligence Solutions, the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater itself, documents that not only relate to these corporations that you mentioned—Monsanto, Disney, Chevron and the rest—but also documents that relate to some very powerful people that were veteran CIA operatives that worked on lethal CIA programs before coming to Blackwater.

Among them was Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, the man who after 9/11 told Congress that the gloves had come off, in terms of the tactics that the United States was using in the so-called war on terror. Another figure was Rob Richer, who is the former deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique “Ric” Prado, who is a twenty-four-year CIA veteran and was a veteran paramilitary operative in the CIA’s Special Operations Group, the most lethal of the CIA entities.

And in terms of Ric Prado, what is significant about him is that Prado and Erik Prince were the two figures that set up the CIA assassination program that Blackwater was at the center of. And what the documents that I obtained show is that Ric Prado, beginning in 2007, took the network of foreign operatives that Blackwater had developed for the CIA’s assassination program, operatives that Ric Prado describes in the documents I obtained as “deniable,” and therefore a “big plus” to clients that would want to hire them, and attempted to offer this network of deniable assets around the world to the Drug Enforcement Administration. And in fact, he emailed an eighteen-year veteran of the DEA who had recently come to work for Erik Prince and asked that executive if the DEA would be interested in such a network. And this eighteen-year DEA agent, who now was working for the Blackwater network of companies, told Prado that there could be interest in that and actually gave him the name of the special agent in charge of the Special Operations Division, which is a very secretive entity within the Department of Justice that’s controlled by the DEA. And this executive also suggested that attachés for the DEA in Mexico, in Colombia, in Thailand and elsewhere may also be interested. Now, I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not this network was activated and, if it was, for what purpose, but this is very, very explosive.

The other thing, Amy, that I think is really important on this CIA angle is that at one point, in one of the documents I obtained, we find that Blackwater set up a pricing chart for its services to hire people like Enrique “Ric” Prado or Cofer Black or Rob Richer to work for your private corporation or if you’re a wealthy individual. And among the services, you could pay more than $33,000 to have Ric Prado set up a—lead a four-man countersurveillance team or counterintelligence team in the United States. You could pay $250,000 to have Prado set up a safehouse for you, plus expenses. And these services were also offered in places around the globe, in North Africa, in China, Japan, Russia, throughout Latin America. So essentially what you had is CIA-type services literally being offered at a price tag, a specific price tag, being put on them. And perhaps the most interesting among them is that for $5,000 a day you could hire Cofer Black, Rob Richer or Ric Prado to represent your interests in front of national decision makers.

AMY GOODMAN: You also write, Jeremy Scahill, about what happened on this—well, three years ago—this is the third anniversary of the Nisoor Square massacre—what Blackwater did in response, the Blackwater operatives who opened fire and killed seventeen Iraqis.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, the Nisoor Square massacre was the single greatest massacre of Iraqi civilians that we know about that was committed by a US force in Iraq. And what happened is that after the Nisoor Square massacre, Blackwater engaged in a rebranding campaign, where they attempted to shake the Blackwater name. They now call themselves Xe Services or the US Training Center.

And what I think was most fascinating, in terms of this rebranding, as far as the documents I obtained, was—is that in January of 2008, Cofer Black, who was the vice chair of Blackwater and the chairman of Total Intelligence Solutions, Blackwater’s CIA, flew to Zürich, Switzerland, and he met with Kevin Wilson, who was the head of global security for Monsanto. And I actually talked to Kevin Wilson. I called him on the phone and reached him, and he seemed pretty surprised that I knew about the meeting, but he did confirm, ultimately, that he met with Cofer Black. And he told me that Cofer Black had informed him that Blackwater and Total Intelligence were totally separate entities. But if you see the email that Cofer Black sent after meeting with Kevin Wilson, he sent it to Erik Prince at Prince’s Blackwater email address and to Ric Prado at his Blackwater email address, and he told them that he had discussed with Kevin Wilson Blackwater becoming the intel arm, the intelligence arm, of Monsanto and that they had discussed using Blackwater/Total Intelligence operatives to infiltrate animal rights groups. Of course, Monsanto is at the center of many protests globally by farmers’ organizations, by animal rights activists, by environmental rights activists. You discussed earlier in the headlines this issue of hiring companies to spy in the state of Pennsylvania. So when I asked Monsanto about that, they said that no such discussion took place, but they did acknowledge that they hired Total Intelligence Solutions beginning in ’08 and all the way up—working for Monsanto all the way up until earlier this year, in 2010. And they said that one of the things that they were doing for them was to monitor activists’ blogs and websites on behalf of Monsanto.

The Disney corporation hired Blackwater to scout movie locations in Morocco. And in that case, Rob Richer, former senior CIA officer, and Cofer Black, both of them reactivated their contacts in Morocco from their CIA days and used those sources as a way to build a sort of report for Disney.

Deutsche Bank had them prepare—had Blackwater/Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center prepare a report on countersurveillance tactics in China. And the Blackwater network of companies advised Deutsche Bank that they should not be—that they should not bring any electronic equipment when they go into China and that their executives should beware of female Chinese agents trying to get too close to them. And at one point, the analyst for Blackwater says, “If women aren’t coming onto you in the United States and they start coming onto you in China, well, then, you know something is suspicious.”

Perhaps what is going to be most eye-raising for some in Pakistan about what I’ve reported is the idea that Benazir Bhutto worked with Blackwater in the months leading up to her death. There’s an email that I obtained from Rob Richer, the former deputy director of operations at CIA working for Blackwater at the time, where it is revealed that American security has been hired by Bhutto. And richer writes back—and I think it’s important to quote this exactly as he said it—he writes to the other analysts for Blackwater and Total Intelligence Solutions, and he says, “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, quote, “We should be prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces,” meaning Blackwater. “That will impact the security [profile].” There’s a word missing there, or there’s a typo. “We should be prepared to”—what—”a communique.” It’s unclear. And the missing word or the typo there will dictate, of course, the full meaning of that message, because Benazir Bhutto was assassinated two months later. So I’m sure that this bears much further scrutiny by the Bhutto family and the Pakistani government. This really needs to be investigated, what role Blackwater had in Benazir Bhutto’s security operations.

AMY GOODMAN: You also mention Blackwater working for Chevron Corporation, a company we’ve both investigated together, Jeremy.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, it looks like Chevron was a subscriber, in some form, to the intelligence services provided by Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center. Blackwater—or, excuse me, Chevron is listed on one of the documents that I obtained that shows the list of top ten vendors for the Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center for their client base. But there were no specifics about what the company—the companies, Blackwater-affiliated companies, did for Chevron. That’s also the case with some of the other companies on there. And I think one of the reasons why I wanted to put this out is that I’m hoping that other journalists are going to follow up on this and really press the issue—just exactly what was Blackwater doing, particularly after the Nisoor Square massacre, for all of these powerful multinational corporations?

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and come back. Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is our guest. He has an explosive piece at thenation.com. It’s called “Blackwater’s Black Ops.” Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re finishing up with our guest Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, and the piece in The Nation magazine, “Blackwater’s Black Ops.” As we wrap up on this third anniversary of the Nisoor Square massacre, Jeremy, I wanted to go back to Ric Prado and the losing the secure phone line.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. There was a flurry of emails at one point in October of 2009. Clearly, someone from the CIA had contacted Blackwater and was asking them to account for their secure telephone unit. These are telephone units that are encrypted and allow conversations that cannot be penetrated or eavesdropped on, and they’re used regularly, the more current version of it—they’re called STEs—are used regularly by the NSA or the CIA, by the President himself. And, you know, clearly, the—Blackwater had been issued one of these telephones because of its covert work for the CIA, of course, the CIA assassination program, that lasted at least from ’04 to ’06 involving Blackwater. And various Blackwater officials are emailing around, and they can’t account for it. And people are saying, “I have no dog in this fight. I’ve left the company.”

And then Ric Prado, who had left Blackwater and started his own covert operations shop called Constellation Security Group, Constellation Security Consulting—Ric Prado emails, finally, to kind of say, “Well, I’ll take care of this.” And he says, “Have the OGA point of contact contact me.” OGA, of course, is parlance for the CIA. It means “other government agency.” Prado’s company, I think, Constellation, needs to be investigated, because he writes in these documents that he carried out operations in Mali, in North Africa, potentially involving Chad and Congo. We know, of course, that there’s increased CIA and Joint Special Operations Command activity happening on the African continent. And the role of this company, of this man who is a twenty-four-year veteran of the CIA, a paramilitary for the CIA, his company, his new company, needs to be investigated because it appears as though he’s taken some of Blackwater’s covert CIA business with him into his new company that he himself has started and now runs.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jeremy, you’re talking about Constellation Consulting Group, or CCG. We want to thank you very much for being with us, Jeremy Scahill. The piece is explosive. It’s at thenation.com. Interesting you raise the issue of Blackwater spying for Monsanto, because tomorrow on Democracy Now! from here in Bonn, we’re going to speak with Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who took on Blackwater in a big way.

PERCY SCHMEISER: The Parliament in Cape Town of South Africa, and coming out of the Assembly, one of Monsanto’s representatives from Johannesburg ran face-to-face into us, and he lost his cool, and he said to my wife and myself—and he shook his fist in our face and said, “Nobody stands up to Monsanto. We are going to get both of you, somehow, some day, and destroy you both.” Phone calls my wife would receive: “You better watch it. We’re going to get you.” They would come into our driveway and watch what my wife would be doing all day. They would use their vehicles and sit on the roads alongside of our farmland, watch us all day long, to try and intimidate us and to put fear into us.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, took on Monsanto Corporation in a big way. You’ll hear his story tomorrow here on Democracy Now!, as we continue to broadcast from Bonn, Germany, where the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards is being held

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/16/the_nation__docs_reveals_blackwater

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blackwater Working for Monsanto Company and Canada

Blackwater, now called Xe, is back in the news again after it was reported that they have provided services to the Canadian Military, the Netherlands Police, and Monsanto Company.

Blackwater/Xe is a mercenary force most famous for its controversial run in Iraq under the Bush administration. Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who wrote a book on the soldiers of fortune, said:

“… 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.”

A spokesperson for Monsanto said his company paid Total Intelligence for reports on groups and individuals that could pose a threat to the company wherever it operates. Total Intelligence worked on this by monitoring local news reports and searching the pages of activist blogs and websites. It didn’t stop there, Blackwater’s puppet company also infiltrated anti-Monsanto activist groups.

This is no surprise, given the fact that Monsanto is the same company that gave the world Agent Orange.

Another one of Blackwater/Xe’s subsidiaries, the Terrorism Research Center, was paid over $1.6 million by Canada to provide training to its soldiers. This violation of the US export control laws, as well as other violations by the private death squad, incurred a fine of only $42 million. This is a mere slap on the wrist given the fact that Xe is raking in billions and has grown enormously over the past few years.

Blackwater is famous for killing 17 Iraqis and wounding 22 others in an unprovoked attack in 2007. It changed its name to Xe in 2009 as part of a public image makeover. Its founder Erik Prince is a known radical Christian fundamentalist.

Posted by Nick at 9:29 PM

Labels: Blackwater, Canada, mercenaries, Monsanto, police, Xe

http://partisan-news.blogspot.com/2010/09/blackwater-working-for-monsanto-company.html

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After Fallujah: The Truth About the Blackwater Mercenaries

Revolutionary Worker #1236, April 11, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

“We have established a global presence and provide training and tactical solutions for the 21st century. Our clients include federal law enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Transportation, local and state entities from around the country, multinational corporations and friendly nations from all over the globe.”

Blackwater corporate website

“I would like to have the largest, most professional private army in the world.”

Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater USA

“Blackwater . right now has contracts that [Gary Jackson] says are so secret that he is not able to tell one branch of the Feds that he’s working for a different branch of the Feds.. Much of the interview I had with them was couched in this — this almost cowboy-like secrecy. They were very proud of being on these top secret missions.”

Barry Yeoman, author of “Soldiers of Good Fortune,” on Democracy Now

Soon after the four U.S. “civilian contractors” died in Fallujah, it became obvious they weren’t “civilians” at all. All four were trained commandos–at least three had years of experience in elite U.S. military units. They were working for the private mercenary army called “Blackwater USA.” All were heavily armed. One carried a Department of Defense ID card.

What were they doing deep in Fallujah? At this point, it is not known.

The official story is that these heavily armed mercenaries were in Fallujah to “protect food shipments.” But that day, there were no “food shipments” in sight. The Marines had just gone door-to-door arresting men for interrogation–and so there has been speculation in Fallujah that these commandos were on a mission to capture or assassinate people fingered as part of the resistance.

When asked about their mission, Blackwater refused to comment–and told reporters to talk to their lawyers. The Geneva Conventions make hired mercenaries illegal–so private armies today “officially” claim that they are not in the battle zones to actually fight or assassinate, but only for “security” or “training” or (perhaps) “guarding food shipments.”

Blackwater is a highly connected mercenary corporation–based in North Carolina, but with offices in McLean, Virginia, near CIA headquarters. They operate a 5,200-acre state-of-the-art commando training ground in North Carolina’s Great Dismal Swamp–basically a private military base. It provides privatized training for U.S. military personnel and police.

For example, the company won a five-year Navy contract in 2002 worth $35.7 million to train Navy personnel in “force protection, shipboard security, search-and-seizure techniques, and armed sentry duties.”

Increasingly, however, the main work of Blackwater has been deploying its own mercenary army– recruited from elite U.S. military forces (especially from Navy SEALS and Marine Recon), SWAT police forces, and international “soldiers of fortune.” In February it started training former Chilean commandos–some of whom served under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet–for use in Iraq.

In August 2003, Blackwater was awarded a $21 million contract to supply security guards and two helicopters for Paul Bremer III, head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Other Blackwater operations in Iraq are merely described as full protective teams “for any threat scenario.”

Privatizing the Empire’s Dirty Work

“Private military corporations become a way [for government officials] to distance themselves and create what we used to call `plausible deniability.'”

Daniel Nelson, former professor at the Defense Department’s Marshall European Center for Security Studies

“In recent years, soldiers-for-profit have served in Liberia, Pakistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. They have guarded Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, and built the military detention facilities holding Al Qaeda suspects in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. They have been an essential part of the American war on drugs in Latin America.”

Barry Yeoman, Mother Jones , May/June 2003

“Under a shroud of secrecy, the United States is carrying out military missions with people who don’t have the same level of accountability.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

Blackwater was founded in 1997. Like dozens of similar companies, it has been growing with amazing speed, thanks to huge contracts from the Pentagon.

And Blackwater is just a small piece of a much, much larger trend.

Barry Yeoman describes another corporate mercenary operation in Mother Jones (May/June 2003): “Military Professional Resources Inc., one of the largest and most prestigious firms, boasts that it can call on 12,500 veterans with expertise in everything from nuclear operations to submarine attacks. MPRI deploys its private troops to run Army recruitment centers across the country, train soldiers to serve as key staff officers in the field, beef up security at U.S. military bases in Korea, and train foreign armies from Kuwait to South Africa. At the highest echelons, the Virginia-based firm is led by retired General Carl Vuono, who served as Army chief of staff during the Gulf War and the U.S. invasion of Panama. Assisting him are General Crosbie Saint, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe; Lt. General Harry Soyster, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and General Ron Griffith, former Army vice chief of staff. MPRI’s parent company, L-3 Communications, had more than a dozen lobbyists working on its behalf, including Linda Daschle, wife of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.”

Privatized corporate military operations now draw an estimated $100 billion in business worldwide each year — much of it going to top U.S. corporations like Halliburton, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Grumman, and Raytheon. The military-industrial companies that once just created the guns and warplanes now provide mercenary forces for “privately” carrying out the military attacks and defoliation– especially in Colombia where large numbers of “contractors” serve as agents and trainers for the U.S government.

Over 15,000 military “contractors” are now stationed in Iraq, working for dozens of companies–a force larger than the British contingent in the war zone. There is reportedly one mercenary in place for every 10 occupation soldiers. “Private” military firms and contractors operate mess halls, guard bases, serve as bodyguards, train soldiers, and maintain key weapons systems. The New York Times reported that “contractors” are now starting to deploy their own fleets of armored cars.

Such “contract” soldiers have had a free hand in threatening and killing Iraqi people. A former Special Forces member documented ( Washington Times , October 6, 2003) that military contractors guarding ministries on behalf of coalition authorities repeatedly killed Iraqis–without punishment or inquiry.

From the point of view of the Pentagon and CIA, there are several clear advantages to privatizing their more controversial operations.

The U.S. government does not count mercenaries as their soldiers, and it does not count dead mercenaries as military casualties. In other words, using mercenaries means the Pentagon can downplay the size of its involvement.

On March 31, when the four mercenaries were killed in Fallujah, their deaths were not even mentioned on the Coalition Provisional Authority’s online list of casualties and news. One U.S. news agency documented that at least 33 mercenaries have died–but no one knows if the real number is much higher.

Second, the U.S. government is involved in growing numbers of “under the radar” interventions and mini-wars all over the world. Using mercenaries to carry out these operations enables the U.S. government to keep “plausible deniability” in the violation of sovereignty and the commitment of atrocities.

The third advantage is massive profit and corruption for the military officer corps. Military experts leave the government payroll–but use their in-house contacts to win massive contracts for the same operations of logistics, training, and special operations they were already performing. They become millionaires while continuing their former military assignments “in the private sector”–and conduct these operations far outside the usual budgetary and political scrutiny.

In an empire that worships private capitalism and profit, large parts of the global machinery of killing is increasingly sliding into corporate hands. And business is very, very good.


This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
http://rwor.org
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Blackwater Won Contracts Via Dozens Of Dummy Corporations

First Posted: 09- 3-10 10:45 PM   |   Updated: 09- 4-10 09:16 AM

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON – The security company Blackwater Worldwide formed a network of 30 shell companies and subsidiaries to try to get millions of dollars in government business after the company faced strong criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, The New York Times reported Friday.

The newspaper said that it was unclear how many of the created companies got American contracts but that at least three of them obtained work with the U.S. military and the CIA.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has asked the Justice Department to see whether Blackwater misled the government when using the subsidiaries to gain government contracts, according to the Times.

It said Levin’s committee found that North Carolina-based Blackwater, which now is known as Xe Services, went to great lengths to find ways to get lucrative government work despite criminal charges and criticism stemming from a 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians. A committee chart outlines the web of Blackwater subsidiaries.
Messages left late Friday with spokespeople for the Michigan Democrat and Xe were not immediately answered.

The 2007 incident and other reports of abuses by Blackwater employees in Iraq led to criminal investigations and congressional hearings, and resulted in the company losing a lucrative contract with the State Department to provide security in Iraq.

But recently the company was awarded a $100 million contract to provide security for the agency in Afghanistan, prompting criticism from some in Congress. CIA Director Leon Panetta said that the CIA had no choice but to hire the company because it underbid others by $26 million and that a CIA review concluded that the contractor had cleaned up its act.

Last year, Panetta canceled a contract with Xe that allowed the company’s operatives to load missiles on Predator drones in Pakistan, and shifted the work to government personnel.

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However, the Times quoted former Blackwater officials as saying that at least two Blackwater-affiliated companies, XPG and Greystone, obtained secret contracts from the CIA to provide security to agency operatives.

The newspaper said the network of subsidiaries, including several located in offshore tax havens, were uncovered as part of the Armed Services Committee’s examination of government contracting and not an investigation solely into Blackwater. But Levin questioned why Blackwater would need to create so many companies with various names to seek out government business, according to the Times.

The report quoted unidentified government officials and former Blackwater employees as saying that the network of companies allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials and the public, and to ensure a low profile for its classified activities.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON – The security company Blackwater Worldwide formed a network of 30 shell companies and subsidiaries to try to get millions of dollars in government business after the comp…

ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON – The security company Blackwater Worldwide formed a network of 30 shell companies and subsidiaries to try to get millions of dollars in government business after the comp…

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David Sirota: Military Leaders on Iraq Combat: “Our Mission Has Not Changed”

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David Isenberg: What If?: The Battle That Did Not Have to Happen

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Is Erik Prince, Blackwater’s sole owner, now taking his profits, trying to sell his company and running away to the Emirates, a country that has no extradition treaty with the United States?

Christopher Brauchli: Blackwater Strikes Again

Here is one example of how a United States Senator was able to influence policy. It pertains to Blackwater.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/03/blackwater-contracts-dummy-corporations_n_705572.html

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Christopher Brauchli

Columnist and lawyer

Posted: July 9, 2010 03:00 PM

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Blackwater Strikes Again

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The Gods have their own rules. — Ovid, Metamorphoses
One of the many nice things about being a United States Senator is that you can ask just about anyone in government to explain actions being taken and anticipate a response and, in many cases, a change in conduct. Here is one example of how a United States Senator was able to influence policy. It pertains to Blackwater.

On February 25, 2010 Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee sat down and wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate whether Xe Services, (formerly known as Blackwater) had made false or misleading statements when it bid for an Army contract in Afghanistan. The reason for his letter was that he had just finished conducting a hearing reviewing the results of an investigation of Blackwater. In his opening statement at the hearing Senator Levin said that:

Blackwater operated in Afghanistan without sufficient oversight or supervision and with almost no consideration of the rules it was legally obligated to follow. The means by which Blackwater acquired weapons for its contractor personnel in Afghanistan showed just how little regard company personnel had for those rules.

Senator Levin did not limit his letter writing to writing the Attorney General. He also sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In the letter to Secretary Gates he said the Pentagon should consider deficiencies in Blackwater’s past performance before awarding it additional contracts. He said:

[W] e received evidence that Blackwater may have: used a front company for the contract; made false official statements and misled Department of Defense officials in its proposal documents; misappropriated government weapons and carried weapons without authorization; and hired unqualified personnel with backgrounds that included assault and battery, larceny and misappropriation of property, insubordinate conduct, and drug and alcohol abuse; and violated CENTCOM’s movement control policies.

He concluded saying the Department of Defense “should review the transcript of this hearing and consider the deficiencies in Blackwater’s performance… before a decision is made to award the police training work to Blackwater.”

The investigations Senator Levin requested may be ongoing. So is the awarding of lucrative contracts to Blackwater. Jeff Stein who writes “Spy Talk,” reported on June 21, 2010 that the State Department gave Xe Services a $120 million contract for providing “protective security services” at new U.S. consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Two days later he reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had hired the company to guard CIA facilities in Afghanistan and other places. Xe was not the only contractor interested in obtaining the work. In connection with both of those contracts DynCorp and Triple Canopy had bid on the jobs but lost out to Blackwater.

Senator Levin’s reaction to these awards has not been reported. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s have. They are hardly surprising. She was outraged. Her outrage was prompted by her familiarity with Blackwater and its performance. In November 2009 she learned that the government had given Blackwater an indefinite extension of a contract to provide “Aviation Services” in Iraq and said: “Given the company’s history of massive abuses and misconduct, I believe it is inappropriate for the United States government to continue doing business with this firm.” Upon hearing of the newest contracts in Afghanistan she said, speaking to ABC news:

I’m just mystified why any branch of the government would decide to hire Blackwater, such a repeat offender. We’re talking about murder… A company with a horrible reputation that really jeopardizes our mission in so many different, different ways.

For all we know, the Justice Department may be conducting an investigation of Blackwater’s conduct in both Afghanistan and Iraq in response to the letter it received from Senator Levin. For all we know the CIA may be investigating Blackwater’s prior conduct even though it has just agreed to pay the company $125 million for its services. For all we know, the State Department may be conducting its own independent investigation in response to Senator Levin’s letter. Here is what we know for sure, however. The mystery to which Ms. Schakowsky was referring has been unraveled by CIA Director Leon Panetta.

In a June 27 interview on ABC News Mr. Panetta said that in a war zone:
we continue to have needs for security… Unfortunately, there are a few companies that provide that kind of security. The State Department relies on them, we rely on them to a certain extent. So we bid out some of those contracts. They… outbid everyone else by about $26 million. And a panel that we had said… that they have shaped up their act. So there really was not much choice to but accept that contract..

That explains it all. Sort of.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-brauchli/blackwater-strikes-again_b_640698.html

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Blackwater Took Hundreds of Guns From U.S. Military, Afghan Police

Senate Inquiry Shows Contractor Signed for Rifles Using ‘South Park’ Alias

By Spencer Ackerman 2/23/10 9:00 PM

Eric Cartman of South Park (Photo courtesy: Comedy Central)

Employees of the CIA-connected private security corporation Blackwater diverted hundreds of weapons, including more than 500 AK-47 assault rifles, from a U.S. weapons bunker in Afghanistan intended to equip Afghan policemen, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee. On at least one occasion, an individual claiming to work for the company evidently signed for a weapons shipment using the name of a “South Park” cartoon character. And Blackwater has yet to return hundreds of the guns to the military.

A Blackwater subsidiary known as Paravant that until recently operated in Afghanistan acquired the weapons for its employees’ “personal use,” according to committee staffers, as did other non-Paravant employees of Blackwater. Yet contractors in Afghanistan are not permitted to operate weapons without explicit permission from U.S. Central Command, something Blackwater never obtained. A November 2008 email from a Paravant vice president named Brian McCracken, obtained by the committee, nevertheless reads: “We have not received formal permission from the Army to carry weapons yet but I will take my chances.”

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As a result of Blackwater’s disregard for U.S. military restrictions on contractor firearms, four employees of Paravant — which held a subcontract from defense giant Raytheon to train Afghan soldiers — under the influence of alcohol opened fire on a car carrying four Afghan civilians on May 5, 2009, wounding two. That incident, occurring less than two years after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, prompted the committee’s investigation.

“In the fight against the Taliban, the perception that the Afghans have of us is critical,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s clear to me that if we’re going to win that struggle, we need to know that contractor personnel are adequately screened, they’re adequately supervised and they’re adequately held accountable.” Levin will hold a hearing on Blackwater’s Afghanistan contracts Wednesday morning.

The committee’s investigation points to the contrary. Blackwater personnel appear to have gone to exceptional lengths to obtain weapons from U.S. military weapons storehouses intended for use by the Afghan police. According to the committee, at the behest of the company’s Afghanistan country manager, Ricky Chambers, Blackwater on at least two occasions acquired hundreds of rifles and pistols from a U.S. military facility near Kabul called 22 Bunkers by the military and Pol-e Charki by the Afghans. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. military forces in the Middle East and South Asia, wrote to the committee to explain that “there is no current or past written policy, order, directive, or instruction that allows U.S. Military contractors or subcontractors in Afghanistan to use weapons stored at 22 Bunkers.”

On one of those occasions, in September 2008, Chief Warrant Officer Greg Sailer, who worked at 22 Bunkers and is a friend of a Blackwater officer working in Afghanistan, signed over more than 200 AK-47s to an individual identified as “Eric Cartman” or possibly “Carjman” from Blackwater’s Counter Narcotics Training Unit. A Blackwater lawyer told committee staff that no one by those names has ever been employed by the company. Eric Cartman is the name of an obnoxious character from Comedy Central’s popular “South Park” cartoon.

Blackwater personnel invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when approached by the committee to explain the weapons acquisitions from 22 Bunkers, according to committee staff. Sailer, who is still deployed to Afghanistan, told the committee that he thought Blackwater was signing for the weapons to train Afghan police, a task it has never conducted.

Not all of the guns received from Blackwater have been returned to the Afghan government — and, according to committee staff, many only began to be returned after staff approached the company for an explanation. “It was represented to us that all the weapons had been returned” to 22 Bunkers, Levin said. “That is not true. Hundreds of them were not returned.” Asked if that meant Blackwater lied to Congress, Levin replied, “They misrepresented the facts, and I’d like to leave it at that.”

Raytheon did not renew Paravant’s contract for training the Afghan army, which expired in September. Blackwater still holds a contract with the State Department worth millions of dollars to protect diplomats in Afghanistan. While that contract expires this year, Politico reported on Tuesday that Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services, might acquire a new multimillion-dollar contract from the Defense Department to train Afghan police — the same police force that Blackwater’s weapons diversions from 22 Bunkers deprived of hundreds of pistols and rifles.

This is not the first time Blackwater has faced allegations of diverted weapons. In 2007, company employees came under federal investigation for improperly shipping hundreds of weapons to Iraq, some of which are believed to have been sold on the black market and acquired by a Kurdish terrorist group. A Blackwater statement at the time said allegations that the company was “in any way associated or complicit in unlawful arms activities are baseless.” The New York Times reported in November that the company is negotiating with regulators over “hundreds of millions of dollars in fines” associated with the illicit weapons shipments.

In January, Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, confirmed to Vanity Fair that his 12-year-old company — which has earned more than a billion dollars through government contracts in the past decade — was involved in a nascent terrorist assassination program run by the CIA, among other CIA activities. “I’m paying for all sorts of intelligence activities to support American national security, out of my own pocket,” Prince told the magazine. Additionally, The Nation recently reported that Blackwater assists the Joint Special Operations Command with the terrorist manhunt in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including with the operations of JSOC’s armed unmanned drones.

Levin said his inquiry had uncovered “inadequate oversight by the Army over this contract.” The Florida-based Army office supposedly overseeing the contract did not even have a contracting officer representative in Afghanistan when the Paravant employees shot at Afghan civilians on May 5, 2009. Yet as early as December 2008, concerned Raytheon personnel informed that Army office that Paravant personnel were carrying unapproved weapons. An officer in Afghanistan responsible for training Afghan soldiers told the committee, “We should have had better control.”

Additionally, Blackwater personnel in Afghanistan, including those involved in both the May shooting and an earlier improper weapons discharge from December 2008, have been cited for, among other infractions, drug and alcohol abuse and, in one case, an “extensive criminal history.”

Wednesday’s hearing is expected to receive testimony from current and former Blackwater/Paravant officers, including Brian C. McCracken, the former Paravant vice president who now serves as Raytheon’s chief Afghanistan program officer; Fred Roitz, a Blackwater vice president; and John Walker, a former Paravant program officer.

http://washingtonindependent.com/77476/blackwater-the-senate-and-south-park

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September 3, 2010

30 False Fronts Won Contracts for Blackwater

By JAMES RISEN and MARK MAZZETTI

WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide 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, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that it was worth “looking into why Blackwater would need to create the dozens of other names” and said he had requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Blackwater officers misled the government when using subsidiaries to solicit contracts.

The C.I.A.’s continuing relationship with the company, which recently was awarded a $100 million contract to provide security at agency bases in Afghanistan, has drawn harsh criticism from some members of Congress, who argue that the company’s tarnished record should preclude it from such work. At least two of the Blackwater-affiliated companies, XPG and Greystone, obtained secret contracts from the agency, according to interviews with a half dozen former Blackwater officials.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said that Xe’s current duties for the agency were to provide security for agency operatives. Contractors “do the tasks we ask them to do in strict accord with the law; they are supervised by C.I.A. staff officers; and they are held to the highest standards of conduct” he said. “As for Xe specifically, they help provide security in tough environments, an assignment at which their people have shown both skill and courage.”

Congress began to investigate the affiliated companies last year, after the shooting deaths of two Afghans by Blackwater security personnel working for a subsidiary named Paravant, which had obtained Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan. In a Senate hearing earlier this year, Army officials said that when they awarded the contract to Paravant for training of the Afghan Army, they had no idea that the business was part of Blackwater.

While Congressional investigators have identified other Blackwater-linked businesses, it was not the focus of their inquiry to determine how much money from government contracts flowed through the web of corporations, especially money earmarked for clandestine programs. The former company officials say that Greystone did extensive work for the intelligence community, though they did not describe the nature of the activities. The firm was incorporated in Barbados for tax purposes, but had executives who worked at Blackwater’s headquarters in North Carolina.

The former company officials say that Erik Prince, the business’s founder, was eager to find ways to continue to handle secret work after the 2007 shootings in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and set up a special office to handle classified work at his farm in Middleburg, Va.

Enrique Prado, a former top C.I.A. official who joined the contractor, worked closely with Mr. Prince to develop Blackwater’s clandestine abilities, according to several former officials. In an internal e-mail obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Prado claimed that he had created a Blackwater spy network that could be hired by the American government.

“We have a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations,” Mr. Prado wrote in the October 2007 message, in which he asked another Blackwater official whether the Drug Enforcement Administration might be interested in using the spy network. “These are all foreign nationals,” he added, “so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.”

It is not clear whether Mr. Prado’s secret spy service ever conducted any operations for the government. From 2004 to 2006, both Mr. Prado and Mr. Prince were involved in a C.I.A. program to hunt senior leaders of Al Qaeda that had been outsourced to Blackwater, though current and former American officials said that the assassination program did not carry out any operations. Company employees also loaded bombs and missiles onto Predator drones in Pakistan, work that was terminated last year by the C.I.A.

Both Mr. Prince and Mr. Prado declined to be interviewed for this article.

The company is facing a string of legal problems, including the indictment in April of five former Blackwater officials on weapons and obstruction charges, and civil suits stemming from the 2007 shootings in Iraq.

The business is up for sale by Mr. Prince, who colleagues say is embittered by the public criticism and scrutiny that Blackwater has faced. He has not been implicated in the criminal charges against his former subordinates, but he has recently moved his family to Abu Dhabi, where he hopes to focus on obtaining contracts from governments in Africa and the Middle East, according to colleagues and former company officials.

After awarding Blackwater the new security contract in June, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, publicly defended the decision, saying Blackwater had “cleaned up its act.”

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she could not understand why the intelligence community had been unwilling to cut ties to Blackwater. “I am continually and increasingly mystified by this relationship,” she said. “To engage with a company that is such a chronic, repeat offender, it’s reckless.”

It is unclear how much of Blackwater’s relationship with the C.I.A. will become public during the criminal proceedings in North Carolina because the Obama administration won a court order limiting the use of classified information. Among other things, company executives are accused of obtaining large numbers of AK-47s and M-4 automatic weapons, but arranging to make it appear as if they had been bought by the sheriff’s department in Camden County, N.C. Such purchases were legal only if made by law enforcement agencies.

But defense lawyers say they hope to argue that Blackwater had a classified contract with the C.I.A. and wanted at least some of the guns for weapons training for agency officers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/world/middleeast/04blackwater.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print

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See lots of articles about ‘Blackwater’,

exposing their corruptions here

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/blackwater

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