Posts Tagged ‘blackwater’

Posted March 20th, 2012

The former director of the security firm Blackwater aided the Libyan opposition and was subsequently sent to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey at the request of a U.S. Government committee, according to published Stratfor emails and reported by Al-Akhbar English.

Blackwater’s primary public contract is with the U.S. State Department for protective services in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Israel.

Jamie F. Smith, former director of Blackwater, is currently the chief executive of the security firm SCG International.

In an email sent to Stratfor on February 11, 2011, Smith praised the company’s intelligence gathering and said his “background is CIA and our company is comprised of former DOD [i.e. Department of Defense], CIA and former law enforcement personnel. We provide services for those same groups in the form of training, security and information collection.”

Smith became a major source for Stratfor by September as he and Stratfor vice president Fred Burton built a rapport. Smith provided intelligence (under the codename LY700) to Burton on developments in Libya— where  SCG International was contracted to protect Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) members and train Libyan rebel fighters after the implementation of the no-fly zone in March 2011.

Smith provided information on missing surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and allegedly “took part” in the killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the town of Sirte.

Burton was impressed by Smith’s intel and reciprocated praise by writing, “Good skinny. This is what is defined as a credible source. Not some windbag Paki academic belching and passing gas.”

The last emails about Smith came on December 13, days before the Stratfor mail servers were reportedly hacked. In one Burton says:

“**Source and Dr. Walid Phares are getting air cover from Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari) on a fact finding mission for Congress.

** The true mission is how they can help in regime change.

** Source intends to offer his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya.”

Walid Phares is a Lebanese-American citizen who is currently co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group.

In another email from December 13— in which Stratfor is organizing intelligence on the Syrian opposition that Smith had requested— Burton reports that Smith “is meeting w/specific people described as key leaders.”

Burton is a former Deputy Chief of the Department of State’s counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS assists the Department of Defense in following leads and doing forensic analysis of hard drives seized by the U.S. government in ongoing criminal investigations.

Stratfor provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

WikiLeaks has published 925 out of what they say is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.

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Members of the Free Syrian Army patrol an area in Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from Homs. (AFP Photo / STR / Ahmed Jadallah)

Published: 07 March, 2012

A security operation in Homs reveals Mossad, CIA and Blackwater are involved in the military violence in this part of Syria, as over 700 Arab and Western gunmen and Israeli, American and European-made weapons were detained in Baba Amr district.

­Syrian security forces got yet further proof of Western powers’ military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, reports Al-Manar, a news agency, affiliated with Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group and political party.

Around 700 gunmen were recently arrested in the former rebel stronghold of Babar Amr.

“The captured gunmen held Arab nationalities, including Gulf, Iraqi, and Lebanese. Among them were also Qatari intelligence agents and non-Arab fighters from Afghanistan, Turkey, and some European countries like France,” the agency quotes Syrian expert in strategic affairs Salim Harba as saying.

Harba also confirmed to the agency that “a coordination office was established in Qatar under American-Gulf sponsorship. The office includes American, French, and Gulf – specifically from Qatar and Saudi Arabia – intelligence agents, as well as CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater agents and members of the Syrian Transitional Council.”

The Syrian expert also added the security forces have also seized Israeli-, European- and American-made weapons.

“The Syrian army also uncovered tunnels and equipments there,” he told to the agency, “advanced Israeli, European, and American arms that have not yet been tested in the countries of manufacture, in addition to Israeli grenades, night binoculars, and communication systems were confiscated by the security forces.”

Salim Harba however said the Syrian authorities are not planning to reveal all the obtained information now, but assured all the evidence is of high value.

“The Syrian security forces have documents and confessions that could harm everyone who conspired against Syria, and could make a security and political change, not just on the internal Syrian level, but also on the regional level,” he said.

The recent Stratfor leak and hacked email of the company’s director of analysis also suggest undercover NATO troops are already on the ground in Syria.

There have been previous allegations of a Western presence on the side of the rebels as 13 French officers were reportedly captured by the loyalist forces earlier in March.

President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly claimed his regime is fighting not with peaceful protesters as claimed by the West, but with the military gangs supported by the West.

Western powers however have categorically denied any military involvement in Syrian internal conflict.

In a file picture dated 05 February 2005, members of the US-based Blackwater private security firm scan Baghdad city centre from their helicopter (AFP Photo / Marwan Naamani)

In a file picture dated 05 February 2005, members of the US-based Blackwater private security firm scan Baghdad city centre from their helicopter (AFP Photo / Marwan Naamani)

19 January, 2012

For skeptics of how the American government has conducted its so-called War on Drugs, don’t worry, it will soon be out of their hands.

The US Department of Defense has transferred its armed efforts in Latin and Central America in the War on Drugs to Academi, the private military contractors formerly known as Blackwater, reports BBC Spanish. Before they altered their branding to be known as Xe, then most recently Academi, Blackwater underwent immense criticism for a series of scandals involving contract employees executing civilians throughout the Middle East.

That same company that trained contractors to mercilessly slay helpless Iraqis will now be ushering military contractors south of the border to help combat the War on Drugs there, the outlet reports. With the Constitution only legally allowing the Pentagon to get away with so much, the BBC reports that the transition of control to private contractors will allow them to get away with what “US military forces are not allowed or not encouraged to do.”

The company previously known as Blackwater is just one of several private contractors that have been awarded contracts out of the Department of Defense, reports BBC, and their specific deal will award them several million dollars towards “providing advice, training and conducting operations in drug producing countries and those with links to so-called ‘narco-terrorism’ including Latin America.”

What’s more, it is reported, that those contracts were no-bid agreements authorized by the Pentagon. Under such deals, the DoD forks over federal funds to private companies without ever seeking better offers from competitors.

As long ago as 2007, the Pentagon was considering billions of dollars worth of contracts to private contractor aid in the War on Drugs, but the BBC reports that the latest deal will actually aid in the “transfer” of control out of Washington and instead put the actions of enforcing drug production and trafficking in the hands of civilians, not servicemen bound by certain rules and regulations.
Additionally, the transition will allow the government to usher billions into the War on Drugs, but to the public it will appear as if the effort is, on the periphery, nothing more than another DoD contract. Opposition has long existed to the lengthy War on Drugs, and by continuing the efforts in Central and South America without relying on further Pentagon expenditures, less money will appear to be focused on ongoing operations.

“They surreptitiously want to reduce anti-drug budget by transferring it to private agencies,” Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs tells the BBC. “The drug war is unpopular and has no political weight except in an election year like this, so the Department of Defense wants to remove that spending from their accounts.”

Bruce Bagley, head of International Studies at the University of Miami, tells BBC that the move will appear to cut out “the high political cost” of continuing the War on Drugs directly out of the Pentagon, but could create a massive backlash of the citizens of the countries in question become aware that private mercenaries are being installed to conduct armed operations.

The move is expected to send contractors into Mexico, Colombia and Caribbean and other locales to the south of the United States.

JUL 18 2012
A federal investigation alleged Enrique Prado’s involvement in seven murders, yet he was in charge when America outsourced covert killing to a private company. cia full cia.png

CIA

It was one of the biggest secrets of the post-9/11 era: soon after the attacks, President Bush gave the CIA permission to create a top secret assassination unit to find and kill Al Qaeda operatives. The program was kept from Congress for seven years. And when Leon Panetta told legislators about it in 2009, he revealed that the CIA had hired the private security firm Blackwater to help run it. “The move was historic,” says Evan Wright, the two-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist who wrote Generation Kill. “It seems to have marked the first time the U.S. government outsourced a covert assassination service to private enterprise.” The quote is from his e-book How to Get Away With Murder in America, which goes on to note that “in the past, the CIA was subject to oversight, however tenuous, from the president and Congress,” but that “President Bush’s 2001 executive order severed this line by transferring to the CIA his unique authority to approve assassinations. By removing himself from the decision-making cycle, the president shielded himself — and all elected authority — from responsibility should a mission go wrong or be found illegal. When the CIA transferred the assassination unit to Blackwater, it continued the trend. CIA officers would no longer participate in the agency’s most violent operations, or witness them. If it practiced any oversight at all, the CIA would rely on Blackwater’s self-reporting about missions it conducted. Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.” None of this is new information, though I imagine that many people reading this item are hearing about it for the first time. Isn’t that bizarre? The bulk of Wright’s e-book (full disclosure: I help edit the website of Byliner, publisher of the e-book) tells the story of Enrique Prado, a high-ranking CIA-officer-turned-Blackwater-employee who oversaw assassination units for both the CIA and the contractor. To whom was this awesome responsibility entrusted? According to Wright’s investigation, a federal organized crime squad run out of the Miami-Dade Police Department produced an investigation allegedly tying Prado to seven murders carried out while he worked as a bodyguard for a narco crime boss. At the time, the CIA declared him unavailable for questioning; the investigation was shut down before he was arrested or tried. There’s a lot more to the story — Wright’s e-book is almost 50 pages long — but this bit is of particular note:

The reporting on Prado’s activities at Blackwater produced no evidence that the firm’s employees had ever killed anyone on behalf of the CIA. But I spoke to Blackwater employees who insisted that they had. Two Blackwater contractors told me that their firm began conducting assassinations in Afghanistan as early as 2008. They claimed to have participated in such operations — one in a support role, the other as a “trigger puller.” The contractors, to whom I spoke in 2009 and 2010, were both ex-Special Forces soldiers who were not particularly bothered by assassination work, although they did question the legality of Blackwater’s involvement in it.

According to the “trigger puller,” he and a partner were selected for one such operation because they were Mexican Americans, whose darker skin enabled them to blend in as Afghan civilians. The first mission he described took place in 2008. He and his partner spent three weeks training outside Kabul, becoming accustomed to walking barefoot like Afghans while toting weapons underneath their jackets. Their mission centered on walking into a market and killing the occupant of a pickup truck, whose identity a CIA case worker had provided to them. They succeeded in their mission, he told me, and moved on to another. This contractor’s story didn’t completely fit with other accounts about Prado’s unit at Blackwater. The e-mail written by Prado and later obtained by the Times seemed to indicate that the unit wouldn’t use Americans to carry out actual assassinations. Moreover, two CIA sources insisted that the contractors I spoke to were lying. As one put it, “These guys are security guards who want to look like Rambo.”*

Says Wright:

While Blackwater’s covert unit began as a Bush administration story, President Obama now owns it. In 2010, his administration intervened on behalf of the Blackwater executives indicted for weapons trafficking, filing motions to suppress evidence on the grounds that it could compromise national security. The administration then awarded Blackwater (which is now called Academi) a $250 million contract to perform unspecified services for the CIA. At the same time, Obama has publicly taken responsibility for some lethal operations — the Navy SEALs’ sniper attack on Somali pirates, the raid on bin Laden. His aides have also said that he reviews target lists for drone strikes. The president’s actions give him the appearance of a man who wants the best of both worlds. He appears as a tough, resolute leader when he announces his role in killings that will likely be popular — a pirate, a terrorist. But the apparatus for less accountable killings grinds on.

Needless to say, this ought to spark an investigation, but more than that, it should cause Americans to step back and reflect on how vulnerable we’ve made ourselves to bad actors in the post-9/11 era. We’re giving C.I.A. agents and even private security contractors the sort of power no individual should wield. And apparently our screening apparatus turns out to be lacking.