Last week we learned
that Erik Prince, CEO of shadowy military contractor Blackwater, was formerly a CIA asset. Today, the New York Times reports
that Blackwater guards participated in and even helped lead highly
sensitive CIA missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Initially
brought on simply to provide security, Blackwater's operational
involvement gradually grew to encompass far more.
supposed to be the outer layer of the onion, out on the
perimeter," said one former Blackwater official of the security guards.
Instead, "they were the drivers and the gunslingers," said one former
intelligence official. But in the chaos of the operations, the roles of
Blackwater, C.I.A., and military personnel sometimes merged.
how close are Blackwater and the CIA, and what does it mean for
operations still ongoing in Iraq, Afghanistan and likely Pakistan as
- No Accountability VetVoice's Richard Allen Smith fumes.
"We now know that at least between 2004 and 2006, sensitive
and kinetic operations were outsourced to a mercenary army which is
subject to no legal accountability whatsoever. We need to see
congressional hearings on this, and heads need to roll," he writes.
"Blackwater/Xe is not a private security contracting firm. Call them
what they are: mercenaries."
For-Profit National Security Harper's Scott Horton shakes his head. "They show the incestuous relationship that had evolved between the CIA
and the for-profit contractor, perhaps the result of a revolving door
that moved high-ranking individuals between Blackwater and the
intelligence community. And they show how extensive were the efforts to
privatize some of the nation’s most sensitive national security
operations for the benefit of a profitable company with tight
connections to the Republican Party."
- Does White House Understand Scope? NPR's Frank James raises
"the question of whether private contractors are still doing
functions in Afghanistan and Iraq that Americans normally expect U.S.
military members to perform. And it sounds like even members of the
Obama Administration who one might expect to have clarity on this,
don't." He insists, "it's vital for U.S. policymakers to get to the
bottom of this by not
only looking backwards at what happened during the Bush years but by
determining once and for all whether private contractors are still
performing the kind of tactical operations for the CIA or other agency
that Americans don't necessarily expect such guns for hire to be
- It's About Distraction The Nation's Jeremy Scahill, a Blackwater expert who literally wrote the book on the group, suspects Blackwater itself put out the story for self-serving reasons. "Blackwater is leaking the CIA ops for a reason. It also distracts from ongoing ops that are not CIA." That could include operations with military special forces commands such as JSOC.
Who Knew About It? Marcy Wheeler explores the "subtext" of the story: "[F]irst, the possibility that the operational aspects were contracted not
through the CIA, but through DOD (which would make it easier to put it
through on a supplemental, and therefore much easier to hide it from
the Intelligence Committees); and also the likelihood that everyone in
Baghdad knew about this, but the top brass in CIA did not."
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