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
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
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
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
counter-surveillance team or counterintelligence team in the United
States. You could pay $250,000 to have Prado set up a safe-house for
you, plus expenses. And these services were also offered in places
around the globe, in North Africa, in China, Japan, Russia, throughout
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
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
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
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
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
communiqué 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
"We should be prepared to" - what - "a
communiqué." 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.