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Is Blackwater’s Erik Prince Moving to the United Arab Emirates?
June 16, 2010, 9:56 am
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Jeremy Scahill


Sources close to Blackwater and its secretive owner Erik Prince claim that the embattled head of the world’s most infamous mercenary firm is planning to move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Middle Eastern nation, a major hub for the US war industry, has no extradition treaty with the United States. In April, five of Prince’s top deputies were hit with a fifteen-count indictment [1] by a federal grand jury on conspiracy, weapons and obstruction of justice charges. Among those indicted were Prince’s longtime number-two man, former Blackwater president Gary Jackson, former vice presidents William Matthews and Ana Bundy and Prince’s former legal counsel Andrew Howell.

The Blackwater/Erik Prince saga took yet another dramatic turn last week, when Prince abruptly announced [2] that he was putting his company up for sale.

While Prince has not personally been charged with any crimes, federal investigators and several Congressional committees clearly have his company and inner circle in their sights. The Nation learned of Prince’s alleged plans to move to the UAE from three separate sources. One Blackwater source told The Nation that Prince intends to sell his company quickly, saying the “sale is going to be a fast move within a couple of months.”

Mark Corallo, a trusted Prince advisor and Blackwater spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the allegation that Prince is planning to move to the United Arab Emirates. “I have a policy on not discussing my client’s personal lives—especially when that client is a private citizen,” Corallo, who runs his own crisis management and PR firm [3], said in an e-mail to The Nation. “It is nobody’s business where Mr. Prince (or anyone else) chooses to live. So I’m afraid I will not be able to confirm any rumors.”

A source with knowledge of the federal criminal probe into Blackwater’s activities told The Nation that none of Prince’s indicted colleagues have flipped on Prince since being formally charged, but rumors abound in Blackwater and legal circles that Prince may one day find himself in legal trouble. Former Blackwater employees claim they have provided federal prosecutors with testimony about what they allege is Prince’s involvement in illegal activity.

If Prince’s rumored future move is linked to concerns over possible indictment, the United Arab Emirates would be an interesting choice for a new home—particularly because it does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. “If Prince were not living in the US, it would be far more complicated for US prosecutors to commence an action against him,” says Scott Horton [4], a Columbia University Law lecturer and international law expert who has long tracked Blackwater. “There is a long history of people thwarting prosecutors simply by living overseas.” The UAE, Horton says, is “definitely a jurisdiction where Prince could count on it not being simple for the US to pursue him legally.”

The UAE is made up of seven states, the most powerful among them being Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Since 9/11, they have emerged as hubs for the US war industry. “Global service providers” account for some three-quarters of Dubai’s GDP, while oil represents only 3 percent. “They have established themselves as the premiere location in the Middle East for offshore banking and professional services,” says Horton, who has legal experience in the UAE. “If you have connections to the royal families, then the law doesn’t really apply to you. I would be very surprised if Erik Prince does not have those kinds of connections there.”

As a matter of policy the Justice Department will not discuss possible investigations of people who have not yet been charged with a crime.

Two former employees made serious allegations against Prince last August in sworn declarations [5] filed as part of a civil lawsuit against Prince and Blackwater. One former employee alleged that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into Iraq on his private planes. A four-year employee of Blackwater, identified in his declaration as “John Doe #2,” stated that “it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct.” He also stated that “Mr. Prince feared, and continues to fear, that the federal authorities will detect and prosecute his various criminal deeds,” adding: “On more than one occasion, Mr. Prince and his top managers gave orders to destroy emails and other documents. Many incriminating videotapes, documents and emails have been shredded and destroyed.”

John Doe #2’s identity was concealed in the sworn declaration because he “fear[s] violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration.” He also alleged, “On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince’s employ, Mr. Prince’s management has personally threatened me with death and violence.” Doe #2 stated in his declaration that he provided the information contained in his statement “in grand jury proceedings convened by the United States Department of Justice.”

Prince is also facing civil lawsuits brought by Iraqi victims of Blackwater. Among these is a suit filed in North Carolina by the family of 9-year-old Ali Kinani [6]. Kinani’s family alleges he was shot in the head and killed by Blackwater operatives in the infamous Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007. Earlier this year, Prince claimed [7] he was spending $2 million a month in legal fees and on what he described as a “giant proctological exam” by nearly a dozen federal agencies.

Even if prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to charge Prince with a crime, because of the classified nature of some of Blackwater and Prince’s work for the CIA and other agencies of the US government, prosecuting him could prove challenging. Prince has deep knowledge of covert US actions that the US government or military may not want public, which could be revealed as part of a potential defense Prince could offer. Blackwater—and Prince specifically—long worked on the CIA’s assassination program.

Some observers believe that Prince has already engaged in “graymail [8]” by revealing some details of his classified work for the CIA and military, specifically in a January 2010 article [7] in Vanity Fair, written by a former CIA lawyer. Graymail is 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.

After Jackson and the other former Blackwater executives were indicted, their lawyers claimed [9] that the US government approved of their conduct. “All of this was with the knowledge of, the request of, for the convenience of, an agency of the US government,” Jackson’s lawyer Ken Bell told the judge during a bond hearing in April. Bell did not reveal which agency he was referring to and did not answer questions from reporters.

The latest developments in the Blackwater story come after a two-year campaign by Blackwater to rebrand itself [10] as “Xe Services” and the “US Training Center.” In March 2009, Prince announced [11] he was stepping down as CEO of the company, though he has remained its sole owner. While Blackwater continues to be a significant player in US operations in Afghanistan under the Obama administration—working for the State Department, Defense Department and CIA—it is facing increased scrutiny [12] on Capitol Hill and continued pressure from the Justice Department.

On June 11, federal prosecutors filed a massive brief in their appeal of last year’s dismissal [13] by a federal judge of manslaughter charges against the Blackwater operatives alleged to be the “shooters” at Nisour Square. In the brief, prosecutors asked that the indictment of the Blackwater men be reinstated. Meanwhile, two other Blackwater operatives were indicted [14] in January on murder charges [15] stemming from a shooting in Afghanistan in May 2008. Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee has called on the Justice Department [16] to investigate Blackwater’s use of a shell company, Paravant, to win training contracts in Afghanistan.

Blackwater has been spending heavily this year on lobbyists—particularly Democratic ones. In the first quarter of 2010, the company spent more than $500,000 [17] for the services of Stuart Eizenstat [18], a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations. Eizenstat heads the international practice for the powerhouse law and lobbying firm Covington and Burling.

Prince sold [19] Blackwater’s aviation division earlier this year for $200 million. In announcing last week that the rest of Blackwater was up for sale, the company said in a statement [20] that Blackwater’s “new management team has made significant changes and improvements to the company over the last 15 months, which have enabled the company to better serve the US government and other customers, and will deliver additional value to a purchaser.” While Blackwater has tried to shed the Blackwater name in many aspects of its business, the company has recently opened a series of Blackwater “Pro-Shop” retail stores [21], offering merchandise bearing the Blackwater name and original logo. Among the items for sale: pink Blackwater baby onesies [22], Blackwater pint glasses [23], Blackwater beach towels [24] and, of course, rifles [25].

In a speech in January [26], obtained by The Nation, Prince said that he intends to publish a book this fall. He was originally slated [27] to come out with a book in June 2008 with the title We Are Blackwater.

Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/blog/blackwaters-erik-prince-moving-united-arab-emirates

[1] http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2010-apr-16_2.html
[2] http://www.thenation.com/blog/blackwater-sale
[3] http://www.corallocomstock.com/
[4] http://harpers.org/subjects/NoComment
[5] http://www.thenation.com/article/blackwater-founder-implicated-murder
[6] http://www.thenation.com/article/blackwaters-youngest-victim
[7] http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/01/blackwater-201001?printable=true
[8] http://www.thenation.com/article/erik-prince-graymailing-us-government
[9] http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/04/22/448778/blackwater-exec-blames-feds.html
[10] http://www.alternet.org/blogs/waroniraq/126863/
[11] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-scahill/mercenary-king-erik-princ_b_171105.html
[12] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/08/AR2010030803706.html
[13] http://www.thenation.com/article/federal-judge-dismisses-all-charges-iraq-massacre
[14] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crm-011.html
[15] http://rebelreports.com/post/322008047/two-blackwater-guards-arrested-by-fbi-on-murder-charges
[16] http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/release.cfm?id=322765
[17] http://www.thenation.com/blog/bipartisan-mercs-blackwater-hires-powerful-democratic-lobbyist
[18] http://www.cov.com/seizenstat/
[19] http://www.thenation.com/blog/mercenary-owners-they-are-changin-sort
[20] http://www.wtop.com/?nid=111&sid=1974791
[21] http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/retail-guns-for-hire-blackwater-opens-storefronts/
[22] http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/Babys-Onesies-P1781.aspx
[23] http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/BW-Pint-Glass-P1507.aspx
[24] http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/BW-Beach-Towel-P1747.aspx
[25] http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/bw15.aspx
[26] http://www.thenation.com/blog/secret-erik-prince-tape-exposed
[27] http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=24834

Jeremy Scahill: Obama’s Expanding Covert Wars


The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration has substantially expanded the role of US special operations forces across the globe as part of what the paper calls Washington’s “secret war” against al Qaeda and other radical organizations. Obama, according to the paper, has increased the presence of special forces from 60 countries to 75 countries. US Special Forces, the paper reports, have about 4,000 people in countries besides Iraq and Afghanistan. “The Special Operations capabilities requested by the White House go beyond unilateral strikes and include the training of local counterterrorism forces and joint operations with them,” according to the Post. “Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group.”

The expansion of special forces includes both traditional special forces, often used in training missions, and those known for carrying out covert and lethal, “direct actions.” The Nation has learned from well-placed special operations sources that among the countries where elite special forces teams working for the Joint Special Operations Command have been deployed under the Obama administration are: Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Yemen, Pakistan (including in Balochistan) and the Philippines. These teams have also at times deployed in Turkey, Belgium, France and Spain. JSOC has also supported US Drug Enforcement Agency operations in Colombia and Mexico. The frontline for these forces at the moment, sources say, are Yemen and Somalia. “In both those places, there are ongoing unilateral actions,” said a special operations source. “JSOC does a lot in Pakistan too.” Additionally, these US special forces at times work alongside other nations’ special operations forces in conducting missions in their home countries. A US special operations source described one such action where US forces teamed up with Georgian forces hunting Chechen rebels.

About the Author

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

Also by The Author

When confronted with facts about Israel’s siege of Gaza and the collective punishment of 1.5 million people, the former NYC Mayor can only say, “I don’t want to debate you” and “that’s nonsense.”

Journalists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis describe their run-in with Wackenhut security as they attempted to interview BP and US government officials in the US Gulf. “The whole Gulf Coast is a corporate oil state,” says Klein.

One senior military official told The Washington Post that the Obama administration has given the green light for “things that the previous administration did not.” Special operations commanders, the paper reports, have more direct access to the White House than they did under Bush. “We have a lot more access,” a military official told the paper. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

According to the Post: “The clearest public description of the secret-war aspects of the doctrine came from White House counterterrorism director John O. Brennan. He said last week that the United States ‘will not merely respond after the fact’ of a terrorist attack but will ‘take the fight to al-Qaeda and its extremist affiliates whether they plot and train in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.'”

Sources working with US special operations forces told The Nation that the Obama administration’s expansion of special forces activities globally has been authorized under a classified order dating back to the Bush administration. Originally signed in early 2004 by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is known as the “AQN ExOrd,” or Al Qaeda Network Execute Order. The AQN ExOrd was intended to cut through bureaucratic and legal processes, allowing US special forces to move into denied areas or countries beyond the official battle zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The ExOrd spells out that we reserve the right to unilaterally act against al Qaeda and its affiliates anywhere in the world that they operate,” said one special forces source. The current mindset in the White House, he said, is that “the Pentagon is already empowered to do these things, so let JSOC off the leash. And that’s what this White House has done.” He added: “JSOC has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history. No question.”

The AQN ExOrd was drafted in 2003, primarily by the Special Operations Command and the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict and was promoted by neoconservative officials such as former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone as a justification for special forces operating covertly–and lethally–across the globe. Part of the order provides for what a source called “hot pursuit,” similar to how some state police are permitted to cross borders into another state to pursue a suspect. “That’s essentially what they have where they’re chasing someone in Somalia and he moves over into Ethiopia or Eritrea, you can go after him,” says the source.

“The Obama administration took the 2003 order and went above and beyond,” says the special forces source. “The world is the battlefield, we’ve returned to that,” he adds, referring to the Obama administration’s strategy. “We were moving away from it for a little bit, but Cambone’s ‘preparing the battlefield’ is still alive and well. It’s embraced by this administration.”

Under the Bush administration, JSOC and its then-commander Stanley McChrystal, were reportedly coordinating much of their activity with vice president Dick Cheney or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Under the Obama administration, that relationship seems to have been more formalized with the administration as a whole. That’s a change, as the Post notes, from the Bush era “when most briefings on potential future operations were run through the Pentagon chain of command and were conducted by the defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” As a special operations source told The Nation, “It used to be the strategy was to insulate the president, now they directly interface with these people regularly.”

Sources say that much of the most sensitive and lethal operations conducted by JSOC are carried out by Task Force 714, which was once commanded by Gen. McChrystal, the current commander of the war in Afghanistan. Under the Obama administration, according to sources, TF-714 has expanded and recently changed its classified name. The Task Force’s budge has reportedly expanded 40% on the request of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and has added additional forces. “It was at Mullen’s request and they can do more now,” according to a special forces source. “You don’t have to work out of the embassies, you don’t have to play nice with [the State Department], you can just set up anywhere really.”

While some of the special forces missions are centered around training of allied forces, often that line is blurred. In some cases, “training” is used as a cover for unilateral, direct action. “It’s often done under the auspices of training so that they can go anywhere. It’s brilliant. It is essentially what we did in the 60s,” says a special forces source. “Remember the ‘training mission’ in Vietnam? That’s how it morphs.”

Jeremy Scahill

March 13, 2010, 1:51 pm
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Haiti’s Excluded

By Reed Lindsay

This article appeared in the March 29, 2010 edition of The Nation.

March 11, 2010

Ruth Derilus had seen her share of tragedy. A 33-year-old iron-willed social worker trained by Haiti’s Papay Peasant Movement, she twice helped organize relief efforts when massive floods devastated the city of Gonaïves and the surrounding countryside. In September 2004 she worked with women’s and youth groups after Tropical Storm Jeanne killed more than 3,000 people. Four years later, she lost her home when a second deluge, unleashed by Tropical Storm Hanna and augmented by Hurricane Ike, once again brought the city to its knees. Ruth kept on going, working to organize rice farmers whose crops had been destroyed. But nothing would prepare her for the tribulations she would face after the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12 of this year. Ruth was in Gonaïves, and she got a phone call within minutes. Her 20-month-old son, Chevano, who was living with her husband in the capital, had suffered a blow to his head when their family’s house collapsed. The line went dead. The next morning, Ruth took a bus to Port-au-Prince and went straight to the hospital. She could not find her son. She returned home and found her mother in tears. The nearby hospital had stopped operating after the earthquake, and by the time Chevano was taken to a United Nations military hospital on the morning of January 13, it was too late. Ruth recovered her son’s body ten days later. Her husband was never found.