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Mike Pence Is A Theocrat. His Christian Supremacist Followers Seek To Take Over America. Seriously. May 30, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in mike pence, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: welcome to the American Taliban.  If you have Hulu, watch their adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” for a vision of a likely dystopian future.  With all the hullabaloo about Donald Trump and wet dream fantasies about his Impeachment, lurking in the background stands Christian Supremacist, anti-gay bigot, Vice President Mike Pence.  The frightening article below, written just before the Inauguration, connects the dots between the Neo-Nazi alt-right theocratic nightmare and political power in Washington. Of course the military industrial complex is behind it all, but with a monopoly on political power in the hands of American Nazis, we will have reached a new level police-state extremism.

Another article in yesterday’s Daily Kos by the same author (https://www.opednews.com/articles/Mike-Pence-Is-Toast-Anony-by-Daily-Kos-Eric-Prince_Michael-Flynn_Pence-Mike-170529-849.html) documents Pence’s involvement in the Jared Kushner-Mike Flynn Russian business, and suggests that there is enough evidence to bring him down.  We shall see.

Despite all the hand wringing and hysteria about the upcoming “presidency” of Donald Trump, the plain truth is that the Trump campaign stated in no uncertain terms that Vice President Mike Pence will in fact be in charge of “foreign and domestic affairs.”  What will that look like? Again, plainly, Mike Pence is not only the de facto leader of the Republican party, which is no longer the party of conservatism but is now the party of nationalism; but more importantly Mike Pence is at the head of another, far more dangerous Republican group, the “Christian Supremacists;” who are committed to taking over the government of the United States of America.  Preposterous, you say? Please read further.

Mike Pence found religion at approximately the same time that he found a way to succeed in politics. When asked about his religious conversion, Pence has stated that listening to a Christian music festival in college called him to Jesus. However, Pence’s appearance on the airwaves and his appearance at Grace Evangelical Church in Indianapolis both took place in the late eighties, early nineties, perhaps coincidentally.

Pence’s start in radio came when he lost a second Congressional race in 1988 and was commiserating in his law office when he got a call from a Rushville, Indiana woman, Sharon Disinger, who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.  Disinger wanted Pence to host a talk show on her small radio station in Rush County. Disinger told Pence that his hero, Ronald Reagan got his start in radio; and it goes without saying that Pence had other heros, notably Rush Limbaugh, whose fame on the airwaves Pence openly aspired to.

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Pence’s primary hero, however, was evangelist James Dobson. Dobson invited Pence on his radio show on October 5, 2016 and Pence proclaimed that being interviewed by Dobson was, “the greatest honor of my entire life.”  Dobson is virulently anti-gay as is Pence. Dobson is the founder of two anti-gay organizations, Focus On The Family and the Family Research Council and through those two groups Dobson proselytizes anti-gay hate doctrines thinly veiled with evangelical and pro-family language.  Dobson blamed the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on same-sex marriage, and has also gone on record as stating that same-sex marriage could lead the U.S. into another civil war. Dobson’s political awareness is as astute as Ben Carson’s, if even.
Mike Pence followed Sharon Disinger’s advice that keeping one’s name out in the public ear was crucial to success in politics and Pence’s ego soon became inflated with the relative success of “The Mike Pence Show,” which would eventually be syndicated to eighteen Indiana right-wing stations. Unquestionably, Rush was proud, and Pence discovered the power of mass media when he became a local celebrity and actually was able to win his bid to Congress in 2000. Pence credited it all to the Rushville station, where the restrooms were marked “Olivia” for the women and “Elton” for the men, “because they were both johns,” quipped owner Disinger; apparently the Dorothy Parker of Rush County, Indiana.
Pence continued broadcasting his unholy mixture of politics and religion, famously stating at the Republican Convention that he was, “a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third.” Pence and his allies in evangelical circles, headed by the televangelists and the right wing radio talk show hosts; which are the governing board for the garden variety “Christian” evangelicals of today, were making lots and lots of plans. And here is where it gets strange.
One recalls Adolph Hitler and the rise of German Fascism.  Hitler started out preaching his form of political gospel in the beer halls of Germany, where he frequently got a standing ovation.  He honed his message there. Word of Hitler’s speaking came to the ears of Dietrich Eckart, who was a famous German playwright and political activist, specifically the founder of the German Workers’ Party.  Eckhart was also an occultist and the occult society that he belonged to had predicted the coming of a “German Messiah” who would lead the workers forward.  Think of Eckhart as Morpheus and Hitler as Neo from “The Matrix” and you have the concept. So Eckhart, mesmerized by Hitler and wealthy and influential, convinced his equally wealthy and influential friends to embrace Hitler as “the One” and they did; and put their bank accounts behind Hitler and got him onto the radio and into the newsreels as well. Hitler and his followers took Eckhart’s Workers’ Party and morphed it into the Nazi Party.
In parallel fashion, Mike Pence and the Republicans took the party of conservatism and morphed it into the party of nationalism, i.e., white supremacy.  Groups which were previously “fringe” in the Republican Party, to wit the Nazis and the KKK, heretofore languishing and diminishing in numbers, found themselves in 2016 flourishing in a way unprecedented in this century and most of the last. There is a thread of commonality shared by the Nazis and the KKK, which is of course, white supremacy.  The white supremacy theme is amplified and echoed by the Christian Supremacists, (or “evangelicals”) who also see the “traditional” white race, people of Northern European descent and with a bible in hand, as God’s Chosen People.
Supremacists is the idea of patriarchal superiority.  The doctrine of the Christian Supremacists is the same, if not more pronounced, than the Nazis or the KKK where the “natural” role of the sexes is concerned. And the views on so-called deviant sexual behavior are identical in all three groups.  The LGBTQ people are bad. Period. And heterosexual women choosing abortions or even inadvertently having miscarriages are circumspect as well. Sexual behavior is the main plank in the broad platform supporting the new Republican party and particularly the Christian alt-right under the loving guidance of religious fanatic Mike Pence and his friends and mentors in the evangelical/televangelical world.  The need to control other peoples’ sexual behavior is the most emotional doctrine of the Christian Supremacists and fuels their drive for power.
The following was shared on this site December 26th by fellow kossack praesepe in a comments thread and provided the inspiration for this article. Citing from www.yuricareport.com/…
“During the 1980’s I began taping and transcribing Pat Robertson’s 700 Club show because of the alarming anti-Christian political philosophy he was endorsing. He began a drum beat for drastic political and cultural changes to this country.

Robertson’s guests did something I’d never seen before: they reversed the scriptures and called it immoral for the citizens to help the poor through taxation, which, by the way is expressly required in the Old Testament. The accusation was and is that taxation robbed the rich to help the poor.

If you are interested in how the movement reversed Judeo-Christian standards, see Bloodguilty Churches (which is also available at Amazon.com).

Robertson slowly introduced the idea of an American empire; he attacked pluralism, and pleaded that the people of the U.S. “must speak with one voice.” (7/19/85)

The idea of taking over and controlling the United States government began with a series of guest appearances:

On April 4, 1985, Billy Graham appeared on the show, and in a startling announcement said, “I’m for evangelicals “… getting control of the Congress, getting control of the bureaucracy, getting control of the executive branch of government. If we leave it to the other side we’re going to be lost.”

On September 25, 1985, Tim LaHaye, appeared in a film clip with Phyllis Schlafly on the show. In that clip, he laid out the plan to take over the government of the United States. He said:

“Suppose that every Bible believing church—all 110,000—decided to…raise up one person to run for public office and win… If every church in the next ten years did that, we would have more Christians in office than there are positions…there are only 97,000 elective offices.”

Though the idea of right-wing religious conservatives controlling the U.S. government appeared to be a pipedream to most observers I talked with, for the churchgoers who were listening—and by 1985 Robertson’s 700 Club topped the Nielsen ratings with a projected monthly viewing audience of 28.7 million viewers—to those viewers—the idea of gaining and holding the power in this country was a tantalizing and intriguing concept—they began to accept the idea of dominating America step by step, day by day.”

Amongst themselves the evangelicals began to formulate plans to take over the government of the United States, no matter that the constitution clearly prescribes the separation of church and state.  Flying in the face of both constitutional prescription and more importantly the tax exempt status enjoyed by churches, the evangelicals took their fat coffers and converted them into a  “war chest” for all intents and purposes, so that the economic takeover of the Republican party by the evangelical sect of the right wing could be firmly set in place. Mike Pence found a major source of funding in a man named Erik Prince; and even found possible military support for his evangelical quest (should same ever be needed) in a purported “private security” outfit which was called “Blackwater,” which was founded by devout evangelical-family member and former Navy SEAL, Erik Prince.  In point of fact, Blackwater operated as more of a mercenary militia group than as a security agency, as that term is generally understood.  The Washington Post said this on January 1, 2015:

In October, a federal jury in Washington convicted four former Blackwater guards in the 2007 fatal shooting of 14 unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad. But much less well known is the marathon lawsuit in Northern Virginia between the Blackwater founder and Robert Young Pelton, a freelance journalist and owner of a survival-gear business.

[…]

For more than a year, Prince, 45, and Pelton, 59, have been locked in legal warfare over Prince’s 2013 book, “Civilian Warriors,” published by Portfolio Penguin. The memoir, which mostly justifies Blackwater’s behavior in the war zone, sold nearly 46,000 copies in hardcover, according to Nielsen Bookscan. Late last year, the filmmaker behind “The Hurt Locker” reportedly acquired the book’s rights for a Prince biopic.

When they met, Pelton was the solicitous journalist, and Prince was his profile subject. Pelton landed one of the first extensive interviews with Prince for his 2006 book “License to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror.”He portrayed Prince as an energetic entrepreneur determined to “deliver a lighter, faster, smarter army.”

In the summer of 2010, Pelton scored another interview with Prince for Men’s Journal magazine, in which he described Prince as “an ex-CIA assassination point man” who must be asked the same question multiple times before coughing up an answer, “like starting a car with a dead battery.”

Mike Pence and Erik Prince became dear friends, and Prince became Pence’s benefactor.  Remember the Morpheus and Neo analogy from Nazi Germany?  History repeated itself with Prince Morpheus choosing Mike Pence as Neo.  Together they decided that moving Mike Pence as far upwards in the Republican Party as possible was the first step to taking the control that Pat Robertson and Billy Graham spoke of for the Christian Supremacists.
From  Jeremy Scahill’s article in The Intercept, November 15, 2016:

…his close relationship to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater. In December 2007, three months after Blackwater operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square; Pence and his Republican Study Committee, which served “the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives,” organized a gathering to welcome Prince to Washington. But their relationship is not just forged in wars. Prince and his mother, Elsa, have been among the top funders of scores of anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives across the country and have played a key role in financing efforts to criminalize abortion.

Prince has long given money to Pence’s political campaigns, and toward the end of the presidential election, he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump/Pence Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother kicked in another $50,000. […] Erik Prince…portrays himself as a mix between Indiana Jones, Rambo, Captain America, and Pope Benedict…

Bear in mind that the $150,000 from mother and son to Mike Pence was a routine gesture; not a one-time contribution.  Also bear in mind the number of anti-gay bills and anti-gay legislators and do the arithmetic on what kind of money it takes to be “among the top funders for scores” of those fund raising drives and campaigns across the country.  A bit more background on Prince and his family, also from The Intercept article:

The Prince family’s support for Pence, and the Christian supremacist movement he represents, has deep roots.  Erik Prince’s father, Edgar, built up a very successful manufacturing business in Holland, Michigan, and became one of the premier bankrollers of what came to be known as the radical religious right. They gave Gary Bauer the seed money to start the Family Research Council and poured money into James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. “Ed Prince was not an empire builder. He was a Kingdom builder,” Bauer recalled soon after the elder Prince’s death. “For him, personal success took a back seat to spreading the Gospel and fighting for the moral restoration of our society.” Erik Prince’s sisterBetsy married Dick DeVos, whose father, Richard, founded the multilevel marketing firm Amway and went on to own the Orlando Magic basketball team. The two families merged together like the monarchies of old Europe and swiftly emerged as platinum-level contributors to far-right Christian causes and political figures.

The Prince and DeVos families gave the seed money for what came to be known as the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House speaker in 1994 on a far-right platform known as the Contract with America. The Prince and DeVos clans also invested heavily in a scheme developed by Dobson to engage in back-door lobbying activities by forming “prayer warrior” networks of people who would call politicians to advocate for Dobson’s religious and political agenda.Instead of lobbying, which the organization would have been prohibited from doing because of its tax and legal status, they would claim they were “praying” for particular policies.

The Princes consistently poured money into criminalizing abortion, privatizing education, blocking gay rights, and other right-wing causes centered around their interpretation of Christianity. The family, especially Erik, was very close to Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man,” Watergate conspirator Charles “Chuck” Colson. The author of Nixon’s enemies list, Colson was the first person sentenced in the Watergate scandal, after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in the investigation of the dirty tricks campaign against Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. Colson became a born-again Christian before going to prison, and after his release, he started the Prison Fellowship, which sought to convert prisoners to Christianity to counter what Colson saw as the Islamic menace in U.S. prisons. Erik Prince funded this as well and went on prison visits with Colson.

Mike Pence sees himself as a crusader and he has sold this image to the evangelical alt-right — “alt-right” merely being a whitewashed term for Nazi, nationalist, white supremacist views. The noxious brew of religion and politics which Mike Pence embraces is in fact the blend of one part white supremacy and two parts religious fanaticism.  Both the nationalists and the evangelicals see Mike Pence as, literally, their great white hope. And only Erik Prince could tell you the full nature and extent of how he views Mike Pence or the role that Pence and Prince should play together in furthering the Christian Supremacist agenda and fighting for the “moral restoration of society,” as Prince’s father fought for, before him.
________

Mike Pence’s political action committee is called “Principles Exalt A Nation.”  It has been opined that this would be Pence’s slogan in his own run for the presidency.  And the principles which exalt the nation of Mike Pence and his followers’ dreams are not the principles of inclusivity, diversity and tolerance, not by a long shot.  Mike Pence and his radical religious right wingers seek the establishment of a Christian theocracy in the United States.  They are thrilled at having the White House, House and Senate under Republican control and seek only to impose their fanaticism on the Supreme Court, hopefully swerving it to the far right for decades to come.

Jeff Sharlet, the author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, said:  “The enemy to them, is secularism. They want a God-led government. That’s the only legitimate government. So when they speak of business, they’re speaking not of something separate from God, but they’re speaking of what, in Mike Pence’s circles, would be called biblical capitalism, the idea that this economic system is God-ordained.” In Mike Pence’s God-ordained economic system the serfs will labor and tithe for the good of the theocrats on top, because that is how a theocracy works.  And the warrior class will stand ready to destroy the infidels because that, too, is a fundamental part of a theocracy. The White House is going to need a mass exorcism when this group is finished.  May God truly help us all in the days to come.

Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump From the Shadows January 27, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Trump, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: when the state and the corporate world are virtually inseparable, then fascism has been achieved, according to one of its definitions.  The United States has been moving in this direction for many years.  With the advent of the Trump presidency, even in its first days, as seen by the choice of White House insiders and cabinet appointments, we are witnessing the arrival of genuine state/corporate/police fascism.  The bolstering of the police apparatus of repression, backed by the criminalization of dissent, in the face of state attacks on women, minorities, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, the poor, etc., is a recipe for all out tyranny.  Resistance is only beginning to coalesce, as demonstrated by the millions marching on January 21.  This will be met by our heavily militarized police and National Guard.  We are in for some perilous times.

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By Jeremy Scahill

January 26, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “The Intercept” –

Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the Defense and State departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.

On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.

In July, Prince told Trump’s senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”

Prince also said that Trump would be the best force to confront “Islamic fascism.” “As for the world looking to the United States for leadership, unfortunately, I think they’re going to have to wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected because, clearly, our generals don’t have a stomach for a fight,” Prince said. “Our president doesn’t have a stomach for a fight and the terrorists, the fascists, are winning.”

Prince founded the notorious private security firm Blackwater, which rose to infamy in September 2007 after its operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Whistleblowers also alleged that Prince encouraged an environment in which Iraqis were killed for sport. At the height of the Blackwater scandals in 2007, another prominent Trump backer, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, praised Prince, who once worked in his congressional office. “Prince,’’ Rohrabacher said, “is on his way to being an American hero just like Ollie North was.’’

Ultimately, Prince sold Blackwater and now heads up a Hong Kong-based company known as Frontier Services Group. The Intercept has previously reported on Prince’s efforts to build a private air force for hire and his close ties to Chinese intelligence. One of his latest schemes is a proposal to deploy private contractors to work with Libyan security forces to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.

Prince has long fantasized that he is the rightful heir to the legacy of “Wild Bill” Donovan and his Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After 9/11, Prince worked with the CIA on a secret assassination program, in addition to offering former SEALs and other retired special operators to the State Department and other agencies for personal security.

Blaming leftists and some congressional Democrats for destroying his Blackwater empire, Prince clearly views Trump’s vow to bring back torture, CIA-sponsored kidnapping, and enhanced interrogations, as well as his commitment to fill Guantánamo with prisoners, as a golden opportunity to ascend to his rightful place as a covert private warrior for the U.S. national security state. As we reported last year, “Prince — who portrays himself as a mix between Indiana Jones, Rambo, Captain America, and Pope Benedict — is now working with the Chinese government through his latest ‘private security’ firm.” The Trump presidency could result in Prince working for both Beijing and the White House.

The Blackwater founder has also endorsed some of Trump’s overtures to Russia, saying: “Think about it: If FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can deal with Stalin to defeat German fascism in World War II, certainly the United States of America could work with Putin to defeat Islamic fascism. We don’t have to agree with the Russians on everything, or even on a lot, but we can at least agree that crushing ISIS in the Middle East is a very good idea.” Prince described Democrats as “anti-Catholic, anti-Evangelical,” saying the DNC hacks and leaks revealed “the disregard, the disdain they have for the average American voter and citizen.”

Prince has a close relationship with Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior counselor and chief strategist. Prince has appeared frequently — and almost exclusively — on Breitbart Radio. In August, Prince offered praise for Trump’s candidacy, telling Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos: “I even like some of his projects that have gone bankrupt, because people that do things, and build things, and try things, sometimes fail at doing it, and that’s the strength of the American capitalist system.” Prince added: “We have kind of turned our back on the fact that hard work, sacrifice, risk-taking, innovation, is what made America great. Washington did not make America great.”

In September, Prince backed Trump’s proposal to commandeer Iraq’s 2 million barrels of daily oil output. “For Mr. Trump to say, ‘We’re going to take their oil — certainly we’re not going to lift it out of there and take it somewhere else, but putting it into production, and putting a tolling arrangement into place, to repay the American taxpayers for their efforts to remove Saddam and to stabilize the area, is doable, and very plausible,” Prince said on Breitbart Radio.

Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign.

According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in December Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball hosted by Mercer. Dowd wrote that Palantir founder Peter Thiel showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ‘N.S.F.I.’ (Not Safe for the Internet).”

Not even Trump is brazen enough to give Prince a public post in his administration. But Prince is operating in the shadows, where he has always been most at home.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Jeremy Scahill on Trump Team: A Cabal of Religious Extremists, Privatization Advocates & Racists

 

Blackwater Founder Tells of Extensive Government-Contracted Assassinations December 4, 2009

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by: Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t | Report

December 4, 2009

The head of Blackwater revealed the details of his collaboration with the CIA to locate and assassinate top al Qaeda operatives as part of a covert antiterror operation Tuesday, and blamed Democrats for the leak that ended the program.

In an article published in Vanity Fair, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, spoke about the extent of his involvement with the CIA, which ranged from putting together, funding and executing operations to bring personnel into “denied areas” to targeting specific people for assassination who were deemed enemies by the US government.

Prince was one of a secret network of American citizens with special skills or access chosen to help the CIA access targets of interest. The program was kept secret for nearly eight years until it was revealed to lawmakers in a closed session with the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. During this meeting, CIA director Leon E. Panetta named both Prince and Blackwater as major players.

Prince blames Congressional Democrats for the leak. “[W]hen it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus,” he said. “The left complained about how [CIA operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.”

According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that they did not need to inform Congress about the program because they were already legally authorized to kill al Qaeda leaders. Under an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the CIA was barred from carrying out assassinations. But President George W. Bush took the position shortly after 9/11 that killing al Qaeda members was comparable to killing enemy soldiers in battle, and therefore assassinations were permissible. Prince was hired in 2004.

A former Navy Seal, Prince said, “I’ve been overtly and covertly serving America since I started in the armed services.” In his role as a contractor for the covert CIA program, according to The New York Times, Prince’s Blackwater employees assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto remotely piloted aircraft – work previously performed by authorized and trained CIA employees.

Prince says he and a team of foreign nationals located a target for assassination in October 2008, but did not complete the job. He alleges two of these trips brought him and his team into Germany and Dubai – without the knowledge of their governments.

He further said that Blackwater resources were never used, but that he used his personal finances and was later reimbursed by the government. Prince has personally spent $45 million to finance a fleet of armored personnel carriers, and according to The Wall Street Journal, Blackwater itself had revenues of more than $600 million in 2008.

Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services for Xenon, the noncombustible gas, was founded in 1997 and has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and Iraq since 2003. In 2004, coalition forces in Baghdad declared private contractors, which included Blackwater employees, immune from Iraqi law.

Largely assigned to act as bodyguards for American diplomats and provide security for military and intelligence stations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Prince’s employees have on more than one occasion been accused of wanton force, which has resulted in civilian deaths.

A shooting by Blackwater bodyguards in Baghdad in September 2009 resulted in the death of 17 civilians, and the Justice Department has since charged six people with voluntary manslaughter, among other offenses, calling the use of force both unjustified and unprovoked.

A contractor also shot and killed a man standing on a roadside, who later turned out to be a father of six, and a bodyguard who was assigned to protect Iraq’s vice president. In both cases, the contractors were fired but not prosecuted.

Following these incidents, Iraqi officials have refused to give Blackwater an operating license. As a result of this, its revenue dropped 40 percent, and Prince says he is now paying more than $2 million a month in legal fees.

“We used to spend money on R&D to develop better capabilities to serve the US government,” says Prince. “Now we pay lawyers.”

The company is also facing a grand jury investigation and bribery accusations along with the voluntary-manslaughter trial of five ex-employees for Iraqis killed in September 2007.

American agencies have in the past outsourced interrogations , but many worry that the contracting out of the authority to kill brings a new set of problems.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for.”

Blackwater, which received more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009, regularly offers its training area in North Carolina to CIA operatives and continues to help fly killer drones along the border between and Afghanistan and Pakistan – President Obama is said to have authorized more than three dozen of these hits.

Philip Alston, an Australian human-rights lawyer who has served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, said  that drone attacks also operate in “an accountability void.”

Prince said that until two months ago, he was still working on intelligence-gathering operations from an undisclosed location in America and coordinating the movements of spies who were working undercover in the Axis of Evil countries. However, Prince, who was rejected by the CIA when he applied for a position, now plans to curtail his work with Blackwater and teach economics and history in high school.

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan November 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
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Jeremy Scahill

The Nation, 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.

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.”

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…