The last thing the world needs is a hi-tech privatized Praetorian guard, international spy conglomerate headed up by a false-Christian named Erik Prince.
If Blackwater (what a revealing name) were to be given it head because the people just accept it and support it, the head of that private entity could become more powerful than any elected official on Earth and even more powerful than the top plutocrat. He would be the triumvirate rolled into one: Money, military command, and intelligence. He could command (order) the overthrow of anyone. His army would obey, because he would see to it that they were rewarded with the spoils.
By Jeremy Scahill
This article appeared in the June 23, 2008 edition of The Nation.
June 5, 2008
This past September, the secretive mercenary company Blackwater USA found its name splashed across front pages throughout the world after the company's shooters gunned down seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square.
In September it was revealed that Blackwater had been "tapped" by the Pentagon's Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office to compete for a share of a five-year, $15 billion budget "to fight terrorists with drug-trade ties."
Such an arrangement could find Blackwater operating in an arena with the godfathers of the war industry, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. It could also see Blackwater expanding into Latin America, joining other private security companies well established in the region. The massive US security company DynCorp is already deployed in Colombia, Bolivia and other countries as part of the "war on drugs."
Throughout the decade of Blackwater's existence, its creator, Erik Prince, has aggressively built his empire into a structure paralleling the US national security apparatus.
What could prove to be one of Blackwater's most profitable and enduring enterprises is one of the company's most secretive initiatives—a move into the world of privatized intelligence services. In April 2006, Prince quietly began building Total Intelligence Solutions, which boasts that it "brings CIA-style" services to the open market for Fortune 500 companies. Among its offerings are "surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets."
As the United States finds itself in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in its history, few areas have seen as dramatic a transformation to privatized services as the world of intelligence. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It's outrageous." [Emphasis added]
Last year R.J. Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and US intelligence, obtained documents from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is going to private companies. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the head of DNI is Mike McConnell, the former chair of the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the private intelligence industry's trade association.
Total Intelligence is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia. Its "Global Fusion Center," complete with large-screen TVs broadcasting international news channels and computer stations staffed by analysts surfing the web, "operates around the clock every day of the year" and is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorist center, once run by Black. The firm employs at least sixty-five full-time staff—some estimates say it's closer to 100. "Total Intel brings the...skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said when the company launched.
In May, Erik Prince gave a speech in front of his family and supporters in his home state of Michigan. Security was extremely tight, and Blackwater barred cameras and tape recorders from the event. "The idea that we are a secretive facility, and nefarious, is just ridiculous," Prince told the friendly crowd of 750 gathered at the Amway Grand Plaza. ... "When you send something overseas, do you use FedEx or the postal service?" he asked.
There are serious problems with this analogy. When you send something by FedEx, you can track your package and account for its whereabouts at all times. You can have your package insured against loss or damage. That has not been the case with Blackwater. The people who foot the sizable bill for its "services" almost never know, until it is too late, what Blackwater is doing, and there are apparently no consequences for Blackwater when things go lethally wrong. "We are essentially a robust temp agency," Prince told his fans in Michigan. He's right about that one. A temp agency serving the most radical privatization agenda in history.