Blackwater Operated as CIA Extension

Blackwater Operated as CIA Extension March 18, 2013

Eli Lake has been pouring over the documents filed in the prosecution of Blackwater that ended in almost no consequences for that company breaking the law repeatedly, and what he’s found is pretty disturbing. Blackwater operated as an unofficial extension of the CIA around the world.

But the most noteworthy thing about the largely failed prosecution wasn’t the outcome. It was the tens of thousands of pages of documents—some declassified—that the litigation left in its wake. These documents illuminate Blackwater’s defense strategy—and it’s a fascinating one: to defeat the charges it was facing, Blackwater built a case not only that it worked with the CIA—which was already widely known—but that it was in many ways an extension of the agency itself…

But according to the documents Blackwater submitted in its defense—as well as an email exchange I had recently with Prince—the contractor’s relationship with the CIA was far deeper than most observers thought. “Blackwater’s work with the CIA began when we provided specialized instructors and facilities that the Agency lacked,” Prince told me recently, in response to written questions. “In the years that followed, the company became a virtual extension of the CIA because we were asked time and again to carry out dangerous missions, which the Agency either could not or would not do in-house.”…

In all of these instances—the purchase of the rifles through the Camden County sheriff, the shipment of the guns to other countries, and the gifts to Abdullah—Blackwater argued that it was acting on behalf of the U.S. government and the CIA. All of these arguments, obviously, were very much in Blackwater’s legal interest. That said, it provided the court with classified emails, memoranda, contracts, and photos. It also obtained sealed depositions from top CIA executives from the Directorate of Operations, testifying that Blackwater provided training and weapons for agency operations. (A CIA spokesman declined to comment for this story.)

None of this is a surprise, of course. The CIA has long used private contractors — okay, let’s just call them mercenaries — to do a whole range of things. Sometime it’s to do things they can’t do legally but want done. Other times it’s something they want to distance themselves from in case it goes bad. The problem, of course, is that there’s very little accountability after such operations (not that there’s a lot more for the CIA itself).

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  • tsig

    So we have a secret agency operating with no oversight whatsoever what could possibly go wrong?

  • Ed:


    “Eli Lake has been pouring over the documents filed in the prosecution of Blackwater”

    Was he waterboarding the documents?

    As for XeWastewaterwhatevah being an off-off-the-books black bag outfit for the CIA? That’s as surprising as finding out that a anti-gay GOPer is a closet case.

  • anubisprime

    It would have been more of a shock if they had nothing to do with the CIA….

    The cursory legal cases were a bit of a give-away !

  • bobcarroll

    Ed: much thanks for your persistence in this matter. Let’s hope that the currentadministration keeps these results in mind while planning its own illegal excursions. But Ed, “pouring over” is a waste of good coffee.

  • “Delenda CIA” – it must be razed and ploughed with salt if the republic is to survive.

  • matty1

    @5 Well said. The only downside I can see is a very slightly increased risk of some info on America’s weapon systems or troop movements finding its way to the enemy du jour. This is frankly a price worth paying to rid the world of an organisation that claims and usually gets authority to do anything it wants to anyone it wants without being held accountable.

  • abb3w

    It might have been interesting for the prosecutor to try and get the evidence there was any such contract excluded, per the Totten v US holding that “existence of a contract of that kind is itself a fact not to be disclosed”.

    In short, “you work for the CIA, they deny anything you did was done for them — particularly, anything criminal”.

  • brandondavis

    I wouldn’t go so far as calling them “mercenaries.” There is a long history of recruiting senior people from the Army and Navy special operations communities, specifically when they ETS after 20 years, and bringing them on board in Special Activities Division. They are the best source of people available with very specialized skills and experience you don’t get anywhere else. People don’t rise up the ranks at CIA to fill these spots – you can only find them in the military, but bringing soldiers directly into CIA operations has traditionally been problematic, frowned on, or not allowed. It creates operational confusion: is this a military mission or an intelligence mission? There’s an important difference, especially from a legal standpoint. So when you need people with specialized skills to do intelligence work without involving the military, what do you do? You recruit former soldiers with those skills. That’s how it’s been done for decades, the only difference being after 9/11 security companies saw an urgent need with little supply and that made their eyes flash dollar signs, so they started scooping up all of the good candidates like retired Army SF and Ranger NCOs or NSW MasterChiefs and farmed them out to the OGA types on contracts. As demand grew, they lowered their standards and were scooping up much less qualified people – and this is for top level intelligence agency work. You can imagine the bottom barrel crap that was left over for the PMCs in demand once OIF kicked off? Is it any wonder those guys were fucking cowboys rolling down Route Irish while the most qualified were going to OGAs? Incidentally, this was the reason for Blackwater “Select”, a spinoff of Blackwater that was highly selective, just for TS agency work.

  • Hayden

    Eli Lake has been pouring over the documents filed in the prosecution of Blackwater…


    Unless there is flooding at Eli Lake and the documents are getting wet. 😛