BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What could be more exciting for a chickenhawk president who bullies, boasts and brags, then to have his own private spy network at his beck and call? According to The Intercept, that's exactly what Erik Prince is proposing.
Prince's latest proposal, as outlined earlier this month by The Intercept's Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill, is "to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals."
Over the past few weeks, we've been reporting on some of the proposals, projects, and schemes being hatched by Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater private security group (now known as Academi). Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a friend of Steve Bannon, has been on a tear lately, proposing all sorts of big-money projects including the privatization of the war in Afghanistan War, while seizing that country's minerals; forging a partnership with the Chinese to push forward that country's Silk Road project; and, entertain the possibility of running for Senator from Wyoming.
Prince was recently grilled by the House Intelligence Committee, over his "role as an alleged go-between, a bridge between the Trump campaign and Russian bankers, particularly a meeting with the chief executive of a state-run Russian investment bank over dinner in the Seychelles Islands, a meeting arranged by Prince's influential friends in the United Arab Emirates," Esquire's Charles P. Pierce pointed out.
In their Intercept piece headlined "Trump White House Weighing Plans For Private Spies To Counter 'Deep State' Enemies," Cole and Scahill pointed out that the Trump Administration is considering the proposal that Price developed along with CIA veteran John R. Maguire, who currently works for the intelligence contractor Amyntor Group, and the assistance of Oliver North, "a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal."
Prince's direct action team would be "totally off the books," a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, told The Intercept. "The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly."
According to the former intelligent official, North was the "ideological leader" brought aboard to help sell the project.
According to Cole and Scahill, "The proposals would utilize an army of spies with no official cover in several countries deemed 'denied areas' for current American intelligence personnel, including North Korea and Iran. The White House has also considered creating a new global rendition unit meant to capture terrorist suspects around the world, as well as a propaganda campaign in the Middle East and Europe to combat Islamic extremism and Iran."
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told CNN that "the White House does not and would not support such a proposal" and that, "I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or (White House) at all."
A few days after breaking the story, The Intercept's Lee Fang reported that in response to a question from CBS News's Major Garrett about the story, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "I'm not aware of any plans for something of that definition or anything similar to that at this time."
In a statement to CNN's Erin Burnett, a Prince spokesperson lambasted The Intercept's reporting: "The allegations made in Intercept's latest article about Erik are completely false and this was made clear to them before the article was published. Any meetings Erik did have with members of the intelligence community, current or former, focused on his well-publicized plan for saving the US taxpayer $42 billion in Afghanistan," the statement said.
"The Intercept has, once again, targeted Erik using his high profile as a click-bait to promote its own website and indulge the fantasies of its reporters with no care or regard for the facts."
In late November, BuzzFeed News' Aram Roston reported that "One of the proposals would involve hiring a private company, Amyntor Group, for millions of dollars to set up a large intelligence network and run counterterrorist propaganda efforts, according to the sources. Amyntor's officials and employees include veterans of a variety of US covert operations, ranging from the Reagan-era Iran–Contra affair to more recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Roston also noted that "CIA Director Mike Pompeo has publicly promised that the agency would become 'much more vicious' and aggressive. He said in one speech that the administration 'is prepared to engage in activities that are different from what America has been doing these past few years.'"
The Amyntor Group is headquartered in Whitefish, Montana, the small town that gained notoriety for short-lived $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico's electrical grid. "There is no known relationship between the two companies," Roston reported.
Prince has many coals in the fire, as witnessed by his Frontier Service Group announcing a partnership "with at least one of the state-owned Mozambican companies at the center of a hidden-loan scandal that resulted in the country defaulting on its debt this year," according to a recent Bloomberg report.
According to Bloomberg.com, It will be a "joint venture with tuna-fishing company Ematum, and may extend this to assisting the southeast African nation with maritime security, Prince told reporters Wednesday in the capital, Maputo. Ematum Chairman Antonio do Rosario said Tuesday Prince will also partner with maritime security company ProIndicus, and Mozambique Asset Management, or MAM."
Is it much of stretch to imagine that Trump, angry with the CIA's entrenched bureaucracy, savoring the opportunity to forge a little intelligence agency of his very own? What makes the project that much more alluring is that North, who appears regularly on Fox News, Trump's favorite cable news network, is attached to the project. Can't you just picture the two bros chopping it up at the White House while awaiting news on all the terrorists that have been captured by Prince's team?