Last month a three-year-long federal prosecution of Blackwater collapsed. The government’s 15-felony indictment—on such charges as conspiring to hide purchases of automatic rifles and other weapons from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives—could have led to years of jail time for Blackwater personnel. In the end, however, the government got only misdemeanor guilty pleas by two former executives, each of whom were sentenced to four months of house arrest, three years’ probation, and a fine of $5,000. Prosecutors dropped charges against three other executives named in the suit and abandoned the felony charges altogether.
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.
Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, heir to an auto-parts family fortune, Blackwater had proved especially useful to the CIA in the early 2000s. “You have to remember where the CIA was after 9/11,” says retired Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who served as the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2004 to 2006 and later as the ranking member of the committee. “They were gutted in the 1990s. They were sending raw recruits into Afghanistan and other dangerous places. They were looking for skills and capabilities, and they had to go to outside contractors like Blackwater to make sure they could accomplish their mission.”
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.”
A prime example of the close relationship appears to have unfolded on March 19, 2005. On that day, Prince and senior CIA officers joined King Abdullah of Jordan and his brothers on a trip to Blackwater headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina, according to lawyers for the company and former Blackwater officials. After traveling by private jet from Washington to the compound, Abdullah (a former Jordanian special-forces officer) and Prince (a former Navy SEAL) participated in a simulated ambush, drove vehicles on a high-speed racetrack, and raided one of the compound’s “shoot houses,” a specially built facility used to train warriors in close-quarters combat with live ammo, Prince recalls.
At the end of the day, company executives presented the king with two gifts: a modified Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and a Remington shotgun, both engraved with the Blackwater logo. They also presented three Blackwater-engraved Glock pistols to Abdullah’s brothers. According to Prince, the CIA asked Blackwater to give the guns to Abdullah “when people at the agency had forgotten to get gifts for him.”
Three years later, the ATF raided the Moyock compound. In itself, this wasn’t unusual; the ATF had been conducting routine inspections of the place since 2005, when Blackwater informed the government that two of its employees had stolen guns and sold them on the black market. Typically, agents would show up in street clothes, recalled Prince. “They knew our people and our processes.”
more here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/14/exclusive-erik-prince-on-blackwater-s-secret-cia-past.html