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What Would Jared Kushner’s Middle East Peace Look Like?

NYT has gotten a lot of heat for letting associates speaking for Jared Kushner who nevertheless refused to be IDed as such provide this explanation for why he asked Sergey Kislyak for a channel of communications that bypassed any US intelligence scrutiny.

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, spoke in December with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about establishing a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow to discuss strategy in Syria and other policy issues, according to three people with knowledge of the discussion.

I would defend NYT on two grounds. First, while I’m totally supportive of WaPo (and others) providing anonymity for their sources who are providing highly sensitive details about what went on, they, too, could provide a bit more detail so readers could understand the motives, not least by indicating whether these were Congressional (and therefore partisan) or intelligence sources.

But I also think it highly likely the relationship between the Syria claim and what is really going on is similar to the original NYT explanation of this meeting — that it served to “establish a line of communication” between the Trump Administration and Russia and what has now been disclosed as an effort to establish a line of communication that bypassed all IC scrutiny. That is, I suspect those who shared this excuse believe it and believe it is rational within a larger context, and I believe it describes part of what they know to be going on. (Don’t go nuts just yet — I’m not defending that belief.)

Before I explain what I mean, consider a few more data points.

First, in this appearance, Juliette Kayyem and Steven Hall distinguish what this appears to be — a channel that bypasses the IC — from one that uses a third country (the Pope, in Kayyem’s example of President Obama’s back channel to Cuba) to establish a dialogue with an estranged country, a traditional back channel.

But remember, this is not the only country Kushner was establishing weird communications with. The WaPo story on this reminds of Trump’s secrecy surrounding a meeting between the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Kushner, Flynn, and Bannon.

Trump’s advisers were similarly secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. The Obama White House only learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner, Flynn and Stephen K. Bannon, another top Trump adviser, because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest.

And WaPo ties that meeting to a meeting, brokered by UAE, between Erik Prince and a Putin confidante on January 11.

Now consider National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s take on all this. First, he’s not all that concerned that his boss’ son-in-law tried to set up a channel of communication using an adversary’s facilities. According to him, they do this all the time!

“We have back-channel communications with any number of individual (countries). So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner,” McMaster said.

“So it doesn’t pre-expose you to any sort of content or any kind of conversation or anything. So we’re not concerned about it.”

Actually, he does have a point there. There’s the Emirates meeting, but there’s also Mike Flynn’s discussions of kidnapping Fethullah Gulen at the behest of Recep Erdogan. You might even include Rudy Giuliani’s intervention in the Reza Zarrab case.

As if McMaster’s lackadaisical attitude about Kushner’s attempt to use Russia’s facilities isn’t weird enough, though, there’s something else. Even before he made this weird defense of Kushner’s back channels, McMaster was excluded from at least one meeting on Trump’s overseas trip: that between Trump and Bibi Netanyahu.

National security advisor H.R. McMaster was left out of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu on Monday, a move that raised eyebrows among officials.

According to Kafe Knesset, Trump met with Netanyahu Monday evening, starting with a one-on-one meeting. The forum was soon expanded by several advisors on each side, including Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman on the U.S. side, according to Israeli officials.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also later invited to the expanded meeting, per an official, but “McMaster sat outside the King David room during the course of the entire meeting.”

So perhaps we can add Israel to the list of countries that Kushner has been establishing back channel communications with.

For better or worse, a back channel with Israel by itself would never get you accused of treason in the US. But I do find it interesting given the underlying precedent to Devin Nunes’ complaints about “unmasking:” the earlier collection of conversations in which Bibi told Members of Congress what the Obama Administration’s plans were with respect to Iran. The conversations of Trump associates that Nunes was outraged were unmasked didn’t involve Russia, he said, but did they involve Israel? Or Turkey or the Emirates?

With all that in mind, consider what the purported Middle East peace that Kushner has reportedly been crafting would actually look like. It’d include unlimited support for Israeli occupation of Palestine. Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well. It’d sanction the increasing authoritarianism in Turkey. It’s sanction Saudi Arabia’s ruthless starvation of Yemen. It’d fuck over the Kurds.

And it’d mean war with Iran.

Trump took steps towards doing most of those things on his trip, not least with his insane weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, itself premised on a formal detachment of weapons sales from any demands for respect for human rights. Of particular note, Trump claimed to be establishing a great peace initiative with Islamic countries, even when discussing meetings that treated Iran (and by association most Shia Muslims) as an enemy.

Several days ago in Saudi Arabia, I met with the leaders of the Muslim world and Arab nations from all across the region. It was an epic gathering. It was an historic event. Kind Salman of Saudi Arabia could not have been kinder, and I will tell you, he’s a very wise, wise man. I called on these leaders and asked them to join in a partnership to drive terrorism from their midst, once and for all. It was a deeply productive meeting. People have said there had really never been anything even close in history. I believe that. Being there and seeing who was there and hearing the spirit and a lot of love, there has never been anything like that in history. And it was an honor to be involved.

Kushner’s “peace plan” is not so much a plan for peace. It’s a plan for a complete remapping of the Middle East according to a vision the Israelis and Saudis have long been espousing (and note the multiple nods on Trump’s trip to the growing alliance between the two, including Trump’s flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv and Bibi’s comment on “common dangers are turning former enemies into partners”). It’s a vision for still more oppression (a view that Trump supports globally, in any case).

Yes, it’d probably all be accomplished with corrupt self-enrichment on the part of all players.

And it’d likely be a complete clusterfuck.

Which is why you’d want to keep all of that — not just the conversations in which you persuade Russia to ditch Iran as an ally, but also the conversations where you reverse long-standing policy with Israel and America’s embrace of human rights — from the intelligence community.

Because the actual experts, the people who’ve long played a game with our frenemies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey (and a battle with our adversaries like Russia), would explain all the problems with the plan.

I get why the focus on Russia is important, here.

But what if that focus is preventing us from seeing the vast forest of a horribly realigned American foreign policy for one Russian birch tree?

This post has been updated.

Update: A longtime (but anonymous) friend of the blog sent this humorous interpretation.

***************************<eyes only>****************************
To: DJT
Fr: JK
Dt: 5/28/17
Re: NWO
Sir,
This is to summarize the state of play in our negotiations for the NWO Project.
Everything’s a Go.
Oligarch        Turf                          Stipulations
Putin            Russia/Europe            No Muslims/No Refugees/Segregated Minorities
Trump          Americas/Britain        No Muslims/No Refugees/Segregated Minorities
Xi                 Asia/Pacific               No Muslims/No Refugees/Segregated Minorities
?                  Africa
Strongmen
Erdogan
Duterte
Un
Servicers
Israel           Global Finance
Saud            Middle East Portal/Muslim Vetting
Britain          Eurussian Portal
Japan           Pacific Portal
Prince           NWO Police
Winners                    and                    Losers
Authoritarians                                     Democracy
Exceptionalists                                    Rule of Law
Oligarchs                                            Everyone Else
Men                                                   Women
Caucasian/Han                                    All other Ethnicities
Sunni                                                 Shia
Jews                                                  Palestinians
Christians                                           Non-Christians
Russians                                             Europe, Ukraine, Crimea, Al Assad
China                                                 Taiwan, Hawaii (u gave them?)
Israel                                                 Iran, Palestinians
Saud                                                  All of the Middle East ex. Israel
Gen. Bannon says the next step in the plan is Operation Revenge479…
Doing my best to put you in good positions.
Love you, Pop!
J
**********crypto room fsb dc emb uid: skislyak //sci.nwo.kompromat***********

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Why Susan Rice May Be a Shiny Object

A bunch of Republican propagandists are outraged that the press isn’t showing more interest in PizzaGate Mike Cernovich’s “scoop” that the woman in charge of ensuring our national security under President Obama, then National Security Advisor Susan Rice, sought to fully understand the national security intercepts she was being shown.

There are two bases for their poutrage, which might have merit — but coming from such hacks, may not.

The first is the suggestion, based off Devin Nunes’ claim (and refuted by Adam Schiff) that Rice unmasked things she shouldn’t have. Thus far, the (probably illegally) leaked details — such as that family members, perhaps like Jared Kushner (who met with an FSB officer turned head of a sanctioned Russian bank used as cover for other spying operations), Sean Hannity (who met with an already-targeted Julian Assange at a time he was suspected of coordinating with Russians), and Erik Prince (who has literally built armies for foreign powers) got spied on — do nothing but undermine Nunes’ claims. All the claimed outrageous unmaskings actually seem quite justifiable, given the accepted purpose for FISA intercepts.

The other suggestion — and thus far, it is a suggestion, probably because (as I’ll show) it’s thus far logically devoid of evidence — is that because Rice asked to have the names of people unmasked, she must be the person who leaked the contents of the intercepts of Sergey Kislyak discussing sanctions with Mike Flynn. (Somehow, the propagandists always throw Ben Rhodes’ name in, though it’s not clear on what basis.)

Let me start by saying this. Let’s assume those intercepts remained classified when they were leaked. That’s almost certain, but Obama certainly did have the authority to declassify them, just as either George Bush or Dick Cheney allegedly used that authority to declassify Valerie Plame’s ID (as some of these same propagandists applauded back in the day). But assuming the intercepts did remain classified, I agree that it is a problem that they were leaked by nine different sources to the WaPo.

But just because Rice asked to unmask the identities of various Trump (and right wing media) figures doesn’t mean she and Ben Rhodes are the nine sources for the WaPo.

That’s because the information on Flynn may have existed in a number of other places.

Obviously, Rice could not have been the first person to read the Flynn-Kislyak intercepts. That’s because some analyst(s) would have had to read them and put them into a finished report (most, but not all, of Nunes’ blathering comments about these reports suggest they were finished intelligence). Assuming those analysts were at NSA (which is not at all certain) someone would have had to have approved the unmasking of Flynn’s name before Rice saw it.

In addition, it is possible — likely even, at least by January 2017, when we know people were asking why Russia didn’t respond more strongly to Obama’s hacking sanctions — that there were two other sets of people who had access to the raw intelligence on Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak: the CIA and, especially, the FBI, which would have been involved in any FISA-related collection. Both CIA and FBI can get raw data on topics they’re working on. Likely, in this case, the multi-agency task force was getting raw collection related to their Russian investigation.

And as I’ve explained, as soon as FBI developed a suspicion that either Kislyak was at the center of discussions on sanctions or that Flynn was an unregistered agent of multiple foreign powers, the Special Agents doing that investigation would routinely pull up everything in their databases on those people by name, which would result in raw Title I and 702 FISA collection (post January 3, it probably began to include raw EO 12333 data as well).

So already you’re up to about 15 to 20 people who would have access to the raw intercepts, and that’s before they brief their bosses, Congress (though the Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff briefing, at least, was delayed a bit), and DOJ, all the way up to Sally Yates, who wanted to warn the White House. Jim Comey has suggested it is likely that the nine sources behind the WaPo story were among these people briefed secondarily on the intercepts. And it’s worth noting that David Ignatius, who first broke the story of Flynn’s chats with Kislyak but was not credited on the nine source story, has known source relationships in other parts of the government than the National Security Advisor, though he also has ties to Rice.

All of which is to say that the question of who leaked the contents of Mike Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak is a very different question from whether Susan Rice’s requests to unmask Trump associates’ names were proper or not. It is possible that Rice leaked the intercepts without declassifying them first. But it’s also possible that any of tens of other people did, most of whom would have a completely independent channel for that information.

And the big vulnerability is not — no matter what Eli Lake wants to pretend — the unmasking of individual names by the National Security Advisor. Rather, it’s that groups of investigators can access the same intelligence in raw form without a warrant tied to the American person in question.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Erik Prince’s Latest Graymail: Deliberately Targeting an American Teenager

Technically, I suppose, Erik Prince’s latest disclosure (unlike some earlier ones) is not gray mail, as he seems intent (as Jeff Stein reported months ago) to exact revenge no matter what and claims the CIA has already done whatever damage it can to him.

Which makes me wonder whom he’s trying to exact revenge on with his claim that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was deliberately targeted (a claim Jeremy Scahill reported back in April, though sourced it to a former Senior Administration Official).

“I am all in favor of killing terrorists,” Prince said. “But the fact that [Anwar] al-Awlaki was killed and his 16-year-old son, born in Colorado, was killed with no due process other than that he got on the ‘kill list’ is troubling to me.” The Obama administration has claimed that Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed in a drone strike in 2011, was an operational leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.

Prince said he believes al-Awlaki’s son was deliberately targeted in a second strike after the one that killed Awlaki. The Obama administration has said that strike was not targeting Awlaki’s son, but someone else.

Prince also said the over-reliance on drone warfare in the Middle East and South Asia would likely reap “a bitter harvest,” because of the scale of collateral damage from drone strikes. He said it was wiser to send in small teams to such denied areas to find and target terrorists, or outsource this kind of work to local surrogates.

In the other day’s installment of Erik Prince’s complaints, after all, he blamed his plight on Leon Panetta, who cut off his assassination training program and pulled some drone targeting activities away from Blackwater, reportedly in 2009. Panetta was Secretary of Defense at the time Abdulrahman was killed, having moved over from running CIA and its drone assassination months earlier. David Petraeus had his button on CIA’s drone killing machine by the time of Anwar and Adbulrahman’s deaths.

That said, there were reports JSOC targeted Abdulrahman…

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Weep for the Spurned Billion Dollar Mercenary!

In what is sure to be some interesting book publicity, Erik Prince has gone sobbing to the WSJ about the shoddy treatment the government that paid him billions treated him. In the piece, he continues to reveal new details about some of the operations CIA paid him to do, including the kill team training first revealed in 2009.

A chief target of Mr. Prince’s ire is Mr. Panetta, who in 2009 shut down the covert training operation for CIA “hit teams” that former Blackwater officials said took place on Mr. Prince’s Virginia property.

The CIA had been sending officers for training at Blackwater’s North Carolina training facility. But it wanted something closer to its Langley, Va., headquarters, former company officials said. So they asked Mr. Prince to build a small shooting range on his rural Virginia land.

“They needed a place that was only 35 minutes away from work,” said Gary Jackson, the former Blackwater president. “Erik was OK with that, and he has the property, and we had the money.” The trainings, including live-fire exercises, drew some complaints over the years from neighbors, Mr. Jackson said.

[snip]

When that information became public in 2009, right after Mr. Panetta canceled the Blackwater hit-team training, the CIA director ended the company’s role in maintaining the drones.

Mr. Prince said he is convinced that Mr. Panetta outed him as a CIA “asset” at a closed congressional hearing that year, adding that it was unthinkable for a CIA director to reveal the real name of a covert operative to lawmakers.

[snip]

“No one was out to scapegoat anyone in the relationship with Blackwater, but there were some issues that arose that prompted a serious look at contracts with the company,” said one former CIA official involved in the discussions. “There was a perception that they were trying to run some of their own operations untethered from agency oversight.” [my emphasis]

Only the last bit is really new (though it is suggested in a profile of the mafia hitman involved in the program).

But remember this real point is not that Panetta outed Prince to the House Intelligence Committee, it’s that he briefed these “programs” at all. According to Jan Schakowsky, under Cheney Blackwater had been working directly with the White House on counterterrorism policy (which makes sense since Cofer Black came up with that policy in the first place).

I reminded, by the way, that Barb Milkulski told John Brennan that Panetta was the only CIA Director who didn’t “jerk around” the intelligence committees.

Imagine how sad Prince must be that his mercenary company beginning to do its own operations got cut off when Congress actually learned about it!

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Blackwater’s Slap on the Wrist for Gun Smuggling and Arms Trafficking

Viewed from one perspective the facts that Blackwater has admitted to amount to running guns–precisely the crime that Fast and Furious attempted to combat. Viewed from another perspective, Blackwater’s actions amount to the same kind of thing Viktor Bout is in prison for: making weapons deals with sanctioned entities.

But Blackwater will suffer no more than a wrist slap for such things: a $7.5 million fine, a third of which can be credited to implementing a compliance system that is substantially already in place, as well as a $42 million Consent Agreement fine it signed two years ago. (It has paid two $6 million installments of the $42 million fine it owes to State Department; even while it continues to get contracts with State)

That doesn’t make the Deferred Prosecution Agreement any less funny.

There are the repeated lists of all the aliases of Blackwater–by my count some 37 companies or subsidiaries. Just in case you needed master list of how many times it has tried to change its identity.

There’s the bragging about Blackwater’s new compliance structure (paid for, presumably, as part of this fine), featuring John Ashcroft (the monitor on one of the most corrupt DPAs ever) and former AIG (AIG?!?!?!) compliance whiz Suzanne Folsom.

There’s the way it says Blackwater can’t charge the government any aspect of its fine (what is left after its credit for compliance infrastructure, that is). Only in DPAs is money not fungible, I guess.

There’s the way they try to guard against Blackwater rebranding again (the DPA is written in the name Academi and invokes Xe) by selling itself to someone else. (There’s apparently an Erik Prince declaration I’m going to have to chase down tomorrow.)

And there’s the way that of those who signed this DPA for Blackwater, only the name of the attorney is included in the text.

Now maybe I shouldn’t be laughing so hard. The DPA implies that the US Attorney in North Carolina’s Eastern District, Thomas Walker, is still investigating. Maybe Erik Prince will go to jail? Ha!

But this DPA is more a case study in the myriad ways corporate entities escape all justice in this day and age than any real accountability for the same kind of actions we impose stiff sentences on others for.

As always, the lesson is if you’re going to commit crimes, do it as a corporation.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

“He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers” to train anti-Iranian soldiers

The NYT has a story on how Erik Prince’s latest scam–to hide from the trial lawyers–involves using retired US servicemen to train Colombian mercenaries to “defend” the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

And Erik Prince said he resettled to UAE because of the churches!

Given Prince’s happiness about the legal climate in UAE you’d think he’d be able to wander publicly. But he appears to be exercising the same kind of tradecraft that Osama bin Laden did to evade spies in recent years.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower – a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

But ultimately, this seems to be about Iran.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said.

[snip]

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

[snip]

Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.

“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2’s work.

So, in a bid to avoid America’s trial lawyers, Blackwater 3.0 is holed up in UAE training unqualified Colombians so that the Blackwater guys have an excuse to shoot weapons against Iran?

Really?

Is this what we’ve come to?

Update: I edited this post to cut down on the blockquotes from NYT.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Fred Johnson Takes on Blackwater in Erik Prince’s Home Town

Fred Johnson is the Democratic candidate for Congress in MI’s 2nd Congressional District.

When his opponent–Crazy Pete Hoekstra lackey Bill Huizenga–claimed to want to cut costs in a debate the other day, Johnson called him on his hypocrisy regarding cutting spending on military contractors, starting with Blackwater. [my transcript]

Johnson: When that one question [about Blackwater] came up [in an earlier debate], we have a private corporation, that is taking taxpayer dollars to basically making profit off of war, they all agree that yeah, they should keep on using those kind of entities. If we’re going to have everything on the table–if you’re really serious about spending, if you’re really serious about cutting back, trimming the budget–those kind of things have to go too. Not to mention that those kind of corporations are beyond the purview of the US Constitution, the US Code of Military Justice, and they often times present as much a headache when it comes to diplomacy and when it comes to good relations, some of those countries being our defense partners.

So it’s kind of disingenuous to say, you know, we have a prioritization. I’m talking about, not just talking about it, I’m talking about actually doing it. I’m talking about going down there with the vision and the courage to make those cuts.

Johnson’s call on Huizenga’s hypocrisy is interesting for two reasons. First, MI-2 includes Holland (where Johnson lives). That’s Erik Prince’s home town.

But just as interesting–the reason why Huizenga and other Republicans in this part of the world are particularly vulnerable to this claim of hypocrisy–since they’re reliant on funding from Prince’s sister Betsy and her hubby, Dick DeVos, and boast about being high school friends with Prince.

Mind you, Republicans nationally are dependent on DeVos cash. But at a local level this hypocritical demand from Republicans that we keep paying more for security services that make us less safe so that their donors’ families can keep getting rich is palpable.

Help Fred Johnson.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

If Blackwater Couldn’t Keep Benazir Bhutto Safe, Why Is State Still Contracting with Them?

When Erik Prince testified before the Oversight Committee on October 2, 2007, he boasted that no one under Blackwater’s protection had ever been seriously hurt or killed.

No individual protected by Blackwater has ever been killed or seriously injured. There is no better evidence of the skill and dedication of these men.

At precisely the same time as Prince was making that boast, Blackwater was negotiating a protection deal that would not end so successfully.

The Nation has previously reported on Blackwater’s work for the CIA and JSOC in Pakistan. New documents reveal a history of activity relating to Pakistan by Blackwater. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto worked with the company when she returned to Pakistan to campaign for the 2008 elections, according to the documents. In October 2007, when media reports emerged that Bhutto had hired “American security,” senior Blackwater official Robert Richer wrote to company executives, “We need to watch this carefully from a number of angles. If our name surfaces, the Pakistani press reaction will be very important. How that plays through the Muslim world will also need tracking.” Richer wrote that “we should be prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces (BW). That will impact the security profile.” Clearly a word is missing in the e-mail or there is a typo that leaves unclear what Richer meant when he mentioned the Al Qaeda communiqué. Bhutto was assassinated two months later. Blackwater officials subsequently scheduled a meeting with her family representatives in Washington, in January 2008.

This detail–though not surprising–raises more questions than offer answers. Like what the hell word is that is missing before “communique”? Was Blackwater proposing to mitigate the PR problem of public association with Bhutto just as scrutiny over the Nissour Square massacre was most intense by inventing a fake communique, of some sort, from al Qaeda? (Elsewhere in Scahill’s piece, he describes a training course Blackwater offered on al Qaeda tactics, including propaganda. So presumably, they considered themselves experts in creating fake al Qaeda propaganda.

And if Blackwater had a previously unrevealed failure–a really costly, spectacular one–then why is State Department still contracting with them for such protective services? Not least given that Blackwater would presumably be protecting people in Afghanistan against some of the same creeps who presumably bested Blackwater when they assassinated Bhutto?

Moreover, given that the State Department gave Blackwater follow-on contracts after Blackwater failed to keep Bhutto safe, then have they at least done a real assessment of what went wrong? Last we heard from Blackwater publicly, they had a purportedly perfect record. But they don’t. And no one told us that. If we’re going to give another $120,000,000 to Blackwater, have we at least studied, first, what went wrong with Blackwater’s notable failure with Bhutto?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Blackwater Served as Monsanto’s Intelligence Arm

Jeremy Scahill has a new piece on Blackwater that is fairly incendiary.

Among other things (I’ll have more to say later), he reveals that Blackwater provided Monsanto with security services in 2008-2009.

According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009. [my emphasis]

Click through for the denial Monsanto’s Wilson gave to Scahill: basically, he denied that Monsanto used Blackwater to target animal rights activists, but did use them for “scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Not to mention work in Asia and Latin America.

It’s bad enough to have PA’s contractor developing intelligence reports on anti-drilling activists to send to lobbyists. It’s yet another thing when Blackwater’s thugs are tracking those activists.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Erik Prince’s Long Form Graymail

Remember that Vanity Fair tell all in which Erik Prince offered new details about Blackwater ops? Though Michael Hayden has suggested Prince made up some of the details, it seemed to be a form of graymail targeted at those who approved Blackwater ops now under criminal investigation. Apparently, there’s a long form version.

Erik Prince, chairman of the private security firm once known as Blackwater, is writing a memoir that says Democratic officials in two administrations approved of his most sensitive and controversial operations, sources close to the company, now known as XE Services, said. [snip] But two sources, speaking independently, said that Prince will name Democratic officials in both the Clinton and Obama administrations who allegedly approved of clandestine intelligence operations carried out by Blackwater on behalf of the CIA and other government agencies. “He’s going to drop the names of people who, before, were saying, ‘Yeah, go kill Osama Bin Laden’ and stuff like that, but went sideways on him when the investigations began,” said one of the sources, who spoke only on condition of anonymity in order to maintain relations with the company.

Now, I’m all in favor of Erik Prince, safe in his haven in UAE, telling the details of what he’s been doing in our name. I’d sure like to know about them. But Prince is nuts to think that anything he’ll reveal by the election will affect the success or failures of the Democrats.

“They think this will destroy the Democratic Party in the elections,” he said of Prince and his friends.

Even supposing Prince provides proof that people in the Obama Administration signed off on assassination … the response to Obama’s targeting of an American citizen for assassination has been a giant, collective yawn. And if Prince were to reveal that Clinton asked Blackwater to assassinate Osama bin Laden before 9/11? Wouldn’t that suggest, first of all, that Blackwater failed to accomplish the task? And wouldn’t it suggest, secondly, that Clinton was more of a bad ass about bin Laden than the Bushies up until the time when it was too late? Furthermore, we know that the Obama Administration continues to employ Blackwater.

Sure, learning that Obama employed Blackwater for tasks that should be limited to government employees would piss someone like me off. But the rest of the country would go back to watching Koran burnings and football.

The Spy Talk article on Prince’s memoir offers one more curious detail: that Parsons is the leading bidder to buy the company formerly known as Blackwater. Parsons is notable because it was almost certainly the most corrupt, incompetent construction contractor wasting reconstruction dollars in Iraq. Not only that, but it had ties every bit as close as Halliburton did to top members of the Administration.

I’d like to connect that news with another of yesterday’s big stories, the news that the Police Academy Parsons built in Iraq has shit raining from the ceiling.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country’s security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed “the rain forest.”

They’re related, you see, because Parsons also had extraordinary access to Karl Rove. When Parsons signed this contract in 2004, its lobbyist was a woman named Karen Johnson. And in addition to being the business partner of Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy, Katharine Armstrong, Karen Johnson is known to be close to Karl Rove. So close, in fact, that it is rumored they’re lovers. At one point, Karen Johnson was not entirely forthcoming about her ties to the White House. When she first filled out her lobbying disclosure forms for 2004, the year in which she helped Parsons get a contract to build a shit shower instead of a police academy, Johnson forgot that she had been, um, lobbying the White House.

If Parsons were to take over the company formerly known as Blackwater, it would single source all the worst in contracting: cowboys with guns immune from the law, contractors who do shitty (literally) work for inflated amounts of taxpayer dollars, and influence peddling. What a perfect next chapter for Blackwater!

Update: Jeremy Scahill suggests there are Democrats worried about this. I guess this may be more about embarrassing those Democrats–like those currently or formerly on the intelligence committees, presumably–who signed off on Blackwater activities.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.