Newsweek June 20, 2011
On Dec. 30, 2009, seven CIA operatives were killed at a U.S. base in Khost, Afghanistan, when a Jordanian double agent who claimed to have cracked Al Qaeda’s inner circle proved instead to be a suicide bomber—in other words, a triple agent.
The attack, the deadliest for the CIA in 25 years, was unlike any in the agency’s history. Over the decades, a multitude of CIA informants had lied, defrauded, betrayed, stolen money, or skipped town. But none had sought to lure his handlers into a trap with the aim of killing them, along with himself.
A 2010 internal CIA review identified a chain of failures that allowed 32-year-old physician Humam al-Balawi to gain access to the highly secure CIA base, breezing through checkpoints without a search until he came face to face with a large gathering of CIA officers anxious to meet him. Balawi had promised to deliver Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. (Last week, in the wake of bin Laden’s death, Zawahiri emerged as the terrorist group’s new leader, though he was already in essence its operational commander.)
Balawi had backed his intelligence claims with evidence so electrifying that even President Obama had been briefed in advance. But the Jordanian was not what he seemed.
The warning signs, painfully obvious in hindsight, would be obscured by two singular forces that collided at Khost on that late-December day. One was the mind of Balawi, a man who flitted pre-cariously between opposing camps. The other was the eagerness of war-weary intelligence operatives who saw a mirage and desperately wanted it to be real.
A year ago today one of the most defining incidents of the upcoming year at war in Afghanistan occurred.
Civilian Contractors and the CIA working side by side were killed when a double agent set off a suicide vest in Khost, Afghanistan.
Thank you for your service
Our Thoughts are with your families today and always
Former Navy Seal working for Blackwater
Former Special Forces working for Blackwater.
Former Army Officer who specialed in Intelligence and had served as a contractor for military intelligence
Former Detective with the Atlanta Police Department had served as a private security contractor
had recently become CIA Officers.
Attack Killed Civilian Contractors and former Civilian Contractors
WASHINGTON — Three weeks before a Jordanian double agent set off a bomb at a remote Central Intelligence Agency base in eastern Afghanistan last December, a C.I.A. officer in Jordan received warnings that the man might be working for Al Qaeda, according to an investigation into the deadly attack.
But the C.I.A. officer did not tell his bosses of suspicions — brought to the Americans by a Jordanian intelligence officer — that the man might be planning to lure Americans into a trap, according to the recently completed investigation by the agency. Later that month the Qaeda operative, a Jordanian doctor, detonated a suicide vest as he stood among a group of C.I.A. officers at the base.
The internal investigation documents a litany of breakdowns leading to the Dec. 30 attack at the Khost base that killed seven C.I.A. employees, the deadliest day for the spy agency since the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut. Besides the failure to pass on warnings about the bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the C.I.A. investigation chronicled major security lapses at the base in Afghanistan, a lack of war zone experience among the agency’s personnel at the base, insufficient vetting of the alleged defector and a murky chain of command with different branches of the intelligence agency competing for control over the operation.
Some of these failures mirror other lapses that have bedeviled the sprawling intelligence and antiterrorism community in the past several years, despite numerous efforts at reform.
The report found that the breakdowns were partly the result of C.I.A. officers’ wanting to believe they had finally come across the thing that had eluded them for years: a golden source who could lead them to the terror network’s second highest figure, Ayman al-Zawahri.
As it turned out, the bomber who was spirited onto a base pretending to be a Qaeda operative willing to cooperate with the Americans was actually a double agent who detonated a suicide vest as he stood among a group of C.I.A. officers. “The mission itself may have clouded some of the judgments made here,” said the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, who provided details of the investigation to reporters on Tuesday.
Mr. Panetta said that the report did not recommend holding a single person or group of individuals directly accountable for “systemic failures.”
“This is a war,” he said, adding that it is important for the C.I.A. to continue to take on risky missions.
The investigation, conducted by the agency’s counterintelligence division, does, however, make a series of recommendations to improve procedures to vet sources and require that C.I.A. field officers share more information with their superiors.
Mr. Panetta said that he also ordered that a team of counterintelligence experts join the C.I.A. counterterrorism center, and to thoroughly vet the agency’s most promising informants. It is unclear whether any action will be taken against the C.I.A. operative in Jordan who chose not to pass on the warning.
The agency is a closed society that makes precious little public about its operations. It is sometimes loath to investigate itself, and at times has resisted punishing people for failures.
In 2005, for instance, Director Porter J. Goss rejected the recommendation of an internal review that “accountability boards” be established to determine which senior C.I.A. officials should be blamed for intelligence breakdowns before the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Goss said that punishing top officers “would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks.”
Current and former C.I.A. officials said that the decision not to hold officers directly responsible for the bombing was partly informed by an uncomfortable truth: some of those who may have been at fault were killed in the bombing.
In particular, the officials said there was particular care about how much fault to assign to Jennifer Matthews, a Qaeda expert at the C.I.A. who was the chief of the Khost base and who died in the attack.
One former C.I.A. officer with Afghanistan experience said there was bitter internal debate at the spy agency over whether Ms. Matthews — who had little field experience — ought to singled out for blame for the security lapses that allowed the bomber, Mr. Balawi, onto the base.
“There’s a lot of built-up emotion over this, because one of the primary people accused is Jennifer, and she’s not here to defend herself,” he said.
Several family members of the victims of the Khost attack, reached by telephone and e-mail on Tuesday, declined to comment about the C.I.A. report. Mr. Panetta said that families would be informed about the report’s conclusions in the coming days. Read more here
WASHINGTON — A last photo shows Darren James LaBonte on an all-terrain vehicle in Khost, Afghanistan, days before his death. He’s smiling.
Athlete, soldier, husband, father — and determined CIA officer.
LaBonte’s family had promised him they wouldn’t talk about his work. They kept that pledge as they mourned in private after he died along with six other CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer in the suicide bombing at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in late December.
Even now, months after his burial, they won’t detail the dangerous work he did for the agency. “We made that promise to him,” said LaBonte’s parents, David and Camille.
But his family did decide over Memorial Day to acknowledge that he was among the bombing victims — and they decided to tell the world a bit about the man behind the name.
All but two of the CIA employees killed in the blast had previously been identified publicly. The seventh victim, the agency’s chief of base, a 45-year-old mother of three and an al-Qaida expert, remains anonymous.
Indeed, anonymity is part of the trade-off for a career in intelligence. CIA families have grieved in silence for decades.
“It’s hard to understand,” said Ted Gup, author of “The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives.” “It’s hard for our entire culture to grasp the nature of this sacrifice. We live in a culture of celebrity where what is not recognized doesn’t exist.”
Spies, he added, “come out of a culture where what is recognized ceases to exist. The light is lethal.”
The CIA won’t discuss LaBonte, but his parents and wife agreed to shed some light about his death. And over this past Memorial Day weekend, a historic B-17 plane dropped flowers over the Statue of Liberty in a tribute to the seven slain Americans.
LaBonte was 35 years old when he died, ending a career that included service in the military and a series of law enforcement jobs.
“He was a pretty talented guy,” said his father, who described the son as “intelligent, complex and an incredible athlete.”
LaBonte grew up in Connecticut. He played baseball and football at Brookfield High School. He turned down a shot at professional baseball with the Cleveland Indians when he high school in 1992 and opted for the Army, said his father, a former Navy SEAL.
LaBonte earned the celebrated black and yellow Ranger patch and was assigned to First Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, one of the toughest units.
In 1999, LaBonte met his wife — Racheal — on a blind date to a Ranger ball in Savannah, Ga., where he was stationed. The following year, they married and he left the Army. But after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, LaBonte wanted to get back into the fight.
“He was hellbent on making this 9/11 thing right,” his father said. “That really affected him badly.”
LaBonte decided not to re-enlist in the Army, choosing to pursue an education and a career in law enforcement. He graduated from Columbia College of Missouri and received a master’s degree in May 2006 from Boston University, where he studied criminal justice.
Along the way, he had worked as a police officer in Libertyville, Ill., and as a U.S. marshal before joining the FBI. The family said LaBonte won a leadership and shooting award at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., then landed in the FBI’s New York field office.
The CIA recruited him, and he resigned from the FBI in late 2006, moving with his wife to the Washington, D.C., area. His father had reservations about the CIA, but his son had always steered his own course.
He was a “man determined to be a part of the solution to the unrest in our world,” his mother said.
His parents declined to discuss what he did for the agency. But the elder LaBonte said his son had served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Amman, Jordan, his last posting before he died in Afghanistan. Father and son talked about the perils of his job.
“I don’t think he feared death,” David LaBonte said. “He faced it.”
“He was a Spartan,” his wife said. “He had to do these things. I respected him and honored him.”
Darren LaBonte’s parents, who live Arnold, Md., said they had planned a Christmas trip to Italy about the time of the Khost bombing. Their son planned to meet them, along with his wife and daughter Raina, who turns 3 in November. LaBonte’s younger brother also was coming.
On Dec. 17, LaBonte left for Afghanistan, leaving his wife and daughter in Amman.
“He was anxious but excited about the mission,” Racheal LaBonte said.
His trip to Italy was suddenly delayed. The CIA believed it was on the verge of a major breakthrough in the hunt to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s No. 2. The Jordanians had a man on the inside who said he had information about the terrorist.
On the night of Dec. 30, while staying in a villa in Tuscany — the day before LaBonte was supposed to arrive in Italy — his wife took a phone call: Her husband was dead.
“You hear it, but you don’t comprehend it,” she said. “They are words you never want to hear in your entire life.”
In a deadly double-cross, five CIA officers, two security contractors and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed at the remote base in Khost. Six other CIA officers were wounded.
David LaBonte said the U.S. government “took us by the hand” and helped the grieving family make its way back to the U.S. He praised CIA Director Leon Panetta, who made sure his son was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral was Feb. 1. The chief of base was also laid to rest at Arlington.
“There was some question about Darren being buried in Arlington,” the father said. “Within days, Panetta took care of this, which was a big thing for us. I thought he would be standoffish. He has been magnificent with our family. He has been caring and sincere, not an aloof politician.”
Camille LaBonte said the CIA has not forgotten her son or what he did for the country.
“They have not left us,” she said. “They can’t bring our people back, but they do try to honor them in many different ways.”
In March, the family attended a memorial service in Amman, where Robert Beecroft, the U.S. ambassador, praised the fallen CIA officer.
“Most of the people in the CIA are just like the rest of us but they have dangerous jobs,” said Racheal LaBonte. “He loved his family. He loved his job. It’s not about killing people. It’s about saving people.” Original Story here
Retired CIA officer Rob Richer recently hit upon a novel idea for memorializing the five agency officers and two contractors killed last year in a suicide bombing near Khost, Afghanistan: He would climb on his mountain bike and ride across the country in their honor.
By Joby Warrick
WASHINGTON — Barred by law from uttering his slain comrades’ names in public, retired CIA officer Rob Richer recently hit upon a novel idea for memorializing the five agency officers and two contractors killed last year in a suicide bombing near Khost, Afghanistan: He would climb on his mountain bike and ride across the country in their honor.
But Richer, 56, a former Marine, had no sooner posted the itinerary for the 3,200-mile odyssey on his website (www.pedalingforpatriots.com) than his phone began lighting up. Dozens of people, many of them strangers, were calling to ask if they could participate, either through donations or by joining him on the journey. Retired intelligence officers, soldiers, cops and students wanted to sign up.
Monday, May 3, 2010;
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) – A suicide bomber struck outside a foreign base in the southeastern Afghan town of Khost on Monday, killing one civilian and wounding two privately employed guards, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.
The attack happened outside a base where in December a Jordanian infiltrator killed seven CIA staff and contractors and a Jordanian intelligence officer in a suicide blast.
A helicopter was seen hovering above the site of Monday’s attack which was cordoned off by foreign and Afghan forces.
By Jeremy Scahill at RebelReports
[Note: This post, written for TheNation.com, will be posted on The Nation magazine’s homepage soon as part of the launch of a new blog. I am posting it here until the site is fully functional because of the timely nature of the story. Please check The Nation site for exciting developments.]
Erik Prince, the reclusive owner of the Blackwater empire, rarely gives public speeches and when he does he attempts to ban journalists from attending and forbids recording or videotaping of his remarks. On May 5, that is exactly what Prince is trying to do when he speaks at DeVos Fieldhouse as the keynote speaker for the “Tulip Time Festival” in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. He told the event’s organizers no news reporting could be done on his speech and they consented to the ban. Journalists and media associations in Michigan are protesting this attempt to bar reporting on his remarks.
Despite Prince’s attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.
In the speech, Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, specifically to target Iranian influence. He expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and described Blackwater’s secretive operations at four Forward Operating Bases he controls in Afghanistan. He called those fighting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” Prince also revealed details of a July 2009 operation he claims Blackwater forces coordinated in Afghanistan to take down a narcotrafficking facility, saying that Blackwater “call[ed] in multiple air strikes,” blowing up the facility. Prince boasted that his forces had carried out the “largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history.” He characterized the work of some NATO countries’ forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations “should just pack it in and go home.” Prince spoke of Blackwater working in Pakistan, which appears to contradict the official, public Blackwater and US government line that Blackwater is not in Pakistan.
Prince also claimed that a Blackwater operative took down the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W Bush in Baghdad and criticized the Secret Service for being “flat-footed.” He bragged that Blackwater forces “beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene” during Katrina and claimed that lawsuits, “tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills” and political attacks prevented him from deploying a humanitarian ship that could have responded to the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami that hit Indonesia.
Several times during the speech, Prince appeared to demean Afghans his company is training in Afghanistan, saying Blackwater had to teach them “Intro to Toilet Use” and to do jumping jacks. At the same time, he bragged that US generals told him the Afghans Blackwater trains “are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.” Prince also revealed that he is writing a book, scheduled to be released this fall.
The speech was delivered January 14 at the University of Michigan in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, ROTC commanders and cadets, businesspeople and military veterans. The speech was titled “Overcoming Adversity: Leadership at the Tip of the Spear” and was sponsored by the Young Presidents’ Association (YPO), a business networking association primarily made up of corporate executives. “Ripped from the headlines and described by Vanity Fair magazine, as a Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier and Spy, Erik Prince brings all that and more to our exclusive YPO speaking engagement,” read the event’s program, also obtained by The Nation. It proclaimed that Prince’s speech was an “amazing don’t miss opportunity from a man who has ‘been there and done that’ with a group of Cadets and Midshipmen who are months away from serving on the ‘tip of the spear.’” Here are some of the highlights from Erik Prince’s speech:
Send the Mercs into Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria
Prince painted a global picture in which Iran is “at the absolute dead center… of badness.” The Iranians, he said, “want that nuke so that it is again a Persian Gulf and they very much have an attitude of when Darius ran most of the Middle East back in 1000 BC. That’s very much what the Iranians are after.” [NOTE: Darius of Persia actually ruled from 522 BC–486 BC]. Iran, Prince charged, has a “master plan to stir up and organize a Shia revolt through the whole region.” Prince proposed that armed private soldiers from companies like Blackwater be deployed in countries throughout the region to target Iranian influence, specifically in Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. “The Iranians have a very sinister hand in these places,” Prince said. “You’re not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries. It’s way too politically sensitive. The private sector can operate there with a very, very small, very light footprint.” In addition to concerns of political expediency, Prince suggested that using private contractors to conduct such operations would be cost-effective. “The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they’re going to look for ways, they’re going to have to have ways to become more efficient,” he said. “And there’s a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint.”
Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. “There’s more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There’s even some evidence it’s going to fund terrorist organizations,” Prince alleged. “These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that’s $800,000. That’s not a bad take for organized crime.” Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.
Blackwater and the Geneva Convention
Prince scornfully dismissed the debate on whether armed individuals working for Blackwater could be classified as “unlawful combatants” who are ineligible for protection under the Geneva Convention. “You know, people ask me that all the time, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”
It is significant that Prince mentioned his company operating in Pakistan given that Blackwater, the US government and the Pakistan government have all denied Blackwater works in Pakistan.
Taking Down the Iraqi Shoe Thrower for the ‘Flat-Footed’ Secret Service
Prince noted several high-profile attacks on world leaders in the past year, specifically a woman pushing the Pope at Christmas mass and the attack on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying there has been a pattern of “some pretty questionable security lately.” He then proceeded to describe the feats of his Blackwater forces in protecting dignitaries and diplomats, claiming that one of his men took down the Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President Bush in Baghdad in December 2008. Prince referred to al-Zaidi as the “shoe bomber:”
“A little known fact, you know when the shoe bomber in Iraq was throwing his shoes at President Bush, in December 08, we provided diplomatic security, but we had no responsibility for the president’s security—that’s always the Secret Service that does that. We happened to have a guy in the back of the room and he saw that first shoe go and he drew his weapon, got a sight picture, saw that it was only a shoe, he re-holstered, went forward and took that guy down while the Secret Service was still standing there flat-footed. I have a picture of that—I’m publishing a book, so watch for that later this fall—in which you’ll see all the reporters looking, there’s my guy taking the shoe thrower down. He didn’t shoot him, he just tackled him, even though the guy was committing assault and battery on the president of the United States. I asked a friend of mine who used to run the Secret Service if they had a written report of that and he said the debrief was so bad they did not put it in writing.”
While the Secret Service was widely criticized at the time for its apparent inaction during the incident, video of the event clearly showed another Iraqi journalist, not security guards, initially pulling al-Zaidi to the floor. Almost instantly thereafter, al-Zaidi was swarmed by a gang of various, unidentified security agents.
Blackwater’s ‘Forward Operating Bases
Prince went into detail about his company’s operations in Afghanistan. Blackwater has been in the country since at least April 2002, when the company was hired by the CIA on a covert contract to provide the Agency with security. Since then, Blackwater has won hundreds of millions of dollars in security, counter-narcotics and training contracts for the State Department, Defense Department and the CIA. The company protects US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other senior US officials, guards CIA personnel and trains the Afghan border police. “We built four bases and we staffed them and we run them,” Prince said, referring to them as Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). He described them as being in the north, south, east and west of Afghanistan. “Spin Boldak in the south, which is the major drug trans-shipment area, in the east at a place called FOB Lonestar, which is right at the foothills of Tora Bora mountain. In fact if you ski off Tora Bora mountain, you can ski down to our firebase,” Prince said, adding that Blackwater also has a base near Herat and another location. FOB Lonestar is approximately 15 miles from the Pakistan border. “Who else has built a [Forward Operating Base] along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?” Prince said earlier this year.
Blackwater’s War on Drugs
Prince described a Narcotics Interdiction Unit Blackwater started in Afghanistan five years ago that remains active. “It is about a 200 person strike force to go after the big narcotics traffickers, the big cache sites,” Prince said. “That unit’s had great success. They’ve taken more than $3.5 billion worth of heroin out of circulation. We’re not going after the farmers, but we’re going after the traffickers.” He described an operation in July 2009 where Blackwater forces actually called in NATO air strikes on a target during a mission:
“A year ago, July, they did the largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history, down in the south-east. They went down, they hit five targets that our intel guys put together and they wound up with about 12,000 pounds of heroin. While they were down there, they said, ‘You know, these other three sites look good, we should go check them out.’ Sure enough they did and they found a cache—262,000 kilograms of hash, which equates to more than a billion dollars street value. And it was an industrialized hash operation, it was much of the hash crop in Helmand province. It was palletized, they’d dug ditches out in the desert, covered it with tarps and the bags of powder were big bags with a brand name on it for the hash brand, palletized, ready to go into containers down to Karachi [Pakistan] and then out to Europe or elsewhere in the world. That raid alone took about $60 million out of the Taliban’s coffers. So, those were good days. When the guys found it, they didn’t have enough ammo, enough explosives, to blow it, they couldn’t burn it all, so they had to call in multiple air strikes. Of course, you know, each of the NATO countries that came and did the air strikes took credit for finding and destroying the cache.”
December 30, 2009 CIA Bombing in Khost
Prince also addressed the deadly suicide bombing on December 30 at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. Eight CIA personnel, including two Blackwater operatives, were killed in the bombing, which was carried out by a Jordanian double-agent. Prince was asked by an audience member about the “failure” to prevent that attack. The questioner did not mention that Blackwater was responsible for the security of the CIA officials that day, nor did Prince discuss Blackwater’s role that day. Here is what Prince said:
“You know what? It is a tragedy that those guys were killed but if you put it in perspective, the CIA has lost extremely few people since 9/11. We’ve lost two or three in Afghanistan, before that two or three in Iraq and, I believe, one guy in Somalia—a landmine. So when you compare what Bill Donovan and the OSS did to the Germans and the Japanese, the Italians during World War II—and they lost hundreds and hundreds of people doing very difficult, very dangerous work—it is a tragedy when you lose people, but it is a cost of doing that work. It is essential, you’ve got to take risks. In that case, they had what appeared to be a very hot asset who had very relevant, very actionable intelligence and he turned out to be a bad guy… That’s what the intelligence business is, you can’t be assured success all the time. You’ve got to be willing to take risks. Those are calculated risks but sometimes it goes badly. I hope the Agency doesn’t draw back and say, ‘Oh, we have to retrench and not do that anymore,’ all the rest. No. We need you to double down, go after them harder. That is a cost of doing business. They are there to kill us.”
Prince to Some NATO Countries in Afghanistan: ‘Go Home’
Prince spoke disparagingly of some unnamed NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan, saying they do not have the will for the fight. “Some of them do and a lot of them don’t,” he said. “It is such a patchwork of different international commitments as to what some can do and what some can’t. A lot of them should just pack it in and go home.” Canada, however, received praise from Prince. “The Canadians have lost per capita more than America has in Afghanistan. They are fighting and they are doing it and so if you see a Canadian thank them for that. The politicians at home take heavies for doing that,” Prince said. He did not mention the fact that his company was hired by the Canadian government to train its forces.
Prince also described how his private air force (which he recently sold) bailed out a US military unit in trouble in Afghanistan. According to Prince, the unit was fighting the Taliban and was running out of ammo and needed an emergency re-supply. “Because of, probably some procedure written by a lawyer back in Washington, the Air Force was not permitted to drop in an uncertified drop zone… even to the unit that was running out of ammo,” Prince said. “So they called and asked if our guys would do it and, of course, they said, ‘Yes.’ And the cool part of the story is the Army guys put their DZ mark in the drop zone, a big orange panel, on the hood of their hummer and our guys put the first bundle on the hood of that hummer. We don’t always get that close, but that time a little too close.”
Blackwater: Teaching Afghans to Use Toilets
Prince said his forces train 1300 Afghans every six weeks and described his pride in attending “graduations” of Blackwater-trained Afghans, saying that in six weeks they radically transform the trainees. “You take these officers, these Afghans and it’s the first time in their life they’ve ever been part of something that’s first class, that works. The instructors know what they’re talking about, they’re fed, the water works, there’s ammunition for their guns. Everything works,” Prince said. “The first few days of training, we have to do ‘Intro to Toilet Use’ because a lot of these guys have never even seen a flushed toilet before.” Prince boasted: “We manage to take folks with a tribal mentality and, just like the Marine Corps does more effectively than anyone else, they take kids from disparate lifestyles across the United States and you throw them into Paris Island and you make them Marines. We try that same mentality there by pushing these guys very hard and, it’s funny, I wish I had video to show you of the hilarious jumping jacks. If you take someone that’s 25 years old and they’ve never done a jumping jack in their life—some of the convoluted motions they do it’s comical. But the transformation from day one to the end of that program, they’re very proud and they’re very capable.” Prince said that when he was in Afghanistan late last year, “I met with a bunch of generals and they said the Afghans that we train are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.”
Prince also discussed the Afghan women he says work with Blackwater. “Some of the women we’ve had, it’s amazing,” Prince said. “They come in in the morning and they have the burqa on and they transition to their cammies (camouflage uniforms) and I think they enjoy the baton work,” he said, adding, “They’ve been hand-cuffing a little too much on the men.”
Hurricane Katrina and Humanitarian Mercenaries
Erik Prince spoke at length about Blackwater’s deployment in 2005 in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, bragging that his forces “rescued 128 people, sent thousands of meals in there and it worked.” Prince boasted of his company’s rapid response, saying, “We surged 145 guys in 36 hours from our facility five states away and we beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene.” What Prince failed to mention was that at the time of the disaster, at least 35% of the Louisiana National Guard was deployed in Iraq. One National Guard soldier in New Orleans at the time spoke to Reuters, saying, “They (the Bush administration) care more about Iraq and Afghanistan than here… We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but almost all of our guys are in Iraq.” Much of the National Guard’s equipment was in Iraq at the time, including high water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators.
Prince also said that he had a plan to create a massive humanitarian vessel that, with the generous support of major corporations, could have responded to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe. “I thought, man, the military has perfected how to move men and equipment into combat, why can’t we do that for the humanitarian side?” Prince said. The ship Prince wanted to use for these missions was an 800 foot container vessel capable of shipping “1700 containers, which would have lined up six and a half miles of humanitarian assistance with another 250 vehicles” onboard. “We could have gotten almost all those boxes donated. It would have been boxes that would have had generator sets from Caterpillar, grain from ADM [Archer Daniels Midland], anti-biotics from pharmaceutical companies, all the stuff you need to do massive humanitarian assistance,” Prince said, adding that it “would have had turnkey fuel support, food, surgical, portable surgical hospitals, beds cots, blankets, all the above.” Prince says he was going to do the work for free, “on spec,” but “instead we got attacked politically and ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills the last few years. It’s an unfortunate misuse of resources because a boat like that sure would have been handy for the Haitian people right now.”
Outing Erik Prince
Prince also addressed what he described as his outing as a CIA asset working on sensitive US government programs. He has previously blamed Congressional Democrats and the news media for naming him as working on the US assassination program. The US intelligence apparatus “depends heavily on Americans that are not employed by the government to facilitate greater success and access for the intelligence community,” Prince said. “It’s unprecedented to have people outed by name, especially ones that were running highly classified programs. And as much as the left got animated about Valerie Plame, outing people by name for other very very sensitive programs was unprecedented and definitely threw me under the bus.”