October 5th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
With all the panic around international terrorism that has dominated the media in recent years, we easily get distracted from and miss critical, internal threats (like the health threats of the food we eat), especially when such threats are hidden by mega-corporations and the former CIA officials they hire.
The Nation recently did an in-depth piece on the “black ops” of private security company Blackwater, with “one of the most incendiary” findings being that Blackwater was hired by Monsanto a couple years ago to do such things as infiltrate and spy on animal rights activist groups.
For starters, here’s a little information on Blackwater from The Nation:
Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.
Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince’s companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.
On September 3 the New York Times reported that Blackwater had “created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq.” The documents obtained by The Nation reveal previously unreported details of several such companies and open a rare window into the sensitive intelligence and security operations Blackwater performs for a range of powerful corporations and government agencies. The new evidence also sheds light on the key roles of several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.
The coordinator of Blackwater’s covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique “Ric” Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their “deniability” as a “big plus” for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents. The CIA has long used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions or to shield US government involvement in unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, these “deniable” foreign forces don’t even know who they are working for. Prado and Prince built up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater was at the center of the CIA’s assassination program, beginning in 2004. They trained special missions units at one of Prince’s properties in Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism suspects globally, often working with foreign operatives. A former senior CIA official said the benefit of using Blackwater’s foreign operatives in CIA operations was that “you wouldn’t want to have American fingerprints on it.”
Working for Monsanto, it appears that Blackwater and Total Intelligence would do spy work, among other things:
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.
So, we find the very people (former CIA) who, supposedly trained to protect humanity from terrorism, trade in such jobs for private-sector, money-oriented jobs (at the expense of who knows what).
What does this mean to us, who are grassroots activists around the topics of animal rights, the environment we all rely on to live, nutrition, or organic farming, or who are simply parents trying to feed our children well in the midst of numerous inadequately-tested changes to our food systems and ingredients?
Stay inspired and positive but still consider the wall we are addressing. Thanks to The Nation for educating us more on the depth of this issue.
Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via flickr
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