Former CIA Agent: “What the Agency Was Doing With Blackwater Scares the Hell Out of Me”

The relationship between Krongard and Prince apparently got chummier after the contract was signed. One former Blackwater executive said in 2006, “Krongard came down and visited Blackwater [at company headquarters in North Carolina], and I had to take his kids around and let them shoot on the firing range a number of times.” That visit took place after the CIA contract was signed, according to the former executive, and Krongard “may have come down just to see the company that he had just hired.”

The relationship between Blackwater and the CIA quickly evolved. Shortly after Prince arrived in Afghanistan in May 2002, according to a former Blackwater executive who was with Prince, the Blackwater owner focused on winning more business with government agencies, providing private soldiers for hire. In 2002 Prince, along with former CIA operative Jamie Smith, created Blackwater Security Consulting, which would put former Navy SEALs and other special ops on the market.

Prince subsequently tried to join the CIA but was reportedly denied when his polygraph test came back inconclusive. Still, he maintained close ties with the agency. He reportedly was given a “green badge” that permitted him access to most CIA stations. “He’s over there [at CIA headquarters] regularly, probably once a month or so,” a CIA source told Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein in 2006. “He meets with senior people, especially in the [directorate of operations].”

Prince would also go on to hire many senior Bush-era CIA officials to work at Blackwater. In July 2007 Buzzy Krongard joined the company’s board; Prince offered him a $3,500 honorarium per meeting attended plus all expenses paid. “Your experience and insight would be ideal to help our team determine where we are and where we are going,” Prince wrote in a letter to Krongard. At the time his brother, Howard “Cookie” Krongard, was the State Department inspector general responsible for overseeing Blackwater’s work for the State Department. In September 2007 California Democratic Representative Henry Waxman accused Cookie Krongard of impeding a Justice Department investigation into Blackwater over allegations the company was illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq.

Prince hired several other former CIA officials to run what amounted to his own private CIA. Most notable among these was J. Cofer Black, who was running the CIA’s counterterrorism operations and leading the hunt for Osama bin Laden when Blackwater was initially hired by the CIA in 2002. Black left the government in 2005 and took a job at Blackwater running Prince’s private intelligence company, Total Intelligence Solutions.

While at the CIA, Black ran the “extraordinary rendition” program and coordinated the CIA “Jawbreaker” team sent into Afghanistan to kill or capture bin Laden and senior Al Qaeda leaders. In the days immediately after 9/11, he told Bush that his men would aim to kill Al Qaeda operatives. “When we’re through with them, they will have flies walking across their eyeballs,” Black promised Bush. When Black told Bush the operation would not be bloodless, the president reportedly said, “Let’s go. That’s war. That’s what we’re here to win.”

Before the CIA Jawbreaker team deployed on September 27, 2001, Black gave his men direct and macabre directions: “I don’t want bin Laden and his thugs captured, I want them dead…. They must be killed. I want to see photos of their heads on pikes. I want bin Laden’s head shipped back in a box filled with dry ice. I want to be able to show bin Laden’s head to the president. I promised him I would do that.” According to CIA operative Gary Schroen, a member of the Jawbreaker team, it was the first time in his thirty-year career he had been ordered to assassinate an adversary rather than attempt a capture.

In September 2002, five months after Blackwater’s first known contract with the CIA in Afghanistan, Black testified to Congress about the new “operational flexibility” employed in the “war on terror.” “There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11,” Black said. “After 9/11 the gloves come off.” Black outlined a “no-limits, aggressive, relentless, worldwide pursuit of any terrorist who threatens us,” saying it “is the only way to go and is the bottom line.” Black would later brag, in 2004, that “over 70 percent” of Al Qaeda’s leadership had been arrested, detained or killed, and that “more than 3,400 of their operatives and supporters have also been detained and put out of an action.” The Times reports that the Blackwater-CIA assassination program “did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.”

In addition to Black, Total Intelligence’s executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and second-ranking official in charge of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran covert operations in the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key US ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.

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