Firm founded by ex-Blackwater boss to operate in China’s Xinjiang province

Erik PrinceA security firm founded by Erik Prince, the former boss of the private military company Blackwater, has announced a deal with the Chinese state to operate a training facility in China’s largely Muslim Xinjiang province. In the months following the United States invasion of Iraq, Blackwater was hired by the Department of State to provide diplomatic security at several locations throughout the Middle Eastern country. By 2010, when the company was abruptly sold to a group of private investors, its tactics in Iraq had prompted international controversy. Prince went on to help found Frontier Services Group (FSG), another private security firm registered in Hong Kong. The company provides security training to personnel working for Chinese companies. Its specialization is training personnel of Chinese firms based abroad, mainly in regions of Africa.

The announcement of the new training center was posted on the FSG’s Chinese-language website. It said that one of FSG’s subsidiaries had struck an agreement to build and operate a “training center” at the Kashgar Caohu industrial park in the city of Kashgar, one of China’s westernmost cities, situated near the country’s border with Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. The city of 1 million people is located in the province of Xinjiang. In recent months, Beijing has been heavily criticized by several Western countries for allegedly carrying out mass detentions of Uighur Muslims, which make up about half of Xinjiang’s population. Uighurs are ethnically related to the peoples of Central Asia and speak a Turkic dialect. Some see the Chinese state as an occupier and advocate secession, often combined with calls to create an Islamic caliphate. China denies the allegations of mass detentions and claims that Uighurs are voluntarily enrolled in “educational and training facilities”, where they are de-radicalized through political and cultural instruction. Up to a million Uighurs are believed to have been enrolled in these facilities in the past year.

It is worth noting that the initial announcement of the Kashgar Caohu training center agreement between FSG and its Chinese client was eventually deleted from the company’s website. Late last week, an FSG spokesperson told several news agencies, including Reuters, that Prince was not involved in what was described in a statement as a “preliminary agreement” for a training center in Xinjiang. The spokesperson added that Prince probably had “no involvement whatsoever” in the agreement.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 5 February 2019 | Permalink

News you may have missed #866

Blackwater/Academi headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Academic study into the behavioral traits of contract killers. Using off-the-record interviews with informants, interviews with offenders and former offenders, court transcripts and newspaper archives, academics from Britain’s Birmingham City University identified patterns of ‘hitman’ behavior in an attempt to demystify their secret world. The criminologists, who examined 27 cases of contract killing between 1974 and 2013 committed by 36 men and one woman, found that the killers typically murder their targets on a street close to the victim’s home, although a significant proportion get cold feet or bungle the job.
►►Interview with Blackwater founder Erik Prince. The founder of private security group Blackwater is now based in Hong Kong and chairs Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Prince says he would “rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next”. The controversial businessman calls the US State Department “fickle” and the US “federal bureaucracy” a “bunch of rabid dogs”.
►►New book accuses Edward Snowden of ‘treason’. Economist columnist Edward Lucas says his new book, The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster, does not argue that Snowden is a Russian agent. But he says that the damage caused by the former NSA technical expert’s revelations “neatly and suspiciously fits the interests of one country: Russia”. Moreover, argues Lucas, “Snowden’s published revelations include material that has nothing to do with his purported worries about personal privacy”.

News you may have missed #797

Mohamed MorsiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt names new intelligence chief. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last week issued a decree naming Mohammed Raafat Shehata the country’s new head of intelligence, after the former spy chief was forced into retirement. Shehata had been acting director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services Directorate since August 8, when his predecessor Murad Muwafi was sacked, after after gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai.
►►Ex-Blackwater firm to teach US spies survival skills. The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. The US military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places.
►►Turkey court convicts 326 of coup plotting. A Turkish court on Friday convicted 326 military officers, including the former air force and navy chiefs, of plotting to overthrow the nation’s Islamic-based government in 2003, in a case that has helped curtail the military’s hold on politics. A panel of three judges at the court on Istanbul’s outskirts initially sentenced former air force chief Ibrahim Firtina, former navy chief Ozden Ornek, and former army commander Cetin Dogan, to life imprisonment but later reduced the sentence to a 20-year jail term because the plot had been unsuccessful. The trial of the high-ranking officers —inconceivable in Turkey a decade ago— has helped significantly to tip the balance of power in the country in favor of civilian authorities.

Comment: Why did US Government Take Blackwater to Court?

Blackwater/Academi headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week I gave a live television interview to the main news program of RT, about the company formerly known as Blackwater. As intelNews reported on August 8, the private military outfit, which rebranded itself to Academi in late 2011, agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle no fewer than 17 violations of United States federal laws, including several charges of illegal weapons exports. This was hardly the first time that the scandal-prone company made headlines for breaking the law. Last week’s settlement followed a separate $42 million settlement agreed in 2010 with the US Department of State. The latter had charged Blackwater/Academi with violating the US Arms Export Control and International Trafficking in Arms Regulations Acts. Those familiar with the murky world of private military contractors are aware that these companies are often hired by governments precisely because they are willing and able to break the law in pursuit of tactical directives. In fact, the main difference between Blackwater/Academi and other private military contractors is not its disregard for legal boundaries, but the lack of discretion with which it keeps breaking the law. This is precisely the reason why it regularly finds itself charged with a host of different criminal violations. Read more of this post

Blackwater/Academi settles weapons-smuggling charges

Blackwater/Academi headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the eyes of many, the United States-based security firm formerly known as Blackwater is synonymous with ‘scandal’. Founded in 1997 by self-confessed CIA agent Erik Prince, the company was awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in non-competitive contract bids by the Bush administration, to provide wide-ranging security services in Iraq. But the company’s ‘shoot-first-ask-questions-later’ attitude resulted in numerous bloody incidents in the country, including the 2007 Nisur Square massacre, in which at least 14 Iraqi civilians were killed by trigger-happy Blackwater guards. In 2009, a frustrated US Department of State refused to renew the company’s governmental contracts, after which Blackwater terminated its partnership with the US government (or did it?). What is perhaps less known about the company, now renamed to Academi LLC, is that it has for years been the subject of several investigations by US authorities for a host of criminal offences, ranging from selling secret plans to foreign governments to illicit weapons trafficking. According to court documents unsealed yesterday at the United States District Court in New Bern, North Carolina, Academi has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle some of these charges. Under the agreement, the company has owned up to 17 different criminal violations with which it was charged after a five-year multi-agency federal investigation led by the Department of Justice. The charges include possessing unregistered fully automatic weapons in the US, illegally exporting encrypted satellite-telephone hardware to Sudan, training foreign nationals without a license, giving classified documents to foreign governments, as well as selling weapons to the Kingdom of Jordan without US government authorization and then lying about it to US federal firearms officials. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #648

Academi HQ

►►IntelNews editor interviewed on RT. IntelNews senior editor, Dr Joseph Fitsanakis, was interviewed yesterday on the main news program of the popular international news channel RT. The interview, concerning the rebranding of private security company Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to Academi, can be watched here (watch video at the bottom of the page).
►►Contractors making a killing working in UK cyberdefense. Britain has spent more than £100 million ($160 million) in the past year on consultants to combat cyber espionage and the growing use of the internet by terrorists. Now, members of Parliament are investigating the soaring costs of employing private contractors, some paid the equivalent of £150,000 a year, three times the average wage at GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency.
►►Japan launches second spy satellite. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, has launched an intelligence-gathering satellite, its second this year. Japan launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program. It currently has four optical information-gathering satellites in orbit. Officials refused to provide details of the capabilities of the most recently launched satellite.

News you may have missed #518

  • Pakistan to intensify intel collaboration with China. Pakistan has assured China of full co-operation in providing intelligence about the activities of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which aims to separate Xinjiang, an autonomous region, from China.
  • US spy community launches ‘Analytical Olympics’. This new competition for analysts to see who makes the best predictions, was outlined in a recent report by the US National Research Council, which suggests practical ways to apply insights from the behavioral and social sciences to the intelligence community.
  • UAE mercenaries say they have no Blackwater contacts. Michael Roumi, president of Reflex Responses, a company training foreign mercenary troops for the United Arab Emirates, has told the US State Department and members of Congress that Erik Prince, the former head of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide, plays no role in operating the business.

News you may have missed #509 (Blackwater edition)

News you may have missed #470

  • Blackwater still working for US despite denials. Reports that Blackwater is out of the US government’s private-security game appear to have been greatly exaggerated. A consigliore to the company’s new owners has said the firm still holds security contracts with the US State Department, and intends to seek more.
  • CIA gets spooky with new radio commercials. The CIA’s National Clandestine Service is continuing its recruitment drive with new radio commercials, complete with a spooky soundtrack of sawing violins and rising timpani –and something about “no one will ever know what you do”.
  • Iranian shah’s son found dead in Boston. Alireza Pahlavi, the youngest son of the late shah of Iran, has been found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Boston’s South End. In June 2001, Alireza’s sister Leila was found dead in a London hotel room from an overdose of barbiturates. The late siblings’ father was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution. He died in Egypt in 1980.

News you may have missed #387

  • Blackwater to ‘abandon US government market’. Erik Prince, occasional CIA operative and CEO of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, has said in an interview that he is tired of Congressional oversight regulations and plans to abandon US government business forever. Meanwhile, there are reports that Xe has just won a $100 million contract to guard CIA facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
  • Congress won’t back down on CIA oversight battle. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is battling a veto threat by US President Barack Obama, as well as against the CIA and powerful House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, over Congressional oversight of US intelligence services.
  • Mossad chief to step down after eight years. Mossad Director Meir Dagan’s request to extend his term by another year has been denied, and he will step down in three months’ time, according to Israeli media reports. The chief of Dubai Police, which exposed a January 2010 Mossad assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, said Dagan’s ousting is related to the botched operation.

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Recording of candid speech by Blackwater CEO leaked

Erik Prince

Erik Prince

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A recording of a relatively recent candid speech given by Erik Prince, the media-shy owner of Xe Services (formerly known as Blackwater), has been obtained by The Nation magazine. The extensive recording was made on January 14, during a private talk given by Prince at the University of Michigan before a sympathetic invitation-only audience consisting of military veterans, ROTC commanders and cadets, as well as business entrepreneurs. In his talk, Prince, who last December admitted having worked as a CIA asset, advocated for the employment of private contractors by the US Pentagon to combat insurgents and “Iranian influence” in countries such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia. Writing for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill focuses on Princes views, as he conveyed them in his talk. Read more of this post

Reports of a possible rogue US DoD operation in Pakistan

Michael Furlong

Michael Furlong

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A New York Times article published late yesterday alleges the existence of a clandestine intelligence network of private contractors, set up by a US Pentagon employee, possibly without supervision or approval by senior US Defense officials. The network, which appears to operate under the cover of an Internet-based research company, is actually used to gather intelligence on the activities and whereabouts of individuals on the CIA’s assassination list, claims the paper. What is more, the network coordinator, retired US Air Force officer Michael D. Furlong, is currently being investigated by the US Department of Defense for fraudulent dealings with private contractors. It is not clear whether these were the same contractors (mostly former CIA and US Special Forces operatives) who were employed in the undercover intelligence network uncovered by The New York Times. Read more of this post

Did Blackwater bribe Iraqi officials after 2007 shooting?

Blackwater logo

Blackwater logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US-based private security company Blackwater is under investigation by the US State Department, which suspects the corporation of having bribed Iraqi officials, in order to gain permission to continue to operate in Iraq, after the 2007 Nisour Square massacre. The company’s license to operate in Iraq was revoked by the Iraqi government on September 17, 2007, a day after trigger-happy Blackwater guards indiscriminately opened fire in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 civilians, including women and children. But information obtained by The New York Times shows that the company hired well-connected Iraqi lawyers, and may have tried to buy off Iraqi lawmakers, in order to regain the right to operate on Iraqi soil. Read more of this post

Comment: Is CIA Lying About its Blackwater Contacts?

Blackwater logo

Blackwater logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
After CIA director Leon Panetta revealed last summer that private contractor Blackwater was part of a covert CIA hit squad, tasked with summary killings and assassinations of al-Qaeda operatives, the CIA vowed to sever its contacts with the trigger-happy security firm. But did it do so? It doesn’t look like it. Last November, it became known that the company, (recently renamed Xe Services) remains part of a covert CIA program in Pakistan that includes planned assassinations and kidnappings of Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects. More recently, it was revealed that two of the seven Americans who died in the December 30 bomb attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, were actually Blackwater employees subcontracted by the CIA.

Read more of this post

News of CIA/Blackwater hit squad upset German government

Mamoun Darkazanli

M. Darkazanli

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
German politicians have finally caught up with the startling revelations of Blackwater founder and CEO, Erik Prince, who last month told Vanity Fair that he worked as a CIA spy, carrying out secret missions with the help of a Blackwater hit squad. The Vanity Fair article revealed that, among other targets, the squad planned to assassinate Mamoun Darkazanli, an alleged al-Qaeda financier living in Hamburg, Germany. But did anyone in Washington think to ask the German government whether it was OK for a Blackwater/CIA assassination team to run around the country, planning extrajudicial murders of alleged al-Qaeda members? Apparently no, says German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, adding that the revelation has upset members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, as well as opposition Social Democrats and Greens, who are now demanding a special investigation into the matter. Read more of this post