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

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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 #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