HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

 

Trump's privatized super-secret-spy agency

by digby




I wrote about the latest adventures of one of Trump's weirdest and most dangerous pals, Erik Prince, for Salon today:


One unusual bright spot in these dark days has been the fact that some of the worst kooks in the Trump administration have been sent back to the private sector. The most obvious example is former Gen. Mike Flynn, who was in a very sensitive position and seemed to be coming unhinged. But Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka are also out of the White House, along with the colorful if short-lived communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that there are no long any influential weirdos around Donald Trump. Bannon is said to be in regular contact with the president, encouraging his worst impulses as usual. The glowering anti-immigration zealot Stephen Miller remains at Trump's side. And some of the worst outside influences remain in Trump's orbit, even through they've never had an official position in his campaign or his administration. The scariest of those is Erik Prince, CEO of the notorious "private contractor" company Academi -- formerly known as Blackwater -- who is busily pitching one crackpot idea after another.

Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a longtime friend of Vice President Mike Pence. His history during the Iraq War as the head of Blackwater, which was essentially an unaccountable mercenary army, made him infamous. But his closeness with Donald Trump's administration has put him in the spotlight frequently over the last year, and every new story about him is more bizarre than the last.

Back in August, there was a flurry of reporting about Bannon and Prince's plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan based upon the colonial model of the British East India Company of the 19th century, including a post for Prince himself as the country's "viceroy." This concept was especially tailored to Trump, who can't understand why the military hasn't "won" since he ordered them to get 'er done. It particularly intrigued him when he was made aware that there are minerals in Afghanistan that he believes should rightly belong to the U.S. Fortunately, the proposal was quickly shot down by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Bannon recently floated Prince's name as a possible primary challenger against Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a conservative Republican. Previous reporting that Prince had acted as a conduit to Russia for the Trump transition team, traveling to the Seychelles Islands to meet with a Russian banker, has finally been confirmed. After months of waffling and denial, Prince finally admitted it in congressional testimony last week.

But all that is nothing compared to the bombshell report by Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill in the Intercept, which says, among other things, that the Afghanistan "viceroy" plan was actually an elaborate smokescreen for some even loonier schemes. According to numerous sources -- and accompanied by official denials from the White House -- the Trump administration is considering creating a private spy network to be run by Prince, legendary Iran-Contra figure Oliver North and a right-wing clandestine agent from the Reagan administration named John Maguire. Its goal would be to go around the intelligence community and gather information on its own for CIA Director Mike Pompeo and President Trump.

This is allegedly in response to what Trump, Pompeo and others perceive as a "Deep State" that is hostile to Trump. Cole and Scahill quote a former senior intelligence official paraphrasing White House discussions of the plan: "Pompeo can't trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him. The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly."

Maguire was on the Trump transition team and is apparently convinced that Deep State operators plan to "kick the president out of office within a year" and must be stopped. He has reportedly told at least two people that he believes National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster ordered surveillance on Bannon, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and has "used a burner phone to send information gathered through the surveillance to a facility in Cyprus owned by George Soros." Doesn't this sound like just the kind of person you'd want around Donald Trump?

This plan is big. According to Cole and Scahill's reporting, these guys would task the private spooks to gather intelligence all over the world, even in places like North Korea and Iran, where normal U.S. intelligence operations are extremely limited. A new global rendition program to kidnap and interrogate suspected terrorists is also being contemplated, along with a major Middle East propaganda effort.

The White House adamantly denies that any of this is true, but the Intercept and another report by BuzzFeed on the same subject have numerous sources confirming it. While one is tempted to say that this is just another Trump presidency sideshow, recall that Prince was taken very seriously by the George W. Bush administration before his company's "brand" was tarnished with its unfortunate habit of committing war crimes. Some of Blackwater's adventures during those days form the template for Prince's current plans. As Cole and Scahill remind us:

When Prince was running Blackwater, he and a former CIA paramilitary officer, Enrique Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their “deniability” as a “big plus” for potential Blackwater customers, according to internal company communications obtained by The Intercept. 
In a 2007 email, with the subject “Possible Opportunity in DEA—READ AND DELETE,” Prado sought to pitch the network to the Drug Enforcement Administration, bragging that Blackwater had developed “a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations.” He added, “These are all foreign nationals (except for a few cases where US persons are the conduit but no longer ‘play’ on the street), so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.” The longtime Prince associate said that the nexus of deniable assets has never gone away. “The NOC network is already there. It already exists for the better part of 15 years now,” he said.
Why let a good privatized "NOC network" (i.e., spies with "no official cover") go to waste?

This seems very much like something that would thrill Trump. He could have his very own secret intelligence agency to do all the things the "Deep State" won't do -- like spy on political opponents and conduct economic espionage on behalf of The Trump Organization. It's not as if these people have any scruples.

But there's one huge problem with this plan. Trump can't keep his mouth shut. He couldn't even stop himself from admitting on TV that he fired James Comey over the Russia investigation. The next day he had to boast about it to the Russian ambassador and pass on some sensitive Israeli intelligence to impress them with his "great intel." Does anyone think he could stop himself from bragging about his special private spooks, who are better than any of the official spies who can't do anything right? Of course not. If this operation exists and Trump knows about it, it won't remain a secret for long.

.