Worth a read this evening is Vanity Fair‘s new 6,000-word profile of
Blackwater Xe chief Erik Prince, which comes complete with man-of-action photo spread and a shot of a Blackwater facility near the Pakistani border.
Perhaps the biggest revelation in the story, written with Prince’s full cooperation, are the unprecedented levels of collaboration between Prince and the CIA — to the point, according to Vanity Fair, that he was “a full-blown asset.”
It’s worth noting that the author of the piece, Adam Ciralsky, was himself a lawyer for the CIA before leaving in the 1990s amid a controversy about allegations he was wrongly suspended on suspicions of unauthorized contact with Israel.Here’s a taste of the story, in which Prince blames Congressional Democrats for leaks over the summer that lead to this headline in the New York Times: “C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists”:
On August 20, the gloves came off. The New York Times published a story headlined cia sought blackwater’s help to kill jihadists. The Washington Post concurred: cia hired firm for assassin program. Prince confesses to feeling betrayed. “I don’t understand how a program this sensitive leaks,” he says. “And to ‘out’ me on top of it?” The next day, the Times went further, revealing Blackwater’s role in the use of aerial drones to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders: “At hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan … the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Erik Prince, almost overnight, had undergone a second rebranding of sorts, this one not of his own making. The war profiteer had become a merchant of death, with a license to kill on the ground and in the air. “I’m an easy target,” he says. “I’m from a Republican family and I own this company outright. Our competitors have nameless, faceless management teams.”
Prince blames Democrats in Congress for the leaks and maintains that there is a double standard at play. “The left complained about how [C.I.A. operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. A special prosecutor [was even] appointed. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.” As in the Plame case, though, the leaks prompted C.I.A. attorneys to send a referral to the Justice Department, requesting that a criminal investigation be undertaken to identify those responsible for providing highly classified information to the media.