In a new Vanity Fair article, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince fashions himself as a swashbuckling Wild Bill Donovan recruited by the CIA to pull off the toughest, most clandestine operations. He comes off as vain and insecure. But if his account is correct, it rips open a closed package of secrets.
Prince offers details on the targeted assassination program that
CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated earlier this year. He reveals
something long-rumored but kept secret, even from the journalists who
leaked details of the program. According to Prince, the Blackwater team
traveled to Germany, surveilled Al Qaeda financier Mamoun Darkazanli,
and prepared to assassinate him. The CIA did not inform its own station
chief that the team was in the country, and they did not inform the
host country. What Prince describes is a serious violation of NATO
intelligence sharing arrangements -- and certainly provides an example
of why the CIA's association with Blackwater became so controversial
within the agency. It would also contradict what CIA Director Leon
Panetta and others have told Congress, namely, that the program was
never operational. As recently as two months ago, Prince and a team
were overseeing intelligence missions in one of the Axis of Evil
countries -- Iran, probably -- from a location inside the United States.
accused of orchestrating all kinds of malfeasance and misconduct as the
company's CEO, claims he was a CIA asset, recruited by the agency's
domestic division in 2004. He even had a "201 File" in the CIA's
central registry, meaning that he was designated an intelligence asset.
(BTW: is it legal for a CIA asset to out him or herself?). After 2001,
Prince tried to join the CIA but was rejected, he says.
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.