Erik Prince is the billionaire mercenary who behind the private military contracting empire of Blackwater and their many war crimes. He's also the brother of US education secretary Betsy Devos (who in turn is married to the guy who pioneered pyramid schemes) and has served as a kind of "shadow advisor" to Trump, including an effort to privatize the entire war in Afghanistan and an alleged secret trip to the Seychelles to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He's basically Destro from GI JOE, but in real life, and somehow more evil (and without the shiny head).
The Intercept had previously reported that the Trump Administration had considered using Prince's black-ops services to counter the made-up threat of the "Deep State." Now the New York Times has confirmed that this happened, in a way that's both shadier than I would've expected and somehow still not all that surprising:
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One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat.
Betsy DeVos is the religious fanatic whose access to two unearned fortunes -- one from the Amway Ponzi scheme, founded by her husband's father; the other from her own father's machining business -- has allowed her to project her ideas about eliminating secular public education in favor of Christian indoctrination schools over millions of peoples' lives, especially the lives of poor people.
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Genie Ogden writes, "Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince (previously) was invited to speak at Beloit College last night, by the right wing group Young Americans for Freedom. A couple of weeks ago, a Beloit student who is Muslim posted on the internet that he was angry - about the shootings of fellow Muslims in New Zealand, and then about the YAF bringing Erik Prince to speak. He was suspended. Fellow students were upset about his suspension, and protested in the hall where Prince was scheduled to speak last night. They banged on drums, and some of them piled their chairs on the stage. Erik Prince cancelled his speech and has threatened to sue." (Image: Tess Lydon/The Round Table)
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Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner is carrying $42,000 in student debt; heiress Betsy "Marie Antoinette" DeVos is the anti-public-school advocate whom Donald Trump put in charge of the nation's public schools, and one of her first official acts was to end the rules limiting sleazy student debt-collection tactics, even as Trump was ending debt relief for students defrauded by diploma mills (like, say, Trump University).
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Cambridge Analytica may be out of business thanks to bad publicity, but "Emerdata" is a new company, whose board includes the daughters of Robert Mercer, who bankrolled Cambridge Analytica; disgraced former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix is on its board of directors, and much of Cambridge Analytica's C-suite has packed up their desks and moved into the Emerdata offices.
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Multiple White House sources have told reporters that the Trump administration has been negotiating with Erik Prince (founder of the war-crimes plagued mercenary firm Blackwater; brother to pyramid-scheme billionaire/Education Secretary Betsy Devos) and ex-CIA operative John R. Maguire to assemble a private army of deniable, off-the-books spy/mercenaries who could target Trump's "deep state" political enemies in the USA, and kidnap and render similar figures overseas.
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Though Puerto Rican law prohibits ownership and bearing of most long-guns and especially semiautomatic weapons, the streets of the stricken US colony now throng with mercenaries in tactical gear bearing such arms, their faces masked. They wear no insignia or nametags and won't say who they work for, apart from vague statements in broken Spanish: "We work with the government. It’s a humanitarian mission, we’re helping Puerto Rico." Read the rest
A U.S. Federal appeals court today threw out the murder conviction of former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten, who had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
Slatten and other former staff of military security contractor Blackwater (renamed Xe Services, now Academi, run by Erik Prince, brother of Trump DOE chief Betsy DeVos) were the focus of a high-profile legal case that has stretched on for a full decade.
Dozens of people from Iraq traveled to the United States for the trial, as we reported ten years ago here on Boing Boing. And the judge who sentenced Slatten to life in prison decided he was a nice guy who deserved a break (from the death penalty).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered a new trial after tossing out the murder conviction of former security contractor Nicholas Slatten.
The three-judge panel said Slatten should have had a separate trial instead of being tried alongside his former colleagues. At a new trial, Slatten would be able to introduce evidence that one of his co-defendants had fired the first shot.
Separately, the court said Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty, who were all convicted of manslaughter and other offenses over their respective roles in the incident, should be re-sentenced because their 30-year prison terms were too long. The court also threw out one of Liberty's convictions for attempted manslaughter.
No word from the Justice Department, or lawyers for the defendants. Read the rest
This month's Harper’s Magazine includes a feature by Charles Glass about the growth of private security firms since 9/11, “The Warrior Class: A golden age for the freelance soldier.”
The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq.
Above, one of the five Blackwater clips published online by Harper's. This one is dated April 1, 2006, and was shot from the front seat of the fourth car in an armored convoy. Glass describes its contents:
Driving along a wide boulevard in Baghdad, the lead vehicle swerved close to the curb of a traffic island. A woman in a black full-length burka began to cross the street. The vehicle struck the woman and knocked her unconscious body into the gutter. The cars slowed for a moment, but did not stop, nor did they even determine whether the victim was dead or alive. A voice in the car taking the video said, “Oh, my God!” Yet no one was heard on the radio requesting help for her. Most sickeningly, the sequence had been set to an AC/DC song, whose pounding, metallic chorus declared: “You’ve been… thunderstruck!”
As Glass notes, the tape ends with a still frame which reads: "IN SUPPORT OF SECURITY, PEACE, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY EVERYWHERE."
(via Jeremy Scahill) Read the rest