In public he was the lean and ruthless face of American military outsourcing in Iraq. Erik Prince, as founder of the Blackwater security company, packed a mobile phone on one hip and a handgun on the other as he flew in and out of the world’s troublespots co-ordinating protection teams for American VIPs — and handling the backlash when his employees were accused of shooting dead 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad crossroads in 2007.
In private, he was a CIA operative, with his own file as a “vetted asset” at the agency’s headquarters, and a mission to build “a unilateral, unattributable capability” to hunt down and kill al-Qaeda militants for the US Government wherever they could be found.
These claims, made by Mr Prince and supported by others who knew of his activities, form part of a potentially explosive investigation into the life of America’s best-known mercenary.
Mr Prince, aside from his work in Iraq, set up America’s closest forward operating base to the Pakistani border in Afghanistan, and helped to train a CIA assassination team that hunted an alleged senior al-Qaeda financier in Germany, and included A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, on its list of targets, according to Vanity Fair magazine.
The row over the use of British air bases for American “torture” flights flared up again last night following evidence that a plane linked to the transport of terrorist suspects landed in Britain on Wednesday.A Gulfstream IV private jet, which has been identified by Amnesty International as a CIA-linked plane implicated in so-called “rendition,” arrived at RAF Northolt in West London just hours before the Government was forced into a humiliating U-turn on the practice.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted to the Commons on Thursday that two US rendition flights landed at a British air base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in 2002 – despite previous repeated denials from Tony Blair and Jack Straw.
Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett revealed poor record keeping could be to blame for the government’s late disclosure on the subject.
Ms Beckett, who is now chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, said that when she was Foreign Secretary she was told by the Americans that there was no evidence of British airspace being used for the flights.
She told BBC1′s The Andrew Marr Show: “It was very difficult for the Government to go back and look at what had happened on previous occasions. There was not a clear, simple trace of record keeping.
WASHINGTON — It would become known inside the Central Intelligence Agency as “the Italian job,” a snide movie reference to the bungling performance of an agency team that snatched a radical Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003 and flew him to Egypt — a case that led to criminal charges in Italy against 26 Americans.
C.I.A., via Associated Press
Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., former head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine branch, in an undated photo.
Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director in 2005 when embarrassing news reports about the operation broke, asked the agency’s independent inspector general to start a review of amateurish tradecraft in the case, like operatives staying in five-star hotels and using traceable credit cards and cellphones.
But Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., now the central figure in a controversy over destroyed C.I.A. interrogation tapes, fought back. A blunt-spoken Puerto Rico native and former head of the agency’s Latin America division, he had been selected by Mr. Goss months earlier to head the agency’s troubled clandestine branch. Mr. Rodriguez told his boss that no inspector general review would be necessary — his service would investigate itself.