Blackwater subsidiary's corporate work appears to fade
A CIA retiree friend of mine called recently to ask where he could find the offices of Total Intelligence Solutions, the Blackwater subsidiary once headed by Cofer Black and other top former spy-agency officials.
The company doesn’t list its McLean, Va., address on its Web site, so you have to fill out an e-mail form to get a call back -- if you're lucky. (I wasn't.)
The firm’s spookiness, it turned out, was too much even for my friend, a high-ranking former CIA officer who was exploring a business opportunity after three decades in clandestine operations.
After a visit to the TIS office in Tyson’s Corner, a poured-concrete-and-dark-glass Mecca for government and private counterterrorism operations, he decided it was no more than “a front,” as he put it, “for the government,” meaning the CIA and Department of Defense.
And he’d had enough of that.
I was prompted to retell this anecdote by yet two more exposés of the company formerly known as Blackwater and, of course, its colorful chairman, Erik Prince, who is selling the firm, now called Xe Services, from his new home in Abu Dhabi, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. Several Blackwater employees (but not Prince) are embroiled now in government prosecutions and civil suits.
The first story, by the New York Times’s James Risen and Mark Mazzetti on Sept. 3, reported that "Blackwater Worldwide the created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq."
The other story, by Blackwater chronicler Jeremy Scahill in this week’s edition of the Nation, reported that Total Intelligence Solutions and a subsidiary, the Terrorism Research Center, not only “provided intelligence, training and security services to U.S. and foreign governments,” but “several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays.”
But TIS’s corporate business was small beer compared to its U.S. government contracts, $600 million worth since Sept. 11, 2001, it turns out. Many of the corporate intelligence-gathering deals were worth well under $100,000, Scahill found.
(My favorite was TIS’s offer to Monsanto, which sells genetically altered seeds, to spy on animal rights groups. The firm paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009, but denies it contracted for anything more than general reports.)
But the big money for TIS was always in Washington.
“The coordinator of Blackwater's covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique 'Ric’ Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their ‘deniability’ as a ‘big plus’ for potential Blackwater customers,” Scahill wrote, citing internal e-mails and other company documents.
A former company executive I talked to on Thursday confirmed this account in general terms, adding that another former Blackwater entity, called Greystone Limited, which Prince is not selling, will continue to “mentor” foreign anti-terrorism teams, either on behalf of the U.S. government or directly to foreign police, intelligence and paramilitary agencies.
Indeed, Total Intelligence seems to have dumped its corporate business.
In May Melinda Redman, a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who was the firm’s chief operating officer and senior vice president for business development, left the company, according to her personal page on the Linked-in Web site. Previously, she had been director of intelligence and analysis for the Terrorism Research Center.
"I was told by the top security officer at one of Total Intelligence's biggest corporate clients that TIS discontinued its 'corporate security information services' in May of this year,” Scahill also told me. “Couple that with the fact that Melinda Redman, one of TIS's top executives who led many of their day-to-day operations, left the company in May and the fact that TIS hasn't issued any of their intel updates since then, and it seems likely that there has been a pretty significant shake-up at the company.”
“All of TIS's most prominent breadwinners have flown the coop,” he maintained. “It was those connections to former senior CIA, FBI and DEA officials that would have made TIS attractive to powerful multinational corporations with a large footprint and a lot to lose."
Cofer Black coud not be reached. Redman did not respond to an e-mail query.
Last week, as SpyTalk reported Monday, Xe president Joseph Yorio was also forced out in connection with preparations to sell the company. He has not returned several calls and e-mails asking for comment.
| September 17, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories: Financial/business, Intelligence, Lawandcourts | Tags: Cofer Black, Enrique 'Ric’ Prado, Erik Prince, Melinda Redman, Monsanto, Rob Richer
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