Official: Private spy network pitched to WH

Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his allies lobbied contacts inside the White House to provide the CIA with a private network of intelligence contractors, according to a US official with knowledge of the proposal.

Posted: Dec 6, 2017 2:41 AM
Updated: Dec 6, 2017 2:41 AM

The founder of the controversial military contracting firm Blackwater, Erik Prince, and his allies lobbied contacts inside the administration to provide the CIA with a private network of intelligence contractors, according to a US official with knowledge of the proposal.

"This idea is going nowhere," the official said and stressed neither the agency nor the director of the CIA is or was ever considering the proposal.

National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton told CNN that "the White House does not and would not support such a proposal" and that, "I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or (White House) at all."

The Intercept was first to report the proposal. A CIA spokesperson told The Intercept, "You have been provided wildly inaccurate information by people peddling an agenda."

A spokesperson for Prince denied the claims in a statement to CNN's Erin Burnett.

"The allegations made in Intercept's latest article about Erik are completely false and this was made clear to them before the article was published. Any meetings Erik did have with members of the intelligence community, current or former, focused on his well-publicized plan for saving the US taxpayer $42 billion in Afghanistan," the statement said.

"The Intercept has, once again, targeted Erik using his high profile as a click-bait to promote its own website and indulge the fantasies of its reporters with no care or regard for the facts."

Prince founded Blackwater, a private defense contractor that provoked international outrage after a deadly 2007 shooting in Iraq.

Blackwater lost a $1 billion contract with the State Department to protect American diplomatic personnel in 2009, after the Iraqi government refused to renew the company's operating license. The company was later renamed and sold, and now operates as Academi.

Prince was also questioned by House lawmakers last month over reports that he met the head of a Russian investment fund in an apparent effort to set up a backchannel for Russian communication with the Trump administration, and that senior Trump officials had authorized the meeting.

While Prince testified to House lawmakers that he met the head of a Russian investment fund earlier this year -- he insisted it was not part of an effort to set up a Russian backchannel with the Trump administration, multiple sources told CNN.

Prince informed the House Intelligence Committee during private testimony that he met in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, who is the chief executive of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, at the request of the United Arab Emirates to discuss business opportunities. The meeting on the island in the Indian Ocean, he said, lasted roughly 20 minutes after dinner over a beer.

Prince insisted he did not have the meeting at the request of the Trump administration, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

He also downplayed his ties to the Trump's team, merely saying he was a Trump donor and had met the President on only one occasion, the sources said. CNN has previously reported that Prince met with members of Trump's incoming national security team during the presidential transition, and that he boasted about his influence in the Trump orbit around that same time.

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