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    Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping Program
    In an explosive new article in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reveals the private military firm Blackwater is part of a covert program in Pakistan that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. The article says the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, Scahill joins us for his first interview since the story broke.[Includes rush transcript]
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    Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, Democracy Now correspondent, and author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” His latest piece for the Nation magazine is “Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan.”

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    "Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan" (The Nation)
    AMY GOODMAN: Writing in The Nation Magazine, journalist Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent has revealed Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan.

    A military intelligence source said Blackwater operatives are effectively running the drone bombings for both JSOC and the CIA. The CIA drone program is already public knowledge. But the military source says some of the deadliest drone attacks in attributed to the CIA were actually carried out by JSOC. The article also reveals Blackwater operatives have taken part in ground operations with Pakistani forces under a subcontract with a local security firm. The operations have included house raids and border interdictions in northwest Pakistan and other areas.

    Blackwater has also been given responsibility for planning JSOC operations in Uzbekistan. The Nation reports the program has become so secretive the top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. Independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill broke the story for The Nation Magazine. He joins us in our New York studio for its first television interview since the article’s publication last night. Jeremy, welcome to “Democracy Now!” Lay out what you have learned so far.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well Amy, just by way of background, we do know that beginning in 2006, the Bush administration struck a deal with the Pakistani government that would allow U.S. Special Operations forces from the Joint Special Operations Command to enter Pakistan with the understanding that there were, "Following the target, " the target being Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. As part of that agreement, the Pakistani government insisted they have the right to A, deny that the United States had permission to enter the country and B, be able to condemn U.S. actions in their country as a sort of a violation of their sovereignty. But the understanding was struck in 2006. What I understand now from the military intelligence source and another U.S. military source that confirmed what I was initially told by the military intelligence source, is that in fact there are active covert operations on an ongoing basis that are not just about targeting Osama bin laden. What we understand now is the Joint Special Operations Command, which from 2003-2008 was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, who has now been promoted and is the head of all US forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and is pushing for a very large troop increase, he ran that program from 2003-2008. Now its being headed by Admiral William Craven, who is the head of all JSOC operations. So, you have on the one hand the allegation from these military sources that JSOC has coverts bases throughout Pakistan, that they are running a drone bombing campaign runs parallel to that of the CIA, and that Blackwater forces have been at the center of this operation, according to my sources, since at least 2007. And as part of the work they’re doing for JSOC and Pakistan, I am told they are essentially an intelligence cell, if you will, that is planning strikes, gathering intelligence, as well as planning operations inside of Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

    My sources said when they are working, when Blackwater guys are working for an elite division of the company that is been known as Blackwater Select, that they’re not doing the actual killing in these operations, but rather they are doing the planning of these operations. And Amy, what this really is, is an outgrowth of a trend that we saw very early on in the Bush administration following September 11th, where the Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the military chain of command, went directly into JSOC, and essentially separated JSOC from the military and started using JSOC to commit what my source said were some of the “darkest acts.” They also set up a parallel agency to the CIA was called the Strategic Support Branch, the SSB. The SSB called information resources from the CIA and the DIA, but for the first time, took the realm of covert operations out of the exclusive hands of the CIA, and essentially created a parallel, clandestine force that would report directly to Rumsfeld, and directly to Dick Cheney. And this Blackwater program is an outgrowth of that separating of JSOC from the broader military chain of command, and that is why my sources say there are senior figures within the military and the a administration right now that may be unaware of it because as he said, “They are not in the circle of love.”

    AMY GOODMAN: “Not in the circle of love?”

    JEREMY SCAHILL: That is the phrase that was used twice by the military intelligence source that I spoke to. What we are seeing now, and I also talked to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was the Chief of Staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. And he described, he first of all, when I talked about this, said the program would not surprise him, and that he was very disturbed when he sees execute orders the coming out ,saying that JSOC is essentially above the Special Operations Command and the Special Operations Command is essentially in a support role for these JSOC teams. So, what I am told is that this program is so compartmentalized, that there are probably very top-level people that are unaware of it, and in fact, what my military intelligence source says, is that Blackwater personnel that are working as part of this program, and have worked as part of this program, have been given rolling security clearances above their actual security clearance. Let me break that down a minute. You have guys that can work on these operations that maybe have a low-level of security clearance in terms of the amount of intelligence that they are able to see. What this program allows for is that these individuals are given temporary security clearance to of access to very sensitive intelligence, intelligence and even members of Congress that oversee intelligence matters don’t have access to. That was one of the things that concerned the individuals that spoke with me for this story.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill what has been the response of Blackwater? What has been the response of U.S. military, the White House, to your investigation?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Blackwater said to me in a statement, and I had several back and forths with Blackwater, spokesperson Mark Corallo. And what Blackwater told me is that Xe Services, which is one of the new iterations of Blackwater has only one quote “employee" in Pakistan. And as I kept writing them back and said, “What about contractors, subcontractors, affiliates, other names that I wouldn’t be aware of,” they said we have no operations whatsoever inside of Pakistan. My sources say that is not true. I also received a call yesterday, as I was going to press, from individuals I had not called. I received a call from Admiral Mike Mullen’s office, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a bit surprising to me, because I had not called Admiral Mullen’s office, so when a U.S. citizen gets a call from the military, especially from the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, its a bit jolting. And they would not tell me how they got wind of the fact I was doing the story, or how they got my number. But I spoke to the spokesperson for Admiral Mullen, who told me they do not comment on current operations one way or the other. I was also told by a defense official that on background, not for attribution of the name of the individual, that this is not true, that there is no current arrangement with Blackwater for these types of services, and that there never has been. The White House did not return e-mails or phone calls in the process of doing the story.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, you point out in your article that the U.S. corporate media has largely ignored the fear and mistrust that Blackwater has generated in Pakistan. Earlier this month, the Taliban played on those fears when it denied responsibility for several bombings and in fact accused Blackwater of carrying them out. This is Azam Tariq, a spokesman of the Tehreek e-Taliban.

    Azam Tariq: I want to tell the people of Pakistan and the Muslim nations, that the Tehreek e-Taliban are not responsible for the bombings. But Blackwater and Pakistan’s spy agency are behind them. Those who fight with the Americans are against the Tehreek e-Taliban and have blood on their hands, and we will fight them to the end.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, your response?

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean you always have to take these kinds of declarations with a grain of salt, thereis incredible propaganda, and I do not have any evidence to suggest what that man is saying is true. I will say this, the Pakistan Intelligence Services have long had a reputation for using proxy forces to carry out actions that are ultimately are sanctioned by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. So, there certainly is a history in Pakistan of false flag operations. But, I don’t have any actual information or intelligence on the claims of the Taliban. But, certainly people that have closely monitored and followed Pakistani politics, particularly the history of the ISI and other organizations, they are regularly involved with unsavory organizations, that they are classified by many individuals as a terrorist organization. So, what we are in Pakistan right now certainly is a situation where the Pakistani intelligence services are playing multiple sides of the equation. I think would be very difficult to rule out Pakistani intelligence from much of anything

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