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Through Bradley Manning, Jeremy Scahill Learned Blackwater’s Erik Prince Was Going to United Arab Emirates

Screen shot of Jeremy Scahill on “Democracy Now!”

In June 15, 2010, The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill reported that “sources close to Blackwater and its secretive owner Erik Prince” had claimed that the embattled head of the world’s most infamous mercenary firm” was “planning to move to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”

Scahill noted, “The Nation learned of Prince’s alleged plans to move to the UAE from three separate sources. One Blackwater source told The Nation that Prince intends to sell his company quickly, saying the ‘sale is going to be a fast move within a couple of months.'”

Nearly a year later, in May 2011, the New York Times followed up on this report and, according to Scahill, confirmed that Prince was building a mercenary army in the UAE and it would include recruits from Colombia that would be trained by special forces veterans from the US, Europe and South Africa. The army would be funded by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. His new company, Reflex Responses or R2, would be contracted to operate for the “oil-soaked sheikdom” until 2015.

Now, in an extensive interview on “Democracy Now!”, where he discussed his new projectDirty Wars (which includes a book and film), he was asked by Amy Goodman about his prior work investigating Blackwater and how it informed his latest project. He told a story that he had not shared publicly before.

The way I found out about Erik Prince – you know, he’s the head of Blackwater and his company was being investigated for all sorts of reasons. They had. conducted the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in September 2007 when they gunned down over a dozen Iraqis. So, there was all this pressure. There were congressional hearings and there was a firestorm about Blackwater being involved with part of the assassination program, running the assassination program. So, Erik Prince decides to leave the United States and goes to Abu Dhabi.

Well, I found out about that before it was ever public because I got an email from a young man who said I’ve read your book and I’ve seen you on TV and I really respect your work and I have a personal connection to someone who because of what he does has information about the Prince family. And I can’t say more than that about it but this person says I have information about that and I think the two of you should be in touch.

“Through that contact,” Scahill said, “I learned that Erik Prince was preparing to leave the United States and the person that wrote me that email was Bradley Manning,” the soldier who the US military is currently prosecuting for disclosing information to WikiLeaks.

He continued, “Bradley Manning was the person that sent me that email. It wasn’t based on any classified information. He wasn’t sending me a document. It was a personal friend of his that had some knowledge because of what he does of the Prince family’s movements and it was because of Bradley Manning that I found out about it.”

After the Times picked up on the scoop, Rep. Jan Schakowsky informed The Nation she would be “launching an investigation into Prince’s work in the UAE.” She told The Nation, “The man who brought us Blackwater, a company whose name has become synonymous with the worst of contractor abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been hired to put together a mercenary army that could be used to suppress a revolt or attack pro-democracy protesters.” And added, “I will be pursuing the question of whether Mr. Prince obtained the necessary licenses to conduct the training of foreign troops and whether his actions in UAE have broken any U.S. laws.  Regardless, I do not believe private US citizens should be providing mercenary forces for foreign governments.” [Scahill followed-up with a report on lawmakers who were asking then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to explain Prince’s presence in the UAE.]

This anecdote is one further example of the contribution Manning has made to what the world knows about secret operations by the US government and private companies. Without Manning connecting Scahill to the source, who provided the scoop to Scahill, who knows if the Times would have ever investigated Prince’s new mercenary army? One can be certain there would not have been any interest in investigating Prince if the Times had not published a story. [cont’d]

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Through Bradley Manning, Jeremy Scahill Learned Blackwater's Erik Prince Was Going to United Arab Emirates

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."