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2007-05-23

Leading GOP Candidate Romney Taps Blackwater’s Cofer Black as Campaign Adviser

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Jeremy Scahill, author of The New York Times best-seller, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Jeremy is a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute and correspondent for Democracy Now! He testified two weeks ago before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense at a hearing on defense contracting.

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Leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has tapped Blackwater executive Cofer Black as a senior campaign adviser. Romney has called for a doubling of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo. Black–who has been vice chairman at Blackwater for two years–was director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center during 9/11 and led the agency’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk more about the former director of the CIA and FBI under Reagan, William Webster, and his links to Blackwater, since he wasn’t disqualified?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, first of all, he serves on a corporate board, as Bill said, this company called Single Point with Joseph Schmitz, who’s one of the key people now at Blackwater’s parent company, the Prince Group.

The other thing that I find curious is that he didn’t disclose that when he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Cofer Black was a major figure at the CIA. Cofer Black has been the vice chairman of Blackwater. He was the man who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a major CIA heavy hitter. And, to my knowledge, that didn’t come out on William Webster’s disclosure form. This is a very small world of people that operate in that Central Intelligence Agency circle, particularly when you’re talking about people who rise to the ranks of director of Central Intelligence or director of the Counterterrorism Center. And I find it curious that that relationship with Cofer Black apparently wasn’t relevant to the panel.

AMY GOODMAN: Cofer Black, a top official in Blackwater, also one of the heads of a spin-off, and he has a new position, as well.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, Cofer Black, just to remind people, was the man who stood before Congress and said there’s a before-9/11 and an after-9/11, and after 9/11 the gloves come off. He was a key figure in the extraordinary rendition program, the government-sanctioned kidnap-and-torture program, where prisoners like Maher Arar are sent to third-country hellholes to be tortured. He’s now a major figure at Blackwater USA. He’s been the vice chairman of the company. He’s now one of the key people behind a new privatized intelligence company called Total Intelligence Solutions that’s being bankrolled by Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater.

Another figure from Blackwater involved with that is Robert Richer, the former deputy director of operations at the Central Intelligence Agency, Enrique Rick Prado. And Cofer Black, more recently, Amy, has been tapped by Mitt Romney, who now is leading the GOP field in the Iowa polls. Mitt Romney has tapped him as a senior adviser on counterterrorism. So, o, what a tangled web we weave. But I find it’s very interesting that William Webster didn’t find it relevant to disclose that he was head of the CIA when Cofer Black was a major figure at the agency.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

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