Secret Recording of Blackwater CEO Erik Prince Reveals Previously Undisclosed Blackwater Operations
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Democracy Now! Co-host Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Erik Prince doesn’t like being in the media spotlight. The reclusive owner of the private military firm known as Blackwater is scheduled to give the keynote address tomorrow at the Tulip Time Festival in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. True to form, Prince told the event’s organizers no news reporting could be done on his speech and they consented to the ban. But journalists and media associations in Michigan protested the move and on Monday, the organizers reversed their position and said the media would be allowed to attend with one caveat: no video or audio recording devices are allowed inside. Despite Prince’s attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill obtained a rare audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience in January. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater.
Amy Goodman: Jeremy Scahill joins us here in our Democracy Now! studio. He is an award winning independent journalist, Puffin Foundation writing fellow at The Nation Institute, and the author of the international bestseller “ Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.”Jeremy is also scheduled to speak [on Wednesday] in Holland, Michigan, just hours after Erik Prince, at a separate event organized by the Interfaith Congregation of Holland. ... So, talk about this tape. How’d you get it?
Scahill: Well, Erik Prince has been in the media at times because he has had to respond when its forces killed 17 innocent Iraqis in Nisour Square, he made the rounds on CNN and 60 Minutes and other places. And he generally goes into a very controlled environment. He doesn’t often give speeches, he doesn’t lecture on the university circuit, and when he does give talks, he makes it very clear to the event organizers that there are to be no recording devices and journalists are not allowed.
And so I had contact with someone who had the opportunity to go to this private event that was hosted by the Young Presidents Organization and Erik Prince was giving a speech in front of all these entrepreneurs. It was a private gathering. And they had ROTC cadets from the University of Michigan- the commanders of ROTC there. And in fact, at one point during his speech, Erik Prince stops after he had been bashing some NATO countries and saying that some of the U.S. allies in Afghanistan should pack up their bags and get out of the country, he singled-out about Canada as a positive example of a force that was doing a good job in Afghanistan, he stopped and he said, “I just want to make it clear everything I’m saying here is off the record in case any journalists slipped into the room.
Let’s remember this is a man whose company does ninety percent of its business with the federal government. Taxpayers fund this man’s corporation. We have a right to know what he’s up to. We have a right to know, when you can’t get documents on Blackwater, what the owner of this company is saying. So I revealed the details of this tape in the interest of the first amendment freedom of the press, but also because I believe the American people have a right. So someone contacted me, said they weren’t going to be going to this and I asked that individual, "Do you think you could record it?” And so what happened was that this person went into the event and clandestinely recorded Erik Prince speaking. And what he said was really incredible.