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Mitt Romney's Dangerous Foreign Policy Team: Nostalgic for Bush, Hellbent on War with Iran

The candidate's foreign policy team features the usual belligerence, mixed with some serious nostalgia for a thoroughly discredited foreign policy framework.

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3. Cofer Black. A former vice-chairman for the private security company Blackwater USA, Black has been involved with the Romney campaign since 2007, when he came on as a senior adviser on counterterrorism and national security.

Writing in the  Daily Beast , the right-leaning national security reporter Eli Lake explained that Black was Romney’s “trusted envoy to the murky world of the U.S. intelligence community who is also treated like a close political aide.” According to Lake’s reporting, Black sets up intelligence briefings for Romney from former CIA officers, and used his contacts in the Egyptian and Israeli intelligence worlds to debrief Romney on events in the region.

As Lake notes, Black’s claim to fame as a CIA officer is that he did “much of the street work” that led to the apprehension of Carlos the Jackal. He was part of the CIA team that tracked bin Laden in the 1990s. Black, a 28-year CIA veteran who directed the agency’s counter-terror center from 1999-2002, also served during the Bush administration as State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, and resigned shortly after Bush’s 2004 reelection.

According to Jeremy Scahill’s book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army , Black played “an essential role in crafting and implementing the Bush administration’s counter-terror policies.” Specifically, Black played an integral part in the use of “extraordinary renditions,” the euphemism for the Bush administration’s program of kidnapping alleged terrorists and spiriting them off to secret CIA prisons around the world to be tortured.

In 2005, Black joined the Blackwater USA team, the well-connected private security company that has been derided as a “mercenary” group, as vice chairman. He stayed on until 2008, a year after Blackwater agents committed the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad, an event that resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians.

Black's influence on Romney's views on torture is clear. In a 2007 debate, Romney was asked whether water-boarding was torture. His response was noncommittal, but noted that he gets advice on those questions “from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counter-terrorism in the CIA for some 35 years.” In November 2011, Romney advisers made clear that the candidate does not believe that water-boarding is torture. 

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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