Ex-Blackwater executives finger CIA in weapons trial
Five ex-Blackwater executives, facing federal firearms charges in connection with a gift of weaponry to a Middle Eastern monarch, have come up with a new explanation for how it occurred:
It was a CIA operation.
In court papers filed last month in Raleigh, the defendants say the gift of five guns to King Abdullah II of Jordan during a royal visit to Blackwater's Moyock, N.C., headquarters in March 2005 was requested, directed and authorized by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Attorneys for the five have filed declarations from two retired CIA officials, including a former Jordan station chief, who say they are familiar with the circumstances of the king's visit and would be willing to testify about it.
The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.
It's a new wrinkle in a case that dates to April 2010, when the five security company executives were indicted on a variety of felony firearms charges. One key section of the indictment involved King Abdullah's 2005 visit to Moyock, during which the monarch was presented a Bushmaster M4 rifle, a Remington shotgun and three Glock handguns.
The gift guns were a marketing device, part of an effort by Blackwater to land security and training contracts in Jordan, the indictment alleges.
When the executives subsequently realized they were unable to account for the disposition of the weapons, prosecutors allege, they falsified reports to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to give the appearance that they had purchased the guns for their own personal use.
Contrary to prosecutors' claims, the former executives now say the king's visit to Moyock "was not a Blackwater marketing effort, but was instead a CIA-organized and CIA-sanctioned diplomatic event attended by dozens of U.S. Government officials with the aim not of increasing Blackwater's potential profits, but instead of furthering relations between the two countries."
The royal visit arose out of a personal relationship between the king and Blackwater founder Erik Prince and was organized with the assistance of other government agencies including the State Department and the Secret Service, they say.
Prince sold the company, now known as Academi, in December 2010.
Under CIA policy, it was the agency's responsibility to properly document the disposition of the weapons, the former executives assert in court papers. The CIA failed to do so, they say, resulting in "an easily corrected regulatory paperwork error in Blackwater's firearms disposition logs."
Accompanying the court papers are declarations from two retired CIA officers, Charles Seidel and John Maguire, who say they have information about the king's visit and could testify about it if the CIA gives them permission. The two men's statements, secured in April, capped an ongoing investigation of the visit, defense attorneys say.
Seidel, who was CIA station chief in Amman, the Jordanian capital, at the time, says he accompanied the king on the visit to Moyock. Maguire says he has information about the gift guns and "how the U.S. government's authorization for the transfer of those weapons took place."
The former Blackwater executives are asking the judge in the firearms case to order the CIA to produce all relevant documents about the visit. The case has not yet been set for trial.
Abdullah II assumed the Jordanian throne on the death of his father, King Hussein, in 1999. According to his official online biography, he is a 41st-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. He is a former commander of Jordan's Special Forces.
Along with cars, motorcycles and free-fall parachuting, he is said to have a passion for ancient weapons and maintains a world-class collection of military artifacts.
Blackwater/Academi has banked more than $2 billion from security and training contracts with various federal agencies, including the CIA, since 2002. Several former CIA officials later went to work for the company.
The indicted former executives are Gary Jackson, president; William Mathews, executive vice president; Andrew Howell, general counsel; Ana Bundy, vice president of logistics and procurement; and Ronald Slezak, who was responsible for firearms documentation.
Bill Sizemore, 757-446-2276, email@example.com