Monday, 13 Nov 2017 10:58 AM
The elevation of former CIA officer Michael Barry to become the National Security Council’s chief intelligence officer has led to speculation that it is due to his connection with controversial security contractor Erik Prince, BuzzFeed News reported on Monday.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo has promised to make his agency more “vicious,” and Barry reportedly once worked on a secret CIA assassination program meant to target terrorists that was contracted to Prince.
Prince’s security company, Blackwater, was involved in a series of scandals in Iraq, where it provided security for American diplomats and was accused of killing dozens of innocent Iraqis in confrontations.
Prince has access to the Trump White House through his close friendship with former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and because he is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The timing of Barry’s appointment brings scrutiny both to Pompeo’s plan to unleash his agency in more aggressive ways to fight terrorists and to reported efforts by Prince to persuade the Trump administration to hire his companies to fight in Afghanistan.
Prince has been pushing a plan to replace most American troops there with just under 6,000 private military contractors to embed with Afghan forces at the battalion level, The Hill reported.
Prince also is weighing a challenge to Sen. John Barrasso in Wyoming’s GOP primary next year after being encouraged by Bannon, according to The New York Times.
Barry, Prince and the NSC declined to comment. CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani, referring to any link between Barry’s new NSC responsibilities and his work 12 years ago on the assassination program, told BuzzFeed that “your story is based on a false premise and faulty reasoning leading to an incorrect conclusion.”
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