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WikiLeaked: Ex-Blackwater ‘helps regime change’ in Syria

Published time: March 21, 2012 05:59
Edited time: March 21, 2012 14:45
A portrait of two Free Syrian Army rebels posing with their rifles in Al-Shatouria village near to the Turkish border in northwest Syria, on March 16, 2012 (AFP Photo / Giogos Moutafis)

A portrait of two Free Syrian Army rebels posing with their rifles in Al-Shatouria village near to the Turkish border in northwest Syria, on March 16, 2012 (AFP Photo / Giogos Moutafis)

A US government-contracted private security firm is helping the Syrian opposition to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime, leaked Stratfor emails indicate. The same firm earlier operated extensively in Libya.

The private military company SCG International had been contracted to engage the Turkey-based Syrian opposition, according to correspondence released by WikiLeaks.

Their assignment was called a “fact finding mission”, but “the true mission is how they can help in regime change,”an email addressed to Stratfor VP for counter-terrorism Fred Burton says.

The source reporting the info is most reliable – it is SCG Chief Executive James F. Smith, who used to be director of notorious company Blackwater, now known as Academi. In a separate message Smith introduces himself to Stratfor as having background in CIA and heading a company “comprised of former DOD, CIA and former law enforcement personnel.”

SCG’s mission with the Syrian opposition is said to have “air cover from Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick,” a Republican lawmaker from North Carolina, who is a member of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The body is charged with overseeing the American intelligence community.

The email adds that Smith “intends to offer his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya.”

Smith has an extensive record of sharing intelligence with Stratfor, according the Al-Akhbar, the Lebanese daily newspaper, which is one of the media outlets chosen by WikiLeaks as an information partner for disclosure of private Stratfor emails.

The security contractor provided insider data on services he provided to members of the Libyan National Transitional Council during the 2011 uprising, the search for the portable surface-to-air missiles that went missing during the civil war there, and the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, among other things.

The trail on email ends in mid-December, days before Stratfor mail servers were reportedly hacked by the hacking group Anonymous. The WikiLeaks whistleblower website began publishing the emails, apparently handed over to it by the hacker team, in late February.

The US has been increasingly dependent on private contractors like SCG, outsourcing functions to them that were previously fulfilled by regular troops. Employees of these “modern mercenaries” provide services like personal and area security, intelligence gathering and recruit training in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of the practice say such firms lack accountability and allow the government to carry out “black op” tasks while being able to deny any involvement.

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