Is Erik Prince ‘Graymailing’ the US Government?

December 5, 2009

source: Jeremy Scahill, The Nation

The in-depth Vanity Fair profile of the infamous owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince, is remarkable on many levels–not least among them that Prince appeared to give the story’s author, former CIA lawyer Adam Ciralsky, unprecedented access to information about sensitive, classified and lethal operations not only of Prince’s forces, but Prince himself. In the article, Prince is revealed not just as owner of a company that covertly provided contractors to the CIA for drone bombings and targeted assassinations, but as an actual CIA asset himself. While the story appears to be simply a profile of Prince, it might actually be the world’s most famous mercenary’s insurance policy against future criminal prosecution. The term of art for what Prince appears to be doing in the VF interview is graymail: a legal tactic that has been used for years by intelligence operatives or assets who are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. In short, these operatives or assets threaten to reveal details of sensitive or classified operations in order to ward off indictments or criminal charges, based on the belief that the government would not want these details revealed. “The only reason Prince would do this [interview] is that he feels he is in very serious jeopardy of criminal charges,” says Scott Horton, a prominent national security and military law expert. “He absolutely would not do these things otherwise.”

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