Oooo That Smell… Can’t You Smell That Smell?

I’ve been puzzled by the fact that nobody seems to be talking about where these “federal troops” have come from.

They’re not well-trained and they’re not particularly brave, but they have spiffy gear that someone bought them from an online Tactical(tm) store. They’re fond of hitting people, especially people who can’t defend themselves. They act like they’re an occupying force; Amerikkka come to the inner city to bust some heads. Sound familiar?

Where has Trump friend Erik Prince been, lately? Because the smell of Blackwater is wafting all around; it’s unmistakable.

It won’t be called Blackwater, anymore, since that organization vanished like a soapbubble when it was exposed to harsh light. Prince still likes that business model, and continues to be involved in the “security mercenaries” market. It’s a bit hard to figure out who’s who, really, but file it all under “shady ex-military and spooks”. [stripes]

The top leaders of the U.S. security services firm that former Navy SEAL Erik Prince founded as Blackwater in 1997 have resigned, and a new chief executive has been named, the company announced.

Prince, who sold the company in 2010, has recently sought to convince President Donald Trump to turn the Afghanistan war over to an army of private contractors for a fraction of the current cost of the operation.

Taking the helm as the new CEO of the firm now known as Constellis and made up of a family of nine security companies, including Triple Canopy, will be 10-year CIA veteran Tim Reardon. Reardon was most recently president of the defense and intelligence group at fellow Reston-based government services firm Leidos, formerly SAIC, Constellis said in a news release on Wednesday.

So, Academi, Triple Canopy, Constellis – those are some names to watch. Constellis was bought for $1bn by a private equity firm, which means that Prince certainly walked away with a very large amount of money. After that, the government’s contracts with Constellis sort of dried up, or thinned out, and now the company’s in trouble. Prince probably took some prime customers with him when he left. [cbsnews]

Constellis employees can be found guarding the gates at U.S. military bases overseas, protecting U.S. diplomats, supporting U.S. counternarcotics operations and flying spy drones for the U.S. government. They and other contractors have often filled the gaps created by the reduction in troop levels in war zones in recent years.

Oooo, that smell. The smell of Blackwater’s all around you. Base protection.

[SF Chronicle, 2017]

A Virginia company best known for providing security in Iraq has won a $116.3 million contract to protect federal buildings in San Francisco and elsewhere in Northern California.

Triple Canopy Inc. merged three years ago with former rival Academi, which used to be known as Blackwater. Triple Canopy was born out the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has since earned its stripes protecting State Department embassies and consulates in Baghdad and around the world.

It’s interesting to think that the ground-work for having private military police defending federal buildings was being laid back in 2017. Back in December, 2017, The Intercept reported that Erik Prince was trying to talk the Trump Administration in to setting up a “private CIA”-like organization that answered only to the white house. You know, like Richard Nixon’s “plumbers” only more thuggish and less competent (if you can imagine that): [intercept]

The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer – with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal – to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

What I’m getting at is that, when you’ve got a stupid jackass in the white house, who has Erik Prince’s phone number on his speed dial, and he calls and says “I need those BLM rioters asses kicked” you get exactly the kind of response we’re seeing now: amateurs and semi-professionals, dressed in Tactical(tm) gear that they bought from the same website, and looking uniformly uniformed but not officially sanctioned at all. I’m sure that it’s going to take a while to work its way through the courts but eventually we’ll find that any lawsuits for injury against those “federal officers” is going to get referred to a lawsuit against a private company that conveniently went bankrupt a while ago.

Y’all quaeda – American mercenaries trying to overthrow Venezuela [source]

There are armies of bottom-feeder companies that have spawned to pick up the scraps from the police state. It’s not just head-busters, there are intelligence operations that (since they are not federal agents) have much wider latitude to covertly penetrate civilian organizations. Excuse me, I wrote that in the original high weasel: because they are not “government employees” they can join movements like BLM or your local bowling league, and spy on them from the inside. After COINTELPRO there were restrictions placed on the FBI to prevent them from doing such things; the government’s response has been to outsource it and say “our hands are clean!” Except, they’re not because it’s the taxpayers’ money being handed over to extremely dodgy people, to spy on the taxpayers.


WASHINGTON – Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

See what I mean? Under COINTELPRO, the FBI put agents in citizen organizations, and those agents sometimes carried out provocation operations – like bombing buildings – to justify crackdowns against them as long as they were not the KKK. When I was in college, and marched in some of the big protest marches in DC and NYC against the CIA’s support for death squads in El Salvador, there was a constant worry that someone might join the protest and bring a gun, so they could fire a shot or two and bring the righteous wrath of the police down on the protesters. We don’t know if that is what is happening, now, but given Erik Prince and the bedbugs he hangs out with – how can we know? It’s no longer possible to penetrate the FBI and discover such operations because the whole thing is outsourced.

There are little indicators here and there; you can get an outline of the larger picture by looking for perturbations in the money-field: [bloomberg]

Triple Canopy Inc. will perform a $106 million commercial protective security officer services contract in Michigan for the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service.

Protester Universal Protection Service LP, which does business as Allied Universal Security Services, was unable to show that the agency unfairly gave Triple Canopy credit for the past performance of affiliate Centerra Group, which is the incumbent contractor, the Government Accountability Office said.

Some security company registered to a post office box in Antigua, formerly known as “The Washington Football Team Security Service” but since merged with the dodgy bunch who have a single-desk office in Reston, Virginia near CIA headquarters, won a contract for $160mn and it’s totally legit because that’s confidential.

There’s a good summary of what’s going on [medium]: [Edit: Fixed broken link. This article was what got me interested in this topic. All of the links in the quoted section below are left because they’re interesting]

What has not been reported widely in the media, however, is the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit that is coordinating the “crowd control” effort – an agency called the Federal Protective Service (FPS) – is composed largely of contract security personnel. Those contractors are being furnished to FPS by major private-sector security companies like Blackwater corporate descendant Triple Canopy as well as dozens of other private security firms.

In fact, FPS spends more than $1 billion a year on these contract security guards who are authorized to conduct crowd control at federal properties, such as those in Portland. And, based on available photographic and document evidence, it appears those private contractors are now part of the federal force arrayed in Portland and are likely to be part of the federal response President Trump has promised to stand up in multiple other cities, including Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and other urban centers led by Democratic mayors across the country.

There are some 13,000 security guards nationwide employed by FPS via contracts with private security firms, a figure that can be expanded through existing and future contracts. Via contracts with FPS, more than 50 private security firms provide guards – referred to as protective security officers (PSOs) – to the agency in the Washington, D.C., area alone.

Here’s an opportunity for a journalist who wants to get paid to act tough and do some research: [goog] while getting paid $50-$500/hr.

Protective Security Officer – FPS PA at Constellis in Philadelphia

Staff armed security posts and provide security for the personnel and property of, and visitors to, assigned US Government Property.

May also work in a Control Center.

• Protect personnel and property in a professional manner
• Meet and deal tactfully and politely with general public and visitors
• Effectively and efficiently screen and process visitors
• Identify, report, delay or detain persons who violate rules and regulations
• Conduct internal and external roving foot patrols
• Traffic control
• Ability to maintain excellent detection rate on x ray machine
• Detect and respond to alarms and emergencies
• Secure entrances and exits during emergencies
• Control keys and lock combinations
• Communicate and remain accessible via two way radio or company issued cellular phone
• Understand and comply with all requirements defined within company documents to include: Post and General Orders, plans, policies, procedures.
• Observe and report all offenses/incidents
• Complete all reports and paperwork as required
• Provide first aid, CPR, and assist during emergencies as necessary.
• Must be able to wear protective body armor as a part of the duty uniform.
• Maintain mandated training requirements in accordance with company guidance.
• Maintain physical fitness, agility requirements, and weapons qualifications.
• Ensure safety requirements compliance and safe work practices.
• Support safety programs Participate in Quality and Process Improvement programs.
• Perform other duties as assigned.
• Regular, in-person attendance is required.

• A US Citizen with social security card
• Must possess a minimum of a High School diploma or equivalent.
• Must have an Updated PA Act 235 Lethal Weapons Training Program Certification
• Possess at least one of the following experience/ education criteria: (1) minimum of three years armed guard experience within past five years, (2) three years of military or National Guard or (3) successful completion of a state certified law enforcement education and training or police officer’s standard training course.
• Must meet all medical and physical standards as outlined in the contract
• Meet background screening and U.S. Government suitability requirements.
• Position may require the ability to acquire, and maintain, a security clearance.
• Successful completion of Protective Security Officer Training and certification.
• Pass and maintain medical, and physical fitness standards
• Duties require lifting more than 10 pounds, bending twisting, standing and some activities that involve standing for long periods of time.
• Requires conducting foot patrols and response to alarms in varied weather conditions.
90% of the work will require some sort of physical activity.

Occasional travel is required and must be willing to work rotating shifts

If it weren’t for the fact that I am older, grumpier, and achier, it sounds like a pretty interesting gig. I bet it’d make a great book, for someone who can write and who’s not afraid of a little non-disclosure agreement or two. The really plum position to go for would be to work in one of the DHS/FBI “fusion centers”, which is where they collect all the data brought in by these sources and plan their inept and heavy-handed, incompetent response to civilian protests.

One of the last remaining major threats to the system is embedding [cyberinsurgency] in which people who wish to resist an agency deliberately penetrate it by seeking employment in a trusted position. Embedding has the virtue of utterly destroying an agency’s ability to trust its people, which can dramatically raise the expense of operations:

If you’re looking for a good target, just remember that corporate email repositories are generally full of heinous, embarrassing stuff. Executives can be mind-bendingly stupid about what they put in email; it’s part of their capitalist “you are elite” training for them to think that they are brilliant. Probably the worst offenders for putting stupid, embarrassing stuff in their emails are police. If you’re looking for a fun place to embed, and can stand working around police, their email and text messaging are great places to start.

Just think! You might get an all expenses paid trip to Portland! And you can bet that the emails and planning briefings those guys are getting are really precious.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Multiple reports have it that the Portland paramilitary “peacekeepers” hail from ICE, CBP, TSA, and other tentacles of “Homeland Security”, which certainly seems to have enough thugs to muster the bad actors whose performances apparently thrill Trump™ and his Chumps.

    Why – at this point – would Chad Wolf need to hire outside loose cannons to “meet and deal tactfully and politely with general public and visitors”?

  2. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#1:
    Multiple reports have it that the Portland paramilitary “peacekeepers” hail from ICE, CBP, TSA, and other tentacles of “Homeland Security”

    Are they employees, though, or contractors?

    One other thing that is going on here: a lot of federal agencies are avoiding actually hiring people because federal employees are unionized and tend to break toward democrats during elections.

    Most of the TSA folks I saw at airports, back when I used to fly a lot, were contractors and not actual employees. I used to ask them if they were TSA or contractors and they really hated having to say that they got zero benefits and were basically hourly gig workers. So, I’m not sure what “homeland security employee” means: contractor from Blackwater-oid body shop, or employee with benefits. I bet we find out when someone sues one and DHS says “not our problem!” and tries to throw some body shop under the bus. Watch for it.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    siwuloki’s link @ # 3 apparently confirms our esteemed host’s conjecture (at least regarding FPS and Portland.

    Always such a bummer, adding to the list of what Orwell didn’t warn us about…

  4. komarov says

    Yes, I just (now yesterday) saw the Blackwater “theory” pop up elsewhere, too. It’s a testament to my memory many browser tabs I keep jumping between that I don’t remember where. *ahem* No idea if it’s true, but I’ll go and assume it’s half-true: lots of hired boots with some regulars thrown in for various reasons. E.g. management/supervision or just the ability to say, “We’re here” and it’s not all contractors when budgets and employees need to be justified. The downside is that you can’t claim complete uninvolvement, which seems a weirdly popular excuse when investigatins start. Actually, that wasn’t us who screwed everything up, it was the people we hired. We weren’t involved at all in doing our job and had absolutely no control and therefore should be off the hook. I rest my case.

    I also wish the press/media adopted the tradition of calling some organisations by previous names when the links and parallels are so obvious. Blackwater has become such a household name that it would be a shame not to remind people of their sterling performance and reputation any time Academi (Formerly Blackwater) and the likes are mentioned. This is actually a good example, because I would have had no idea if you hadn’t pointed out the relationship – hence the rebranding, no doubt.

    “”Constellis employees can be found guarding the gates at U.S. military bases overseas””

    Excuse me? The world’s most powerful military hires mercs to guard its own bases?! (The same confusion applies to pretty much every other “service” on that list, too, by the way)

    Now it almost makes sense how occupying the middle east is supposed to be cheaper if privatised: Right now the US is paying for the US military and the mercs who guard them. The mercs would stick around to guard themselves, the military go home.
    Also, that must surely add a huge red security flag. Now you’re hiring strangers to guard your Very Important Thing, and for all the background checks and clearance you may demand of their employer, they remain strangers somebody else put there. Didn’t the US government learn anything from the Snowden debacle?

    “”A Virginia company best known for providing security in Iraq has won a $116.3 million contract to protect federal buildings in San Francisco and elsewhere in Northern California.””

    Oh dear, unless Iraq is secure, whatever that means, I would not have hired them. Sorry, your references did not check out, please don’t bid on future contracts.

    “”I’m sure that it’s going to take a while to work its way through the courts but eventually we’ll find that any lawsuits for injury against those “federal officers” is going to get referred to a lawsuit against a private company that conveniently went bankrupt a while ago.””

    Surely something would – should – stick to the government? Could I hire a bunch of mercs to beat people up and then turn and say, “if you want justice, go ahead and sue the mercs, ‘s no fault of mine”? I very much doubt it. Otherwise that would be a legal loophole you can drive the American continent through without ever worrying about clearance. Contract killers would be very popular, too.

    “”Protester Universal Protection Service””

    If I’ve learnt anything over the past few months, it’s that peaceful protest is a constitutional right in the US. So given recent events, this company’s name is essentially a not so subtle advertisement to violate the constitutional rights of the American citizenry. But the real question is: was that always the intent or did the name just age very poorly?

  5. says

    Bortac: another of these beltway bandits, or is it a federal force? It’s deliberately hard to tell.

    I get particularly worried when I read “navy SEAL-like” because: what does that mean? The SEALs are efficient and well-equipped murderers but they are not warriors in the classical sense. They specialize in destroying their inferiors, more like the imperial Sardaukar in Dune. I’m disgusted that the media look up to them – is it all the effect of the crappy movie with Emilio Estevez and whatnot?

  6. says

    Note: general fixup of links and formatting. Sorry about that!

    [When you copy/paste from other web pages, sometimes it brings the

    cascading style sheets along, which some sites use to track their text as well as to format it. That’s OK except it screws up the formatting here. I’m not trying to pull anything sneaky]

  7. Who Cares says


    Excuse me? The world’s most powerful military hires mercs to guard its own bases?!

    And not just guard the gates they do more.
    The reasons for that basically boil down to hide the extent of what the US is doing, they’d have to restart conscription otherwise to get the bodies needed, and to reduce push back from the public which is not invested in foreign politics at all by keeping the GI Joe body count as low as possible.
    And good old corruption. Lie to people that what you do is cheaper, get a cost plus contract, encourage fraud and other criminal behavior to get higher costs and rake in the moolah.

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