So what can really be done with a mini-CIA and an offshore SEAL unit? I've been asking myself that question since the late January announcement of the creation of the private intel firm, Total Intel, particularly because it is marketing itself to Fortune 500 companies. The questions becomes more interesting in light of the private spy shop's two strategic affiliates, Blackwater USA and Blackwater's Barbados-registered affiliate, Greystone, Ltd. Total Intel represents some of the best and brightest the CIA has produced and Blackwater commands a formidable group of tier-one Special Forces operators. Simply put, these together these companies rival and possibly surpass the capabilities of intelligence services of most nations--and I'm not talking Third World. Such capacity for covert operations has never before been in private hands--and for rent.
Uses for a company such as Greystone are obvious and barely obscured by the company: protective security details, training in raids, sabotage missions, "large scale event support" (read: traditional mercenary work). The offerings of a private intel company are not so obvious, but services would most likely include risk analysis, competitor analysis, hostile takeover assistance, labor relations assistance including the incitement of labor unrest for competitors, product/brand sabotage, assistance in dealing with hostile non-governmental organizations (i.e. environmental organizations), support in dealing with unfriendly governments, etc. Now when we combine the two services, the possibilities become, well, pretty much like those of the CIA. Well within the reach are services such as:
- de-stabilization of governments hostile to a firm's business;
- identification, training and support of an armed insurgency, including separatist movements claiming sovereignty over a mineral-rich region; and
- planning and execution of sabotage of a competitor's foreign facilities.
In no way am I saying that Total Intel, Greystone and Blackwater are offering these services, but rather I am exploring the potential synergy of the CIA's former top case officers and Special Activities Division operators combined with the best in Special Forces. They've done this type of work for their former US government employers, so why not for their corporate ones?
Let's take a hypothetical scenario and examine the potential a little closer. When I think about good uses for such brains and brawn, oil and Venezuela come to mind. In late 2005 the Venezuelan government gave Exxon an ultimatum that it had to form a joint venture with the national oil company (it eventually did.) The state petroleum company has been very uncooperative, to put it mildly, and has caused the shut down of Exxon fields. Let's just say it's not a comfortable place for Exxon to do business.
If I were sitting in the Houston boardroom of a company that has seen governments come and go, I know what I'd be thinking: get rid of Chavez or at least make his life hell. And with over $100 million profits daily, I'd have the cash to buy the expertise that I needed. And that expertise that is now on the open market.
I'd hire spies to identify potential insurgency groups to support and to create the needed cutouts to conceal my involvement. (Which is what Chiquita should have done instead of using its own guys to pay the terrorists and ship them the arms. Amateurs. Supporting insurgencies are best left to the pros.)
Once my spies have identified insurgent group(s) and potential leaders, I'd work with a private military organization that could:
assist in training indigenous resources in developing a capability to conduct defensive and offensive small group operations, including firearm training requirements. Off-the-shelf standard field operations packages consist of 30 days of training to support raid, reconnaissance, and small unit tactics.
I wouldn't stop at an insurgency. I'd also use the spies for various psyops against the leadership and hire an espionage firm to identify potential targets within the military leadership and Chavez inner circles that could be compromised and used to seed suspicions and distrust among the inner circle. If my spies got lucky, they might even make Chavez believe a coup was imminent and his paranoia could spark a leadership purge. Then there's always economic sabotage, inciting union unrest..the possibilities go on and on.
Would a Fortune 500 company do something like this?
We saw a few weeks ago that Chiquita was willing to give millions to terrorist organizations to further their business interests. The Organization of American States report has alleged that Banadex, the former Chiquita subsidiary that funded the terrorists, also trafficked in arms on terrorists' behalf.
Funding the de-stabilization of a declared enemy of the US is far less a sin than funding right-wing terrorists. In fact, some might see it as a service to the country. It wouldn't be out of line with US interests.
In the old days, a corporation had to spend millions lobbying select Senators and Congressman and the White House to move the US intelligence apparatus to support such activities in line with its corporate interests. Now they can cut out the middle man.
Note: My Total Intel readers can correct me if I'm wrong, but in studying US State Department regulations, services from a private espionage firm, such as TI, do not seem to be covered under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the US laws restricting the export of military equipment, technology and services. Private spy shops are such a relatively new phenomenon, the export of intelligence services seems to have fallen between the bureaucratic cracks. If this is correct, the such spy corporations have no need to create offshore entities to freely sell their services globally.