This morning, The Intercept published an exhaustively researched deep-dive into Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s “improbable comeback” under the Trump administration.
The full piece is a fascinating look at a sociopathic wannabe-warlord’s attempts to forge deals with major powers and profit off of some of the most damaging conflicts across the globe, but it also includes an extremely good anecdote related to Project Veritas, the right-wing entrapment-factory that has attempted to take down politicians and news organizations through a strange combination of harebrained or outright fraudulent schemes.
First, let’s lay out who we’re dealing with here. Prince, a man who has accumulated a large amount of power and money mostly by running evil companies into the ground and then starting a new evil company, is not exactly a genius. Here’s an anecdote about how he tried to skirt international arms regulations while running a private military company for the United Arab Emirates (bolding mine):
In what would become a pattern, Prince’s American colleagues at Reflex were troubled by his directives about ITAR regulations. Prince argued to his lawyers that because Reflex was an Emirati company, working on an Emirati government contract, he was not required to have an ITAR license from the State Department to sell military services. “We’d tell him, ‘No, that’s not how it works. You’re an American,’” said one of Prince’s former colleagues involved in Reflex Responses. “It was stupid, honestly. There was a way to do it legally and make lots of money, but Erik didn’t care. When Erik wakes up in the morning, Erik does whatever he feels like doing. I always assumed that’s how it is when your father is a billionaire.”
(For some more familial context, Prince’s sister is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Moving on.)
After bouncing around literally 15 different countries hawking different versions of his plan to privatize war—which involved logistics companies moving natural resources across Africa, a private anti-piracy force in Somalia that got infiltrated by pirates, and repeated attempts to bolt laser-guided missiles onto agricultural crop duster planes—Prince decided to take his talents stateside again. That, in turn, gave us this truly incredible anecdote about just what kind of brain geniuses the Project Veritas team are (bolding again mine):
During the 2016 election, he became involved with James O’Keefe and Project Veritas, a group of conservative provocateurs who specialize is using hidden-camera footage and secret recordings. O’Keefe, a protégé of the conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart, describes himself as a “guerrilla journalist” and has used undercover cameras in an effort to expose purported liberal bias in political groups and the media. Trump often promoted O’Keefe’s videos and met with O’Keefe just days after he declared his candidacy. (A few weeks before that, Trump had donated $10,000 to Project Veritas through his foundation.) It is unclear if Trump’s support of Project Veritas spurred Prince’s interest in the group, but in late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for O’Keefe and Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. According to a former Trump White House official who discussed the Veritas training with Rubio, the former special operative quit after several weeks of training, complaining that the Veritas group wasn’t capable of learning. Rubio did not respond to requests for comment.
The Veritas group...wasn’t capable...of learning. Incredible. Flawless. The man who set up an anti-piracy operation that was then infiltrated by those pirates tried to teach Project Veritas intelligence techniques and found they were, somehow, too stupid to grasp them.
But that did not dissuade Prince or Veritas founder James O’Keefe, who decided to do take another shot at it:
In the winter of 2017, Prince arranged for a former British MI6 officer to provide more surveillance and elicitation training for Veritas at his family’s Wyoming ranch, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. Prince was trying to turn O’Keefe and his group into domestic spies. For his part, O’Keefe posted photos on Instagram and Twitter from the Prince family ranch of himself holding a handgun with a silencer attached and wearing pseudo-military clothing. He described the ranch as a “classified location” where he was learning “spying and self-defense,” in an effort to make Project Veritas “the next great intelligence agency.”
Are there photos, you may ask? Yes!
These two great men deserve one another.