First Amendment Freedoms


Freedom of Speech, Religion, the Press, and the right to Peacefully Assemble and Protest the Government

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  1789

Vital: Trump has launched his own Facebook News channel and appointed an FCC Chair who approved the Sinclair-Tribune merger which is now insisting on “must-run” Trump-produced propaganda segments in 72% of American households including Democratic strongholds of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.  August 6, 2017:

How Trump’s FCC aided Sinclair’s expansion Politico August 6, 2017  Use of a regulatory loophole will allow Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations. By MARGARET HARDING MCGILL and JOHN HENDEL

Shareblue“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by Trump, used a loophole called the “UHF discount” to let Sinclair increase its portfolio of over 170 stations with 42 stations from Tribune Media. Many of the new stations, which will now be forced to air the “must-run” pro-Trump propagandasegments other Sinclair stations now broadcast, are located in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Before the Trump assist, Sinclair was not in as many large cities, with the power to target millions more Americans in states that didn’t vote for Trump in 2016.

Politico reports that “the Tribune deal would not have been viable if not for Pai’s intervention.” Without the use of the loophole, Sinclair would be constrained to the congressionally mandated cap of 39 percent reach for local station owners. In exchange for backing Trump during the campaign, Sinclair now has access to 72 percent of U.S. households for its propaganda broadcasts.

Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler slammed the move, noting, “There was funny math created to allow the count to come up to still be below 39 percent, wink wink.” Shareblue

WHAT SPEECH ISN’T COVERED UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT?
  • Obscenity (the definition relies on context, but regular old porn is not considered obscene)
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitations to commit crimes
  • Plagiarism of copyrighted material

Source: The Newseum Institute

First Amendment Freedoms Under Attack

The Freedoms are different, but intertwined and vital to Democracy.  The attacks at these freedoms come from many directions and may not seem like much all on their own, but as cases become legal precedent, the Supreme Court builds an arsenal to use against its people if it so chooses. Everything works together and hangs in a delicate balance that depends on access to truth. The Public must know the truth to vote responsibly and not as some billionaire demands as he threatens campaign financing, which was blatant as the Koch brothers demanded repeal of the ACA.

The Press has driven the investigations into the Trump Administration. Would we know about any of it without them? Leaks of classified information are illegal, but when everyone is corrupt and no one to be trusted, where does one turn? It’s the thing that people appreciate about Wikileaks. Things the general public should know The legitimate media run by a code of ethics and editors to answer to, is clearly under attack. The National Enquirer is given far more respect and access by the White House than CNN, which has been under attack. Sinclair Broadcasting bought Tribune Entertainment in May 2017, creating a broadcast television giant with plans to demand the Alt-Right, fake news, which promotes lies and misconception, fear and hatred. In Berkeley and Portland especially, the Alt-Right has been protesting its right to use Hate Speech as it did in the Freedom of the Press Rally.

It may be legally tolerated to lie to the public without accepting money (Fraud) and promote horrible things like the current calls to Civil War and violence against minorities, but is it responsible and ethical? Why should Richard Spencer or Stephen Miller say and do anything they want, while a comedian or television host risks losing their career because Trump has no sense of humor about himself? Worse yet, the legitimate news has been shut out of White House Press Briefings because their reports don’t flatter him.  Walter Shaub, Director of the Ethics Office, resigned on July 6, 2017.  NPR

Stephen Colbert and Kathy Griffen have been threatened, but Trump, the Alt-Right and many other people have been railing against Political Correctness. Trump called people many names and supporters even dismissed his recorded and demeaning 2005 Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the pussy” tape as “locker room/men’s” talk, while Billy Bush was fired after the October 7, 2016, discovery and heroes at Fox have followed suit.  Trump’s bullying words and inability to receive criticism have now materialized into real threats: against the Press to investigate and report truth thereby enabling a functioning democracy; and the Freedom of Speech to keep our leaders in check and express our discontent thereby preventing tyranny. These precious and precarious freedoms are in place for a reason and protect everyone. They are two of the closely intertwined freedoms that make America great.

Tech Billionaire (1st VC Facebook investor) Peter Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit defending Hulk Hogan against Gawker’s release of a sex tape.”Why should I care? Critics have argued that Thiel’s money gives other billionaires a blueprint for how to silence media outlets they dislike.” Forbes June 21, 2016  Thiel is a supporter of Alt-Right trolls who have enacted “Meme Wars” against Presidential elections in the US, UK, and France thus far.

FCC to investigate, ‘take appropriate action’ on Colbert’s Trump rant  The Hill   May 5, 2017

How Media Consolidation Threatens Democracy: 857 Channels (and Nothing On) BillMoyers.com staff

The National Enquirer Smears Trump Rivals While He Goes Unscathed — Coincidence?  Uproxx May 20, 2016    Prejudicial coverage during the Trump campaign for the owner, Dave Pecker’s, friend.

The National Enquirer Allegedly Paid A Trump Mistress $150K For The Rights To Her Story And Sat On It  Uproxx  November 5, 2016    In 2006, Playmate Enquirer contributor signed away rights to keep hush-hush.

Anti-Protesting Laws

The Republicans and right-wing have been pushing fear of Anti-Trump protesters, using every instance of violence to justify their hatred of liberals. The oil companies are using it to secure their pipelines and financial interest while disobeying Native Americans treaties and wishes of the people. The politicians who take their campaign donations or want no visible accountability to their constituents happily write laws which are stripping us of our rights, one by one.

The Alt-Right has been promoting conspiracies of paid protesters connected to George Soros. Washington Times 

In an Unprecedented Court Escalation, Trump Protesters Could Be Facing Decades in Prison for Inauguration Demonstrations A frightening crackdown on free speech is underway across the country. 

18 states have responded by proposing over 30 bills aimed at suppressing demonstrations by increasing and expanding penalties for protesters. A new law in Missouri prohibits protesters from covering their faces with masks or other disguises. Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Iowa have introduced bills that call for increased penalties for blocking traffic and demonstrating on private property.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called these new laws “unconstitutional,” vowing to “fight in statehouses against any bill that violates the First Amendment.”

While several defendants have pleaded guilty to shorten their sentences, about 130 of the defendants have joined a “points of unity” agreement pledging to reject any potential plea deals and cooperation with prosecutors. On May 26, 21 defendants filed motions to have their cases dismissed.

Following the January 20 arrests, lawyers for some of the arrested protesters filed a class action lawsuit against the MPD alleging that law enforcement engaged in excessive use of force and conducted false arrests. The Office of Police Complaints, a D.C. government agency, has called for an independent investigation evaluating the actions of MPD officers that day.” Alternet

Oklahoma Governor [Mary Fallin] Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines On “Conspirator” Organizations   May 3, 2017 HB 1123

The Oklahoma law signed this week is unique, however, in its broad targeting of groups “conspiring” with protesters accused of trespassing. It takes aim at environmental organizations Republicans have blamed for anti-pipeline protests that have become costly for local governments… A section of the law defining “critical infrastructure” includes various types of fossil fuel facilities. Oklahoma is a center of the oil and gas industry and home of the self-styled “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” in Cushing. “Trespass on property containing a “critical infrastructure facility” under the newly signed trespassing law individuals will face a felony and a minimum $10,000 fine if a court determines they entered property intending to damage, vandalize, deface, “impede or inhibit operations of the facility.” Should the trespasser actually succeed in “tampering” with the infrastructure, they face a $100,000 fine or 10 years of imprisonment.  Significantly, the statute also implicates any organization “found to be a conspirator” with the trespasser, threatening collaborator groups with a fine “ten times” that imposed on the intruder — as much as $1 million in cases involving damage. [Doug] Parr noted that under the new trespassing law a violation as minor as spray-painting a message on an oil facility could plausibly lead to $100,000 in fines if a court determined it was “defacing equipment.” “Say they lock themselves to a piece of construction equipment, and a claim can be made that there were damages from that trespass,” Parr said.  A second bill, passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday, would permit “vicarious liability” for groups that “compensate” protesters accused of trespassing. Parr said “Does this statute create a civil action for a pipeline company to then go after a person or organization that posted bond or helped pay for a lawyer for that civil disobedience?” According to Public Radio Tulsa, Democrat Rep. Cory Williams demanded to know the definition of “compensation” under the liability bill. “Is it a check? Is it money? Is it staying at somebody’s house?” he asked.”

The bill’s author reportedly called it a response to the Dakota Access pipeline protests, aimed directly at organizers fighting to stop the Diamond pipeline, a project of Valero and All American Pipeline that would transport oil from Oklahoma to Tennessee. Protests against the pipeline have already begun and construction is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

The trope of the “professional protester” has long been a talking point for those who disagree with participants’ politics. It was used widely this year by Republicans frustrated by a series of anti-Trump protests after his election and inauguration. It was also used against demonstrators involved in massive actions in defiance of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota, which were violently repressed by police. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is seeking $38 million in compensation from the federal government for costs associated with the police response and with cleaning up resistance camps whose residents were evicted in February.

“That would be for the courts to decide,” replied Rep. Mark McBride, the bill’s author.

Doug Parr has represented numerous environmental activists in Oklahoma protest cases. In an interview with The Intercept the attorney noted the liability bill’s loose wording.

And he said the law amplifies risks for groups that organize protest actions, who can’t always account for the diversity of tactics used by attendees. “Suppose an organization decides they want to support a perfectly legal, no civil disobedience, action,” he said. “Somebody in that crowd, who has come to the protest at the request of that organization, then jumps the fence and runs in there and spray-paints on a storage tank, ‘This equipment causes earthquakes. Shut it down.’ … These statutes could be used to attack that organization and impose financial liability on them.”

Johnson Bridgwater, head of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposes the Diamond pipeline, noted that the club has an official policy against participation in civil disobedience. (Its board suspended the rule in 2013 before executive director Michael Brune was arrested in a protest calling for then-President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.) However, he said, “We don’t necessarily know everyone who’s attending the events,” adding, “There is a strong and real fear that this could be used as an attempt to crush a group or a chapter of Sierra Club unfairly.”

Bold Oklahoma is part of a coalition attempting to halt the Diamond pipeline’s construction. Asked whether the group supports direct action, director Mekasi Camp Horinek replied, “We stand behind the people, and if people choose to do that, we’re going to stand behind them in that choice, but that’s always an individual choice. There’s nobody that’s going to tell somebody else to do something illegal or put their bodies or their families in harm’s way.”

Horinek traveled to North Dakota and was arrested with others opposing the Dakota Access pipeline. “That’s exactly what they were saying about me, that I was an out-of-state, paid protester, because I worked for an environmental organization,” he said. “I don’t think that when we’re talking about life, not only the life of our children and the life of our brothers and sisters, but when we’re talking about life itself, all living things on the planet, that state borders are going to deter or stop anybody from going to try to protect a body of water.”

“I’m an enrolled member of the Ponca Nation, and we were forcefully removed to the state of Oklahoma in 1876,” he said. Before that, his tribe relied on the Missouri River, the body of water Standing Rock tribal members sought to protect by blocking the oil pipeline. “I was there first as a father, as a son, as a brother. Secondly I was there as a Ponca tribal member, protecting the Missouri River. Last but not least, I was representing the Bold organization that I work for.”

As of April 2, Common Dreams counted 19 anti-protest bills across the United States. Bills in Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota were directlyaimed at activists attempting to block oil and gas infrastructure. Other laws, in places like Minnesota, responded to protests in 2015 and 2016 that blocked roads and highways after police killings of black men and women in various cities.

Bridgwater said his biggest concern is reserved for citizens who might think twice before attending a protest. “We see all of these bills as nothing more than corporate America being fearful of how successful the Standing Rock protests were.”

The Intercept  

Erik Prince

Erik Prince

Notorious Mercinary” Erik Prince founded Blackwater Security and made headlines during the Iraq war with his company’s abuses and “conviction of killing Iraqi citizens, including children, in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square gun battle.” Bloomberg He is brother to Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, the their father, Edgar Prince’s auto parts manufacturing The Prince Corporation sold in 1996 to Johnson Controls for $1.35 billion. They grew up in Holland, MI, and their father “was a major contributor to the Family Research Council, whose mission is to “advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview”.[4]  Critics argue that the organization advocates against LGBT rights, abortion, divorce, embryonic stem-cell research, and pornography.[5][6]” Prince  which joined Trump’s campaign as a major financial backer in August 2016.

He’s under investigation for money laundering and involvement with Chinese intelligence in a Lybian deal with current corporation FSB, which supplies African and conflict-zone aviation, evacuation and paramilitary support. China is heavily invested in Africa for its mining and natural resources. Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services. He is currently or planning to train the People’s Liberation Army using former US Special Ops trainers, on behalf of the Chinese government in Africa, while Bannon and Trump say the US is heading towards a trade or real war with China.

THE TESTIMONY OF ERIK PRINCE ON NOVEMBER 30, 2017, BEFORE THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

January 11, 2016, The Seychelles Meeting, arranged by the UAE Crown Prince. Afterwards, Erik Prince met with Kirill Dmitriev, per the Testimony.  Note: Prince was invited to testify by Kush Patel, major force behind the “Nunes Memo” The Atlantic.  Patel and Presley went to London in search of Christopher Steele, and in early November before the Prince testimony, Patel circulated an internal memo “urging Nunes to hold top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the Obama administration’s alleged use of the dossier to surveil Trump associates during the transition period, one of the sources told me. That memo was first reported by Fox News in November.” The Atlantic

PODCAST: Privatizing the War in Afghanistan  Recommended Reading:

New York Times: Trump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Devise Options for Afghanistan — “President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.”

The Atlantic: The ‘Blackwater 2.0’ Plan for Afghanistan — “Here’s a crazy idea floating around Washington these days, outlandish even by today’s outlandish standards: The United States should hire a mercenary army to “fix” Afghanistan, a country where we’ve been at war since 2001, spending billions along the way. The big idea here is that they could extricate U.S. soldiers from this quagmire, and somehow solve it.”

Wall Street Journal: The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan — “Afghanistan is an expensive disaster for America. The Pentagon has already consumed $828 billion on the war, and taxpayers will be liable for trillions more in veterans’ health-care costs for decades to come. More than 2,000 American soldiers have died there, with more than 20,000 wounded in action. For all that effort, Afghanistan is failing. The terrorist cohort consistently gains control of more territory, including key economic arteries. It’s time for President Trump to fix our approach to Afghanistan in five ways.”

FYI: Fellow Mercer associate Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Assistant to the President Christopher Liddell, and Sebastian Gorka, Former Breitbart writer and current Deputy Assistant to Trump and National Security Aide, formed an additional advisory group to potentially supersede the NSC called the Strategic Initiatives Group in January 2017. Reed Cordish also joined the SIG. Per reports, Robert Mercer has the largest private arsenal in the United States. Steve Bannon and other devotees of “The Fourth Turning”, want a huge war as a cleansing process, after which an idealized, structured society emerges (See his film “Generation Zero” on the Steve Bannon page).

ERIK PRINCE IN THE HOT SEAT

Blackwater’s Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, and Brokering Mercenary Services The Intercept

“He’s a rogue chairman,” said one of Prince’s close associates, who has monitored his attempts to sell mercenary forces in Africa. That source, who has extensive knowledge of Prince’s activities and travel schedule, said that Prince was operating a “secret skunkworks program” while parading around war and crisis zones as FSG’s founder and chairman. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary,” said the source. “He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy….“Erik is always pressing the limits as to what is possible,” said the close associate of Prince’s. In 2010, Prince sold most of his equity in the companies that fell under the Blackwater umbrella. Claiming that left-wing activists, Democratic politicians, and lawsuits had destroyed his companies, he left the United States and became a resident of Abu Dhabi. The remnant of his network was renamed Academi LLC. Federal prosecutors eventually attempted to prosecute Prince’s former companies, culminating in a 2012 deferred prosecution agreement to settle a lengthy list of U.S. legal and regulatory violations committed from 2005 through 2008 when Prince was in charge, including ITAR violations.” ITAR is International Traffic in Arms Regulations, issued by the State Department’s (currently under Rex Tillerson) Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.” The Intercept

Blackwater Founder Said to Have Advised Trump Team  Bloomberg By Keri Geiger and Michael Riley
April 18, 2017 “During the Iraq war, Blackwater landed more than $1 billion worth of government contracts to provide personal protection for visiting officials and assist with military operations and, according to Prince’s memoir, carry out covert operations for the Central Intelligence Agency.  Click here for more on Erik Prince’s work in Iraq”  Bloomberg

NOTORIOUS MERCENARY ERIK PRINCE IS ADVISING TRUMP FROM THE SHADOWS  The Intercept  January 17, 2017  “Prince has long fantasized that he is the rightful heir to the legacy of “Wild Bill” Donovan and his Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After 9/11, Prince worked with the CIA on a secret assassination program, in addition to offering former SEALs and other retired special operators to the State Department and other agencies for personal security…The Trump presidency could result in Prince working for both Beijing and the White House. The Blackwater founder has also endorsed some of Trump’s overtures to Russia, saying: “Think about it: If FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can deal with Stalin to defeat German fascism in World War II, certainly the United States of America could work with Putin to defeat Islamic fascism. We don’t have to agree with the Russians on everything, or even on a lot, but we can at least agree that crushing ISIS in the Middle East is a very good idea.” Prince described Democrats as “anti-Catholic, anti-Evangelical,” saying the DNC hacks and leaks revealed “the disregard, the disdain they have for the average American voter and citizen.” Prince has a close relationship with Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior counselor and chief strategist. Prince has appeared frequently — and almost exclusively — on Breitbart Radio. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign. According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in December Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball hosted by Mercer. Dowd wrote that Palantir founder Peter Thiel showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ‘N.S.F.I.’ (Not Safe for the Internet).” The Intercept

Betsy DeVos’s Brother, The Founder of Blackwater, Is Setting Up A Private Army For China, Sources Say

The controversial Blackwater founder says he is setting up two bases in China, but his company says “this does not involve armed personnel.Aram Roston “In December (2016), Frontier Services Group, of which Prince is chairman, issued a press release that outlined plans to open “a forward operating base in China’s Yunnan province” and another in the troubled Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority. When Frontier later told its board it was shifting into security services — largely to assist China’s international development policy — the development disgusted two American executives at Prince’s Hong Kong company. Gregg Smith, the former CEO of Frontier, said he was ready to quit last March if Erik Prince was not removed from the company. Then, at a board meeting late that month, he said a company official made clear that Frontier would be providing security services in support of Chinese government objectives. “That was the final straw,” he told BuzzFeed News. Retired US Admiral William Fallon, a Frontier board member, was at the same board meeting. He resigned too when he heard that the firm was providing security services. “That wasn’t what I signed up for,” he said in an interview. Former executives said that Frontier’s “forward operating bases” will be training former People’s Liberation Army soldiers to work as discreet non-uniformed soldiers for hire. The former associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Prince “is making Frontier Services a full-on private military company.” President Donald Trump has talked tough about China. To be sure, he recently reaffirmed that the United States will formally recognize only mainland China and not Taiwan, a crucial point for Beijing. But Trump has installed a sharply anti-China critic as the head of his National Trade Council. Before winning the presidency, Trump called China an “enemy.” Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, who interviewed Prince on Breitbart frequently, predicted last year that the US will be at war with China “in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” And even if no hot war breaks out, many experts believe Trump is gearing up for a trade war with the country that manufactures much of the world’s goods (including some Trump brand products.) During the campaign, Prince donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Committee, which supported both Trump’s election bid and the Republican Party. Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who has long covered Prince, recently wrote that the businessman is advising the Trump Administration. Just four days before the election, Prince gave an interview to Breitbart radio, part of the media empire that Bannon used to run, in which Prince pushed an unfounded theory that the NYPD had been about to announce arrest warrants in the Clinton investigation but was blocked by the Justice Department, and that Hillary Clinton had been to a “sex island” with a convicted pedophile “at least six times.” Prince’s bizarre claims were prominently displayed on Breitbart’s website leading up to the election and were widely distributed on right wing websites.” Buzzfeed

New Super-PAC Launches for Donors Who Won’t Back Trump But Loathe Clinton

Supported by former Ted Cruz backer Robert Mercer, a new player enters the fray. Bloomberg By Joshua Green and Zachary Mider 

June 21, 2016: The Robert Mercer-led Super-Pac “Make America Number One” aka “Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC” with Kellyanne Conway, president of Keep the Promise PAC, led by long-time Clinton hater David Bossie, president of Citizens United, made headlines appealing to Republican donors who don’t like Trump after their candidate Cruz dropped out. Bloomberg

INVOLVEMENT WITH TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM

“Blackwater Founder said to Have Advised Trump Team” Bloomberg “In one informal discussion in late November, Prince spoke openly with two members of Trump’s transition team on a train bound from New York to Washington. He boarded the same Acela as Kellyanne Conway and they sat together. Joining the conversation at one point was Kevin Harrington, a longtime associate of Trump adviser Peter Thiel who is now on the National Security Council. They discussed, in broad terms, major changes the incoming administration envisioned for the intelligence community, as recounted by a person on the train who overheard their conversation. A longtime critic of government defense and security policies, Prince advocated a restructuring of security agencies as well as a thorough rethink of costly defense programs, even if it meant canceling existing major contracts in favor of smaller ones, said a person familiar with the matter. Prince is no longer talking to those in the administration, said the person close to him, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were intended to remain private. His influence waned after Flynn was ousted as National Security Adviser in February over concerns about his own disclosures and conversations with the Russian ambassador. And Prince has no relationship with Flynn’s successor, General H. R. McMaster.”

April 3, 2017, The Washington Post “Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel”   “Prince is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a security firm that became a symbol of U.S. abuses in Iraq after a series of incidents, including one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and later criminally convicted — of killing civilians in a crowded Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was subsequently re-branded, but has continued building a private paramilitary empire with contracts across the Middle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based company known as the Frontier Services Group……The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.  The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions. Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian. Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.  ” Washington Post Continued

Erik Prince in the Hot Seat  March 24, 2016 “Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case. What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence. Despite the provenance of FSG’s funding and Prince’s history of bad publicity, Prince was able to recruit an impressive line-up of former U.S. military and intelligence officers to run the company. Key to Prince’s ability to retain such personnel, given FSG’s ties to China, has been the firm’s strictly circumscribed mission, which does not include military-related services. FSG is a publicly traded aviation and logistics firm specializing in shipping in Africa and elsewhere. The company also conducts high-risk evacuations from conflict zones. Prince has described his work with FSG as being “on the side of peace and economic development” and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa. Behind the back of corporate leadership at FSG, Prince was living a double life. Working with a small cadre of loyalists — including a former South African commando, a former Australian air force pilot, and a lawyer with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel — Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince’s business proposals. Several of the proposals for private security services in African nations examined by The Intercept contained metadata in the digital files showing Prince and his inner circle editing and revising various drafts. Since 2014, Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force, secretly meeting with a string of African officials. Among the countries where Prince pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets is Libya, which is currently subject to an array of U.S. and United Nations financial and defense restrictions…The Libyan proposal, reviewed by The Intercept, was code-named Operation Lima. It offered the Libyans an array of military equipment and services — including weaponized vehicles, helicopters, boats, and surveillance airplanes — to help stabilize eastern Libya. The ground force, according to a person involved with the plan, would consist of a troop of former Australian special operations commandos...By May 2015, Prince had rebranded himself and claimed a legitimate public reputation as FSG’s chairman. Without the approval of FSG’s management, he returned to Libya offering a freshly repackaged proposal. Prince’s private force would operate in Libya for the stated purpose of stopping the flow of refugees to Europe…One person involved in Prince’s plan said the anti-migration force was seen as a vehicle for Prince to build a “backdoor” for so-called kinetic, or lethal, operations in Libya — a form of mercenary mission-creep. “During the day, you do interdiction of migrants — not kinetic,” said the person involved in the plan. “But those routes are used by weapons smugglers and drug traffickers at night. Insurgents too. Erik’s guys can then be offered to the Libyans to help with their other problems. That’s how you get kinetic.” By then, the U.S. government was already investigating Prince for possible weapons deals in Africa, according to the former senior U.S. intelligence official and the former intelligence official briefed on the matter. In the course of the surveillance operation for that investigation, U.S. intercepts revealed Prince appearing to discuss efforts to open bank accounts in China to help his Libyan associates. “Money laundering for Libyan officials using a Chinese bank — that is the issue that pushed it over the edge” for the Justice Department, said the second former intelligence official. The U.S. spies monitoring Prince soon discovered that he had traveled to the Chinese-controlled peninsula of Macau in an effort to open a bank account, according to two people familiar with the investigation.Later, Prince traveled to Beijing, where he met with Chinese agents from the Ministry of State Security. In January (2016), Prince returned to Macau and opened an account at the Bank of China, according to several sources, including the second former intelligence official and the source with close connections to Macau’s banking community. “It was not a personal account,” said the former U.S. intelligence official briefed on the investigation. “He was doing it for the purpose of what is considered now — in the investigation — money laundering on behalf of the Libyans.” The Intercept