AMY GOODMAN: Writing in The Nation Magazine, journalist Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent has revealed Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan.
A military intelligence source said Blackwater operatives are effectively running the drone bombings for both JSOC and the CIA. The CIA drone program is already public knowledge. But the military source says some of the deadliest drone attacks in attributed to the CIA were actually carried out by JSOC. The article also reveals Blackwater operatives have taken part in ground operations with Pakistani forces under a subcontract with a local security firm. The operations have included house raids and border interdictions in northwest Pakistan and other areas.
Blackwater has also been given responsibility for planning JSOC operations in Uzbekistan. The Nation reports the program has become so secretive the top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. Independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill broke the story for The Nation Magazine. He joins us in our New York studio for its first television interview since the article’s publication last night. Jeremy, welcome to “Democracy Now!” Lay out what you have learned so far.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well Amy, just by way of background, we do know that beginning in 2006, the Bush administration struck a deal with the Pakistani government that would allow U.S. Special Operations forces from the Joint Special Operations Command to enter Pakistan with the understanding that there were, "Following the target, " the target being Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. As part of that agreement, the Pakistani government insisted they have the right to A, deny that the United States had permission to enter the country and B, be able to condemn U.S. actions in their country as a sort of a violation of their sovereignty. But the understanding was struck in 2006. What I understand now from the military intelligence source and another U.S. military source that confirmed what I was initially told by the military intelligence source, is that in fact there are active covert operations on an ongoing basis that are not just about targeting Osama bin Laden.
What we understand now is the Joint Special Operations Command, which from 2003-2008 was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, who has now been promoted and is the head of all US forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and is pushing for a very large troop increase, he ran that program from 2003-2008. Now its being headed by Admiral William Craven, who is the head of all JSOC operations. So, you have on the one hand the allegation from these military sources that JSOC has coverts bases throughout Pakistan, that they are running a drone bombing campaign runs parallel to that of the CIA, and that Blackwater forces have been at the center of this operation, according to my sources, since at least 2007. And as part of the work they’re doing for JSOC and Pakistan, I am told they are essentially an intelligence cell, if you will, that is planning strikes, gathering intelligence, as well as planning operations inside of Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.