The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official US intelligence agencies, The Intercept reported on Tuesday.
The proposals would utilize an army of spies with no official cover in several countries deemed "denied areas" for current American intelligence personnel, including North Korea and Iran. The White House has also considered creating a new global rendition unit meant to capture terrorist suspects around the world, as well as a propaganda campaign in the Middle East and Europe to combat Islamic extremism and Iran.
At the heart of the scheme being considered by the White House are Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his longtime associate, CIA veteran John R. Maguire, who currently works for the intelligence contractor Amyntor Group. Maguire also served on Trump’s transition team. Amyntor’s role was first reported by BuzzFeed News. Prince and Maguire deny they are working together.
"I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or [White House] at all," wrote Michael N. Anton, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, in an email. "The White House does not and would not support such a proposal." However, a current US intelligence official appeared to contradict that assertion, stating that the various proposals were first pitched at the White House before being delivered to the CIA.
Sources told The Intercept that several senior officials had been briefed on the plans by Prince, including Vice President Mike Pence. His spokesperson wrote there was "no record of [Prince] ever having met with or briefed the VP."