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Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto

Blackwater and Monsanto

I don’t know why I was shocked. Both Blackwater (now re-branded “Xe Services”) and Monsanto are corporations that have, as my grandmother used to say, “grown too big for their britches.” And that’s putting it mildly. Why should I be surprised that Monsanto hired Blackwater’s intelligence agency arm, Total Intelligence Solutions, to infiltrate anti-GMO activist groups and monitor the blogs of those organizing against the company?

Last week, Jeremy Scahill reported about the scope of Blackwater’s Black Ops. Many big name companies had hired the world’s largest covert intelligence-gathering business (think of it like a private, mercenary version of the CIA), but it was Monsanto who Mr. Scahill singled out in his article in The Nation.

From the article:

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

When confronted about their involvement with Blackwater, Monsanto initially declined to comment, but later fessed up:

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto’s Wilson initially said, “I’m not going to discuss it with you.” In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating “there was no such discussion.” He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto “with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was “a completely separate entity from Blackwater.”

So there you have it, anti-GMO bloggers. Your website was being regularly monitored by Blackwater! And if you ever got involved in any local activist organizations, you might have even had a spy in your midst.

Isn’t it amazing that the stakes around your food choices are so high that Monsanto actually resorted to hiring mercenary spies? We all know that they hire PR people to help spin public opinion. Some of their consultants and reps have even commented here at Food Renegade and on other blogs that I follow. But spies? Really? Has it come to that?

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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25 Responses to Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto
  1. Jenny
    September 23, 2010 | 10:42 am

    Positively shameful, but wholly unsurprising. Food is politics, politics is food. The USDA and FDA and various health departments and the corn “sugar” people have been regular visitors in the past too, at least on my site, though I don’t track it like I used to. I’d like them to stick around – maybe they’d learn something, however unlikely.
    .-= Jenny´s last blog post …A Recipe- Wild Mushroom Stew with Grass-fed Beef =-.

  2. hiddenart
    September 23, 2010 | 1:24 pm

    Reading @foodrenegade Blackwater the Intel Arm of Monsanto #evil

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. nrworld
    September 23, 2010 | 1:25 pm

    Blackwater and Monsanto working together to ruin our food supply.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. MassageBenefits
    September 23, 2010 | 1:25 pm

    Blackwater and Monsanto working together to ruin our food supply.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. lovelynb
    September 23, 2010 | 1:25 pm

    Blackwater and Monsanto working together to ruin our food supply.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. Lovelyn
    September 23, 2010 | 1:26 pm

    Horrible, but somehow not shocking at all.
    .-= Lovelyn´s last blog post …The Friendly Skies =-.

  7. kami
    September 23, 2010 | 2:26 pm

    you’ve got to be kidding me. absolutely outrageous.

  8. Renaeech
    September 23, 2010 | 8:28 pm

    Reading @foodrenegade Blackwater the %E2%80%98Intel Arm%E2%80%99 of Monsanto

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. bktango
    September 23, 2010 | 9:03 pm

    Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. CosmicRainbow
    September 24, 2010 | 5:27 am

    > Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto | Food Renegade >

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  11. friendsdriftinn
    September 24, 2010 | 12:04 pm

    And you wonder why agribusiness gets a black eye? Spies with eyes on food bloggers? #agchat #ag #gmo

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. ewinkler
    September 24, 2010 | 2:19 pm

    Forget #evil (retweeted without checking) but do see Food Renegade’s great blog about Blackwater helping Monsanto

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. helladelicious
    September 24, 2010 | 6:20 pm

    #Blackwater: the Intelligence Arm of Monsanto #postgrowth #gmo #realfood #xe #monsanto

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  14. Maynardo
    September 24, 2010 | 7:29 pm

    Blackwater was hired by Monsanto. #fourthreich

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. Louisa
    September 25, 2010 | 1:22 am

    And if you had google ads they would now be advertising liberty canola. they pick up on the Monsanto in your post. Happened to me when I posted a nasty about monsanto!!! Needless to say, googleads is GONE!

  16. paulegina
    September 25, 2010 | 2:48 am

    Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto | Food Renegade

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  17. o_lucky_me
    September 25, 2010 | 2:53 am

    Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto | Food Renegade /via @paulegina

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  18. paulegina
    September 25, 2010 | 2:55 am

    @o_lucky_me Thx for the RT: Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto | Food Renegade

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  19. Heather
    September 25, 2010 | 8:07 am

    Is it just me, or does it seem like a COLLOSAL waste of money? Really, is Monsanto ever going to change the minds of those against GMOs? No. Is Big Food, the USDA, FDA ever going to be able to change the fact that the foods they produce and push on the public are lesser than the foods local, family, sustainable, as God and Nature made it farmers can produce? No. Are strong arm tactics ever going to quiet people or prevent them from learning more about what they eat? No.

    Every time one of these groups goes to extremes to “protect” their corner of the world they fail. Their outlandish tactics get press and instead of convincing people they are right, people start to look into what has them so afraid. If they really wanted to stop the real food movement they would leave it alone. Before stories like this, as well as the raw milk raids and the whole HFCS PR campaign, my in-laws looked at how I fed my family as insane. My mother in-law even considered calling child services on me for feeding my son real milk. Then as these stories starting trickling their way to her she started asking questions and investigating on her own. As her health continues to deteriorate and modern medicine and conventional food fail her she is leaning more and more towards starting a real food change of her own. She would never have given it a second thought if it weren’t for stories like this. I certainly would never have changed her mind. I was an extremist nutjob in her thoughts (I consider myself very reasonable and didn’t push my views on her at all). But the more extreme these groups become, the more reasonable she sees me and thus my views.

    So Monsanto, Corn Refiners Association and every other faux food pusher, keep it up. Please. The more you push the more people run away from you. Please, for the good of the country and the planet keep it up. Thank you.

    • James England
      September 23, 2012 | 8:32 am

      You’re absolutely right. It’s a scare tactic. TI has no jurisdiction on US soil to conduct legit intel ops. They’re doing the equivalent of what a “private eye” would be able to do. Legitimately, they have more resources and the listed sum indicates they probably had at least a part-time force allocated to the operation, but it’s nothing I would worry myself with. I’d be more worried about national assets picking up my activity than I would about some shit-heel merc outfit.

  20. rbrucecampbell
    September 25, 2010 | 10:27 am

    Blackwater the ‘Intel Arm’ of Monsanto

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  21. Cody
    September 25, 2010 | 11:24 pm

    If you were an Iraqi or Afghan civilian, they would have just shot you in the face, threw a party, hired prostitutes, then billed the government for the women, booze, and bullets. I don’t like to throw around the word “evil,” but if there was one organization that epitomizes the idea, it is Blackwater.

  22. Angel
    September 26, 2010 | 8:54 am

    Heather is right … this is a sign of quiet desperation at Monsanto, and a flashy way to waste money. The more Monsanto acts like a bull in a china shop, the more people notice how much bullcrap they are producing. I think Monsanto needs to keep shoveling money into their private intel operations, and getting more publicity about it, too.

  23. Paul Martinez Living the Organic LIFE
    March 9, 2012 | 9:33 am

    The problem is BEYOND just monsanto and its evil conspiracies, the real problem lies in a shiny frame called a mirror :

  24. James England
    September 23, 2012 | 8:27 am

    As a defense contractor, I can tell you that from the estimated amounts (~100,000+/-), that only accounts for one, maybe two (unlikely), full-timers. Because those are annual expenditures, Total Intel could not have possibly had a great dedication to their mission.

    The downside to hiring mercenaries is it is solely based off of financial incentive. With an annual expenditure covering +100,000 USD, all that means is that their analysts actively set the equivalent of “google news alert” for a laundry list of keywords. And, of course, lastly, it means that they were only partially dedicated to Monsanto’s program.

    IF Monsanto expended closer to 500,000 USD in the future, however, you would see a much larger and concerted effort by TI to aggressively pursue “threats”.

    My total guess is that the expenditure only accounts for billable hours. Of which, I would estimate they had the equivalent of two part-time analysts and maybe a project lead.

    If they ever sent infiltrators, they’d be easy to pick out from a crowd. You can smell ex-spec ops mercenaries from a mile away, even if they grow beards and pony-tails.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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