President Donald Trump may have found his way to combat one of his worst enemies, the so-called “Deep State.”
The Trump administration is reportedly weighing the creation of a private network of spies conjured up by former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a former CIA officer, and famous Iran-Contra scandal figure Oliver North, that would gather intelligence for CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House and keep the rest of the U.S. intelligence community in the dark of what it discovers, according to a report by The Intercept on Tuesday.
The purpose of the global spy network would be to circumvent the “Deep State,” a term widely used to describe long-time officials within the government who seemingly possess a political agenda meant to undermine an administration. Trump has repeatedly claimed, with no evidence, that such an underground group exists and has worked against him since he took office earlier this year.
The proposal of a private clandestine network appeared rooted in distrust the current administration had for the intelligence community. Top political donors to Trump were reportedly asked to help finance operations before any agreement was reached.
“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official with “firsthand knowledge” of the proposal told The Intercept.
“It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” the official also said. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”
Prince’s involvement may represent problems for the proposal given both his past and links to the Trump-Russia scandal. Guards with his old private security firm, Blackwater, were accused and later convicted of killing civilians in Iraq. Prince, the brother to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, was also tasked to open a “back-channel line of communication” between then president-elect Trump and Russia in January, according to The Washington Post.
The White House and National Security Council denied any such proposal had taken place and slammed the very notion of a private network. “I can find no evidence that this ever came to the attention of anyone at the NSC or [White House] at all,” a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement to The Intercept. “The White House does not and would not support such a proposal.”
The report claims the private spies would attempt to gain intelligence in places like North Korea and Iran. Other extreme measures, like a global rendition program and a propaganda effort in the Middle East, are also reportedly under consideration.
Pompeo, who was recently labeled a possible successor to current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has reportedly urged the White House to go ahead with the private contract. However, the CIA said The Intercept had been fed “inaccurate information by people peddling an agenda.”