Friday, May 13, 2011

Sons of Blackwater Open Corporate Spying Shop

wired

Veterans from the most infamous private security firm on Earth and one of the military’s most controversial datamining operations are teaming up to provide the Fortune 500 with their own private spies.

Take one part Blackwater, and another part Able Danger, the military data-mining op that claimed to have identified members of al-Qaida living in the United States before 9/11. Put ‘em together, and you’ve got a new company called Jellyfish.

Jellyfish is about corporate-information dominance. It swears it’s leaving all the spy-world baggage behind. No guns, no governments digging through private records of its citizens.

“Our organization is not going to be controversial,” pledges Keith Mahoney, the Jellyfish CEO, a former Navy officer and senior executive with Blackwater’s intelligence arm, Total Intelligence Solutions. Try not to make a joke about corporate mercenaries.

His partners know from controversy. Along with Mahoney, there’s Michael Yorio, the executive vice president for business development and another Blackwater vet; Yorio recently prepped the renamed Xe Services for its life after founder Erik Prince sold it.

Jellyfish’s chief technology officer is J.D. Smith, who was part of Able Danger until lawyers for the U.S. Special Operations Command shut the program down in 2000. Also from Able Danger is Tony Shaffer, Jellyfish’s “military operations adviser” and the ex-Defense Intelligence Agency operative who became the public face of the program in dramatic 2005 congressional testimony.

But Jellyfish isn’t about merging mercenaries with data sifters. And it’s not about going after short money like government contracts. (Although, the firm is based in D.C., where the intel community is and the titans of corporate America aren’t.)

During a Thursday press conference in Washington that served as a coming-out party for the company, Jellyfish’s executives described an all-purpose “private-sector intelligence” firm.

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