Sociopaths like Ric Prado rise to leadership positions in rogue agency that acts with utter disregard for the law
If you’ve watched Fox News or CNN or if you’ve read the Washington Post or New York Times over the past two weeks, you will have been told that Enrique “Ric” Prado is a bona fide American hero. The former chief of operations in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) and former operations officer in the CIA’s Special Activities Division has just come out with a new book, Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior. The title is a true representation of what the book is, even if it dances around directness.
Ric Prado’s job at the CIA was to head the units charged with killing, kidnapping, torturing, and secretly incarcerating people around the world. Sure, it was wartime. Sure, war is hell. But the United States is also a nation of laws. And Ric Prado, the Counterterrorism Center, and the CIA chose to ignore those laws. Now Prado is getting rich writing about it.
Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior is what you might expect it to be. It’s an overly long and self-indulgent tome of how the Cuban refugee fled Communism at the age of 10 and made good in a new land. Prado clearly loves his parents, his Cuban culture, his wife and kids, and the CIA. There are no surprises there.
Prado is what CIA analysts used to derisively call a “knuckle-dragger,” a guy with long military service who joined the CIA not to think the big thoughts, not to write for the President’s Daily Brief, the morning compendium of intelligence updates from around the world, not to end up at the White House, making policy at the National Security Council. Prado and people like him joined the CIA because they loved the violence. They love the adrenalin rush of parachuting into denied areas to kick asses and take names. They love guns, they love blowing things up, and they love the simplicity of a life where there are only good guys, bad guys, and civilians.
That’s what this book is about, for the most part. In painstaking detail, Prado walks us through his heroics with the Nicaraguan Contras, those champions of freedom and democracy who overthrew the government of Daniel Ortega before collapsing under the weight of their own corruption and drug trafficking.
The latter part isn’t covered in this book. Instead, you’ll read about “blood-covered, machete-wielding Marxists,” about how “Marxists would murder dogs and hang them from light poles as a warning to anyone trying to oppose them,” and how “hatred for the Marxists burned hot.”
The reader is treated to comments like, “I so wanted to double tap them,” meaning Marxists, and describing the assassination tactic of two quick shots to the back of the head.
You get the idea. The whole book is like this until later in Prado’s career, when it became more fashionable to hate Muslims than Marxists.
I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow of Prado’s “heroics” against al-Qaeda. There are 120 lightly redacted pages about it. What I prefer to talk about is what Prado leaves out of the book, what he leaves out of his entire life story.
The Miami New Times reported in 2012 that Prado, before joining the CIA, had been a hit man for an organized crime figure in south Florida in the 1970s and 1980s. Journalist Gus Garcia-Roberts wrote,
Criminals tend to talk a lot of shit. So journalist Evan Wright wasn’t exactly convinced when a former cocaine mega-smuggler told him he once performed a contract murder with a drug-world enforcer who went on to become a CIA spy. But when Wright researched the claim, he was stunned. Hard evidence showed a high-level spook specializing in counterterrorism was suspected by the Miami-Dade Police Department in not one, but seven murders—and was apparently protected from prosecution through his connections in the CIA.
(Wright’s) investigation traces Enrique ‘Ricky’ Prado from alleged Mafia hit man and drug dealer to his perch near the top of the CIA and then Blackwater, the private contractor that has handled much of the United States’ dirty work in Iraq. Prado first appeared on Wright’s radar when he was co-authoring former Medellín cartel smuggler Jon Roberts’s memoir, American Desperado. The since-deceased Roberts bragged that he and Prado had gunned down Richard Schwartz—famed gangster Meyer Lansky’s stepson—in a North Bay Village hit in 1977. Wright unearthed thousands of pages in documents, he writes, that implicated Prado in so many murders that one investigator said he was “technically a serial killer.”
I don’t know if Ric Prado is or was a serial killer. I don’t know if he was a hit man for the Medellin cartel. I don’t know if he was a drug dealer. Although I briefly worked directly for him; our encounters were never more than, “Morning, Ric. Morning, John.”
What I do know is this: The CIA attracts psychopaths and sociopaths who can easily pass a polygraph exam and who tend to rise to leadership positions because they are comfortable climbing on the backs of those around them to get to the top.
Psychopaths and sociopaths are unable to feel remorse or regret. Their brains just won’t allow them to.
Couple that with “patriotism” and secrecy and you have a rogue organization, a governmental body that knows institutionally that it can act with impunity, with utter disregard for the law, and get away with it.
It’s that system that attracts, cultivates, and advances people like Ric Prado. Want to know what’s wrong with the CIA? Look no further than this book.