This is a story that the CIA will not want you to read. It will likely shake your faith in the highest levels of America's national security establishment. It will make you question the integrity of formerly unimpeachable public officials. And it will leave you feeling as if you are living not in the United States but in a seedy banana republic where there is no line between the good guys and the bad guys.
In the new Byliner Original, How to Get Away with Murder in America, the celebrated journalist Evan Wright reveals the extraordinary story of Enrique "Ricky" Prado, an alleged killer for a major Miami drug trafficker who was recruited into the CIA. Despite a grand jury subpoena and a mountain of evidence unearthed by a federal task force, Prado was promoted into the agency's highest echelons and charged with implementing some of the country's most sensitive post-9/11 counterterrorist operations, including the agency's secret "targeted assassination unit." All while staying in close touch with his cocaine-trafficking boss and, evidence suggests, taking part in additional killings for him.
After Prado retired in 2004 at the rank of SIS-2—the CIA equivalent of a two-star general—he moved to a senior position at Blackwater, the private military contractor, where he continued to run the same, now-outsourced "death squad." Contrary to government assurances that it was never actually activated, Wright reveals explosive testimony from one of the Blackwater assassins that Prado's unit was indeed carrying out assigned killings. As a former military intelligence officer told Wright in 2011, "Private contractors are whacking people like crazy over in Afghanistan for the CIA."
In the book, Wright discloses never-before-seen federal investigation files and lays out a mind-boggling and ultimately damning indictment of Ricky Prado and the intelligence community that embraced and empowered him. It is the deeply disturbing story of a criminal case abandoned because of CIA intervention, political maneuvering, and possibly corruption. Its cast includes Mafia capos, former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former CNN host Rick Sanchez, and Prado's longtime boss at the CIA and then Blackwater, J. Cofer Black, who is now a "special adviser" to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Wright also delivers a stunning portrait of Prado's childhood friend Albert San Pedro, a.k.a. "the Maniac," the drug lord whom he served for years as loyal bodyguard and enforcer, as well as their longtime nemesis Mike Fisten, the detective who began pursuing them more than two decades ago and still hopes to put them both in prison for murder.
There are many conspiracies in Wright's story, all of them unsettling. Did the CIA knowingly hire a suspected murderer with strong ties to drug traffickers? Or was the agency a stooge, infiltrated by an underworld hood described by one investigator as "technically, a serial killer"?
Wright's fascinating story is likely to have serious repercussions for the U.S. national security establishment. And it will shake to the core your conceptions of government and justice in America.
Evan Wright is the recipient of two National Magazine Awards, the author of the bestselling Generation Kill and Hella Nation, and the co-author of American Desperado. His reporting has also been included in The Best American Crime Writing. He co-wrote the HBO series Generation Kill, based on his book.