Pompeo Asked to Probe What's Going on with American Mercenaries

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

WASHINGTON -- The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. needs to investigate reports of American mercenaries working abroad for possible violations of the law.

Frontier Services Group, which was created by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, days ago announced a preliminary deal with China to build a training center in Xinjiang. Up to a million Uyghurs have been imprisoned in government indoctrination camps in the region.

In October, Buzzfeed reported on the Delaware-incorporated Spear Operations Group using American mercenaries in a targeted assassination campaign in Yemen sanctioned by the UAE.

"These reports, if accurate, raise troubling questions about what roles some U.S. citizens are performing in supporting foreign governments in combat, human rights abuses, and political suppression," Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wrote to Pompeo today. "They also raise questions about potential violations of U.S. law, and whether the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and the Department of Justice are aware of these activities, have formally approved them, or are investigating these individuals for possible violations of U.S. law."

The senator added that "despite repeated inquiries and requests for a briefing on these matters by my staff, the department has yet to comply."

Seeking responses in writing, Menendez asked if the State Department knew about the reported assassination team or whether Erik Prince has a license pursuant to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

"Has the Department of State issued any licenses or provided informal approval to Spear Operations Group, or any individuals affiliated with that entity, to carry out any military services in Yemen? If so, what activities are covered?" the letter continues. "Under the administration’s interpretation of U.S. law and regulations, does the provision of military or security services to foreign government entities require export licenses? If so, please provide the relevant legal interpretation, as well as a determination of whether the above-referenced U.S. entities have received, or should have received, licenses to provide these or other military, defense or security and related services to foreign governments."

Menendez also asked whether the State Department has initiated any investigations into the alleged mercenary activities, and what was the status or findings from such probes.

"Is the Department of State aware of any other U.S. agency investigating the above-referenced activities?" he added.

Pompeo was asked to have answers back to the committee by Feb. 22.