The Grab (2022) Movie Script

(indistinct chatter)
Director: And then
in terms of national security,
are there things
you could say now...
that perhaps
you couldn't say then,
about impending
national security issues
and world-conflict
scenario here?
Is there a world conflict
in terms of like, World War III?
- (ominous music playing)
- Schoonover: Well, I mean...
That scenario does not
sound improbable to me.
Reporter 1:
Just yesterday, the UN
Secretary General warned...
Reporter 2: the current social
environmental vulnerabilities
need to be implemented...
(overlapping news reports)
Reporter 3:
...on the brink of an all-out
civil war right now.
Reporter 4:
China is deploying troops
to its first overseas
military base in Djibouti.
(overlapping news reports)
(protestors chanting)
(overlapping news reports
Reporter 5: The importance
of our food supply, and security
and safety
cannot be underestimated.
- (man yelling in Arabic)
- (gunshot)
(scattered cries)
(ominous music continues)
- (beeping)
- (door unlocking)
I've covered stuff in the past
that people told me
I should be concerned about.
You know, that I should be
watching my back.
I did a story that exposed
corrupt bankers
that resulted in people
losing millions of dollars
and hating my guts.
There she is.
Nate: I've gotten troves
of secret information
from withinside of Facebook
that showed how employees
talked about knowingly duping
children out of money.
I'm gonna actually cut this.
Nate: Goodbye, internet.
I have reported in Macau,
going out and drinking
with the triad bosses.
I was told they would dangle me
out of my hotel room balcony
and drop me.
It feels safe. How safe is it?
Zach: Pretty safe.
Yeah, this project
has kept me up at night
more than all of my other
investigative reporting projects
(ominous music concludes)
Nate: Testing, one, two, three.
Testing, one, two, three.
- Director: Uh-huh, that's okay.
- Okay.
Cool, are we ready?
(overlapping chatter)
All right.
Hi, I'm Nate Halverson,
a reporter... I'll start over.
Hi, I'm Nate Halverson,
an Emmy award-winning reporter
and producer here at the Center
for Investigative Reporting.
We're one of... We're
the largest... (clears throat)
It's difficult to say
when I started on this project,
because this project, sort of,
just started as one thing
and then just,
totally just like,
ate up seven years of my life.
(pensive music playing)
Nate: I got a call one day
and I was asked
to look at this takeover
of Smithfield Foods.
Smithfield agreeing
to be acquired
by China's Shuanghui
International for...
Nate: This was the largest
purchase of an American business
by a Chinese company ever,
and still is to date.
And so when I started
looking at the numbers,
this was effectively one in four
American pigs
that the Chinese bought,
essentially overnight.
Senator: I mean, did you expect
that this committee
would hold a hearing
on the acquisition?
Larry: Uh, I don't know
that I contemplated that, no.
Senator: Did you realize
you were the victim
of a Chinese Communist plot?
(committee laughing)
(laughs) Senator, I did not...
To this moment, I'm not sure
I understand I'm the victim
- of a Communist plot.
- Senator: And the control of...
There was a lot of question
even if the Chinese government
was behind it.
And if they were behind it, why?
And I think it's that "why"
that was concerning people.
And they wanted to know,
you know,
is another country making moves
to control part
of the American food supply?
Uh, would you agree
that Shuanghui
is a state-controlled company?
No, I would not agree, Senator,
that it is
a state-controlled company.
It is... I mean, I think the...
I think that's fairly easy
to research.
Nate: Larry Pope was
the CEO of Smithfield Foods.
He told Congress that he doesn't
think the Chinese government
is behind the takeover
of his company.
Director: So...
But I went to China. (chuckles)
(speaking Chinese)
Nate: (in English) I flew to,
like, the Nebraska of China.
I mean, I met with the president
of Shuanghui.
Welcome to Shuanghui.
Nate: He gave me
a tour of the factory.
(speaking Chinese)
Nate: (in English)
After that, I flew to Hong Kong
to meet with more
of the company's executives.
I was given a big, thick book,
um, that very explicitly says,
"Do not distribute
in the United States."
Um, because it's
full of information...
I mean, I took it back
to the United States
because it was full
of information. (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah, I mean,
when people say
"follow the money,"
this is, like,
literally following the money.
This is getting the book that
breaks down every single dollar
of the largest-ever Chinese
purchase of an American company.
Buried within this thing
is, like, treasure.
A lot of it's really boring,
and then there'll be
pure treasure.
And so, I knew
that the Bank of China
had arranged the financing
of this deal.
And the Bank of China is owned
by the Chinese government.
It's controlled and run
by the Chinese government.
And so I opened up
their annual report
and smack dab in there
is an entire page
devoted to the takeover
of Smithfield Foods.
And it says that it does its,
quote, "social responsibility,"
and is carrying out the national
strategies of the government.
So by the time I sat down
with Larry Pope,
I had the goods.
(indistinct chatter)
(pensive music concludes)
- All right.
- Nate: Yeah.
- Assistant: Larry, it is 1:15.
- Larry: Okay.
- Assistant:
I just wanted you to...
- Any more questions?
Is there any other burning
question I haven't asked?
Nate: Can I show you
something really quick?
I'm just gonna show you
the, uh...
This is the Bank
of China document
where they lay this out.
I didn't know they did it
in 24 hours.
You can see here,
I just mark it. I mean...
They're saying
that that transaction
is part of the government's plan
and they're supporting it
and it's their
social responsibility.
"The Bank performs
its social responsibility."
"The Bank spares no efforts
to support Chinese
enterprises in their..." Wow.
Overnight, Wan Long,
the Chairman of WH Group,
picked up the phone, made a call
to the Bank of China,
and the next day they had
five billion bucks.
One in four American pigs.
Larry: All right.
- Nate: Thanks so much
for the time.
- Good luck.
(suspenseful music playing)
Nate: It's just one deal.
It was one deal,
I was able to get
to the bottom of it.
The Chinese government
was behind the deal.
...the largest
Chinese takeover...
Nate: You can turn on
Fox Business News,
and you just keep seeing
"big food deal, big food deal."
And then all of a sudden,
it kind of comes to me,
like, "Wait a minute, what...
Are other countries doing this?"
That's the scale of it.
A vast leak of thousands
of documents
from U.S. embassies
and other diplomatic outposts...
Nate: So, around this time,
I start digging
through WikiLeaks,
which had dumped, like, 200,000
State Department cables online.
(pensive music playing)
I'd just start going through,
I mean, there's 818 results.
And I came across
this classified cable,
uh, "Food security agriculture
getting spotlight."
It was basically the Embassy
in Riyadh
sending information back
to the State Department,
back to the U.S. government,
saying that King Abdullah
is telling his companies
to go overseas and buy up
food and water resources.
The cables,
these classified cables
made it really clear this was
a national security issue
for Saudi Arabia.
It wasn't just they
were concerned
about running out of water,
they were running out of water.
So, there was like a time
in the '90s
when Saudi Arabia was
the world's sixth-largest
exporter of wheat.
A desert country pumping up
its groundwater
to grow wheat
and export to other places.
And that didn't last.
Saudi Arabia had drained so much
water from their aquifers,
they were nearly gone
in 30 years, in a generation.
(pensive music concludes)
And so King Abdullah had to say
to his companies
and to his nation, like,
"We got to go overseas
and find our food and water."
And that's the pattern.
That's the pattern
we're starting to see.
(mysterious music playing)
Nate: One of the first things
I stumbled upon was that
a Saudi Arabian company
had bought
effectively 15 square miles in
the middle of nowhere, Arizona.
This place, La Paz County.
(mysterious music concludes)
Holly: ...concerned about
our basins here in La Paz County
and, um, you know,
so I'm grateful
that we're able to keep it
on the forefront,
let them know
that you know what,
we're a small county, but we
matter, and stuff like that.
So, anyways, you guys
enjoy your margaritas.
- Woman: Thank you.
- Okay, thanks.
I've heard from people,
the residents,
that they've gotten
so frustrated that they've
talked about
taking their trucks,
their off-road vehicles,
and tearing up fields.
I've heard them mention
throwing bombs down their wells.
(tense music playing)
Holly: The biggest farm is going
to be Fondomonte,
the Saudis, the Saudi Arabians.
Their facility
that they have is just huge.
It's like
their own little world.
This wasn't... I didn't see
this here a month ago.
Here you have trucks
that are being weighed,
filled up with hay in the back,
so they can ship the hay
either to China, Saudi Arabia...
I have no idea how many
heads of cattle
that they're feeding over there.
All I know is that
I've been told
that that's what they're
using their hay for.
Sucking our water dry
in order to grow hay,
so they can ship it overseas
back to their country,
so they can feed their cows.
We have the aquifers
underneath this,
and some of these pumps
that they're installing
can pump up
to 3,500 gallons per minute.
Millions and millions
of gallons of water.
In a lot of these
areas in Arizona,
there's no regulation
to how much water you can pump.
You buy the land, free to pump
as much water as you want.
So, this big Saudi Arabian
dairy company goes to Arizona
and quickly becomes
one of the largest
water users in the state.
And you know,
what's happening is legal.
It's pissing a lot
of people off.
But under current law,
this is legal.
(tense music concludes)
John: Yeah, my well went dry.
It drew down
because the water's dropping.
There's not enough,
you know, rain that could...
replenish it. I mean, this is...
You couldn't replenish this
in a lifetime, you know.
(pensive music playing)
Director: When did you first
notice the water problem?
Well, I guess that would have
been the day
when the water
level went below my pump,
and the pump burned up
and melted the casing and...
Yeah, that was
a little disappointing.
I think everybody knows
the problem, but...
I don't know how to correct it.
I can't pay for
a high-powered lawyer.
Neither can any
of my friends, you know.
And what good would it
do anyway?
You know, you just take
and take and take,
and pretty soon there
ain't anything to take.
(crowd murmuring)
Holly: Because these people
are so upset.
Holly: So when I say that,
I feel her pain,
I feel your pain.
I was out all day today
taking a look at
the different farms, again.
I want conservation measures
put in place
so we can all grow
as a community,
where you guys can stay here
and so can they.
Man 1: You're saying it's
perfectly legal
for these people
to come in here,
drain the aquifer,
and the local people
have to redrill their wells that
they've lived there for years?
- And you say
that's perfectly legal?
- (applause)
Tell us what's going to be
done to improve this situation
because it's getting worse.
I know that there's large,
large tracks,
miles and miles of green
that wasn't there two years ago.
How is that possible?
I thought these...
Man 2:
...protections are allowed
to we homeowners here?
Our wells are running dry.
What we want to know is,
what are you doing for us?
- (applause)
- (overlapping chatter)
Anchor: Nathan Halverson
is the first reporter
to break this story
in the national press,
and he joins us now live.
Thank you so much
for joining us.
- Thanks.
- Producer: Three, two, one.
In China,
here outside of a small...
- Producer: Okay, again.
- Yeah.
Around me, literally, the dirt
underneath my tires is sinking.
What does it mean that you guys
have built this brand-new plant?
The wonderful smell of bacon
that pulls you out of bed
in the morning.
I was doing all
of these pieces, right?
And that's it.
I got nothing more. Fuck.
And I do a story about this
thing over here
and this thing here
and this thing there.
But I was beginning
to connect all of those stories.
We could see that other
countries around the world
were growing increasingly
worried about food and water.
And their strategies
was to buy, purchase,
grab other countries'
food and water supplies.
(keyboard clacking)
And so I began to think about
how is climate change
gonna impact, you know,
how countries grab food
and water.
And you know, the geopolitics
of food and water.
I mean, I began digging through
the Paris Accord stuff,
United Nations reports
on climate change.
And what became clear is
it's going to impact countries
very differently.
And that's when I stumbled
across Russia.
The documents showed
that Russia's food production
was going to benefit
from climate change.
Imagine an area covered
in white frost
slowly thawing out,
and in its place comes up
green crops shooting
from the ground,
followed by cattle, and sheep,
and pigs.
It kind of goes
from a desert of cold
to Iowa.
So what is Russia gonna
do about that?
Well, it turns out
one of the things
they're gonna do about it
is import American cowboys.
(cows mooing)
Todd: You know, my wife
seen an ad on the internet
and as a joke, she thought
it'd be funny as hell,
so she put my resume in.
And I was getting ready
to watch Sunday football
in Valentine, Nebraska,
and this Skype thing
come over the computer,
and I hollered at her, "Honey!"
She kind of got panicky
and said,
you need to talk to him.
It's about a job.
So I answered it,
and 30 minutes later,
I was hired.
Pretty much my wife didn't think
that was very funny
after all that, you know,
because now we're packing up
and going to Russia.
Oh, here we go. Here we go.
You guys better
give him some air.
(indistinct clamor)
Oh, he's tapped out, boys.
They don't have that in Russia.
And they figured if they were
gonna do it right,
what they needed was
the guy in the cowboy hat
with the chaps on the horse.
(rock cover of Russian
national anthem playing)
Commentator: (in Russian)
Victor: (in English)
(rock music continues
through laptop speakers)
Commentator: (in Russian)
(in English)
Yeah, yeah, we went there.
We went to the Russian rodeo.
Government officials
were in the stands.
The head of the cattle
companies were there.
It was... It was
an amazing spectacle.
Singer: Now go,
walk out the door
Just turn around now
'Cause you're
not welcome anymore...
(melancholy music playing)
One of the targets that...
Nate: I mean, who would
have known that President Putin
knew so much about cattle?
Like, this was
a top-down decision.
This came from Putin.
This came from President Putin.
(in Russian)
Nate: (in English)
When the Soviet Union fell,
there were shortages
across the board.
You know, people were hungry
and they started slaughtering
their cattle in huge numbers.
The number of cattle
in Russia plummeted.
And so when Putin took over,
he at some point decided
to rebuild that cattle herd.
- (music intensifies)
- Nate: And not just
to feed Russians,
but to give Russia
geopolitical power.
Director: How much?
Well, according to some,
it's gonna give them
more strength
than all their oil reserves
and all of their weapons do.
(music softens, concludes)
Nate: As food and water
become more precious,
countries are looking to grab up
that resource for themselves.
Whether it's to wield power,
or whether to make sure
they're feeding their people.
Yes. Um, the journalist,
she's up in Minneapolis.
And so the question is,
what countries are doing this?
You know,
where are they doing it?
And how are they doing it?
You know.
And is this gonna work out
well for the world?
As I began pulling on threads,
one thread and then
another thread,
information just kept
falling into my lap.
And at some point,
I was swimming in it.
And the only way I was gonna
be able to parse it through
and tell the big story,
I needed a team.
(door unlocking)
- Hi!
- Nate: Hey!
- How's it going?
- Nate: Good.
- (cooing)
- Nate: Come on in.
Mallory: I was in
the Marine Corps Reserves
from 2007 to 2014.
And after that, I was
a traveling videographer.
And that's where
I heard about this project.
I saw it was about food security
and national security,
and so I was just super
interested in that.
Being able to get in the dirt
and see who are the companies,
who are the countries,
who are the actors...
It's something that needs
to be done.
And if we didn't,
that would say more
about us and who we are
as journalists and as people,
if we didn't pursue it,
if we didn't do
everything in our power
to investigate it
and to bring
those truths to light.
Nate: And when you say
the future is now,
- like, how do you...
- The future is food riots.
The future is complete
instability because of...
inequities with access
to food and water.
All I knew was untitled food
and water documentary.
Nate: Threatening violence
because of water scarcity...
I thought maybe, this is through
the Center
for Investigative Reporting,
there might be more
to it than that.
- Turns out, there was.
- (ominous music playing)
He had me looking into companies
listed on the Hong Kong
Stock Exchange,
These shadow worlds that
I hadn't operated in before.
This sort of "follow the money."
Very rich and very influential
people are preparing.
They're securing their water.
They're securing their access
to food for themselves
and their families
for generations.
I first learned about that when
we were looking into attending
the Global Ag
conference in New York,
which is essentially all
the major agricultural investors
around the world come
together in New York
and just essentially
talk about how to divide up
some of the last remaining
farmland on Earth.
As our reporting deepened,
and we're looking
all over the world,
we're seeing
it's not just China.
It's not just Saudi Arabia.
Not just Russia.
It's the United States, too.
(tense music playing)
Hargroves: Every century
is characterized by
a key commodity,
an empire commodity.
So in the 1500s,
you had spices.
1600s, sugar.
17-1800s, cotton.
1900s, hydrocarbons.
And the 2000s and going forward,
I think it's really about water.
For instance,
if you focus on China,
China does not have enough
water to feed its population.
The reason that they are such
large food importers
is that they are importing food
as a proxy for water.
So, our way is
basically buying farmland
and we want to make sure
that we're focusing on areas
that are water-rich
you know, that can sell crops
to areas that are water-poor.
So in 2018, we purchased
a farm in southwest Arkansas
that is 25,000 acres in size.
And to put that in perspective,
that is close to two times
the size of Manhattan.
Look, so a property
of this size is enough to feed
the corn consumption
of Hong Kong
for two-and-a-half years.
Shane: Our guys
in New York, the way I see it,
their job is to raise the money,
manage it
for the investment side.
My job is to manage the asset.
Director: Who have you heard
that the potential buyers are?
That's an Edward question
on that.
That's an Edward question.
So, who would lease this farm?
Well, it could be
any number of large farmers.
There are some very large
farming operations out there.
Or it really could be...
It could even go down
to food buyers, or...
food security, um,
agents of governments.
Emma: So this is
Wall Street big money
operating all over
the United States,
leasing land
to foreign countries.
Nate: You know,
he's one of the original people
that saw this coming.
Edward Hargroves manages
750 million dollars
in farmland investments.
Hargroves: The joy about Arizona
is in the certain areas
in which you have
unrestricted water access.
Arizona is one of the few places
that you can have
that privilege.
We have a farm
that we've been developing
for the past few years.
It's about 5,000 acres,
growing alfalfa that's exported
out to the UAE.
Wall Street sees the same thing
that these big powerful
countries see.
They see increasing demand,
decreasing supply.
And what does that mean?
That means profits.
(tense music concludes)
You know, certainly,
um, I sympathize,
empathize with, you know,
the water scenario.
The fact that, you know,
when you get asked questions,
"Are we exporting our water
to somewhere else in the world?"
And, you know, of course,
ultimately, the answer is yes.
And it's a hard, you know,
question to navigate on
you know,
what is right and wrong,
the value between
commerce and sustainability.
(pensive music playing)
Hargroves: The U.S. is
the greatest exporter of food
in the world.
If the U.S.
was to stop exporting,
we would have Armageddon.
Absent our product,
Uh, I mean, I...
You'd have world war.
Absolute world war.
The U.S. government regulates
the export of technology
very rigorously
for national security interests.
Should our food
and water not fall
under similar consideration?
So... is it possible
to regulate that?
I have... You know, that's a...
deeply philosophical,
academic type of question.
I will tell you
as a practical matter,
while the policy experts
are debating,
whoever needs the water
and has guns
is gonna go after it and get it.
Maria: I started
addressing the topic of water
as a national security issue
in 2011.
The CIA looks ahead
25 and 50 years.
And when they saw that
that equation with water
was going to change,
and potentially dramatically,
that made them sit up
and listen.
Lee: It's unusual to see a group
of retired three- and four-star
admirals and generals
talking about
this set of issues.
Between now and 2050,
two billion people are gonna
be added to the planet.
The demand for food
is gonna increase.
The amount of arable land is not
substantially going to increase.
The lack of arable land,
useful land,
is going to be a serious problem
for many countries.
Aaron: We're gonna
have over a billion people
living in countries that face
absolute water scarcity.
In other words, they're not
gonna have enough water
to meet their domestic,
their economic,
their environmental needs.
And these countries are gonna be
at a greater risk of fragility,
a greater risk of failure.
Molly: You know,
the famous quote about
nine meals away from chaos,
you know,
there's a lot of truth to that.
It's all about power, really.
And food is a very obvious
and central way to wield power.
I had somebody within
the U.S. intelligence community
say to me that the 20th Century
had OPEC,
a few countries that controlled
the world's oil supply.
In the future, we're gonna
have Food-PEC,
a few countries that control
the world's food supply.
You know, for years
and generations,
wars have been fought over oil.
In a short matter of time,
they will be fought over water.
(mysterious music playing)
Molly: There's a process
called "red-teaming."
And that's,
you become like the devil.
You become the very worst
kind of enemy,
you know, that you
could possibly imagine.
And this is used in war games.
If I were to red-team
the U.S. food system,
to do serious damage,
I'm not gonna have
the war they're ready for.
I'm gonna go for something
that really just sits us
back on our heels,
and we're out of commission.
You know,
and I've joked with people,
that would be trashing Netflix,
making your bank account
read "00.00,"
and messing with
our food supply.
For example, there is a very
defined period of time
where those combines
have to get out
and work
basically 24 hours a day.
And they're smart.
And they're generally unsecured.
It's amazing technology that has
not been secured against hacks.
Nobody ever thought
about the hacks.
So stop the combines
for three weeks.
It would be a disaster
for the American economy.
(indistinct chatter)
Nate: Some of the best military
and intelligence minds,
I mean, this is like three-,
four-star generals,
intelligence from Britain
and the U.S.,
like, experts in their field,
actually come together
and do simulations where
two countries are in
a massive conflict over water.
We need to take
decisive military action.
We show our people that
we're prepared to take action
to get them the access
to the resources
that they deserve.
How do you think
that's going to end?
Once we have taken over the dam,
do we destroy the dam?
Do we... How do you see
this ending?
You can't hold a dam
on the ground with a helicopter.
So how are you gonna hold it?
And how many people
are you gonna lose?
Surely you've done
that modeling.
(speaking Chinese)
Nate: (in English)
These are the things
I'm hearing from sources,
you know, the experts,
the people in the know
on food and water,
that these are the drivers
of conflict and war
in the future.
The most original
human interaction,
in many cases,
is the rise to violence.
Reduction in resources that
comes from climate change,
comes from changes
to the environment,
may, and in our case will,
lead to conflict.
Humans will rise to violence
if they have nowhere else to go.
If they have nothing else to do,
they move to violence,
not always, not inevitably,
but very often.
Nate: Climate change can mean
that some areas are gonna
get not enough water,
and some areas are gonna
get too much water.
But the net of that
is less food.
It's less arable land.
And although climate change
has been in the conversation,
you know, what's not really
being talked about is what
some of the most powerful people
are doing with that knowledge.
And we're not seeing
the global community
taking concrete steps
to solve this.
What we're seeing
in the background is
countries beginning to grab up
those final resources
for themselves.
And a lot of this is happening
in the shadows,
away from the public eye.
I mean, we...
Yeah, I mean, you know,
the trove
is something that we, you know,
want to make sure that, uh,
that we're being secure about,
talking about the trove.
I mean...
I don't know.
I don't know how
the other team members felt,
but I think once you realize
what the trove is
and what we're working on,
I don't know how...
Like, it creates
a sense of insecurity
in your life.
(laughter and chatter)
(Nate sighs)
(ominous music playing)
- Robert: Hey.
- Nate: Hey!
- Robert: How's it going?
- Nate: Good.
- Where are we going?
- Nate: We're gonna...
- We'll go into Kevin's office.
- Okay, cool.
I'll show you, uh...
We have
an exciting development.
- Yeah, yeah.
- A treasure trove.
Yeah, in there?
And that's an air gap?
- Nate: It's air-gapped.
- Robert: Okay.
So, we got it yesterday.
We moved it to this machine.
But I figured, uh,
I'll kind of just show you
a little bit of what we got,
- and...
- Yeah, what is it?
I want to know.
So, uh... Let's, uh... I'm just
gonna close the door here.
All right.
Nate: So, uh...
a source who I've been talking
to for quite some time
finally kicked over...
Robert: Did they email,
by the way? Okay.
- Hand-delivery.
- Robert: Okay.
- Thousands and thousands of...
- Oh, wow.
Oh, fucking A. All right.
- Thousands of?
- Thousands of.
Ten thousand plus. I have to
go through it all still,
but we're talking thousands
and thousands.
And they include attachments,
prospectuses, drafts.
This is the whole company?
It's not one particular
person's email?
We have basically
the company's emails
- for about a one-year period.
- Okay.
- And...
- Alright.
What... (laughs)
Can you tell us how you got it?
I can talk, uh...
I can describe vaguely
how I got this information.
- (ominous music concludes)
- Um... I...
have a source...
um... who hinted
that they might have something
I'd be interested in.
And that started
a two-year dance
of me learning a little bit more
about what they had,
a little bit more about
what they have.
"Oh my God, do they
really have that?"
"Holy shit, I think
they have that."
"Oh my God, I have it."
And that computer has
never been on the internet.
We wiped it clean.
We ripped out, we physically
ripped out its WiFi.
And then we put glue
in the ethernet.
Okay, all right.
Wait, what is this map?
This was just, uh...
Okay, this is how they're
dividing up Africa?
- Mm-hmm.
- Okay.
And these are their
investment opportunities.
So, of course, the usual stuff,
minerals and oil.
And smack dab in the middle...
(ominous music playing)
So just like a bunch
of really interesting
characters, people...
Lots of military folk,
lots of veterans.
Nate: You know, we've been
trying to figure out
who else was grabbing up
food and water
and where they were doing it,
and that's when
this fell into our lap.
I don't know what point the team
started calling it "the trove,"
but it was the way
we could just, you know,
securely talk about what we had.
(speaking indistinctly)
Uh, Nate, can we talk
about the trove? (laughs)
Nate: Yeah, go for it.
- (ominous music playing)
- All right, um, so,
the trove is a collection
of, um, over 10,000 documents
that were leaked to Nate
that are
the internal communications
of Erik Prince's
Frontier Resource Group.
That is his venture that
he started after Blackwater.
Members of the Committee,
my name is Erik Prince
and I am the Chairman
and CEO of the Prince Group
and Blackwater USA.
Reporter: Blackwater,
the secretive private army
that for critics, came to
represent the ugliest face
of American power.
Blackwater, we have to question
in this hearing whether
it created a shadow military
of mercenary forces
that are not accountable
to the United States government,
or to anyone else.
He's been accused
of getting rich
off of the deeply
unpopular war in Iraq,
but he says his critics
have it all wrong.
Reporter: Did your people
ever kill innocent civilians?
It's entirely possible.
Reporter: The CIA
declined to comment
on its association with Prince.
Nate: Erik Prince is
a super divisive person.
Prince's sister is Betsy DeVos,
former Secretary of Education.
He's a former Navy SEAL,
so he's a highly trained,
skilled soldier.
He then hired a bunch
of highly skilled,
trained soldiers
to do those things
in Iraq and Afghanistan
for the U.S. government
and became a very lucrative
and large business.
He then sold that company.
Because you're still
in business, yes?
- Not in government
contracting business.
- (menacing music playing)
You don't work with the United
States government anymore?
I sold the whole thing.
I'm done.
So what do you do?
I started a private-equity fund.
We invest in energy, mining,
agriculture kind of things
in Africa.
Get the fu-- Okay.
Can I tell you something?
(audience laughter)
Oh, yeah, for sure. This is
the part of the story that...
increasingly makes us think that
all of our communications
are hacked.
Mm-hmm. Because there's
no bigger story
I can see to work on
that will impact more people
than this story.
And there's no story
I've worked on
that has this amount
of wealth behind it.
And there's no story
that I've worked on
that has this amount of,
like, mercenary guns behind it.
And there's no story I've
worked on that has, like,
this level of spycraft
technology behind it.
But... (stammering)
I'm always gonna operate
under the assumption
that I'm hacked.
What's that? Yeah.
Sound recorder:
Sound recorder:
(menacing music fades)
Nate: Erik Prince started
this company
called Frontier Resource Group,
right, to invest
in land in Africa.
Well, we have the company emails
for about, like,
a one-year period
where, you know, we can see
that they're looking at
possible farm deals in Africa.
And Erik Prince doesn't
work for free, right?
I mean,
his client list historically
has been some of the most
powerful people,
the most powerful governments
in the world.
So, we expect these emails are
gonna become a playbook for
how people are looking
to grab up food and water.
Imagine somebody wants
to go and start a farm,
what do you think they do?
They go buy tractors.
They go do this.
They do that. They do
farmer stuff, farmer stuff.
But what is Erik Prince talking
about in these emails?
He's talking about things like
having a robust defensive
capability around a farm.
These are the kind of things
that Erik Prince is looking at
when he's going into
these regions. it says "area by hectare"?
Nate: Why is somebody whose
background and expertise
is fighting wars, like,
what value do they bring
to the farms, right? Like, why?
I mean, it's like a who's-who.
It's like the MVPs
of the mercenary world, right?
Mallory: Right.
Nate: And the answer,
from our reporting,
is because this stuff has
become the point of conflict.
Hey, Captain Mann.
Sorry, some technical
difficulties with Zoom here,
but I think...
I can hear you now.
We were told that mercenaries
wouldn't talk to us.
There we go.
- Hi.
- Greetings.
But, you know, we were able
to get these folks on the line.
We were actually surprised by
the candor in which they spoke.
And they warned us how
some mercenaries operate
and what some of them
are up to now.
Simon: The whole story
of why Africa
looks the way it does today,
which obviously has a lot
to do with the colonial era,
a lot of that has to do with
what we would now call PMC.
Private military corporations.
So what happened with
the Equatorial Guinea situation?
What were you asked to do,
and how did that turn out?
Yeah, I mean, I was asked to,
um, overthrow the regime.
(pensive music playing)
Nate: Simon Mann
is former British military
who was hired to overthrow
the government
of Equatorial Guinea.
He ended up being arrested
and spending time in
an Equatorial Guinea prison.
You know, so we figured
if anyone knows
the inner workings
of the mercenary world,
it's this guy.
I mean, is that possible?
Is Erik Prince investing
in agriculture in Africa?
Yeah, I think he is.
I mean, I know Erik.
Erik's a friend of mine.
They know that Africa represents
this enormous untapped resource.
They also know that
it's not for the...
It's not for the faint-hearted.
So if you're gonna go
and do stuff in Africa,
you need airplanes,
you need logistics,
you need trucks.
And you're gonna need security.
Enter Erik.
John: I think Iraq
glamorized the PMC industry
All of a sudden, there were tens
of thousands of these people
running around in Iraq
as private security consultants.
Big players such as, you know,
Erik Prince with Blackwater
is probably the most prominent.
But that day's come and gone.
And the opportunities
are not there for people
to get those sorts
of contracts anymore.
And so I guess the issue is,
where are the hotspots?
And most of them
are in Africa at the moment.
Nate: Africa has
50 to 60 percent
of the remaining
arable land left in the world
that hasn't been,
quote, unquote, "farmed."
That doesn't mean that
it's just sitting there
without people on it.
It's peopled.
People are farming it.
They're farming it
for their food,
for their lives, you know,
to feed their children.
(women singing)
Nate: In a lot of these places,
I mean, these are these people's
ancestral lands.
They were born there.
Their parents were born there.
Their grandparents
were born there.
They don't have deeds.
You don't have deeds
to the land you've owned
for, like, time immemorial.
There's always
a problem in Africa
where, you know, you don't
really have ownership
of land necessarily
in the same way
that we would see it.
You know, there's no deeds.
There's a village over there.
This is where they graze
their cattle.
Well, now you're not gonna be
able to graze your cattle.
And maybe this... We're gonna
have to move you.
That potentially is
a great problem.
Director: And what if
there's an uprising?
That's part of...
That's where we come in.
To be a good investor in Africa,
it's not just about
having your resources
and you go and buy
or lease land.
It is logistics.
You're moving into areas where
nobody has gone before.
So you need people
who have experience
and no hesitation
to use weapons,
who can ensure movement of
whatever resources are needed.
And then you need connections
with the political elite.
- (computer chimes)
- Sean: Okay, let's see.
You still sound okay on our end.
Director: Yeah.
I have a separate
microphone here.
I think in areas where
there's very weak rule of law
and very little international
media attention,
it's a wild, wild west.
Real experts in this field,
you've gotta go around
and do things
like make bribes
and keep order...
Nate: One of the questions
I always have is,
why does a community
give up their land, right?
And as you're going in
through the emails,
there's answers in there.
In the emails they write,
"So, the price for us
will be very low."
You know, "It depends
how many gifts
we grant the village chief."
And I think you'll always find
somebody out there
to give their clients
whatever they want,
if the price is right.
(pensive music concludes)
Mallory: Because we know
that they focus...
When they're trying to pitch
all these banks,
like Credit Suisse
and JP Morgan,
they're focusing
on Sub-Saharan Africa.
So we know that's where
they're looking.
It's like the place
is the frontier market.
Nate: We can see
in the emails back in 2012
that they've charted out
what areas have the best water
and the cheapest land.
And in the trove,
they make it super clear,
that place is Zambia.
And I've been
to Zambia before, in 2017,
on a previous reporting trip.
And so, you know, I reached
back out to my contacts.
I set it up for us to go back,
so we could see, you know,
what this looks like
for the people
who are living in the spaces
being grabbed up.
(tense music playing)
(indistinct announcement
over P.A.)
Nate: Um...
It's fine. It's okay.
(indistinct chatter)
Nate: Oh, she wants the... Yeah.
Emma: Yeah,
the invitation letter.
Officer 1: Mm-hmm.
Emma: Okay. So...
(Officer speaks indistinctly)
Emma: Of course, of course.
Let me just hand you my...
Nate: And you saw, ma'am,
that we have the business visa
stamped here.
Officer 1: Yes, I know.
Nate: Yeah, they've taken
our paperwork
and they've pulled us aside
and are making us stand here
and jump through some
extra hoops.
Crew member:
I think it's gonna be fun.
Officer 2:
Sorry, what was the question?
Who gave us authority to board?
The Zambian Embassy, yeah.
Officer 2:
Let me see your paper.
Nate: This is from
the Zambian Embassy.
Do you want that? No.
Emma: At that point...
this woman took all
of our passports.
She escorted us to a room
in the back,
which ultimately became,
you know, a detention room.
(ominous music playing)
(muffled chatter)
(ominous music fades)
(indistinct chatter)
(speaking Lala)
Nate: On that previous trip
to Zambia in 2017,
I had met
a human rights attorney,
a guy named Brig,
who was helping people
fight back against
their land being grabbed.
(in Lala)
Nate: (in English)
With essentially nothing,
Brig pushed and shoved
and fought his way
into university,
and then into law school,
and then ultimately
into Georgetown.
And this is a person who
could have done anything.
And instead,
he just went back to fight
for the people.
(mysterious music playing)
On my first trip, Brig had
taken me up to Serenje
to meet families,
to meet people
that had been kicked off
of their land.
Nate: What... Can he tell us
what happened to his house?
Felix: (in Lala)
Kharika: (in English)
He said this white man
just came with a tractor
and said, "Now this is my land."
"You have to move out."
Nate: Nobody consulted them,
nobody told them,
nobody paid them or...
(Kharika speaking Lala)
(in Lala)
Kharika: (in English)
The only help they received
is this tent
from the government.
Since then, there's no one
who's helping them.
You can see this is
where they live,
this is where they sleep.
So these are the provisions
for housing
that were given
by the government.
How long ago did this happen?
Kharika: (in Lala)
Kharika: (in English) She said
when they arrived here,
they just slept under a tree
with their goods.
(in Lala)
Kharika: (in English)
As a result of the cold
of staying under the tree,
the small child died.
(in Lala)
Kharika: (in English)
She's saying she's suffering,
she's crying, because she has
been subjected to hardship.
(in Lala)
Kharika: (in English)
She's saying she used to
have the house,
now she's sleeping like this.
- (Brig speaking softly)
- (melancholy music playing)
(Febby speaking Lala)
Kharika: (in English)
He's telling her just to wait,
that some help is gonna come.
(baby gurgling)
Nate: What we're hearing
is that these are...
These are white farmers
that are kicking them
off their land.
And so I begin to dig into it.
And these guys
are backed by LLCs.
But then that LLC in Zambia
will be owned by another LLC
that is actually registered
in an offshore company
in Mauritius or the BVIs
or the Cayman Islands.
And that's a dead end.
It's like a Russian doll
of LLCs and LLCs.
And the more we dig,
the more it becomes clear,
that could be owned by anybody.
You know, and that's
what the trove emails
have begun to show us,
how investors
structure these deals
to hide who is behind them.
And what Brig shows us
is the human cost
of these hidden deals.
Man: (on TV) ...before you begin
to take possession of the land
that the Lord,
the God of your ancestors...
Nate: Is it okay if we
answer this phone call, sir?
Officer 3: Come again?
Nate: Is it okay
if we answer this phone call?
Officer 3: Yeah, it's fine.
Emma: Thank you.
So, we'd been sitting
in the room for some time,
when one of the crew
members pointed out that
there was a piece of paper
on a police bulletin board
- right behind my head.
- (camera clicks)
Nate: Right there,
smack dab on it,
was all of our names
and passport numbers.
They were definitely
waiting for us.
(plane engine rumbling)
What's going on now, Nate?
(ominous music playing)
Nate: (sighs)
I called people I knew
from U.S. intelligence.
And I called people in Zambia
and talked to whoever I could
to try to piece together
why it was
that we were getting kicked
out of the country.
Yeah, hi, Ambassador.
How are you doing today?
I'm doing all right.
I'm doing all right.
Thank you. Yeah, it was
disappointing to get so close.
We got the paperwork, you know,
Emma specifically got
the paperwork that showed...
I mean, I'm just gonna say it.
They basically said
that we were hostile
to the state,
that we were
basically enemies of the state.
...not given properly.
I see. We had business visas
and we also had
media credentials.
But they were the ones
that told us we could...
Nate: Okay.
Nate: Okay. Alright, um...
Thank you, Ambassador,
you have a good day.
(call ends)
Oh, right. Right. (chuckles)
(birds calling)
- (pensive music playing)
- Nate: So our sources are
telling us that
we got kicked out because of
our reporting on food and water,
and we don't know who pushed
the Zambian government
to kick us out.
And we might not ever know.
And we're still trying
to figure out
who's the big money
behind grabbing up,
you know, land in Africa.
And we're calling people,
emailing people,
and just getting blocked.
(laughs) Just...
Nobody wants to talk.
Um, he's a ghost, right.
I mean, like, I don't think
he'll ever talk to us.
You know, I think,
two words to us, he'll speak,
- "Fuck you, fuck off," right?
- (Mallory chuckles)
So I think we have
to find somebody
who was there with
Frontier Resource Group.
I think Gregg Smith is actually
one of the ones
that is most likely to talk.
Nate: Gregg Smith is in
a lot of emails.
He's somebody
with a military background,
also a finance background.
This is a guy right
at the center of things.
You know, he came in,
he joined them
in their effort to grab up
resources in Africa.
They were working together.
Erik Prince and Gregg Smith
were working together.
And then, at some point,
you know, he says he didn't like
what Erik Prince was doing.
Well, would it work for us
to come out
and sit down with you,
at the end of this month?
At first, it went really well.
He said he would talk to us.
And then, one day,
maybe a week or two
before we were set to fly
out and meet him...
Mallory: This is another tweet
that came from Gregg Smith
that said, "Just a heads up
to friends and journos
looking into Erik Prince."
"The word is Erik is using NSO
or a similar technology to track
a bunch of comms."
"Might want
to look into new devices
or have yours scrubbed.
2016 all over again."
Nate: And also we see
a tweet from Gregg Smith,
you know,
warning journos, journalists,
that Prince might be trying
to hack their phones.
"Nate, I've decided not to
participate in the documentary."
"Please cancel any plans
you have made
to come out here.
Regards, Gregg."
Doesn't want to be interviewed.
Director: Why?
He didn't say.
He hasn't responded
to my messages
or calls since, so...
I don't know.
I know last time we spoke,
you said you weren't interested
in being in the documentary,
and I totally hear that.
He said, "I trust no one
but myself right now."
Nate: What about
the admiral in D.C.?
Mallory: So,
he's another potential person
and I reached out
to him last week
and I sort of,
you know, did the,
"Good evening sir,
as a former Marine, I..."
He said, "I don't have anything
to do with them anymore,
and I won't talk about that."
Let's add in Dorian's...
Automated voice: Your call
has been forwarded to
an automated
voice messaging system.
And I just wanted to make sure
I give you every opportunity
to comment.
(phone ringing)
(failed call chime)
Automated voice:
The mailbox is full...
Nate: You know, so I think
in any investigation,
you hit a low point, right,
where you're swimming
in information,
you're trying
to make sense of it.
Emma: In order to tell
this story right,
you need to tell it on
this massive global scale.
That's right.
- It's all interconnected now.
- It's all connected.
It's like every thread
could be a story.
Every thread could be
something potentially,
if you do enough digging.
And it's hard to not feel
And then in a story like this,
you're also dealing with
the fact that you're witnessing
the callousness of...
the way we're seeing people
treat other humans.
Um... It gets to you
after a while.
So here's one of the examples
of an email I came across
from Sean Rump.
Sean Rump is his right-hand man.
Yeah, yeah.
Mallory: "If you come across
some run-over,
shot, or otherwise
fucked-up native..."
This is hard for me to even
say out loud.
But obviously, I'm reading
from this. So...
"If you come across
some run-over, shot,
or otherwise fucked-up native,
say a prayer for them."
"You don't help injured bleeding
people in Africa."
"AIDS, Hep A, B and C
and the myriad of other ailments
that keep their life expectancy
around 42
is to be avoided at all costs."
"People die in the Third World."
"It's Darwin's selection
at its most pure."
It was really upsetting,
and I think that sort of
indicates what they are...
Yeah, it's infuriating.
They can't come forward and say,
"We're going to Africa to build
farms to feed Africans."
Like, you just said you don't
give a fuck about Africans.
Nate: David.
Mallory: Hello.
How's it going?
David: So, this is the galaxy.
What we call the galaxy.
And basically, it is all
of the connections
that we've found so far
from looking through the trove.
Nate: David is like
the wizard behind the curtain
that nobody ever sees.
David: And so this shows
who was communicating
with who on the emails.
Nate: He took, you know,
this trove of emails,
of Erik Prince's
company's emails,
with all of these attachments
and worked with
the CIR data team
to, you know,
put it all into a database
that we could search.
And then David, on top of that,
built this incredible
visualization tool.
David: And that allowed us
to build out
some of these other connections.
And from this we saw
that Erik Prince
was tied to his company,
Frontier Resource Group...
Nate: After months and months,
you know, we had a breakthrough.
Frontier Resource Group,
they had a silent partner
that we, or one
of my teammates specifically,
had that eureka moment,
where she was like,
"I think I've figured out
who's secretly backing them."
Something called RG.
I stumbled upon an email,
where they were saying that it
was tied to RG, these initials.
And that it was something
that the boss
didn't want anybody
to talk about.
So once I started doing
some searches,
I found this email
called Royal Group,
with Sheikh Tahnoon's
name in it.
Nate: This is Sheikh Tahnoon.
Brother of the ruler
of the United Arab Emirates.
A member of the royal family.
Sheikh Tahnoon was the founder
of First Gulf Bank,
now First Abu Dhabi Bank.
He is behind ADQ, which is
a huge sovereign wealth fund.
Nate: One of the most
powerful men in the world.
That's his backer.
Runs the national security
for the Emirates.
You know,
he's building companies
to dig into spy tech,
intelligence efforts.
This is a bigger-than-life guy.
And Sheikh Tahnoon's companies,
they've gone on
a huge buying spree.
They've bought one
of the largest grain traders
in the world,
or a big portion of it.
And they're buying companies
that own food
and water all over the world.
When we figured out
it was Tahnoon,
it again was
the pattern re-emerging.
It was another
water-stressed country
that was going to another
part of the world
to grab food
and water resources.
And this time,
it wasn't Arizona.
It was all across Africa.
The question is, why does
Tahnoon need Erik Prince?
Turn the camera off, man.
You know, we've reached out
to Erik Prince.
I've gone to his offices
in Hong Kong.
You know, we've reached out
to Sheikh Tahnoon,
and we haven't been able
to get anywhere with it.
But we found somebody
who was willing to talk to us.
Somebody who was on the inside.
Robert: (over phone)
So you're gonna drive through,
go straight up.
(gate opening)
Look how beautiful. Wow.
Yeah, it's a pretty nice
fucking spread.
I'm gonna go into business
with Erik Prince.
So this is a souvenir
from my special forces friends
who are working in Syria.
And I asked him
for an ISIS flag.
Nate: Robert Young Pelton
is a writer.
He's an entrepreneur.
He even has run, you know,
intelligence networks in Africa.
They just loosed off
a few artillery shells at us,
but, uh...
Nate: He shows up in
the emails. He's in the emails.
Him and Erik Prince
worked together for years.
You know, at one point
they have a falling out.
They even at one point
sued each other.
He's written books about
the Blackwater guys.
I mean, he knows
this world well.
It's wrong to be
obsessed with Erik Prince
because it's kind of like,
how did he get into the room?
Like, who led him into the room?
So you got to remember,
the UAE...
energized Erik Prince.
So, I've known Erik, I mean...
ten years, I guess.
I've known him more than that.
And he's gone through
different phases.
He did something
very interesting.
Well, and that is basically,
what's the most valuable thing
to the wealthiest people?
Security. Right?
Sheikh Tahnoon is responsible
for the security
and well-being of the kingdom.
That's a very heavy
responsibility to have.
Erik was hired to help build
a mercenary army
for the Emirati royal family.
Nate: People in
the national security sphere,
like Tahnoon,
they know that this is
a political stability issue.
what they're controlling
is not having a bunch
of hungry, pissed-off citizens.
And this is what people tell us
over and over again
is what happened
with the Arab Spring.
- (anxious music playing)
- (indistinct clamor)
Reporter: This is what popular
uprising looks like.
- (gunfire)
- (yelling)
Reporter: It appears to be
the end for Tunisia's president
after 23 years in power.
(chanting in Arabic)
So the Arab Spring
was a key time
in the last decade
for agriculture in general.
And it was the result
of shortages
of available food supply
around the world.
(shouting in Arabic)
Reporter 1: Unrest is spreading
across the Arab world...
Reporter 2: Now to the growing
unrest in the Middle East.
Reporter 3: Protests that
toppled President Hosni Mubarak
in Egypt are now ripping
through the Middle East,
with anti-government
demonstrations in Bahrain,
Yemen, and most
significantly in Iran.
Reporter 4: The political fires
that burned across North Africa,
many say, were kindled
in Russia last summer.
Extreme drought
triggered wildfires
and destroyed a third
of the country's wheat harvest.
Russia refused to export
the rest of its harvest.
Markets panicked
and food prices shot up.
Nate: When Russia
shut down its wheat exports,
they needed to make sure
they had enough grain at home,
so people wouldn't
slaughter their cattle.
They were
protecting Putin's idea
of building up that cattle herd.
The cattle industry
that they were importing
American cowboys for.
And when they did that,
it sent global grain prices
through the roof.
(indistinct clamor)
Reporter: Meanwhile,
the revolution in Egypt
has sparked a new wave
of protests across the region.
Anytime you talk to somebody
in the intelligence community,
they always say, like,
"It's never
just one thing, right?"
"It's a combination of things."
But in this case, our sources
are telling us
that the thing
that pushes it over the cliff
is food prices.
Food prices spiking.
All across the Middle East,
countries saw what happened
in the Arab Spring.
They saw what happened
when food prices spiked,
and they said, "We need
to control our food
if we want to control
our political stability."
So this email is
on the last day of the trove,
September 25th, 2012.
It says, "He's the fourth
richest man in China."
"We're gonna have
dinner together
at our mutual friend's
home in Shenzhen."
So we had our breakthrough.
We figured out who his
financial backer was.
And at the end of the trove,
you know,
we can't see which
of those big farm deals,
if any, they finalized.
But we can see that they're
going in search of a new client.
And we follow that path
to Hong Kong.
When we start researching there,
we found out
he's got a new backer.
And we're back where the entire
investigation started.
(tense music playing)
Erik Prince:
Frontier Service Group,
a Hong Kong company,
will provide fresh capital,
And we'll tie it into
our logistics expertise.
We have a significant
logistics operation
that operates from South Africa.
Nate: Well, I think
the takeaway here is that
the world's
wealthiest governments
are turning to Erik Prince
to help them
get into Africa, right,
to help them use
his muscle and know-how
from working in the Iraq
and Afghanistan wars
to get resources out of Africa.
And so we started looking into
Erik Prince's new company.
And he's got a new partner,
Johnson Ko.
A well-known Hong Kong financier
with ties to
the Chinese government.
And around 2014, at the same
time when they became partners,
Johnson Ko had helped create
another new company,
KuangChi Science.
which had started doing
classified research
for the Chinese government.
Announcer: The development
of a jetpack
that based on current testing,
will have over 30 minutes
flight capability
and an altitude
up to 1,000 meters.
This company,
KuangChi Science, bills itself
as helping within
the African market.
Announcer: With potential usage
spanning search and rescue...
Nate: So Erik Prince's
partner was part of a company
that was designing jetpacks.
They were billing these things
as could be used
for executive extraction.
So, if an executive
was at a refinery
or at a big corporate farm,
and people rose up,
and there was unrest,
and there was an attack,
you could get into your jetpack
and... (whistles) ...get out.
They're doing
all kinds of things.
They're doing
invisibility cloaks.
Reporter: It works by bending
the light around an object.
Imagine what that could do
for a sniper.
Nate: You know,
secret classified work
for the Chinese military.
(speaking Chinese)
You just got to remember,
I started looking
at food and water.
I started looking at pigs,
if you really want
to get down to it.
Why and how China purchased
one in four American pigs.
How I went from pigs
to invisibility cloaks...
And just following it,
I found myself back in China.
Yeah, and you know,
it kind of makes sense.
Because China is one of the most
powerful countries in the world.
But we know that China, the one
thing that they really need...
food and water resources.
The truth is, China's
economic growth strategy
is non-sustainable.
China is running
out of water in the north.
And without water,
you can't grow.
(ominous music playing)
Nate: Hongzhou, thank you
so much for sitting down
and talking with us.
I appreciate it.
Can you just say in basic terms
what the Great Famine is?
(speaking Chinese)
One thing that I saw
in your book
that I didn't know was that
during the Great Famine,
the U.S. had a...
When millions of people
were starving in China,
the U.S. had an embargo
against China.
So they wouldn't let food
go into China.
Hongzhou: Yes.
Nate: The leadership
of China remember a period
of dark, deep deprivation.
And they don't ever wanna
go back there.
And they know
that their political futures
and the stability of the country
is based on being able
to feed their people.
It's become part
of their five-year plan,
their national
security strategy,
to get food and water
from around the world.
(ominous music continues)
Nate: And this is what
we're seeing. This is the grab.
A scramble for food and water
in the 21st century.
Slowly, we're seeing
a massive consolidation
of who controls the food
and the water in the world.
Nate: If we know that
hungry people are unhappy people
and unhappy people rise up,
it's kind of a no-brainer
to make the connection
that there might be conflict.
And this is what we're starting
to see, all across Africa.
People fighting back
when their land is taken.
Just now, we're getting
reports from Brig
that people are rising up.
That there are these incidents
now of conflict
that are beginning to bubble up.
People are beginning
to push back.
(crowd shouting indistinctly)
Tell me what happened here.
Nate: And then we got
an update from Brig,
who had visited his homeland,
his ancestral land
where he grew up.
And it was happening there, too.
(chatter and laughter)
(melancholy music playing)
Nate: And they're trying so hard
to get the world
to pay attention
to what's happening to them.
You know?
They're using their cell phones
to document what's happening
to show the world
in real time what's going on.
(indistinct argument)
Nate: We don't always know
who the investors were there.
China, UAE, Saudi Arabia,
Wall Street, Erik Prince.
We don't know.
But we can see the damage being
done on the ground.
(indistinct chatter)
(machinery whirring)
(in Lala)
(crowd murmuring)
(crowd murmurs)
(crowd murmurs)
(pensive music playing)
(in English)
It does...
This is the idea of being
these quote, unquote,
"frontier markets." Right?
They're very far
from watching eyes.
These things kind of
happen in the shadows.
And these are...
Ultimately, they can become
just forgotten people,
until they get pissed enough,
until they rise up,
until there's
a big enough conflict
that the world takes note
for a little bit.
(pensive music continues)
(in Somali)
Nate: (in English)
One of the surprising
things we learned was that
Somali pirates
came from fishermen
that had their fishing stocks
Foreigners came in.
They trawled all of the fish
out of those regions.
And so the Somalis that had
been making their livings
off of going out and fishing
and selling that fish
didn't have that income anymore.
And it was an incentive
for them to become
quote, unquote, "pirates."
Reporter 1: More than 90 ships
have been attacked this year.
And at least 36
have been hijacked,
according to the International
Maritime Bureau.
Reporter 2:
To defend themselves,
shipping companies
are now spending
close to a billion
dollars on private guards,
who are now waging
a largely hidden
mercenary war against pirates.
(machine gun fire)
You know, where does Daesh,
or ISIS, or ISIL, pop up?
It pops up in places
where it's, you know,
tough to get by,
generally speaking.
I swear to the Almighty God,
you will not see them again
until after you release
our people that you captured.
Ertharin: That's
a reality in too many places.
Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria,
the Lake Chad region.
Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
You can go around
the continent and identify
different extremist groups
that prey upon deprivation.
- (crowd chanting)
- They are not happy.
There are ongoing conflicts
in Yemen, in Libya,
Mali, Venezuela, of course.
It would not be
in the best interests
of the United States
to add to that list.
(indistinct clamor)
Schoonover: If you follow
this trajectory,
we may see a world that is
essentially unrecognizable.
A world war triggered
by competition
over natural resources
doesn't seem
that improbable to me.
Whether we go to war
or not, you know,
that's a political
decision, right?
(footsteps echoing)
(film crew speaking Russian)
(conversation in Russian)
Crew member:
We are rolling, guys.
(conversation in Russian)
Nate: (in English)
Andriy, thank you so much
for doing this interview
with us.
I know it's late
in the evening there.
So back in 2020, we interviewed
Andriy Senchenko,
the former Deputy Chief of Staff
for the Ukrainian president
when Russia grabbed
Crimea in 2014.
(pensive music playing)
Reporter 1:
This is a Russian invasion.
The U.S. says it has no doubt
these are Russian forces
and has demanded
their immediate withdrawal.
Reporter 2:
When Russian forces invaded,
the Ukrainian government
then built this dam
to try and stop the water flow
and force the Russians out.
Nate: And it turns out
that when Russia
came over and grabbed Crimea,
the Ukrainians were like,
cool, well...
(clicks tongue) No water.
And it was this decision
made by Senchenko.
(speaking Russian)
Nate: And so, yeah,
we were like,
"Well, we gotta talk
to this guy."
So, when the Russians
entered Crimea,
why cut off
their water supply?
(in Russian)
Nate: (in English)
So by the time we talked to him,
the water to Crimea had been
shut off for seven years.
The agriculture
had been decimated.
They were trying
to put in desal plants,
they were trucking water over.
And it had become
so expensive for the Russians
that a lot of people were
beginning to conjecture
that in order to save Crimea,
Putin was going to
have to invade Ukraine
and take control
of that water canal.
The Crimea buildup is
getting pretty intense now.
- There's, like, 80,000 troops.
- Emma: Yeah.
Nate: So, Mal's tracking this.
Mal's tracking this dispute
over water
between Russia and Ukraine.
Because this was a case
where tensions over water
could spark
an international war.
They built up these troops,
they're doing exercises,
and they're
bringing in artillery, and...
Nate: So less than a year
before the Russians invaded,
we reach out to Senchenko again,
because we want to know
what he's seeing
and what he thinks about it.
(ominous music playing)
I'm sorry, do I understand
you correctly?
You think the Russians
are bluffing,
that they're not going
to invade and take the canal?
(in Ukrainian)
(in Russian)
(ominous music intensifies)
Reporter: (in English)
Months-long build-up
of Russian troops
on the border with Ukraine
has turned now into an invasion.
The skies over multiple cities,
including the capital Kyiv,
lit up...
Fontelles: These are among
the darkest hours
for Europe
since the end of World War II.
Nate: Within the first days
of the war,
what do the Russians do?
They blow up the dam
blocking water to the canal.
And that gets immediately
reported back to Putin.
(ominous music playing)
Man: (in Russian)
Nate: (in English)
Reports of Russians
seizing Ukrainian cargo ships
full of grain
and taking it and hauling it
back to Russia.
One of Ukraine's largest
grain silos, blown up.
We see this concentration
on food, on water,
immediately as the war starts.
You see a country that's
been talking about creating
a Grain-OPEC or a Food-OPEC
invading another country
that would make it the largest
grain exporter in the world,
effectively the most powerful
food-exporting country
in the world. You know?
This is what security experts
are now worried about.
They're openly talking about
the possibility of Russia
using its food supply
as a weapon.
The Russian government
seems to believe
that using food as a weapon
will help accomplish
what its invasion does not.
The consequences
of these actions
have been devastating.
The food supply
for millions of Ukrainians
and millions more
around the world
has quite literally
been held hostage
by the Russian military.
(melancholy music playing)
Ertharin: The reality is,
Ukraine is
the number-one provider
of food that WFP,
the World Food Programme,
distributes into
the populations in need.
Reporter: And now, the head
of the World Food Programme
has warned that
the conflict in Ukraine
could send
global food prices soaring...
WFP noted that the Russian
Federation and Ukraine
are responsible for 29 percent
of the global wheat trade,
and that any serious disruption
of production and exports
from the region
could push food prices
beyond their current
ten-year highs.
The Executive Director
of World Food Programme,
he warned that bullets
and bombs in Ukraine
could take
the global hunger crisis
to levels beyond anything
we've seen before.
Anuradha: We need
to understand Ukraine
as not just a struggle
for democracy,
but it is, once again,
a struggle for resources
and who owns and controls it.
- (insects hissing)
- (bird squawking)
We're seeing the destitution,
the damage this is causing
for millions of people
around the world.
I mean, it's...
You're gonna want
to talk to him.
Nate: I think it's fair to say
that there are people
in the United States
who are suffering from
essentially the same thing.
Not at the same scale
and not with the same
degree of deprivation,
but they are watching
what was theirs
become someone else's,
and having little
or no recourse.
This is the pension fund
for Arizona state.
Nate: Holly's own pension fund,
without her even knowing it,
the money that's supposed
to fund her retirement
is draining the water
from her land.
And she has no idea. No idea.
So basically, your pension fund
funded that takeover
that is now Al Dahra,
that's shipping it overseas.
I want to scream
right now. (laughs)
That is incredible.
Absolutely incredible.
Wow. (clears throat)
(clears throat)
- And you know, I'd be...
- (vehicle rumbling)
There you go. All day long.
See it all day long.
And what is our state doing?
Absolutely nothing.
And because you just
showed me this,
it explains why they're
not doing anything.
Because why would they?
They're, you know, it...
To me,
it's extremely disturbing.
And it quite frankly
makes me very angry.
(melancholy music playing)
Anuradha: In our work,
where we have looked at
hundreds and hundreds
of land deals
all over the world,
majority of the deals
are actually U.S.-based
and by European investors.
So there's far more in common
in the struggles
of the dispossessed.
You talk about Africa,
along with land grab,
you have water grab.
But if you look at the struggles
in the United States,
the fight and the struggle is
against the same corporations
who are taking over
land globally.
These corporations, of course,
are not working
for the U.S. government
to ensure U.S. food supply.
Instead, you have a scenario
where the U.S. government,
or the European governments are
working for the corporations.
The priority is not the people.
Ertharin: When we talk about
a vulnerable population,
we are not talking about
a particular geography.
We're talking about
people who lack power,
lack access
to making the decisions
about their own lives.
And that's true whether
that population is in Arizona
or in the Ukraine.
Man: (in Ukrainian)
Molly: (in English)
Rural communities have a fabric.
And so when that land
is purchased,
if it is managed in a way
that is not contributing
to the community,
that's a sabotage
of the community.
So it really becomes
like a raid.
And even though it's legal...
it's raiding resources
that aren't yours.
Nate: People are going to
have to ask themselves
if this is
an intractable movement.
If you have some of
the wealthiest countries
in the world, and you have
people's own pension funds
that are all
behind this movement,
who's going to stop it?
If you're an Emirati,
why would you
want to stop them?
If you were Chinese, why would
you want to stop them?
You want your country
doing these things.
And I think it's tough
to fault China
for making sure
that they're gonna have
enough food and water
for their people.
That's the purview of a country.
The same with UAE, and the same
with the Saudis, you know.
It's the purview of a country
to make sure they have
the resources that their people
want and need.
Molly: The capitalist system
we've got now permits that,
because we thought these
resources were all endless.
It's one of those classic things
where the fundamentals have
changed very significantly,
and we're just operating along
like it's business as usual.
(music intensifies)
Nate: The problem
isn't countries
or people trying to secure
their food supply.
The problem is how.
How some people in some places
are securing their food.
(protestors chanting)
Nate: Going in and grabbing
other people's land,
depriving them of a future.
Going in
and grabbing people's water,
sucking their aquifers dry,
depriving them of a future.
It's problematic
in so many ways.
It's inequity.
It's seeding future conflict.
It's destabilizing the world.
We in the developed nations
demand huge amounts of food,
out of season, whenever we want.
And we throw away a third of it.
If we didn't say, "I want
a watermelon in December,"
then they wouldn't
have that pressure,
that market pressure,
to suck up all the water
to make this food for us.
All of these problems
always end up with
an inability to accept
the responsibility
by developed nations.
Anuradha: We have over-consumed.
We have overdrawn
on resources that were meant
for future generations.
Nate: The West
often looks to other countries.
There's reports that have
come out that said,
"If China's meat
consumption continues,
there's no way we're
gonna be able to meet
our climate change goals."
And that might be true,
but it's said by the West,
who consumes almost
twice as much meat
per capita as does China.
And yet, there's this
at the developing world
for increasingly eating meat.
But it's like, yeah,
but they're just getting closer
to eating your diet!
You know? Like...
Maybe you look in.
Maybe the solution is
inside your borders, you know?
(music picks up tempo)
Molly: This is the master plan.
This is how it's gonna work.
Nate: One of the points of hope
is that the same people that
are identifying the problems,
that are saying the future
looks really bleak,
there's always an asterisk,
"unless we do..."
And there's a solution.
Molly: What if we use,
instead of grass,
we use bacteria,
and instead of cows,
we use fungi.
And you can do that
in three days.
In theory, you could
make food out of thin air.
So we have people
from the defense sector
talking about restructuring
the food system.
You have Wall Street investors
like Edward Hargroves
operating big commercial farms
who have kind of done
an about-face.
Because they saw first-hand
what was happening to the soil.
And now they're moving
into regenerative farming.
So, you know, at the time,
you only know what you know.
And without the current
farmland portfolio,
we never would have
had this opportunity.
But we can do better.
And we're always going
to be looking to do better
across the board.
Anuradha: We know the hungry are
the best experts on hunger.
We know that the majority
of the food that is consumed
in the world today,
eighty percent of it
comes from family farmers.
We need to invest
in smallholder farmers.
We need to ensure
their seed rights,
their land rights,
their water rights.
Molly: The world produces
enough food
to feed everybody now properly,
and we don't do it.
In fact, some people say
the world produces
enough food today
to feed those in 2050,
if we were to reshape
the food system.
Nate: There's enough
water in the world
to grow enough calories
to feed everyone
in the world, not just today,
but in the year 2050 when
there's nine billion people,
and when there's
ten billion people.
The intelligence community
says this is solvable.
Engineers say this is solvable.
If we solve it.
(music concludes)
(crowd cheering)
(crowd singing in Lala)
(continue singing)
Brig: (in Lala)
(crowd murmurs)
(in English)
Anuradha: This is
the height of resistance.
This is the height of conflict.
And there are victories.
Yes, they're few. They're rare.
But we cannot undermine
the importance
of those victories.
History will repeat itself,
because the model of
taking over resources
is so unsustainable,
it cannot last.
(crowd singing)
(soft music playing)
It's always the big question
when you're working on
a big investigative piece,
when do you call it enough?
When do you say, okay, I need
to take what we've learned
and share it with the public.
And I think we're at that point.
(indistinct chatter)
Nate: Whether or not people
are gonna give a shit or not,
you can't control.
What you can control
is getting it done.
Getting the information
into people's hands.
Then it's up to them.
Nate: It is pleasant, isn't it?
Mallory: Yeah.
(ominous music playing)
(talking indistinctly)
Thank you.
(indistinct chatter over radio)
(tense music playing)
(tense music continues)
(tense music concludes)