Reports: CIA hired Blackwater to help assassinate terrorists
The agency employed the controversial firm to assist with 'planning, training, and surveillance' – and possibly to kill and capture – Al Qaeda operatives, according to news reports.
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The CIA in 2004 outsourced portions of a secret program to kidnap or assassinate terrorists to the controversial private security firm Blackwater USA, now called Xe Services, according to news reports.
The New York Times reports that according to current and former government officials, Blackwater's involvement was a key factor in CIA Director Leon Panetta's decision to cancel the program and divulge it to Congress during an emergency meeting with Congress in June. Congress had not been informed previously of the program's existence, allegedly under orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last month.
The New York Times reports:
Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects....
It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
"Outsourcing gave the agency more protection in case something went wrong," said a retired intelligence officer intimately familiar with the assassination program.
The contract was awarded to Blackwater ... in part because of its close ties to the CIA and because of its record in carrying out covert assignments overseas, the officials said. The security contractor's senior management has included high-ranking former CIA officials – among them J. Cofer Black, the agency's former top counterterrorism official, who joined the company in early 2005, three months after retiring from government service.