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Blackwater tied to CIA assassination plot

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Aug 20, 2009.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    Millions were spent on program, which did not capture or kill any suspects


    According to current and former government officials, the CIA spent several million dollars on a secret program to locate and assassinate terrorists.

    By Mark Mazzetti

    WASHINGTON - The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

    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 capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

    The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the new C.I.A. director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

    It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance. 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.

    Officials said that the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.
    Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said that it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

    Excessive force?

    It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in downtown Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to renew the company’s operating license.

    Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

    Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

    “Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

    A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.
    Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2009
  2. MaxShimba

    MaxShimba JF-Expert Member

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    Wange watumia Waisrael kwa kazi hii, mambo yangekuwa mswano kwao.
  3. Mchaga

    Mchaga JF-Expert Member

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    CIA-Blackwater assassination contract points to larger connections

    The 2004 deal was just one part of a revolving-door relationship between the agency and the private security firm. Use of outside contractors for such activities has come under widespread criticism.

    Reporting from Washington - The CIA's decision to hire contractors from Blackwater USA for a covert assassination program was part of an expanding relationship in which the agency has relied on the widely criticized firm for tasks ranging from guarding CIA lockups to loading missiles on Predator aircraft, according to current and former U.S. government officials.

    The 2004 contract cemented what was then a burgeoning relationship with Blackwater, setting the stage for a series of departures by senior CIA officials who took high-level positions with the North Carolina security company.

    The revolving door helped fuel a backlash against what many inside the agency and on Capitol Hill came to regard as an overuse of outside firms, many of which made millions of dollars after filling their staffs with former CIA employees.

    "I have believed for a long time that the intelligence community is over-reliant on contractors to carry out its work," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "This is especially a problem when contractors are used to carry out activities that are inherently governmental."

    Her comment underscored how the Blackwater contract's disclosure has renewed questions about the sort of work the CIA has outsourced since the Sept. 11 attacks. In recent years, the agency has also faced criticism for using contractors to interrogate prisoners.

    Experts said there may not be any legal barrier against using contractors to kill terrorism suspects or subject them to brutal interrogations. Still, they said, there tends to be deep public discomfort with the idea of delegating certain activities -- whether issuing pardons, making arrests or pulling triggers -- to people who are not direct government employees.

    "The use of force has been traditionally thought of as inherently governmental," said Jeffrey Smith, former CIA general counsel. "The use of a contractor actually employing lethal force is clearly troublesome, but I'm not sure it's necessarily illegal."

    U.S. officials familiar with the targeted-killing program said that Blackwater's involvement was limited in scope and duration, and that the arrangement ended several years before CIA Director Leon E. Panetta killed the program two months ago.

    The program was kept secret from Congress for nearly eight years before Panetta told lawmakers about it in June. CIA officials have emphasized that the program was never operational and that it did not lead to the capture or killing of a single terrorism suspect.

    "It was never successful, so he ended it," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. Panetta "never suggested to Congress that anyone at the CIA misled the intelligence committees or otherwise broke the law."

    The CIA delivered a report to Congress earlier this month after conducting an internal investigation of the program, which was launched after the Sept. 11 attacks but was canceled and restarted several times under different regimes at the agency.

    Officials familiar with the report said that the agency did not have a formal contract with Blackwater in connection with the targeted-killing program. Instead, the agency hired the company's founder, Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, and other Blackwater executives to help turn an idea for forming Al Qaeda hit squads into an operational program.

    The effort ranged from consulting with top executives to carrying out training exercises at Blackwater's headquarters in North Carolina. Company officials did not respond to requests for comment.

    Blackwater was also closely associated with the CIA's Predator aircraft operations, one of the most successful weapons in the agency's arsenal against the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Former CIA officials said that from the beginning, Blackwater provided security at the airbase in Shamsi, Pakistan, where the Predator aircraft were based.

    At the time, the company that manufactures the drone, General Atomics, was responsible for loading the Hellfire missiles used to target dozens of Al Qaeda leaders. But that task was subsequently switched to Blackwater, sources said.

    The agency "has always used contractors," said a former CIA official familiar with the Predator operations. "You have to be an explosives expert," and the CIA has never sought to use its own personnel for the highly specialized task. "We didn't care who put on the munitions as long as it wasn't CIA case officers," the former official said.

    Gimigliano declined to comment on Blackwater's involvement with Predator, saying the CIA "as a rule does not deny or confirm reports on contractual relationships."

    Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services LLC to escape the notoriety that followed a series of bloody incidents in Iraq, where the firm was accused of employing excessive force while providing protection for State Department employees. In one case, Blackwater guards were accused of opening fire in a crowded Baghdad square and killing 17 civilians.

    Blackwater had been hired in a similar capacity with the CIA in 2002, providing security at agency facilities in Afghanistan. Two years later, the CIA turned to Blackwater executives for help with the assassination program largely because the company, which has hired dozens of former U.S. special-operations soldiers, was seen as having deeper expertise than the agency itself on clandestine lethal operations.

    The use of contractors for the task was not considered an issue under the secret authorities that then-President George W. Bush had granted the agency.

    "If there's a covert-action finding that says, 'Go hunt down Osama Bin Laden' -- which there was -- the agency can use whatever means necessary," said a former senior CIA official.

    Over the next several years, the ties between the CIA and Blackwater deepened as a series of CIA executives took senior roles at the company.

    Among them were J. Cofer Black, former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism center; Robert Richer, former No. 2 for operations; Alvin B. "Buzzy" Krongard, former executive director; and Enrique "Ric" Prado, military chief of the counter-terrorism center.

    Former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden sought to reverse that trend by refusing to grant security clearances to contractors until at least 12 months after they had resigned from the agency. But Hayden defended the use of contractors during a panel discussion on the issue Thursday.

    "We go to contractors because they possess certain experience or certain knowledge that we don't have inherently inside our workforce," Hayden said. "We generally use the best athlete available in the draft."

    Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times