Black Water Hired for CIA plan
The New York Times quotes current and ex-government officials as saying Blackwater helped the CIA with planning, training and surveillance. Several million dollars were spent on the programme but no militants were caught or captured. Blackwater staffs were used to guard US government personnel in Iraq from 2003. But they were accused of using excessive force on a number of occasions, including the killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007. The North Carolina-based firm – which has not had its license to operate in Iraq renewed – has since been re-named Xe.
The New York Times reports that the CIA did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for the programme to locate and kill senior members of al-Qaeda. Instead, they had individual agreements with top officials in the firm. It is not clear whether the US spy agency planned to use Blackwater contractors to actually capture and kill the militants, or just help with the training and surveillance of the programme. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said last month that Mr Panetta told Congress former Vice-President Dick Cheney was behind the secrecy. But some Republicans accuse the Democrats of trying to make political capital from the situation.
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