Comment: Blackwater’s role in CIA ops runs deep
August 21, 2009 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
North Carolina-based military and intelligence contractor Xe had a major role in the CIA’s rumored post-9/11 assassination program and is active today in the Agency’s Predator drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times and The Washington Post cited “government officials and current and former [Xe] employees” in revealing that the CIA worked briefly with Xe –formerly known as Blackwater– in the context of a top-secret program to locate and murder senior al-Qaeda leaders. According to The Washington Post, Blackwater’s role in the operation was far from consultative, and included “operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders [and awards worth] millions of dollars for training and weaponry”. The New York Times alleges that Blackwater’s central role in the operation was “a major reason” in CIA director Leon Panetta’s decision last June to inform Congress about the program, which CIA had kept hidden from Congressional oversight for seven years.
But if this is so, then one must assume that the CIA director is comfortable with Xe’s role in an ongoing assassination program carried out by the CIA, namely the use of unmanned Predator drones to facilitate the extrajudicial murder of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times says that Xe contractors “assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs” on the aircraft and “provide security” at the CIA’s hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The latest revelations are bound to add to the Agency’s political troubles, not least because of its excessive –and expensive– operational reliance on private contractors. Just last month the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voiced disapproval of the high numbers of contractors employed by America’s intelligence organizations (currently at a stunning 27%), and even censured US intelligence agencies for hiding (!) their actual personnel numbers from Congress. After the recent Blackwater/Xe revelations, several lawmakers quickly expressed frustration at the increasing infiltration of US intelligence agencies –and the CIA in particular– by private contractors and other corporate mercenaries, whose security credentials are often dubious. Former intelligence operative R.J. Hillhouse has described the intelligence outsourcing as “a huge national security vulnerability” for the US.
My personal opinion is that the recent Blackwater/Xe revelations represent just the tip of the iceberg. Back in November of 2008, I argued that the shadowy company was probably engaging in US-sponsored black operations in Iraq. I based my view on revelations that Blackwater/Xe was found to have illegally shipped to Iraq assault weapons and silencers, hidden among sacks of dog food. This struck me as a typical CIA-led operation gone wrong due to actions by over-zealous US customs officials. Blackwater/Xe’s primary operational mission in Iraq at the time was providing security for high-target officials and equipment convoys. As former CIA officer John Kiriakou correctly commented at the time, “the only reason you need a silencer is if you want to assassinate someone”.
Former CIA director Porter J. Goss said yesterday “[i]n September, you are going to have a hurricane coming through Washington that is aimed right at the intelligence community”. Or what’s left of it, one might add.