Comment: Blackwater’s role in CIA ops runs deep

Blackwater/Xe HQ


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.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

3 Responses to Comment: Blackwater’s role in CIA ops runs deep

  1. This sounds a lot like the C.I.A. when we were in Viet-Nam, there was always a Presense of a Civilian or two whether it was Mil or not. This would run into the Ambassadors and The Diplomatic Councils everywhere then. Now it is getting to The Place where these Mercinaries and Intelligence People are there in all forms of Presence. Even the News is Full of reports of The Intel being a Network of Civilians in the Muslim World[Population] or Our Forces able to penetrate the Enemies with Information and the results are even Greater, when the Voluntary information system is in Full Operations. The Milking of Intel from these terrorists, are the cats meow of knowing who’s where in the Valley of The End of Terror. Swat and Peshawar are some very effective places to watch the Intel People get their results as well as The Helmund Province too. What used to be the Cold War is now[ The Terror War!] Information is Critical and Very Effective to Our Knowing where to Go and what to do. Who’s Who Too. Volunteer Intelligence

  2. jon says:

    Finally, someone who knows what they’re talking about.

  3. Kohji says:

    CIA always depends on throwaway companies, fake companies, real companies, and contracting situations. It is necessary for them to get legitimate spying jobs done.

    Congress – to be a hawk here, but wait – is a huge liability for our intel agencies. I am not saying that because I think we should have a bunch of ‘off the books’ operations doing bad things, but simply from a point of reality in getting things done which need to be done without finger pointing to the us gov. Without anyone seeing it at all.

    I do not mean assassinations and dubious regime change badness. I mean defensive actions and positive actions.

    There is a difficult line: more secrecy versus the need for accountability. Spying in a Democracy is an activity with two hands tied behind the back.

    It is not unlike security/usability problem in computer security.

    Ultimately, us espionage, imo, needs to be ‘as wise as serpents, as innocent as doves’. This does not mean that they have to stick by laundry list, shallow morality which does not work in the real world… but it does mean they need to avoid questionable activity, focus on unquestionable good and keep that unquestionable good as secret as possible to protect lives, protect assets, protect operations, protect free world.

    Secrecy protects lives, we often forget, so often do we see it being abused for coverups of poorly considered ideas.

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