Blackwater Loses a Job for the C.I.A.
New York Times (2009-12-12) Mark Mazzetti
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The New York Times
December 12, 2009
By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency
has terminated a contract with the security company formerly called Blackwater Worldwide
that allowed the company to load bombs on C.I.A. drones
in Pakistan and Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday.
The contract gave employees with the company an operational role in one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s most significant covert programs, which has killed dozens of militants with Predator and Reaper drones. The company’s involvement highlighted the extent to which the C.I.A. had outsourced critical jobs to private companies since the 9/11 attacks.
The contract with the company, now called Xe Services, was canceled this year by Leon E. Panetta
, the C.I.A. director, according to a C.I.A. spokesman. In August, The New York Times first revealed the existence of the contract
, which was run by a division of the company called Blackwater Select, which handles classified contracts.
George Little, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that Mr. Panetta had ordered that the agency’s employees take over the jobs from Xe employees at the remote drone bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that Mr. Panetta had also ordered a review of all contracts with the company.
“At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any C.I.A. operations other than in a security or support role,” Mr. Little said.
The disclosure about the terminated contract comes a day after The Times reported that Blackwater employees had joined C.I.A. operatives in secret “snatch and grab” operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Blackwater’s role in the raids grew out of contracts that the company had with the spy agency to provide security for the C.I.A. in Kabul and Baghdad.
The company had a dual role in the drone program, said current and former employees and intelligence officials. Contractors on the secret bases assembled and loaded Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs onto drones, and they also provided security at the C.I.A. bases.
The C.I.A. did not allow contractors to select targets for the drone attacks or pull the trigger on the strikes. That work was done at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley, Va.
But Blackwater’s direct role in the drone operations sometimes led to disputes between the contractors and C.I.A. employees, as the spy agency sometimes accused Blackwater employees of poor weapon assembly if the missile or bomb missed a target. In one instance last year, a 500-pound bomb dropped off a Predator before the drone had launched its payload, leading to a frenzied search along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
A company employee said the bomb was eventually found not far from the intended target.