Blackwater Tapped Foreigners on Secret CIA Program
Blackwater-CIA program to hunt terrorists used foreign recruits on surveillance missions
By ADAM GOLDMAN and PAMELA HESS Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON August 30, 2009 (AP)
When the CIA revived a plan to kill or capture terrorists in 2004, the agency turned to the well-connected security company then known as Blackwater USA.
With Blackwater's lucrative government security work and contacts arrayed in hot spots around the world, company officials offered the services of foreigners supposedly skilled at tracking terrorists in lawless regions and countries where the CIA had no working relationships with the government.
Blackwater told the CIA that it "could put people on the ground to provide the surveillance and support — all of the things you need to conduct an operation," a former senior CIA official familiar with the secret program told The Associated Press.
But the CIA's use of the private contractor as part of its now-abandoned plan to dispatch death squads skirted concerns now re-emerging with recent disclosures about Blackwater's role.
The former senior CIA official said he had doubts during his tenure about whether Blackwater's foreign recruits had mastered the necessary skills to pull off such a high-stakes operation. Blackwater's later hiring of several senior CIA officials who were involved in or aware of the secret program, including one of the men who ran the operation, showed the blurred lines of using a private contractor for such a highly classified and dangerous project.
While Blackwater won the government's confidence by handling security and training operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2004 decision by CIA officials to entrust the North Carolina-based company with such a sensitive overseas operation struck some former agency officials as highly unusual.
"The question remains: Why do we need Blackwater?" said Charles Faddis, a former department chief at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center who retired in 2008 and was not involved in the secret program. "I remain mystified. This is quintessential CIA work. You wonder what it means that the CIA has to rely on Blackwater? Why are we still funding the CIA?"
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