Blackwater Predator Contract Ending
WASHINGTON – CIA Director Leon Panetta has canceled a contract with the former Blackwater security firm that allowed the company’s operatives to load missiles on Predator drones in Pakistan.
Panetta canceled the contract this year, and the work is being transitioned to government personnel, a person familiar with the contract said Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.
Blackwater is now known as Xe Services. A spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the contract cancellation. The New York Times reported the contract’s existence in August.
The CIA’s Predator program targets senior Al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal area along the border with Afghanistan, but the agency has never confirmed publicly its role in the operation.
Since Jan. 28, 2008, there have been at least 67 suspected US missile strikes into Pakistan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials and witnesses interviewed by the AP after each strike.
News of the cancellation of the contract came in the aftermath of published reports late Thursday that Blackwater security operatives joined CIA agents in “snatch and grab” raids that took place regularly between 2004 and 2006, when violence from the insurgency in Iraq was escalating.
A US official confirmed to AP Thursday that Blackwater provided security and traveled with CIA teams on missions in war zones but emphasized they were not hired to directly participate in sensitive CIA missions.
CIA Director Leon Panetta ordered a review several months ago of the company’s contracts to be sure its guards performed only security-related work, the official said.
Separately, CIA spokesman George Little said Friday that “at this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role.” Xe Services said Friday that Blackwater was not under contract for involvement in the secret raids. – AP