Former intelligence officials describe the CIA’s outsourcing of assassination program to Blackwater, where Al-Qaeda leaders were targets and millions of dollars were spent on a program that was unknown to Congress and canceled by Panetta.
According to The Washington Post, the CIA outsourced missions against Al-Qaeda to Blackwater USA. Blackwater, now called Xe Services LLC, “was given operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders” and provided millions of dollars for weaponry and training. Training exercises and simulated missions took place, but no actual missions to kill or capture Al-Qaeda leaders occurred.
The Washington Post story, published Aug. 20, is based primarily on accounts from two retired intelligence officials familiar with the program. One intelligence officer stated, "Outsourcing gave the agency [CIA] more protection in case something went wrong." Further, the officer indicated that spending on the program was “well under $20 million over eight years.”
When CIA Director Leon Panetta learned of the program, he canceled it and briefed Congressional lawmakers. Congress was unaware of the program due, in part, to Vice President Cheney instructing the CIA to keep the program secret according to The Washington Post.
A second official familiar with the program disclosed that members of the Blackwater team expressed “much frustration” because the program did not reach an operational state.
Even though the program did not become a “covert action,” the CIA’s failure to notify Congress has caused the House Intelligence Committee to launch an investigation.