CIA Hired Blackwater to Help Plan al-Qaeda Killings
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2009 10:49 PM CDT
In this 2004 file photo, contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight in Iraq.   (AP Photo/Gervasio Sanchez)
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(Newser) – We knew the US outsourced a lot of its work in Iraq to Blackwater, but this takes the cake: The CIA hired the infamous military contractor in 2004 to help it figure out how to track down and kill al-Qaeda operatives, reports the New York Times. The move to hire an outside agency to assist with assassinations raises a host of thorny questions, but in this case the covert operation never resulted in the capture or killing of a militant. The bad news? It still cost several million dollars.

The agency never had a formal pact with Blackwater, now known as Xe Securities, but it had "individual agreements" with its top leaders, including Erik Prince, writes Mark Mazzetti. It's unclear whether Blackwater employees were to take part in the actual killings or just in planning and surveillance. The program ended well before Leon Panetta took over at the CIA, but this is apparently what prompted him to call his emergency meeting in June to brief members of Congress.