CIA Boss Defends $100M Blackwater Contract

'We need the security,' says Panetta
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Jun 28, 2010 2:28 AM CDT
Gary Jackson, former president of Blackwater, leaves the Terry Sanford Federal Building and Courthouse in Raleigh, NC, earlier this year to face weapons and conspiracy charges.   (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)
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(Newser) – Despite criminal charges against former Blackwater security guards, CIA chief Leon Panetta has passionately defended a new $100 million contract with the controversial company. "We've got to have security," Panetta tells ABC News. “Unfortunately, there are a few companies that provide that kind of security. The State Department relies on them, we rely on them." The firm is now known as Xe Services instead of Blackwater, but its notorious reputation still sticks to it "like crude oil on a Gulf bird," notes correspondent Jake Tapper.

Blackwater guards have been linked to a number of troubling shootings, including the killing of 17 apparently unarmed civilians in a Baghdad intersection in 2007. The contract has infuriated members of Congress. “I’m mystified why any branch of the government would hire Blackwater,” said Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “We’re talking about murder. It's a company with a horrible reputation that jeopardizes our mission in so many different ways.” Xe's bid to provide security at US consulates in the cities of Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif was $26 million less than the next closest bid, Panetta emphasized.

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