CIA Contracted Out For al-Qaida Hit Squad

Congress kept in the dark from controversial counter-terrorism program

Thursday, Aug 20, 2009  |  Updated 12:45 AM PDT
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Blackwater USA founder, Erik Prince, testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. The CIA hired private contractors at Blackwater USA in 2004 as part of a secret program to kill top-level members of al-Qaida, The New York Times reported on its Web site late Wednesday Aug. 19, 2009.

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The CIA hired controversial security company Blackwater USA to help kill top al-Qaida terrorists in 2004, but the secret program was canceled after millions spent and nothing to show for it, according to reports. 

CIA Director Leon Panetta reportedly canned his predecessers' handshake deal in June after learning that the agency had kept it hidden from Congress for seven years, perhaps at the behest of former veep Dick Cheney, The New York Times reported. The politically-connected company reportedly helped CIA agents with training and surveillance. It is unclear if the contractors had authorization to shoot to kill terror suspects, according to reports. What is known is that zero terrorists were captured or killed under the program.  

Blackwater, which now goes by the name "Xe Services," suffered a major blow to its reputation following its employees' involvement in a September 2007 Baghdad shooting that killed 17 civilians.  

Afterward, the Iraqi government barred the company from working in the country. But the CIA still has open contracts with Blackwater for jobs  in Afghanistan and other places, the Times reported. 

Read More: MSNBC 

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