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The specter of private contractors carrying out assassinations on behalf of the US government has been raised in a New York Times article that says the CIA hired contractors from security firm Blackwater to help carry out its recently-revealed hit squad program.
The article, which appeared at the Times Wednesday night, says that in 2004, contractors from Blackwater “helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance” in the secret program that, according to media reports, never became fully functional.
The CIA hit squad, ostensibly meant to target al Qaeda’s leadership in the years after 9/11, became public news when CIA Director Leon Panetta informed congressional intelligence committees about it in late June. Since then, stories have appeared linking Vice President Dick Cheney to the decision to keep the hit squads secret — a decision that may violate the National Security Act, which mandates congressional oversight of the CIA.
The involvement of Blackwater, however, is a new revelation. That the CIA used a private contractor for the program “was a major reason that [Panetta] became alarmed and called an emergency meeting to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years,” the Times reports.