Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cheney's Contract Killers

A new leak in the Death Squad story first blurted out by Seymour Hersh discloses that the CIA in 2004 hired Blackwater "as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda."

According to current and former government officials, the New York Times reports that "Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders."

In a March speech, New Yorker writer Hersh casually referred to "an executive assassination ring" operating out of Cheney's office: "Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us."

Today's Times story reflects ongoing efforts by the CIA in the Obama era under Leon Panetta to scrape off all the accumulated Cheney mud of the post-9/11 years:

"Officials said the CIA did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior CIA officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

"Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq...

"Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license."

But apparently the Vice President of the United States had no compunctions about hiring them as assassins and hiding their activities from Congress.

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