CIA terminates contract with controversial security firm Blackwater : Report

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Washington, Dec.12 (ANI): The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has discontinued the services of private security services agency, Blackwater, which purportedly assisted the intelligence agency in its covert drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to intelligence officials, the contract with the company, now known as Xe Services, was terminated by CIA Director, Leon Panetta, earlier this year.

CIA spokesman George Little said that Panetta had ordered that the agency's employees take over the jobs from Xe employees at the remote drone bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that he had also ordered a review of all contracts with the company.

"At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role," The New York Time quoted Little, as saying.

The company's involvement highlights the extent to which the CIA had outsourced critical operations to private companies since the 9/11.

The report about the termination of Blackwater's contract comes a day after a former US official claimed that the private American firm was operating in Pakistan at a secret CIA airfield used for launching drone attacks.

The official said that Blackwater operatives consistently patrol around the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan.

He also claimed that Blackwater employees helped in loading laser-guided Hellfire missiles on to CIA-operated drones that target Al-Qaida and Taliban extremists hiding in the rough terrains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Meanwhile, Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, has claimed that the agency had also assisted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its covert operations on suspected militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prince said Blackwater's role changed remarkably after its officials started providing security cover to CIA operatives in the field.

Raids on suspected insurgents in Iraq, known as 'snatch and grab' operations, were mostly carried out during nights between 2004 and 2006.

The newspaper quoted several former Blackwater guards as saying that operations to capture and kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan became so routine, that Blackwater personnel sometimes became partners in the missions rather than simply providing the security for the CIA officials.

However, the current management of the Xe Services has denied any association with the CIA in its secret operations.

"Blackwater was never under contract to participate in covert raids with CIA or Special Forces troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else. Any allegation to the contrary by any news organisation would be false," said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Xe Services. (ANI)

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