FROM POLITICS DAILY:
Now we find out the CIA was subcontracting an assassination program to a private company, deciding apparently that a public option was not enough. So in 2001, it turned to the now notorious Blackwater USA to supplement its own force of clandestine hit men.
The New York Times was first with the story ("C.I.A. Sought Blackwater's Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists"), and now everyone has scrambled to match the report, which says major elements of the program designed to take out terrorist leaders had been turned over to Blackwater, otherwise known as the "Gang that couldn't shoot straight unless it was gunning down innocents in Iraq." That Blackwater.
Small wonder that the new CIA director, Leon Panetta, terminated what was left of the termination program. No wonder he was embarrassed to tell Congress it had been kept in the dark about this. And now the agency needs to brace for more ridicule as the story continues to unfold in the media.
Let's see now: When the Central Intelligence Agency came up with the assassination plan, somebody decided it needed to bring in Blackwater to help with the, uh, execution.
According to the Times, there were no formal contracts, just gentleman's agreements with company executives. Furthermore, the outsourcing specifically to Blackwater ended years before Panetta took charge at the CIA.
The idea had some logic, though. The company, based in North Carolina, was already established as a U.S. enforcer. It was paid billions to run so much of the security in Iraq that the Bush administration considered it a necessary component of the American presence.
Then Blackwater went from the backwater to flash point, compiling a reputation for brutality and heavy-handed tactics. In 2007, one of its guard patrols was accused of gunning down 17 civilians.
So much controversy piled up that recently Blackwater changed its name to Xe. There is no explanation for why the name (pronounced "Z") was chosen. It is the chemical symbol for xenon, if that means anything. Xenon is a colorless, odorless gas.
The company's involvement in the assassination program certainly has raised a stink, even though we are told nobody was ever actually killed and Blackwater's participation was ended after intelligence officials decided it was probably a bad idea.
Xe is not commenting. It still has other business relationships with the CIA, which is now under much more intense scrutiny by Capitol Hill Democrats, who are investigating whether other secret operations -- run by U.S. intelligence agencies or their hired guns -- were not disclosed to Congress.