Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

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The Nation

Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

by
Jeremy Scahill

A leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence has told The Nation that she will launch an
investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in
the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating
Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. "The Intelligence Committees and the
public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts
with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing
presence," said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in an interview. "Is the
CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?"

In December, the CIA announced that the agency had canceled its
contract with Blackwater to work on the agency's drone bombing campaign
in Afghanistan and Pakistan and said Director Leon Panetta ordered a
review of all existing CIA contracts with Blackwater. "At this time,
Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a
security or support role," CIA spokesman George Little said December 11.

But Schakowsky said the fact that two Blackwater personnel were in
such close proximity to the December 30 suicide bomber--an alleged
double agent, who was reportedly meeting with CIA agents including the
agency's second-ranking officer in Afghanistan when he blew himself
up--shows how "deeply enmeshed" Blackwater remains in sensitive CIA
operations, including those CIA officials claim it no longer
participates in, such as intelligence gathering and briefings with
valuable agency assets. The two Blackwater men were reportedly in the
room for the expected briefing by the double agent, Humam Khalil
Muhammed Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who claimed to have recently met with Aal
Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.

"It's just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater,
which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly,
endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent
civilians, that there would be any relationship," Schakowsky said. "That
we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater's
subsidiaries is completely unacceptable."

Under the Obama administration, Blackwater continues to work for the
Department of Defense, the State Department and, as evidenced by the
December 30 bombing, the CIA in Afghanistan. The company even maintains
its own forward operating bases in Afghanistan, including one along the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border. "This is the closest base to the
[Pakistani] border," Blackwater's owner Erik Prince recently bragged to
Vanity Fair. "Who else has built a fob along the main
infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama
bin Laden?"

Blackwater has been working for the CIA since at least April 2002.
Prince recently claimed he was personally a CIA asset, conducting
clandestine black operations around the globe. In June, Leon Panetta
reportedly told Congress he had canceled the CIA assassination program
involving Blackwater.

While the CIA said in December that Blackwater only continues its
security and support role for the CIA, NBC News reported that the
Blackwater men were not doing security at the time of the blast. The two
Blackwater operatives killed in the bombing have been identified as
Jeremy Wise, a 35-year old ex-Navy SEAL, and 46-year-old Dane Clark
Paresi.

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