‘CIA asked Blackwater to take out AQ Khan’
12 December, 2009
LAHORE: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had asked private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide to kill Dr AQ Khan, the Pakistani scientist “who shared nuclear know-how with Iran, Libya, and North Korea”, agency’s founder Erik Prince admitted in an interview with Vanity Fair.
According to a source who spoke to the magazine, the authorities in Washington “chose not to pull the trigger”, however, adding “Dr Khan’s inclusion on the target list would suggest that the assassination effort was broader than has previously been acknowledged”.
Admission: The New York Times (NYT) reported that Prince also admitted to participating in some of the CIA’s most sensitive operations, including raids on suspected militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now known as Xe Services, “Blackwater’s role in both wars changed sharply when its guards began providing security for CIA operatives in the field”.
Raids on suspected insurgents in Iraq, known as ‘snatch and grab’ operations, began happening almost nightly during the worst years of the war between 2004 and 2006.
The paper quoted several former Blackwater guards as saying 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 officers.
The Washington Post’s sources reported that the actions taken by the agency’s personnel “went beyond the protective role specified in a classified Blackwater contract with the CIA” and included active participation in raids overseen by the CIA or special forces personnel.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Xe Services, was quoted as saying that 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,” he said.
Several former CIA counterterrorism officials told WP that CIA headquarters was not aware of such actions and did not authorise them. Separately, the NYT quoted former Blackwater employees as saying they helped provide security on some CIA flights transporting detainees in the years after the 2001 terror attacks in the US.
George Little, a CIA spokesman, would not comment on Blackwater’s ties to the agency. But he said the CIA employs contractors to “enhance the skills of our own work force, just as American law permits”.
Intelligence officials deny that the agency has ever used Blackwater to fly high-value detainees in and out of secret CIA prisons that were shut down earlier this year. The Blackwater spokesman said company personnel were never involved in CIA “rendition flights,” which transferred terrorism suspects to other countries for interrogation.