Aug 20, 2009

Blackwater and the CIA's "Unsuccessful" Assassination Program [LINK]

My latest letter to the Globe regarding a piece reprinted from the New York Times:

A report on Blackwater's involvement in a controversial and now defunct CIA program designed to assassinate top Al Qaeda operatives says the agency "spent several million dollars on the program, which did not capture or kill any terrorist suspects." While nominally true, casual readers may well conclude this money was abjectly wasted, and would find it difficult to grasp an essential point. No part of this program ever became operational, so the fact that it didn't kill any Al Qaeda members is hardly remarkable. Similarly, the statement that Blackwater helped the CIA with "planning, training, and surveillance" implies some other set of activities than those few. The story's headline goes even further in suggesting something might have actually happened: "Blackwater had key role in '04 secret mission."

It's not hard to understand why there would be so little acknowledgment that the program never made it past the planning stage, because then the juicy controversy about it not having been revealed to Congress would evaporate. To the extent there is any acknowledgment, the report implies some controversy over allowing "unaccountable" third-party contractors any involvement in such planning. However, let me express my gratitude at the outcome, in which relatively few CIA agents were diverted from their work of both planning and implementing other programs that ultimately were successful in decimating Al Qaeda.

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