Thursday, August 20, 2009

Undisclosed CIA Program More Operational Than Thought

Last month, the New York Times was the first outlet to report that (previous blogpost here), in the period following September 11, 2001, the CIA had begun a program to capture or kill members of Al Qaeda. At the time the story broke, much ink was spilt discussing how operational the CIA program had been – the extent to which the CIA’s program was operational, it was argued, had a direct bearing on whether the CIA was required by law to inform Congress of its activities. I did not buy the argument that the supposedly nascent CIA program escaped the reporting requirements of the National Security Act at the outset but now it appears the CIA’s program was further along than previously thought.

The New York Times reports today that in 2004 the CIA hired Blackwater, the infamous private security contractor, “as part of a program to locate and assassinate operative of Al Qaeda.” The Times cannot say whether “the CIA planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program.”

Either way, as the Times rightly notes, the CIA’s relationship with a private security force in an operation designed to kill or capture people raises serious concerns.

So, the CIA’s until-recently-undisclosed program to kill or capture member of Al Qaeda is troubling on two fronts. The CIA, supposedly at the behest of the Bush administration, avoided its reporting requirements under the National Security Act of 1947. And the CIA looked to outsource some portion of a lethal program to a private security contractor.

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