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Panetta: “Not much choice’ but to use Blackwater

By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer
Sunday, June 27, 2010 12:33 EDT
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CIA director says ‘at most’ 50 to 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

How can a company allegedly responsible for killing 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad in 2007 continue to get State Department and CIA contracts? CIA Director Leon Panetta says there is “not much choice” because few companies have the capabilities of Blackwater.

“Since I have become director, I have asked our agency to review every contract we have had with Blackwater and whatever their new name is now — Xe — to ensure first and foremost that we have no contract in which they are engaged in any CIA operations. We’re doing our own operations. That’s important that we not contract that out to anybody,” Panetta told ABC’s Jake Tapper Sunday.

“But at the same time I have to tell you that in the war zone, we continue to have needs for security. You’ve got a lot of forward bases. You’ve got a lot of attacks on some of those bases. We’ve got to have security. Unfortunately, there are few companies that provide that kind of security,” Panetta continued.

“State Department relies on them. We rely on them to a certain extent. So, we’ve bid out some of those contracts. They provided a bid that underbid everyone else by about $26 million and a panel that we had said that they can do the job, that they’ve shaped up their act,” he said.

“There was really not much choice but to accept that contract,” said Panetta.

“But having said that, I will tell you that I continue to be very cautious about any of those contracts and we’re reviewing all of the bids that we have with that company,” he concluded.

The CIA recently signed a new $100-million contract with Blackwater to guard its facilities in Afghanistan.

50 TO 100 AL QAEDA IN AFGHANISTAN

Panetta also told ABC’s Jake Tapper that he estimates there are somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 100 Al Qaeda operatives inside Afghanistan.

“There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan,” he said.

Faiz Shakir at ThinkProgress notes that, with approximately 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan, that works out to 1,000 troops per Al Qaeda agent.

FEDS WON’T CHARGE BLACKWATER IN ATTEMPT TO BREAK SANCTIONS

The US won’t charge Blackwater over its attempts to secure security contracts in restive southern Sudan, even though the company’s attempts evidently violated sanctions placed on Sudan by the US, McClatchy news service reports.

The effort to drum up new business in East Africa by Blackwater owner Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who had close ties with top officials in the George W. Bush White House and the CIA, became a major element in a continuing four-year federal investigation into allegations of sanctions violations, illegal exports and bribery.

The Obama administration, however, has decided for now not to bring criminal charges against Blackwater, according to a U.S. official close to the case.

Had the company been indicted, it could have been suspended from doing business with the U.S. government, and a conviction could have brought debarment from all government contracts, including providing guard services for the CIA and State Department in war zones.

This video is from Fox’s Fox News Sunday, broadcast June 27, 2010.


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