Ausgabe 35/2009

Merchants of Death Memo Reveals Details of Blackwater Targeted Killings Program

By Gabor Steingart in Washington

Part 2: Assassination Teams and Extraordinary Renditions

In addition to working for government departments, Blackwater also worked directly for the intelligence agency, as the new CIA director recently confirmed in a closed-door hearing in the US Congress. And in a memo SPIEGEL has obtained, two other former employees describe, for the first time, the details of this covert collaboration.

The two informants are referred to as "Source A" and "Source B" in the internal memo. According to Source B, Blackwater, working on behalf of the CIA, flew terror suspects from Guantanamo to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, where the detainees apparently faced "special treatment" in secret prisons.

The intelligence service commissioned Blackwater and its subsidiaries to transport terror suspects from Guantanamo to interrogations at secret prison camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The paper identifies aircraft movements and unveils how the flights were disguised. The memo reads: "The CIA hired Blackwater to conduct extraordinary renditions" and "Blackwater flew the rendition targets from Fort Perry and Cuba to Kandahar, Afghanistan."

'The CIA Hired Blackwater'

According to the informant, some of the flights were provided by two other companies Prince owned, Presidential Airways and Aviation Worldwide, which were given special clearance in 2003 by the US Defense Department to conduct such flights. Source B even knew the tail numbers of the aircraft that were allegedly involved: N962BW, N964BW and N968BW.

The flights also involved Satelles Solutions, another Prince subsidiary, which operates a training and recruitment camp in the Philippines designed to accommodate about 1,000 soldiers.

According to Source A, Blackwater also helped out the CIA with another controversial activity during the Bush years. In the memo, Source A writes: "The CIA hired Blackwater to conduct targeted killings in Afghanistan."

In June Leon Panetta, Obama's new CIA director, told lawmakers in a closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill about a secret program to kill or capture al-Qaida operatives that was begun eight years ago. The purpose of the so-called assassination program was to recruit and train special forces to assassinate senior al-Qaida leaders.

Authority to Kill

According to Panetta, Cheney asked the CIA not to disclose the covert program to Congress. The argument that was used at the time was that when combating terrorism, the CIA has the authority to kill without special congressional approval. The program, however, never quite went beyond the training phase, according to CIA testimony before the US Senate.

The memo by the two sources gets more specific. Source A names five people who were allegedly involved in the development of assassination teams, including a man who left Blackwater in mid-2005 and last worked as the head of the Blackwater's OGA division. The acronym stands for "Other Government Agencies," which included the connection to the CIA. The other men on the source's list are a former member of Blackwater's paratrooper unit, an employee of Blackwater Security Consulting who, according to the memo, was designated as a "hit man" within the unit and Alvin Bernard Krongard, the most senior employee on the list, who the source claims was responsible for assembling the teams. "Krongard set up the teams," the paper claims.

But the memo does not specify whether agreements were made with individuals or the company itself, or what Krongard's role was exactly. The latter is particularly difficult to determine, given that Krongard has worked on both sides of the desk. From March 2001 to September 2004, Krongard served as the CIA's executive director, under then-CIA Director George Tenet. After leaving office, he switched to the private sector, joining Blackwater's advisory board.

'We Are Not Inclined to Comment'

SPIEGEL confronted the company, the CIA and Krongard with the contents of the memo last Wednesday, but they had declined to comment by Friday. A CIA spokesman was unwilling to confirm or deny cooperation with Blackwater with regard to the assassination program or the secret detainee transports. "We do not comment on our contractual relationships," the spokesman said. He did note, however, that the details of the memo included "mistakes," although he chose not to elaborate.

Stacy DeLuke, the spokeswoman of Xe Services (as Blackwater is now called), answered in an e-mail: "Due to the sensitive nature of these allegations, we are not inclined to comment at this time." Krongard's assistant Cathy Davis said: "I received your e-mail and confirm receipt by Mr. Krongard as well," but did not respond to questions about Krongard's role.

The allegations have triggered growing unease on Capitol Hill, where senators want to know more about the covert assassination program. Last Friday, it was also revealed that Blackwater assisted in drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a letter to fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky urged the secretary of state "not to enter into further contracts with Xe and to immediately review any existing contracts."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


© DER SPIEGEL 35/2009
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Reproduction only allowed with permission

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