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Reports Revive Debate on Contractor Use

Blackwater security contractors guard then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in Baghdad in March 2006.
Blackwater security contractors guard then-U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in Baghdad in March 2006. (By Jacob Silberberg -- Associated Press)

The precise dollar amount of Xe's business with other government agencies is difficult to determine. But "Master of War," an investigative book on Blackwater by journalist Suzanne Simons published this year, put the sum at $2 billion since 1997 -- not including the company's classified contracts with the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer who has written several books on intelligence, on Friday criticized the choice of Blackwater in assassination operations.

"It's one thing, albeit often misguided, for the agency to outsource certain tasks to contractors," he wrote on Time magazine's Web site. "It's quite another to involve a company like Blackwater in even just the planning and training of targeted killings, akin to the CIA going to the Mafia to draw up a plan to kill Castro."

Hayden said that about 30 percent of CIA employees are contractors, down from a much higher percentage several years ago. But contracting in the intelligence community remains widespread.

L-3, the giant military contractor, says on its Web site that its Intelligence Solutions Division has 2,300 employees at more than 28 sites worldwide. It is advertising this month to hire personnel for eight military intelligence jobs in Afghanistan, including a senior intelligence analyst with 10 years of Defense Department or other government agency experience and a Top Secret clearance.

Meanwhile, Raytheon, the corporation that supplies many technical elements of the Predator drones, is advertising for a technician to help "troubleshoot" the surveillance camera used on the unmanned vehicles.

A senior Senate staff aide familiar with defense matters said yesterday that such technicians are needed "because the equipment is so advanced" that the best workers are those from the companies that helped build the drones and not from the military.

Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.

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