CIA hires Xe, formerly Blackwater, to guard facilities in Afghanistan, elsewhere

By Jeff Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2010; A11

The CIA has hired Xe Services, the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere, according to an industry source.

The previously undisclosed CIA contract is worth about $100 million, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deal, which is classified.

"It's for protective services . . . guard services, in multiple regions," the source said.

Two other security contractors, Triple Canopy and DynCorp International, put in losing bids for the CIA's business, the source said.

The revelation comes only a day after members of a federal commission investigating war-zone contractors blasted the State Department for granting Xe a new $120 million contract to guard U.S. consulates under construction in Afghanistan.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano stopped short of confirming the contract, saying only that Xe personnel would not be involved in operations.

"While this agency does not, as a rule, comment on contractual relationships we may or may not have, we follow all applicable federal laws and regulations," Gimigliano said.

The spokesman added: "We have a very careful process when it comes to procurement, and we take it seriously. We've also made it clear that personnel from Xe do not serve with the CIA in any operational roles."

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Erik Prince, chairman of the board at Xe and owner of Prince Group -- which owns Xe -- said the firm had no comment.

"Blackwater has undergone some serious changes," said a U.S. official who is familiar with the deal and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it freely.

"They've had to prove to the government that they're a responsible outfit. Having satisfied every legal requirement, they have the right to compete for contracts. They have people who do good work, at times in some very dangerous places. Nobody should forget that, either."

The firm, based in Moyock, N.C., has been fighting off prosecution and lawsuits since a September 2007 incident in Baghdad, when its guards opened fire in a city square, allegedly killing 17 unarmed civilians and wounding 24.

Two weeks ago, Prince announced that he was putting the company on the block. A spokeswoman said "a number of firms" are interested in buying but declined to elaborate.

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