There's word that the CIA hired private contractors for a secret program aimed at killing top al-Qaida operatives.
The agency hired the Blackwater USA consultants for tasks that included planning, training and surveillance. The contracts were unsuccessful and were canceled several years ago.
The New York Times first reported the program on its Web site. The program was canceled twice, first by CIA Director George Tenet and then by current CIA Director Leon Panetta. In between, it was restarted by Porter Goss.
Blackwater is now known as Xe Services, but remains based out of Moyock in Currituck County in Eastern Carolina. The company has come under heavy criticism for its alleged role in a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.