According to the International Herald Tribune of August 21, 2009, the CIA hired Blackwater, which changed its name to Xe Services, to conduct extra-judicial assassinations of individuals disliked by the United States. Although the targeted individuals were labelled as Al Qaeda operatives, their identification and designation remained a political, and not a judicial, decision.
Senator Dianne Feinstein who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, contacted by the Tribune, declined to give details of this program.
According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CIA officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to assassinate alleged Al Qaeda operatives.
In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the CIA station in Kabul, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the CIA.
Officials said that the CIA program of assassinations was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using remote-controlled aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas.
Extra-judicial assassinations constitute a gross violation of human rights and may reach the threshold of a crime against humanity.