WASHINGTON— The founder of Blackwater Worldwide acknowledged in an interview published Wednesday that he had helped the CIA with secret programs targeting top al-Qaida leaders, a role he says was intended to give the agency "unattributable capability" in sensitive missions.
Erik Prince, owner of the military contractor now known as Xe Services, told Vanity Fair magazine that his company performed numerous "very risky missions" for the spy agency, some of which were improperly exposed in leaks to the news media.
The magazine, granted rare access to Prince and his deputies at the company's facilities in the United States and Afghanistan, said the former Navy SEAL had served a dual role for the CIA as a contractor and an "asset," or spy, who carried out secret missions as recently as two months ago, when the Obama administration terminated his contract.
Among other, previously undisclosed roles, Prince ran intelligence-gathering operations to coordinate the movement of undercover spies in "one of the so-called Axis of Evil countries," the magazine reported.
"But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus," Prince said, referring to recent leaks about his company's CIA ties.
Blackwater was identified in media reports this summer as a participant in a secret CIA program that sought to use special teams of assassins to kill or capture al-Qaida leaders overseas. The program was halted in July after CIA director Leon Panetta privately briefed congressional leaders.