Two Americans Killed in Attack on CIA Base Worked for Xe─Formerly Blackwater

Two of the seven Americans killed in the Dec. 30 suicide bombing of a CIA outpost in Khost, Afghanistan, were employees of Xe, the current incarnation of the controversial paramilitary contractor formerly known as Blackwater, according to people familiar with the issue, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. One source said that the Xe employees had been involved directly in CIA intelligence operations, rather than merely serving as security guards at the remote CIA facility.

An Associated Press story published Wednesday cited an obituary released Wednesday as the original source for information indicating that bombing victim Jeremy Wise, a 35-year-old a former Navy SEAL from Virginia Beach, Va., had been working at the outpost, known as Forward Operating Base Chapman, for the company now known as Xe. The wire service reported that MindyLou Paresi of Dupont, Wash., had told The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., that her husband, 46-year-old Dane Clark Paresi, was also a Xe contractor who was killed in the attack.

Two people familiar with details of the incident confirmed the identities of Wise and Paresi to NEWSWEEK and that they were working for Xe, evidently as contractors to the CIA, at the time of their deaths. While Xe has principally been known for providing highly trained physical-security officers to U.S. agencies like the State Department and CIA, according to one of the people familiar with the late Xe employees' activities, their role in CIA activities at the Chapman base may have involved them directly in agency counterterrorism operations, rather than merely providing security to the base.

Since the incident, the CIA has declined to release names or biographic information on those who died. But a U.S. intelligence official told NEWSWEEK: "The agency does not, at times like this, draw distinctions between contractors and staff officers. Everyone who was there faced the same dangers in pursuit of the same mission. Counterterrorism is by definition hazardous work, and it's a disgrace for second-guessers who don't know the facts to suggest that anyone took a cavalier approach to security. No one does in Afghanistan, let alone when you're meeting someone with extremist ties."

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Xe, told NEWSWEEK: "We have no comment. But our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the fallen."

Initial reports said that seven CIA employees had been killed when a Jordanian doctor, who was being evaluated as a possible informant against Al Qaeda, was invited onto the CIA base and blew himself up. However the dead are now understood to include the two Xe employees. The involvement in the incident of personnel from Xe, which changed its name from Blackwater after that corporate identity became tarnished in the wake of a series of deadly incidents in Iraq, is almost certain to raise new questions about the extent to which U.S. government agencies rely upon outside contractors for ultra-sensitive security and intelligence operations. Intelligence sources have said that Blackwater personnel, if not the company itself, were also involved in discussions that CIA officials had during the Bush administration about establishing some kind of Israeli-style hit squads to hunt down and kill Al Qaeda leaders.