Blackwater Still on the U.S.' Dime

After its contractors killed civilians in Iraq in 2007, the security firm formerly known as Blackwater was shunned by the U.S.—or so the public thought. Despite publicly breaking with the firm, the State Department has continued to grant the company, now called Xe, more than $400 million in contracts, The New York Times reports. It's still used to fly diplomats around Iraq and protect them in Afghanistan, and to train antiterrorism security forces at its camp in North Carolina—and one of its contracts runs until 2011. The enduring reliance on the firm, given its history, underscores the extent of the U.S.' reliance on private contractors to perform highly sensitive and critical jobs, as the country struggles with an overstretched military and spy service.