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Airport Security Firm Also Had CIA Contract - 2001-12-07

A private security company under fire for using convicts and foreign nationals at major U.S. airports has also provided guard services to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The same private guard firm accused of gross security lapses at major U.S. airports once provided personnel to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Argenbright company told VOA it supplied a relatively small number of guards and what were termed access control personnel at CIA headquarters just outside Washington D.C.

A spokesman for the firm could not say how long Argenbright had its CIA contract or when or why the contract ended.

A CIA spokesman confirmed Argenbright is no longer associated with the agency although the CIA continues to employ private contract guards, mainly to escort maintenance-type workers on the grounds of the agency's headquarters.

The spokesman insists, however, that all such private guards, now and previously, have passed rigorous background security checks. He also says they are not armed and do not perform any sensitive jobs.

Argenbright has been accused of using convicts, illegal aliens and unskilled workers in its airport security business.

It was Argenbright that provided security services at two of the three airports where suicide terrorists hijacked airplanes on September 11 of this year.

The foreign-owned Argenbright firm has some 20,000 employees nationwide. A company spokesman says most work under contract for airlines or as guards at commercial property. He says government contracts, like the one the company once had with the CIA, are a small part of the firm's overall business.

The U.S. office of Personnel Management says the federal government employs close to 4,000 of its own security guards - more than half at the Defense Department.

But these are all fulltime federal employees, not private guards supplied under contract with private companies. Some government agencies use private guards, but an OPM spokesman told VOA that no data is kept on how many.

Private contract guards provide access control and other security at the government office building which is the headquarters of the Voice of America.