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Blackwater USA

Xe and Blackwater are former names of Academi, a private military contractor co-founded by former Navy Seal Erik Prince.

Blackwater's abandoned logo

XE LogoACADEMI-Hi-res-Logo.jpg

Blackwater offered "tactical training," firing range and target systems, and security consulting under the company's subdivisions: Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security Consulting and Blackwater Canine. According to its website, Blackwater provides "a spectrum of support to military, government agencies, law enforcement and civilian entities in training, targets and range operations as a solution provider." Their slogan is: "Providing a new generation of capability, skills, and people to solve the spectrum of needs in the world of security."[1] Academi has retained many of Blackwater's former services, and still provides military support, counterterrorism training, and bodyguard services. [2]

About Blackwater

Prior to their rebranding, the "About Blackwater" section of Blackwater's website stated: "Blackwater Training Center was founded in 1996 to fulfill the anticipated demand for government outsourcing of firearms and related security training. Located on over 6000 acres in Moyock, North Carolina (just south of the Virginia border), Blackwater has the finest private firearms training facility in the U.S. Blackwater has set a new standard for firearms and security training and is recognized as the industry leader in providing government outsource solutions in training, security, canine services, aviation support services, range construction and steel target equipment. Since its inception, Blackwater has trained over 50,000 military and law enforcement personnel and provided solutions to hundreds of satisfied customers."[3]

Blackwater changed its name to Xe in 2009 as part of a rebranding effort that started in 2007 after its employees were involved in a shooting in Baghdad which killed 17 Iraqi civilians.[4] Xe became known as Academi in 2011, following another rebranding effort initiated by its new owners USTC Holdings.[5]

As Academi, the corporation still maintains a 6,000 acre training facility as part of its headquarters, in North Carolina. The firm has additional offices in Baghdad, Iraq, and Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Blackwater was one of two companies which make up The Prince Group, the other being Prince Manufacturing.[6] The Prince Group tapped former Pentagon Inspector General, Joseph E. Schmitz, for chief operating officer and general counsel in September of 2005.[7]

The Prince Group bought Aviation Worldwide Services[8] in May of 2003. AWS consists of STI Aviation, Inc., Air Quest, Inc., and Presidential Airways, Inc. These companies provide the logistical and air support for Blackwater operations. Blackwater itself consists of Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security Consulting and Blackwater Canine.[9]

Blackwater received no-bid contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-Katrina New Orleans under the Bush administration.[10]

A "Timeline of significant events for Blackwater" was posted September 18, 2007, by The Virginian-Pilot of Hampton Roads, Virginia.[11]

In November 2008, Blackwater announced that it had "laid off an undisclosed number of employees after it failed to win a government contract for its Grizzly armored vehicle to replace the Humvee." [12]


2007: The killing of five Blackwater employees in central Baghdad

On January 23, 2007, a helicopter owned by Blackwater crashed in "the heavily Sunni Fadhil neighborhood in north-central Baghdad [on the east side of the Tigris River], where witnesses reported clashes between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces."[13] According to a U.S. military official, "five civilians were killed". A "senior Iraqi defense official said the aircraft was shot down" by "a gunman with a PKC machine gun."

Blackwater "confirmed the five men were employed by the North Carolina-based company as security professionals."[14]

"Although accounts varied, all were consistent that at least one person operating the aircraft had been shot and badly hurt before the crash," the Associated Press reported January 23, 2007.[14]

On January 24, 2007, the Associated Press reported[13] that U.S. and Iraqi officials said that four of the five Blackwater employees were "shot execution style in the back the head." A senior U.S. Department of Defense official said that it was unknown whether the four were alive when shot."

Although a "senior Iraqi military official said a machine gunner downed the helicopter,... a U.S. military official in Washington said there were no indications that the aircraft, owned by Blackwater USA, had been shot out of the sky. Two Sunni insurgent groups, separately, claimed responsibility for the crash."[13]

"The helicopter was shot down after responding to assist a U.S. Embassy ground convoy that came under fire in a Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad, said a U.S. diplomatic official in Washington. ... The doomed helicopter swooped into electrical wires before the crash. U.S. officials said it was not clear if gunfire brought the aircraft down or caused its pilot to veer into the wires during evasive manuevers."[13]

"A second helicopter also was struck, but there were no casualties among its crew, said the diplomatic official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to make statements."[13]

"Before Tuesday's crash, at least 22 employees of Blackwater Security Consultants or Blackwater USA had died in Iraq as a result of war-related violence, according to the Web site iCasualties.org, which tracks foreign troop fatalities in Iraq. Of those, 20 were Americans, and two were Polish," the Associated Press reported.[15]

2005: The loss of seven Blackwater employees north of Baghdad and in Ramadi

Blackwater lost seven American employees April 21, 2005, in Iraq, bringing the "number of Blackwater employees killed in Iraq to 18."[16]

Six employees were killed "when a Bulgarian commercial helicopter crashed north of Baghdad. ... A seventh died when a roadside bomb detonated next to one of the company's armored personnel carriers near Ramadi. Four Blackwater employees were wounded in the Ramadi attack. All were working under contract to the U.S. military."[16]

Insurgents shot the helicopter down "with a heat-seeking missile."[17] "The Blackwater contractors and two Fijian bodyguards working for Virginia-based Skylink Air and Logistic Support were en route from a Baghdad-area airfield to Tikrit, north of the capital, U.S. officials said.

"The three-man Bulgarian crew was flying the helicopter close to the ground, a military tactic intended to avoid giving attackers time to spot aircraft and line up a shot, according to U.S. officials."[17]

"The attack marked the first time in the two years of the U.S.-led occupation that fighters in Iraq have succeeded in bringing down an aircraft contracted for transporting civilians. Planes and helicopters are being used increasingly around the country as attacks make road travel on vital routes deadly for Iraqis and foreigners alike."[17]

2004: The killing of four Blackwater employees in Fallujah

Blackwater—and private military contractors in general—came under increased public scrutiny following the public killing and mutilation of four employees in Fallujah, Iraq on March 31, 2004. This increased scrutiny lead the firm to hire the Alexander Strategy Group for crisis management, public and media relations.[18]

According to Russel Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, a few days after the Fallujah killings, "Blackwater Security Consulting engaged in full-scale battle in Najaf, with the company flying its own helicopters amidst an intense firefight to resupply its own commandos."[19]


The Nisoor Square killings and Iraq's decision to expel Blackwater

on September 17, 2007, the Iraqi government said that "it was revoking the license" of Blackwater USA, which has been "accused of involvement in the deaths of eight civilians in a firefight[20] that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade on September 16, 2007[21]]. ... Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of western Baghdad."[22]

A "preliminary Iraqi report" filed by the Ministry of Interior "on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said [September 19, 2007,] that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant." The report, "presented to the Iraqi cabinet and, though unverified, seemed to contradict an account offered by Blackwater USA that the guards were responding to gunfire by militants. The report said Blackwater helicopters had also fired. The Ministry of Defense said 20 Iraqis had been killed, a far higher number than had been reported before."[23]

Then, on September 23, 2007, Iraq said it "will not take immediate steps to expel" Blackwater, which is under a joint investigation by Iraqi and U.S. governments. An Iraqi security spokesman said that "Blackwater and other private security companies were doing important work guarding foreign diplomats."[24]

In January 2008, the Associated Press reported that Blackwater "repaired and repainted its trucks immediately after a deadly September shooting in Baghdad, making it difficult to determine whether enemy gunfire provoked the attack. A Blackwater spokesperson said the truck repairs "would have been done at the government's direction," perhaps referring to an obligation under the firm's contract with the State Department that it maintain its own vehicles. [25]

Blackwater Air Force

In August 2007, it was reported that Blackwater U.S.A., which "already has a force of armed helicopters in Iraq, and apparently wants something a little faster, and more heavily armed, to fulfill its security contracts overseas", was buying "one two-seater" "five ton, single engine" "Super Tucano light combat aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer".[26] "[B]uilt for pilot training, [they] also perform quite well for counter-insurgency work."[27]

"[B]asically a prop driven trainer that is equipped for combat missions", the "aircraft can carry up to 1.5 tons of weapons, including 12.7mm machine-guns, bombs and missiles. The aircraft cruises at about 500 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for about 6.5 hours per sortie. One of the options is a FLIR (infrared radar that produces a photo realistic video image in any weather) and a fire control system for bombing. ...

"The Super Tucano costs $9 million each, and come in one or two seat versions. The bubble canopy provides excellent visibility. This, coupled with its slow speed (versus jets), makes it an excellent ground attack aircraft."[27]

Reservists faced court martial for confrontation with Blackwater contractor

In February 2007, the Air Force Times reported that

"Two Air Force lieutenant colonels are facing charges of assault and conduct unbecoming an officer stemming from a face-off with a Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan last fall. Civilian attorneys for the two men say the case raises troubling questions for airmen operating in the war zone, and argue that the Air Force is prosecuting the officers for essentially following rules of engagement.
"The facts of the case are in dispute. The Air Force charges indicate the two men, Lt. Col. Gary W. Brown and Lt. Col. Christopher R. Hall, initiated the incident by ramming the contractor’s sport utility vehicle. But family members of the two men say that story is backward — that security contractor Jerry Bergeron rammed the Air Force SUV the two officers were in and that they responded to what they perceived as a threat on their lives."[28]

Cleared of all charges amid allegations of witness tampering and more

The two reservists were subsequently cleared, according to the Air Force Times:

"An investigating officer concluded in March that the charges against Brown and Hall should be dropped. 'Given the security situation in Kabul at the time, and the facts and circumstances of their encounter with Mr. Bergeron on the road, and then at the gate, I believe that they truly felt threatened and reacted exactly as they were trained to do,' she wrote. Moreover, her report to the convening authority, Lt. Gen. Gary North, head of Central Command Air Forces and 9th Air Force, included allegations of witness tampering, attempted bribery, falsified evidence and doctored charging documents. 'In this case, the Article 32 investigation uncovered information that someone may have attempted to influence the testimonies of several local national witnesses,' the Air Force statement released Saturday reads."[29]

Brown's wife Stacey set up a website, http://www.wrongedbyblackwater.com/, to publicise the case and raise money for the two men's legal defense.[30] Sometime in September 2007, the site was taken down. However, it is still available from the Yahoo cache.[31]

Employment of Kenneth Starr

Former the independent counsel in the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal Kenneth Starr served as "council of record" for Blackwater in 2006.[32] "Starr was brought in last week by Blackwater to file motions in front of the US Supreme Court in a case stemming from the killing of four Blackwater contractors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah on March 31, 2004."

"There are undeniable benefits to having Starr, the US Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush, represent Blackwater—a highly partisan GOP company—in front of a Supreme Court stacked with Bush appointees. Starr also has a personal connection to Blackwater. Starr and Joseph Schmitz, the general counsel and chief operating officer of Blackwater's parent company, the Prince Group, have both worked closely with the arch-conservative Washington Legal Foundation. Since 1993 Starr has served on the legal policy advisory board of the organization for which Schmitz has frequently acted as a spokesperson and attorney."[32]

CIA-Pentagon-Blackwater "revolving door"

"A number of senior CIA and Pentagon officials have taken top jobs at Blackwater, including firm vice chairman Cofer Black, who was the Bush Administration's top counterterrorism official at the time of the 9/11 attacks (and who famously said in 2002, 'There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves came off')," Ken Silverstein wrote September 12, 2006, in Harper's Magazine.[33]

In fall 2005, Robert Richer "resigned from the post of Associate Deputy Director of Operations; he immediately took a job as Blackwater's Vice President of Intelligence. Richer is a former head of the CIA's Near East Division and long served in Amman, where, for a period beginning in 1999, he held the post of station chief. For years he was the agency's point man with Jordan's King Abdullah, with whom he developed an extraordinarily close relationship," Silverstein wrote.[33]

Also, Silverstein wrote in September 2006, "there's talk at the agency that Blackwater is also aggressively recruiting José Rodriguez, the CIA's current top spy as director of the National Clandestine Service. Rodriguez has a number of former agency friends at Blackwater, most notably Rick Prado, with whom he served in Latin America and who is now Blackwater's Vice President of Special Programs."[33] After retirement from the CIA, Rodriguez joined the National Interest Security Company as Senior Vice President of NISC Mission Services.[34]

Recent Cofer Black start-up and merger, Total Intelligence Solutions, LLC, is a merger of three companies, The Black Group, The Terrorism Research Center, Inc. and Technical Defense. TIS very well may fall outside the legal corporate domain of Blackwater, however two of the top executives at TIS, Cofer Black and Enrique Prado still hold positions at Blackwater, and Robert Richer recently left his position at Blackwater to take on responsibilities at TIS. As well, it should be noted that one of the three companies merged to create TIS, The Terrorism Research Center, is owned by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.[35]

UN Peacekeepers

Blackwater's advertisement in the IPOA journal, March/April 2007

Blackwater was an active member of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade association which promotes the use of commercial force, logistics, demining and other conflict/post conflict services. Blackwater ran an advertisement on the second page of their journals, which can be downloaded free at their website,[36] which formed a part of their rebranding efforts.

Blackwater said that "it can help keep peace in Darfur."[37] "Doug Brooks runs an association of private military firms, which includes Blackwater. He says his members can help where governments have failed."[37]

The United Nations, opposed the outsourcing of its peacekeeping forces.[37] "The peacekeeping pitch sounds great, but has all kinds of problems, [said] Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and author of Corporate Warriors. "For one thing, [Singer said], there's little accountability. If contractors misbehave—as they did at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison—they rarely face charges. Singer says private military firms are focusing on peacekeeping, in part, to improve their image."

Blackwater "is pushing to be part of UN peacekeeping missions in places like Darfur," The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti commented May 11, 2006, on her CBC (Canada) radio show. "But so far the United Nations is not buying. It says peacekeeping is something that requires great sensitivity."[38]

In 2008, Blackwater registered with the UN's procurement division, theoretically allowing it to compete for international peacekeeping contracts.[39] However, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno claimed that the UN would not outsource peacekeeping operations to private companies like Blackwater, stating "It's a sign of the commitment of the international community and the notion that you're going to build trust between parties who are fighting just with some mercenaries, I think we have seen time and again it doesn't work."[40]

Soliders of Fortune

Sonni Efron wrote July 30, 2005 for the Los Angeles Times that Blackwater was employing many foreign nationals in Iraq but, "there are no reliable figures on the number of guards from Colombia or other countries...Fijians, Ukrainians, South Africans, Nepalese and Serbs reportedly are on the job in Iraq."[41]

Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution stated, "veterans of Latin American conflicts, including Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, also had turned up. 'What we've done in Iraq is assemble a true 'coalition of the billing',' Singer said, playing off President Bush's description of the U.S.-led alliance of nations with a troop presence in Iraq as a 'coalition of the willing'," Efron wrote.[41]

Chilean "former commandos"

Blackwater and other U.S.-based private military contractors do not only recruit Americans; according to Jonathan Franklin, former commandos from Chile are an increasing presence among private military troops in Iraq. Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater, told the British newspaper The Guardian that former Chilean commandos, "many of who had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet," will be sent to Iraq for a year and a half, to guard oil wells from saboteurs. "We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals - the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," said Jackson. And the private military melting pot doesn't stop there: "Squads of Bosnians, Filipinos and Americans with special forces experience have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority."[42]

Colombian "seasoned counter insurgency troops"

The Colombian news magazine Semana and the Financial Times of London reported in September 2006 that "35 Colombians—mostly seasoned counter insurgency troops—alleged in a letter to Blackwater that recruiters had promised them salaries of $4,000 a month," Bill Sizemore wrote in The Virginian-Pilot. "They said it was only when they were given their contracts barely hours before leaving Bogota that they learned they would be paid $34 a day, or about $1,000 a month."[43]

"American contractors can earn $10,000 a month or more working for Blackwater and its competitors in Iraq," Sizemore wrote.[43]

In July 2005, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) was concerned "that U.S. government contractors [were] hiring thousands of impoverished former military personnel, with no public scrutiny, little accountability and large hidden costs to taxpayers," Sonni Efron wrote in the Los Angeles Times.[41]

"The United States has spent more than $4 billion since 2000 on Plan Colombia, a counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics program that includes training and support for the Colombian police and military. Last month, Congress moved toward approval of an additional $734.5 million in aid to the Andean region in 2006, most of it for Colombia. 'We're training foreign nationals - who then take that training and market it to private companies, who pay them three or four times as much as we're paying soldiers,' Schakowsky said. 'American taxpayers are paying for the training of those Colombian soldiers,' she said. 'When they leave to take more lucrative jobs, perhaps with an American military contractor, they take that training with them. So then we're paying to train that person's replacement. And then we're paying the bill to the private military contractors'," Efron wrote.[41]

Filipino "mercenaries"

"Many Filipinos apply for any type of work just to work abroad and earn money", with an estimated "tenth of the country's 84 million population ... out of the country and working legally and illegally abroad", Claro Cortes reported June 11, 2006, in Gulf News.[44]

"Authorities at the former US Naval Base in Subic have denied reports that an American company is using the facility to hire Filipino mercenaries for Iraq", Cortes wrote. Several Manila newspapers reported that Blackwater USA "was using the former US naval base to recruit Filipino mercenaries to fight in Iraq" and "even featured pictures of Filipino-looking men wearing combat fatigues during what appears to be guard duty in an alleged Middle East community."[44]

"The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the US for hiring Filipino mercenaries to fight its wars in Iraq and other countries," Manila's Sun Star reported June 12, 2006.[45] "New People's Army (NPA) spokesman Gregorio 'Ka Roger' Rosal said hiring Filipino civilians to provide support services for the US' war in Iraq and other countries is bad enough and should be discouraged, but 'hiring Filipino soldiers of fortune to fight in US wars of aggression and terror against other countries is even worse and deserves nothing but condemnation.'

"Rosal said the establishment of Blackwater's recruitment center in the Philippines stemmed from the mounting casualties of US military personnel that have triggered severe criticism, massive protests and plunging ratings for US President George W. Bush.

"He said the US has also turned to Third World countries to be able to cut costs as hired Filipino mercenaries are paid only US$60,000-US$80,000 a year, half of what it pays American mercenaries with equivalent qualifications and assignments," the Sun Star reported.[45]


Chris Hedges: "America's Holy Warriors"

Erik Prince[46] is "the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq," Chris Hedges wrote December 31, 2006, in Truthdig.[47] Prince "champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is deceitful, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution.[48] These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future. It was a stark reminder that the tyranny we impose on others we will one day impose on ourselves," Hedges wrote.[47]

Colonel Thomas X. Hammes on Blackwater in Iraq: "They made enemies everywhere"

In late January 2005, journalist Tim Shorrock wrote on his blog about a conference "organized by the George Washington University Law School with support from the International Peace Operations Association, which represents, Blackwater, MPRI and other major contractors". Shorrock wrote:[49]

"They made enemies everywhere," Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, an expert on guerrilla warfare and a senior fellow at the National Defense University told [the conference]. He was referring to the tactics used by Blackwater USA, the North Carolina company that was hired by the Coalition Provisional Authority to provide security for L. Paul Bremer, the US administrator who was dispatched by the Bush administration to run Iraq in 2003.
A few minutes earlier, Chris Taylor, Blackwater's vice president for strategic initiatives, had boasted about the protective cordon his company provided to Bremer. Under a "turnkey security package" with the CPA, Bremer was accompanied by 36 "personnel protection specialists," two K-9 dog teams and three MD-530 helicopters built by MD Helicopters, Inc..


  • Blackwater has been sued by families of the contractors killed in Falluja in March 2004. As Peter W. Singer states, this lawsuit, or one like it, was inevitable and necessary to establish some of the legal groundwork regarding contractors and PMCs on the battlefield.[50][51]
The case has been remanded back to Wake County Superior Court after being transferred to North Carolina Federal Court.[52] The families of the slain contractors and Blackwater entered arbitration but a judge threw out the case in 2011 because neither side was paying the costs of the arbitration process.[53]
  • Blackwater was sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act by families of Iraqis slain in the September 16th, 2007 massacre in Baghdad. The case Abtan et. al. v. Prince et. al. was filed on behalf of the Iraqis by the Center for Constitutional Rights.[56] The complaint asserted, inter alia that "Blackwater and its affiliated companies violated state, federal and international law, and 'created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.'"[56] The case was settled out of court in January, 2010.[56]
  • In 2012, two former Academi contractors working in Afghanistan sued their employer for unlawful retaliation after they revealed Academi was falsifying the results of firearms proficiency tests which were to be sent to the State Department.[57] The complaint alleged that Academi retaliated by causing the plaintiffs to be placed on a "Do Not Use" list with the State Department which would preclude them from further employment.[58] In March, 2013, the plaintiffs survived a motion to stay or dismiss the lawsuit so that the parties can arbitrate the claim persuant to a clause in the employment contract.[59]

Tax evasion

In October 2007, U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman said Blackwater "may have engaged in significant tax evasion." Waxman noted that the IRS had ruled that Blackwater had "violated federal tax laws by treating an armed guard as an 'independent contractor.'" Waxman added, "The implication of this ruling is that Blackwater may have avoided paying millions of dollars in Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and related taxes for which it is legally responsible." [60]

The House Oversight Committee had received information from a Blackwater employee, who was required "to sign a non-disclosure agreement before [Blackwater] agreed to pay the back pay and other compensation that he was owed. The terms of this agreement explicitly prohibited the guard from disclosing any information about Blackwater to 'any politician' or 'public official.'" Waxman warned that it "appears that Blackwater used this illegal scheme to avoid millions of dollars in taxes and then prevented the security guard who discovered the tax evasion from contacting members of Congress or law enforcement officials." [60]

Senator John Kerry, who was serving as the Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, sent letters to Eric Prince and Senators Max Baucus and Charles Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee requesting an investigation into whether Blackwater was intentionally misclassifying workers to avoid taxes.[61] It appears that a formal investigation never took place.

Public relations and lobbying

On October 11, 2007, Blackwater announced their withdrawal from the International Peace Operations Assocation, which is now known as the International Stability Operations Assocation. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Blackwater spokeswoman said, “We have decided to take a hiatus from the association. We, like many other organizations engaged in this type of work, are pursuing other aspects and methods of industry outreach and governance."[1][2]

Blackwater's immediate departure from IPOA may have been to avoid an internal investigation from the trade association. [3] Blackwater has started up their own organization, The Blackwater Peace and Stability Operations Institute [4].

The law firms representing Blackwater, McDermott Will & Emery and Crowell & Moring, have hired public relations giant Burson-Marsteller. Robert Tappan, one of the Burson-Marsteller executives working on the Blackwater case,[62] was formerly the deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the State Department. While in this capacity, he spent six months in Baghdad as the director of strategic communications for the Coalition Provisional Authority. [63]

According to PRWeek, Burson subsidiary, BKSH & Associates, was hired through an internal connection at Blackwater to help with Erik Prince's October 2, 2007 testimony to Congress and that this "temporary engagement has ended". [64]

In January 2008, Blackwater hired Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, "as its D.C. representative for contracting and acquisition issues," reported O'Dwyer's PR Daily. The firm will serve as Blackwater's "D.C. representative for contracting and acquisition issues." Firm lobbyists on the Blackwater account include Jimmy Broughton, who was former Senator Jesse Helms's chief of staff; Mark Harkins, who worked for Representative Brad Miller; and Kevin Jones, who served as a legislative assistant to former Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen.. [65]

As of January 2008, the online database Lobbyists.info also listed C&M Capitolink and Gregory F. Hahn, in addition to Womble Carlyle, as Blackwater's lobbying firms. [66]

In the first quarter of 2010, Blackwater paid over $500,000 to Stewart Eizenstat of Covington and Burlington to represent the defense firm in the procurement of "government contracts. Eizenstat was part of the Carter and Clinton Administrations in various roles, including US Ambassador to the European Union and Undersecretary of State. This amount represents "the single greatest sum spent on lobbying by Blackwater in any quarter since the company's founding in 1997-98.[67]

Rebranding and Reselling Efforts

In February 2009, Blackwater changed its name to "Xe," (pronounced like the letter "Z"), as part of a "rebranding" effort aimed at helping the company distance itself from negative incidents such as a September 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Iraq that killed at least a dozen civilians.[68] The company says its latest name change is meant to reflect a new focus. Blackwater / Xe spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, "We've taken the company to a place where it is no longer accurately described as Blackwater." Its subsidiaries also have new names: Blackwater Airships is now Guardian Flight Systems, Blackwater Target Systems is GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center is the U.S. Training Center. The company also shed its bear-paw and crosshairs logo, for a stylized rendering of the name "Xe." The new head of Blackwater / Xe, Gary Jackson, told employees, "Xe will be a one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics." [69] However, in June 2010, Xe announced it would be pursuing a sale in part because rebranding efforts failed to change opinions of the company, most critically inside government, which is its main customer [5]. Xe became known as Academi in 2011, following another rebranding effort initiated by its new owners USTC Holdings.[70]

Front Groups

The American Police Force

The American Police Force or American Private Police Force, is a private military company with corporate headquarters in Anaheim, California. The company gained notoriety for making several unsubstantiated claims about its services, using the Serbian coat of arms as a logo and being run by Michael Hilton, a convicted felon from Montenegro.[71] American Police Force attempted to buy and manage a jail in Hardin, Montana in 2011. The deal was delayed when local government learned of Hilton's criminal past.[72] American Police Force was accused of being a Blackwater front group because it claimed to operate the “U.S. Training Center,” which proves “a wide range of instruction and training for all types of law enforcement organizations, from basic firearms training to complex SWAT tactics.” Blackwater also claimed to run the U.S. Training Center. Both companies removed mentions of the center from their websites and the link between the two has not been proven.[73]

International Development Solutions

International Development Solutions is a McLean, Virginia-based firm acting as a "provider of integrated security solutions to the U.S. Government." They offer a range of Management, Training, Emergency Response, Protection and Support services.[74] The firm is partially owned by Blackwater through various subsidiaries. Controversy arose in 2010 when International Development Solutions was awarded part of a $10 billion U.S. State Department contract, despite a 2008 campaign promise from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she would ban Blackwater from receiving any future government contracts.[75]


Became CEO of Academi in March, 2013. Nixon served for 29 years on active duty in the US Military. Some of his assignments include Deputy Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division and Multi-National Division (North) in Iraq, Director of Operations for U.S. Special Operations Command, and Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.[76] Immediately prior to joining Academi, Nixon worked for the McChrystal Group, a management consulting firm founded by retired General Stanley McChrystal, where he "helped design and develop an Executive Leadership Course that has trained hundreds of senior executives across private industry. He also partnered with a number of leading Fortune 500 companies to build more effective business teams."[77]

Most recently worked as "CFO at McNeil Technology where he worked on contracts administration, pricing, information technology and human resources, in addition to traditional controller and treasury CFO responsibilities."[78]

Pettibone became CAO of Academi in 2011. She worked for 24 years at the Department of Defense "where she held leadership positions in acquisition, logistics, contracts and contract management in the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA)."[79] Prior to working at the Pentagon, Pettibone "handled broad based strategic, operational, and performance issues for the North American Government & Defense business unit of KBR. There, she was the Senior Vice President of Business Unit Operations."[80]

While working for KBR, the Defense Department's auditors, the Defense Contracts Audit Agency, found numerous problems with KBR's record keeping practices when they managed subcontractors who provided dining services to the Defense Department. Some of the discrpencies they identified were a failure "to monitor the ongoing physical progress of subcontracts or the related costs and billings," and "billings to the government that are not prepared in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and contract terms."[81]

From 2003 to 2008, Folsom worked at the World Bank as Director of the Department of Institutional Integrity. In 2009 she was the subject of an internal World Bank investigation about a hostile work environment she created while Director of the Department of Institutional Integrity.[82] Sixteen former employees filed grievances with the World Bank Administrative Tribunal seeking monitory damages in connection with the abuse they suffered under Folsom's direction.[83]

After leaving the World Bank in 2008, Folsom briefly worked at AIG. As the global financial crisis caused severe uncertainty at AIG, Folsom was asked to take a pay cut but quit instead. She was awarded a severance package worth more than $1 million. Senator Charles Grassley wrote a letter to Kenneth Feinberg, the executive pay czar at for the Troubles Asset Relief Program, asking for an explanation about Folsom's severance package.[84]

Board Members


McCombs is known for his ownership of the Red McCombs Automotive Group and Clear Channel Communications and his previous ownership of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Vikings. He faced controversy over his attempts to gain access through land managed by the US Forrest Service to his private Wolf Creek Ski Resort. Enviornmental groups repeatedly blocked attempts to build roads linking the resort with a nearby interstate.[85]

Ashcroft served as US Attorney General from 2001 to 2005 and also as a US Senator from Missouri. Ashcroft joined the board in May of 2011 in order to head Xe's "subcommittee on governance," which was intended to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private-security industry.” The addition of Ashcroft was intended to "inspire confidence in government officials of its newfound rectitude."[86]

Bosacki currently works as Managing Partner at Manhattan Growth Partners. He also co-founded the firm and is responsible for all management and investing activities of the firm. He previously worked at Friend & Skoler Co., Inc., General Electric, BNP Paribas' Merchant Banking Group, and PriceWaterhouse Coopers.[87]

Bosacki's Manhattan Growth Partners purchased Blackwater, along with Jason DeYonker and Forte Capital Advisers. The other investing partners remained anonymous.[88]

DeYonker is the managing partner of Forte Capital Advisers. Along with Dean Bosacki, the managing partner of Manhattan Growth Partners, DeYonker engineered the acquisition of Blackwater from Eric Prince. He has been a longtime associate of Prince, helping him secure Blackwater's first government contracts and managing the Prince family assets from 1998 to 2002.[89]

Admiral Inman is a former four-star Admiral in the US Navy and was a nominee for Secretary of Defense by President Bill Clinton. A New York Times article by William Safire accused him of being anti-Israel because he decided to limit the amount of satellite surveillance furnished to Israel while serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense.[90]

Inman joined Blackwater/Xe as chairman of the board of directors in 2011. He was brought in to bring "coprorate governance" to the security firm according to its spokesman.[91]

Quinn serves as the Chairman of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, LLC, which he founded with Ed Gillespie in 2000. Previously, Quinn was a partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter where he practiced for 20 years. He served as Counsel to President Bill Clinton from November 1993 to February 1997 and as Chief of Staff and Counselor to Vice President Al Gore in 1993. He was also an adjunct professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University Law School for three years and served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Jason DeYonker stated upon Quinn's acceptance to the board, "Our goal in naming these Independent Directors to our Board was to assemble an exceptional team with diverse backgrounds to help guide company decisions and operations. Jack’s invaluable experience will do much to support this goal. Over the years, Jack has demonstrated a commitment to the highest ethical standards of conduct in both the public and private sectors. With the formation of the Board of Directors complete, we will, with the Board’s direction, continue to set the bar for industry standards against which all other companies are measured.”[92]

Robinson is a director of ACADEMI and served as Chief Executive Officer of Metaleurop between 2002 and 2004. Mr. Robinson has over 30 years of experience in the zinc reprocessing industry. In 2009, Mr. Robinson started Global Steel Dust Ltd., a worldwide steel dust recycling company. In 2006, he founded Steel Dust Recycling (SDR) which he built and sold to Zinc Nacional, the largest EAF dust processor in Mexico, after he restructured the company both financially and operationally. Between 2002 and 2004 he served as CEO of Metaleurop, a $700 million French-German publicly owned company specializing in zinc-lead operations. Between 1979 and 2002, He was Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Zinc, headquartered in Houston, Texas. The diversified metals company was sold in 1998 to Imco Recycling Inc., a NYSE company.[93]


In February 2009, Prince announced he was stepping down as the company's CEO, but would remain its chair. "I'm a little worn out by the whole thing, the politics of it all," he said. In other personnel changes, "Joe Yorio, 44, an executive from shipping company DHL with an Army Special Forces background, will become president of Xe, replacing longtime employee Gary Jackson. Danielle Esposito, 32, a veteran employee, will become chief operating officer and executive vice president. The chief executive slot remains open and is likely to be filled by Mr. Yorio." [94]


Contact info

P.O. Box 1029
Moyock, NC 27958
Phone: 252 435-2488
Website (main): http://www.blackwaterusa.com/
Website (aviation): http://www.blackwaterusa.com/aviation/aircharter.asp


Outside Resources

  • ClearWater Project, "ClearWater Project's Website." Website of a group "organized to preserve the public nature of and civilian control over law enforcement and military activity and training for law enforcement and military personnel. Clearwater opposes the privatization of war and of law enforcement."
  • "The Journal with Bill Moyers." Interview with The Nation investigative reporter and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
  • "Anti-Xe/Blackwater Petition." Open Letter and petition to Congress calling for dismissal of Blackwater Contractors and approval of Congress passing the Stop Outsourcing Security Act.
  • Stop Blackwater, "Stop Blackwater." Group website, who is committed to ending BlackWater/Xe.
  • "End Blackwater Presentation." Presentation on the history of Blackwater and how to work toward ending it, given by a grassroots activist Ray Lutz, who runs the site StopBlackwater.net and founded COPS - Citizens' Oversight Projects.
  • "BlackWater Watch"
  • "The Rise and Fall of BlackWater in Potero." Documentary on Alternate Focus Screening presenting the small Southern California town of Potrero joining in with environmentalists, peace activists, veterans groups, immigrant rights groups, and others to stop the mercenary firm Blackwater Worldwide from building a training facility in their town. This is the story of their fight and ultimate defeat of Blackwater.
  • "Blackwater in Potero." In late 2006, Blackwater USA, now known as Blackwater Worldwide, submitted a proposal to build a training facility called Blackwater West in the rural San Diego County town of Potrero. This documentary tells the story of what followed.
  • Democracy Now!, "Ray Lutz on Democracy Now!." Grassroots activist, who runs the site StopBlackwater.net, talks about the opening of a new BlackWater USA Base in Potero, CA.
  • Citizens Overwights Projects, "Blackwater Worldwide on COPs Wiki." Great overview of all things related to Blackwater/Xe put together by Citizens Oversight Projects, a group led by social and political activist Ray Lutz, who also runs the site StopBlackwater.net.

Related SourceWatch articles


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  2. Spencer Ackerman: Blackwater 3.0 Wired, December 12th, 2011. Accessed May 4th, 2012
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  4. "Blackwater Changes Its Name to Xe," "The New York Times", February 13, 2009.
  5. Jason Ukman, "Ex-Blackwater Firm Gets A Name Change, Again," "Washington Post", December 12, 2011.
  6. Prince Group, PrinceManufacturing.com.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Griff Witte, "Pentagon's IG Takes Job at Contractor," Washington Post, September 1, 2005.
  8. Aviation, BlackwaterUSA.com.
  9. "Blackwater USA Completes Acquisition of Aviation Worldwide Services press release," Press World, April 28, 2003.
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  12. "Blackwater Lays Off Workers," Associated Press, November 4, 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Kim Gamel, "Helicopter Shot Down in Iraq; 5 Killed," Associated Press (CBS News), January 23, 2007.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Mike Baker, "Blackwater silent after helicopter crashes in Iraq, killing five," Associated Press (The Mercury News), January 23, 2007.
  15. Steven R. Hurst, "5 Americans Killed in Iraq Copter Crash ... over dangerous Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad," Associated Press (CBS News), January 24, 2007.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "7 U.S. security contractors killed in Iraq. Blackwater USA also lost 4 men in Falluja last year," CNN, April 21, 2005.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Ellen Knickmeyer, "Insurgents Down Civilian Helicopter Near Iraqi Capital. 6 Americans Among Victims; More Bodies Found in Tigris," Washington Post, April 22, 2005.
  18. Jonathan E. Kaplan, "Private army seeking political advice in D.C.," The Hill, April 14, 2004.
  19. Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, "The Rising Corporate Military Monster," CounterPunch, April 23, 2004.
  20. "Amateur video shows roadside bomb attack on contractors," CNN, September 17, 2007.
  21. "Report: Contractors involved in shooting," Associated Press (WANE.com), September 16, 2007.
  22. "Blackwater License Being Pulled in Iraq," Associated Press (New York Times), September 17, 2007.
  23. Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz, "Iraqi Report Says Blackwater Guards Fired First," New York Times, September 19, 2007.
  24. " Reuters AlertNet, September 23, 2007.
  25. Lara Jakes Jordon and Mat Apuzzo, "FBI Finds Blackwater Trucks Patched," Associated Press, January 12, 2008.
  26. Super Tucano, Embraer.com, accessed September 4, 2007.
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Blackwater Buys Brazilian Bombers," Strategy Page, August 27, 2007.
  28. Rod Hafemeister, "Lt. colonels charged with assaulting contractor", Air Force Times, February 26, 2007.
  29. "Charges dismissed against officers in Kabul run-in with contractor", Air Force Times, April 4, 2007.
  30. Jay Price, "Air Force looks into fight with contractor", The News & Observer (North Carolina), February 21, 2007.
  31. wrongedbyblackwater.com via Yahoo cache. Undated, accessed September 30, 2007.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Jeremy Scahill and Garrett Ordower, "From Whitewater to Blackwater," The Nation, October 26, 2006.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Ken Silverstein, "Revolving Door to Blackwater Causes Alarm at CIA," Harper's Magazine, September 12, 2006.
  34. "Jose A. Rodriguez," "Benchmark Executive Search", 2011.
  35. "Black and Prince Launch Intel Company," Iraqslogger, no date. Registration required.
  36. IPOA Online Journal, IPOAOnline.org.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Frank Langfitt, "Private Military Firm Pitches Its Services in Darfur," All Things Considered/NPR, May 26, 2006.
  38. Anna Maria Tremonti, "Whole Show Blow-by-Blow. The Current for Show May 11, 2006," CBC (Canada), May 11, 2006.
  39. Bruce Falconer and Daniel Schulman, "[Blackwater's World of Warcraft]," "Mother Jones", April, 2008.
  40. "UN official warns against using mercenaries to pacify trouble spots," "AFP", July 29, 2008.
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 Sonni Efron, "Worry Grows as Foreigners Flock to Iraq's Risky Jobs," Los Angeles Times (GlobalPolicy.org), July 30, 2005.
  42. Jonathan Franklin, "US contractor recruits guards for Iraq in Chile. Forces say experienced soldiers are quitting for private companies which pay more for similar work," The Guardian (UK), March 5, 2004.
  43. 43.0 43.1 Bill Sizemore, "Blackwater USA says it can supply forces for conflicts," The Virginian-Pilot, March 30, 2006: "Stepping into a potential political minefield, Blackwater USA is offering itself up as an army for hire to police the world's trouble spots."
  44. 44.0 44.1 Claro Cortes, "Manila Newspapers: US Firm Blackwater Recruiting Mercenaries to Fight in Iraq, Authorities Deny it. GN Headline: US firm 'not recruiting mercenaries for Iraq'," Al-Jazeerah, June 11, 2006.
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Congress can look into hiring of Pinoy 'mercenaries' to Iraq: Palace," Sun Star (Manila, Philippines), June 12, 2006.
  46. Profile: Erik Prince, NNDB.com.
  47. 47.0 47.1 Chris Hedges, "America’s Holy Warriors," Truthdig, December 31, 2006.
  48. "Memorandum for All Blackwater USA Officers, Employees, and Independent Contractors. Subject: Blackwater USA National Security Oath and Leadership Standards," Prince Group (MountainRunner.us), September 16, 2005.
  49. Tim Shorrock, "Contractor's arrogance contributed to Iraqi rebellion, Marine Colonel says. 'Money doesn't talk, it swears...'," Tim Shorrock Blogspot, January 31, 2005.
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  54. Griff Witte, "AFGHANISTAN: Blackwater Broke Rules, Report Says," Washington Post (CorpWatch), October 5, 2005.
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  59. "Memorandum Opinion," United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, March 13, 2013.
  60. 60.0 60.1 Klaus Marre, "Waxman: Blackwater may have engaged in tax evasion," The Hill, October 22, 2007
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  66. "Blackwater USA," Lobbyist.info (sub req'd), accessed January 2008.
  67. Jeremy Scahill, "Bipartisan Mercs?: Blackwater Hires Powerful Democratic Lobbyist," "The Nation", May 14, 2010.
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  69. August Cole, "Blackwater Puts on a New Public Face", Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2009.
  70. Jason Ukman, "Ex-Blackwater Firm Gets A Name Change, Again," "Washington Post", December 12, 2011.
  71. "American Police Force," "Public Intelligence", October 3, 2009.
  72. Matthew Brown, "Hardin Jail Deal Delayed Over Controversy With Mysterious Company," "Huffington Post", October 5, 2009.
  73. Paul Joseph Watson, "Exposed: American Police Force Is A Blackwater Front Group," "Info Wars", October 1, 2009.
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  78. "Doug Lee, CFO," "Academi", 2013.
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  80. "Jill Pettibone, Chief Administration Officer," "Academi", 2013.
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  83. World Bank Administrative Tribunal, "[http://lnweb90.worldbank.org/crn/wbt/wbtwebsite.nsf/%28attachmentweb%29/9E52A9AF6D5657EF852576C4007CBE26/$FILE/ATDecisionNo.417.pdf AT, Applicant v. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Respondent]," December 9, 2009.
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  85. Luke Groskopf, "Pagosa residents chilly to Wolf Creek development proposals," "The Durango Herald", August 30, 2012.
  86. Spencer Ackerman, "Blackwater’s New Ethics Chief: John Ashcroft," "Wired", May 4, 2011.
  87. "Dean Bosacki: Executive Profile," "Bloomberg Businessweek", May 27, 2013.
  88. Suzanne Kelly, "Blackwater gets an even bigger makeover," "CNN", December 11, 2011.
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External articles