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Blackwater USA

by Pratap ChatterjeeCrocodyl.org

For the latest company profile on Blackwater USA, visit our corporate malfeasance wiki, Crocodyl.org

Blackwater USA is a private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It is based in the U.S. state of North Carolina, where it operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies. The company markets itself as being "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world". At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts.

Ownership status: Privately held
Number of employees worldwide: 10,000
Tel: 214-748-3647
Fax: 252-435-6388
Corporate accountability
Accountability overview: 

Cofer Black, the company's current vice chairman, was the Bush administration's top counter terrorism official when 9/11 occurred. In 2002, he famously stated: "There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves come off." Blackwater has become home to a significant number of former senior CIA and Pentagon officials. Robert Richer became the firm's Vice President of Intelligence immediately after he resigned his position as Associate Deputy Director of Operations in fall 2005. He is formerly the head of the CIA's Near East Division.

Blackwater's training facility, located on 7,000 acres in North Carolina, comprises several ranges, indoor, outdoor, urban reproductions, a man-made lake, and a driving track in Camden and Currituck counties. It is one of the largest firearms training facilities in the world. Company literature claims that the company runs "the largest privately owned firearms training facility in the world."

In November 2006 Blackwater USA announced it recently acquired an 80-acre (30 ha) facility 150 miles (240 km) west of Chicago, in Mount Carroll, Illinois to be called Blackwater North. That facility has been operational since April, 2007 and serves law enforcement agencies throughout the midwest.

Blackwater is also trying to open a facility in California for military and law enforcement training, in Potrero, San Diego County.

In 2003, Blackwater landed its first truly high-profile contract: guarding civilian Administrator L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, at the cost of $21 million for 11 months. Since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones. In 2006, Blackwater won the remunerative contract to protect the U.S. embassy in Iraq, which is the largest American embassy in the world.

For work in Iraq, Blackwater has drawn contractors from their international pool of professionals, a database containing "21,000 former Special Forces troops, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents," overall. For instance, Gary Jackson, the firm's president, has confirmed that Bosnians, Filipinos, and Chileans, "have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority."

On March 31, 2004, Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah attacked a convoy containing four American private military contractors from Blackwater USA who were conducting delivery for food caterers ESS. The four armed contractors Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, were attacked and killed with grenades and small arms fire. Their bodies were hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. In the fall of 2007, a congressional report found that Blackwater intentionally "delayed and impeded" investigations into the contractors' deaths.

Photos of the event were released to news agencies worldwide. The event led to a failed U.S. operation to occupy the city in the First Battle of Fallujah, and the later successful attempt seven months later in the Second Battle of Fallujah.

In April 2005 six Blackwater independent contractors were killed in Iraq when their Mi-8 helicopter was shot down. Also killed were three Bulgarian crewmembers and two Fijian gunners. Initial reports indicate the helicopter was shot down by rocket propelled grenades.

On January 23, 2007, five Blackwater contractors were killed in Iraq when their Hughes H-6 helicopter was shot down. The incident happened in Baghdad, Haifa Street. The crash site was secured by a Personal Security Detail Platoon, callsign "Jester" from 1/26 Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Three Iraqi insurgent groups claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter, however, this has not been confirmed by the US. A US defense official has confirmed that four of the five killed were shot execution style in the back of the head, but did not know whether the four had survived the crash.

According to the State Department, on December 24, 2006, a Blackwater employee shot and killed a security guard working for the Iraqi vice-president. In late May 2007, Blackwater contractors, "opened fire on the streets of Baghdad twice in two days... and one of the incidents provoked a standoff between the security contractors and Iraqi Interior Ministry commandos, U.S. and Iraqi officials said." And on May 30, 2007, Blackwater employees shot an Iraqi civilian deemed to have been "driving too close" to a State Department convoy being escorted by Blackwater contractors.

On September 17, 2007, a Blackwater team was escorting a convoy of US State Department vehicles en route to a meeting in western Baghdad with United States Agency for International Development officials.

According to an Iraqi investigation into the events at Nissor Square, as the convoy drew close to Nissor Square, a car, driving very slowly, on the wrong side of the road, ignored a police officer's whistle to clear a path for the convoy. Shortly after this, the security team fired warning shots, and then lethal fire. Sound bombs were also fired. Iraqi Army soldiers, mistaking the sound-bombs for explosions, opened fire at the Blackwater team, to which the Blackwater team responded.

On September 19, the United States suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials in Iraq outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone as a result of public outrage over the alleged killing of civilians by Blackwater employees. The order confines most Americans to a 3.5-square-mile area in the center of the city so that they are unable to visit other areas without travelling in a helicopter. The order did not say when the suspension would expire.

Unlike many deaths blamed on foreign contractors, this shooting took place in downtown Baghdad, an area with dozens of witnesses. "We see the security firms ... doing whatever they want in the streets. They beat citizens and scorn them," Baghdad resident Halim Mashkoor claimed to AP Television News. He asked, "if such a thing happened in America or Britain, would the American president or American citizens accept it?" Hasan Jaber Salman, one of the wounded and an Iraqi lawyer, charged that "no one did anything to provoke Blackwater" and that "as we turned back they opened fire at all cars from behind" After a group of Iraqi ministers backed the Iraqi Interior Ministry's decision to shut down Blackwater USA's operations in Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on the U.S. government to end its contract with Blackwater USA as well.

On September 21, CNN reported that Blackwater would resume normal operations the following day. The State Department has announced an American-Iraqi joint commission to investigate both the shooting and the use of private security contractors as a broader issue. The committee will be co-chaired by Abd al Qadir, the Iraqi Minister of Defense and Patricia A. Butenis, the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

On September 22, Iraqi investigators announded that they have a videotape that shows Blackwater USA contractors opening fire against civilians without provocation. Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said Iraqi authorities had completed their investigation into the shooting and concluded that Blackwater guards were responsible for the deaths. Khalaf said the report had been "sent to the judiciary". Under Iraqi law, an investigating judge decides whether there is enough evidence for a trial. Khalaf also said the ministry was looking into six other fatal shootings involving Blackwater.

On September 24, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior announced it would file criminal charges against the Blackwater staff involved in the shooting, although it is unclear how some of them will be brought to trial. “The murder of citizens in cold blood in al-Nissour area by the Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against the civilians just like any other terrorist operations,” a preliminary report of the findings says. A senior aide to al-Maliki said that three of the Blackwater guards were Iraqis and could be subject to prosecution. The aide also said that the Iraqi government was pushing for an apology, compensation for victims or their families and for the guards involved in the shooting to be held "accountable." US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified before Congress that the Pentagon has sufficient legal authority to control its contractors, but that commanders lack sufficient "means and resources" to exercise adequate oversight.


The Jason Bourne Strategy: CIA Contractors Do Hollywood
by Pratap ChatterjeeTomdispatch.com
December 5th, 2013
Global Response Staff is a new unit set up by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) to hire private security contractors to accompany dangerous spying missions. Unlike Jason Bourne - the fictional character on which they appear to be modeled on - this gang cannot shoot straight.

Blackwater Pays Millions To Settle Arms Smuggling Charges
by Pratap ChatterjeeCorpWatch Blog
August 9th, 2012
Blackwater has agreed to pay the U.S. government $7.5 million to settle 17 federal criminal charges that include supplying guns to the king of Jordan and offering private security and military training services to South Sudan without a license.

AFGHANISTAN: Policing Afghanistan: How Afghan Police Training Became a Train Wreck
by Pratap ChatterjeeTom Dispatch
March 21st, 2010
The Pentagon faces a tough choice: Should it award a billion-dollar contract for training the Afghan National Police to Xe (formerly Blackwater), a company made infamous when its employees killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad in 2007, or to DynCorp, a company made infamous in Bosnia in 1999 when some of its employees were caught trafficking young girls for sex?

US: Judge dismisses all charges in Blackwater shooting
by Associated PressLos Angeles Times
December 31st, 2009
A federal judge has dismissed all charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards charged in a deadly Baghdad shooting.

IRAQ: Ex-Blackwater Workers May Return to Iraq Jobs
by Rod NordlandNew York Times
April 3rd, 2009
Late last month Blackwater Worldwide lost its billion-dollar contract to protect American diplomats in Iraq, but by next month many of its private security guards will be back on the job here. The same individuals will just be wearing new uniforms, working for Triple Canopy, the firm that won the State Department’s new contract.

US: Plea by Blackwater Guard Helps Indict Others
by GINGER THOMPSON and JAMES RISENNew York Times
December 9th, 2008
On Monday, the Justice Department unsealed its case against five Blackwater private security guards, built largely around testimony from a sixth guard about the 2007 shootings that left 17 unsuspecting Iraqi civilians dead at a busy Baghdad traffic circle.

Over the Counter Intelligence
by Philip Mattera
June 13th, 2008

GERMANY: German Arms Firm Ends Blackwater Deal After TV Report
by DW staff (ncy)Deutsche Welle
February 19th, 2008
Weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch said it would end its relationship with Blackwater after German media reported that the controversial US-run military firm was using its guns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

US: Limbo for U.S. Women Reporting Iraq Assaults
by JAMES RISENThe New York Times
February 13th, 2008
Ms. Kineston is among a number of American women who have reported that they were sexually assaulted by co-workers while working as contractors in Iraq but now find themselves in legal limbo, unable to seek justice or even significant compensation.

US: CIA Likely Let Contractors Perform Waterboarding
by SIOBHAN GORMANThe Wall Street Journal
February 8th, 2008
The CIA's secret interrogation program has made extensive use of outside contractors, whose role likely included the waterboarding of terrorist suspects, according to testimony yesterday from the CIA director and two other people familiar with the program.

US: Contractor Abuses Rarely Punished, Groups Say
by Ali GharibIPS
January 21st, 2008
Out of the dozens upon dozens of reports of abuses by private contractors as part of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only one prosecution of a contractor has taken place.

IRAQ: 2005 Use of Gas by Blackwater Leaves Questions
by JAMES RISENNew York Times
January 10th, 2008
In 2005 Blackwater accidentally dropped teargas on US soldiers, which has raised significant new questions about the role of private security contractors in Iraq, and whether they operate under the same rules of engagement and international treaty obligations that the American military observes.

US: Disputed in Iraq, Blackwater Now Splits California Town
by Salomon MooreNew York Times
December 11th, 2007
A small community in southern California is upset at the prospect of a Blackwater training camp moving into town.

US: Blackwater Probe Stifled by Conflicts
by Richard LardnerAssociated Press
November 26th, 2007
A Blackwater weapons probe continues to be bogged down after months of strained relations between Bush administration officials.

US: Blackwater Mounts a Defense With Top Talent
by John M. Broder and James RisenNY Times
November 5th, 2007
lackwater Worldwide, its reputation in tatters and its lucrative government contracts in jeopardy, is mounting an aggressive legal, political and public relations counterstrike.

US: Blackwater's Owner Has Spies for Hire
by Dana HedgpethWashington Post
November 3rd, 2007
The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will sniff out intelligence about natural disasters, business-friendly governments, overseas regulations and global political developments for clients in industry and government.

US: Democrats Criticize Immunity Offers to Guards
by David JohnstonNY Times
October 30th, 2007
Prominent Democrats in Congress reacted angrily today to disclosures that State Department investigators made apparently unauthorized offers of immunity to Blackwater security guards.

US: Rice Says ‘Hole’ in U.S. Law Shields Contractors in Iraq
by John M. BroderNY Times
October 26th, 2007
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conceded on Thursday that there was a “hole” in United States law that had allowed Blackwater USA employees and other armed contractors in Iraq to escape legal jeopardy for crimes possibly committed there.

US: Blackwater vies for jobs beyond security
by August ColeWall Street Journal
October 15th, 2007
Even as Blackwater USA works to recover from criticism of its private-security forces in Iraq, the company plans for an expansion into other areas.

IRAQ:2 Women Killed in Security Shooting Are Buried in Iraq
by Andrew E. Kramer and James GlanzNY Times
October 11th, 2007
Two women killed Tuesday by a barrage of gunfire from private security guards in central Baghdad are buried there.

Outsourcing Fear
by Robert Young Pelton
October 2nd, 2007
Robert Young Pelton is the author of "Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror " and the "Guide to the World's Most Dangerous Places." He is also co-founder of http://www.iraqslogger.com/ . This blog item is about his experiences attending the Congressional hearing into the Blackwater shootings in Iraq written on October 2nd, 2007.

US: Chief of Blackwater Defends His Employees
by John M. BroderNew York Times
October 2nd, 2007
Erik D. Prince, chief executive of Blackwater USA, told a Congressional committee on Tuesday that his company’s nearly 1,000 armed guards in Iraq were not trigger-happy mercenaries, but rather loyal Americans doing a necessary job in hostile territory.