Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, August 20, 2009
"The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.
"Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not capture or kill any terrorist suspects....
"It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations. Officials said that the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune."
Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, August 4, 2009
"A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince 'views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,' and that Prince's companies 'encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.'
"In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting 'illegal' or 'unlawful' weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety."
Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2009
"A government audit found that the State Department overpaid the contract-security firm once known as Blackwater Worldwide by tens of millions of dollars because the company failed to properly staff its teams in Iraq.
"The report didn't identify any specific security breaches, but it said the State Department should have withheld at least $55 million in payments to the company because of the shortfalls.
"The audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the State Department's Inspector General said the firm didn't employ enough guards, medics, marksmen and dog handlers to fully man the teams, which were responsible for protecting the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and other high-level officials."
Rod Nordland, New York Times, April 4, 2009
“Late last month Blackwater Worldwide lost its billion-dollar contract to protect American diplomats here, but by next month many if not most of its private security guards will be back on the job in Iraq.
“The same individuals will just be wearing new uniforms, working for Triple Canopy, the firm that won the State Department's contract after Iraqi officials refused to renew Blackwater's operating license, according to American diplomats, private security industry officials and Iraqi officials. Blackwater - viewed in Iraq as a symbol of American violence and impunity - lost the contract after being accused of excessive force in several instances, particularly an apparently unprovoked shooting in downtown Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed….
“Critics of Blackwater said they worried that the same people might perpetuate what they believed was a corporate culture that disregarded Iraqis' lives. ‘They're really all still there, and it's back to business as usual,’ said Susan Burke, an American lawyer who has filed three civil rights lawsuits against Blackwater on behalf of Iraqi civilians alleged to be victims of it.”
R. J. Hillhouse, The Spy Who Billed Me, February 13, 2009
Blackwater has gone to ground--sort of. In a move to apparently distance itself from its image as reckless cowboys that was etched into the world's mind from the September 2007 Baghdad Nisoor Square shoots, Blackwater USA is once again rebranding itself. It has changed its name (and presumably legal structure) to Xe. (Pronounced, 'Z' as in 'Xena, Warrior Princess.')...
"Given that the Iraqi government recently kicked Blackwater out of the country and BW subsequently lost that portion of a larger State Department security contract, the move is most likely to distance itself from this past so closely associated with the Bush Administration's questionable Iraq policies and to make contracting with it more palatable for government organizations and private entities. In a few years, everyone will still remember Blackwater, but few will recall that Xe (again, pronounced 'Z' as in 'Xena, Warrior Princess.') is indeed its successor. The cryptic name is unlikely to incite strong public opposition or at the least the fear of it.
"It is unclear if the new legal structure will help limit the legal liabilities of Blackwater, containing them within the Blackwater USA, LLC structure and shielding the new entity."