Academi

blackwater

xe rebrand

Academi (previously known as Xe Services and Blackwater Worldwide)—is a private military company founded in 1997 by former Navy SEALs Erik Prince and Al Clark. Academi is currently the largest of the U.S. State Department’s three private security contractors, and provided diplomatic security services in Iraq to the United States federal government on a contractual basis. Academi also has a research and development wing that was responsible for developing the Grizzly APC (an armored urban combat vehicle) along with other military technology. The company’s headquarters is located in Arlington County, Virginia.

In explaining Blackwater’s purpose in 1997, Prince stated that ‘We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service.’ Blackwater USA received its first government contract after the bombing of the USS Cole off of the coast of Yemen in October 2000. Blackwater trained over 100,000 sailors. Documents obtained from the Iraq War documents leak of 2010 argue that Blackwater employees committed serious abuses in Iraq, including killing civilians.

Prince purchased about 7,000 acres of the Great Dismal Swamp, a vast swamp on the North Carolina/Virginia border, now mostly a National Wildlife Refuge. ‘We needed 3,000 acres to make it safe,’ Prince told reporter Robert Young Pelton. There, he created his private training facility and his contracting company, Blackwater, which he named for the peat-colored water of the swamp.

Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC) was formed in 2002. Its first assignment was to provide 20 men with top-secret clearances to protect the CIA headquarters and another base that was responsible for hunting Bin Laden. Blackwater was one of several private security firms employed following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. BSC is one of over 60 private security firms employed during the Iraq War to guard officials and installations, train Iraq’s new army and police, and provide other support for coalition forces.

Blackwater was also hired during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by the United States Department of Homeland Security, as well as by private clients, including communications, petrochemical and insurance companies.

In 2009, Blackwater announced that it would change its name to ‘Xe Services LLC,’ as part of a company-wide restructuring plan. Subsequently, it reorganized its business units, added a corporate governance and ethics program, and established an independent committee of outside experts to supervise compliance structures. Prince then announced his resignation as CEO. He remained as chairman of the board but was no longer involved in day-to-day operations. In late 2010, he moved to Abu Dhabi, where he subsequently started another security services company, Reflex Responses.

In 2011, Xe changed its name again, to ‘Academi.’ The name refers to Plato’s Academy and is meant, according to current CEO Ted Wright, to reflect a more ‘boring’ image.

Blackwater Worldwide played a substantial role during the Iraq War as a contractor for the United States government. On February 16, 2005, four Blackwater guards escorting a U.S. State Department convoy in Iraq fired 70 rounds into a car. The guards stated that they felt threatened when the driver ignored orders to stop as he approached the convoy. The fate of the car’s driver was unknown because the convoy did not stop after the shooting. An investigation by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service concluded that the shooting was not justified and that the Blackwater employees provided false statements to investigators. The statements claimed that one of the Blackwater vehicles had been hit by insurgent gunfire, but the investigation concluded that one of the Blackwater guards had actually fired into his own vehicle by accident. John Frese, the U.S. embassy in Iraq’s top security official, declined to punish Blackwater or the security guards because he believed any disciplinary actions would lower the morale of the Blackwater contractors.

On Christmas Eve 2006, a security guard of the Iraqi vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was shot and killed while on duty outside the Iraqi prime minister’s compound. The Iraqi government accused Andrew J. Moonen, a Blackwater employee, of killing him while drunk. Moonen was subsequently fired by Blackwater for ‘violating alcohol and firearm policy’ and sent home. US Attorneys investigated and announced in 2010 that they were declining to prosecute Moonen, citing a likely affirmative defense of self-defense and high standards for initiating such a prosecution.

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