http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackwater_USA 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 which 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. Corporate structure Blackwater USA consists of nine companies: Blackwater Training Center Blackwater Training Center offers tactics and weapons training to military, government, and law enforcement agencies. See facilities below. Blackwater Training Center also offers several open-enrollment courses periodically throughout the year, from hand to hand combat (executive course) to precision rifle marksmanship. Blackwater Target Systems This division provides and maintains target range steel targets and a "shoothouse" system. Blackwater Security Consulting (Moyock, North Carolina) Blackwater MD 530F in Iraq Blackwater MD 530F in Iraq Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC) was formed in 2002. BSC is one of 180 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 Security Consulting is very well equipped and known to use: * MD-530F "Little Bird" helicopters, organized into Quick Response Force (QRF) teams. * Sikorsky S-92 helicopters are known to be used based on Blackwater USA's careers page. * AB 412 utility helicopters in use in Iraq. * BAE RG-31 Mamba armored vehicles, purchased from the British Army are known to be used to transport personnel along Route Irish * Force Protection Industries Cougar H * Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano - Blackwater has purchased one of these aircraft for pilot training in the US, with possible plans for more in the Counter Insurgency (COIN) role later. * Blackwater has won a S-70A modification/upgrade program for the UAE Special Operations Command which include Mounts for Machine Guns, Heads Up Display, Secure Communications and FLIR systems EO-IR sensor with Vectr mission system. Blackwater K-9 Training canines to work in patrol capacities as war dogs, explosives and drug detection, and various other roles for military and law enforcement duties. Blackwater Airships, LLC Blackwater Airships LLC was established in January 2006 to build a remotely piloted airship vehicle (RPAV). Blackwater Armored Vehicle Blackwater recently introduced its own armored personnel carrier, the Grizzly APC. Blackwater Maritime Blackwater Maritime Security Services offers tactical training for maritime force protection units. In the past it has trained Greek security forces for the 2004 Olympics, Azerbaijan Naval Sea Commandos, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior. Raven Development Group In 1997, the Raven Development Group was established to design and build Blackwater USA's training facility in North Carolina. Aviation Worldwide Services (Presidential Airways and STI Aviation) Aircraft maintenance and tactical transportation. Presidential Airways claims to hold a Secret Facility Clearance from the U.S. Department of Defense. Greystone Limited A private security service, Greystone is registered in Barbados, and employs third country nationals for offshore security work. Personnel Blackwater's president, Gary Jackson, and other business unit leaders are former Navy SEALs. Blackwater was founded and is owned by Erik Prince, who is also a former Navy SEAL. Prince and Jackson are also major contributors to the Republican party. In addition, Prince was an intern in George H.W. Bush's White House and campaigned for Pat Buchanan in 1992. Cofer Black, the company's current vice chairman, was the Bush adminstration's top counterterrorism 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." But Black is not alone, 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. In October 2006, Kenneth Starr, independent counsel in the impeachment case of Bill Clinton in 1999, represented Blackwater in front of the US Supreme Court in a case related to the March 2004 killing of four Blackwater employees in Fallujah, Iraq. In response to that event, Blackwater also hired the Republican lobbying and PR firm, the Alexander Strategy Group. Facilities The facility, located in North Carolina, is composed of several ranges, indoor, outdoor, urban reproductions and has over 7,000 acres (28 km²) of land spanning 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 is now operational. Blackwater is also trying to open a facility in California for military training, in Potrero, San Diego County. History Blackwater USA was formed in 1997 to provide training support to military and law enforcement organizations. In 2002 Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC) was formed. It 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 occupation forces. Blackwater was also hired during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by the Department of Homeland Security, as well as by private clients, including communications, petrochemical and insurance companies. In each case, Blackwater received a non-bid contract. Overall, the company has received over 500 million dollars in government contracts. Iraq involvement In 2003, Blackwater landed its first truly high-profile contract: guarding Ambassador L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, at the cost of $21 million in 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. It is estimated by the Pentagon and company representatives that there are 20,000 to 30,000 armed security contractors working in Iraq, and some estimates are as much as 100,000, though no official figures exist. Of the State Department's dependence on private contractors like Blackwater for security purposes, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told the U.S. Senate: "There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts." 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 (many trained under Augusto Pinochet), "have been hired for tasks ranging from airport security to protecting Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority." Fallujah mission Main article: 31 March 2004 Fallujah ambush 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. Photos of the event were released to news agencies worldwide, causing a great deal of indignation and moral outrage in the United States. 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. Later incidents In April 2004, a few days after the Fallujah bridge hanging, a small team of Blackwater employees, along with soldiers of the Spanish Army, held off over four hundred insurgents outside the Coalition Provisional Authority Headquarters in Al Najaf, Iraq, waiting over three hours for U.S. troops to arrive. The Headquarters was surrounded and it was the last friendly area in the city. Supplies were running low. During this fight, a small but highly trained volunteer group of Blackwater contractors flew on a rescue mission to the Coalition Provisional Authority Headquarters to maintain its control, and bring an injured U.S. Marine back to safety outside of the city.  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. The six Americans killed have been identified as: * Robert Jason Gore, of Nevada, Iowa * Luke Adam Petrik of Conneaut, Ohio * Jason Obert of Fountain, Colorado * Steve McGovern of Lexington, Kentucky * Erick Smith of Waukesha, Wisconsin * David Patterson of Havelock, North Carolina The three Bulgarians have been identified as: * Lyubomir Kostov  * Georgi Naidenov  * Stoyan Anchev  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 were still alive when they were shot. Robert Young Pelton broke the full details of the crash on his site. Pelton also met and flew with the Little Bird pilots. On August 12, 2007, an MSNBC report noted the largely unaccountable and unsupervised nature of security contractor activities, and the high number of casual or indiscriminate civilian killings attributed to them. According to the State Department, on December 24, 2006, a civilian U.S. contractor, allegedly a Blackwater employee, shot and killed an Iraqi security officer. 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 forces, 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 convoy of Blackwater armored vehicles. Other private security contractors, such as Aegis Defence Services have also been accused of similar actions. However, "Doug Brooks, the president of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade group representing Blackwater and other military contractors, said that in his view, military law would not apply to Blackwater contractors working for the State Department." Revocation of Iraq license On September 17, 2007, Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq was revoked following an incident that occurred the previous day. A convoy of US State Department vehicles guarded by Blackwater was attacked in the al-Yarmukh neighborhood of western Baghdad. According to the incident report, the attack occured at 12:08pm, when "the motorcade was engaged with small arms fire from several locations". One vehicle was disabled in the attack, and had to be towed away. The report goes on to state that "The team returned fire to several identified targets" before leaving the area, and that a second convoy en-route to help was "blocked/surrounded by several Iraqi police and Iraqi national guard vehicles and armed personnel". A Blackwater helicopter was also present, and according to a Washington Post employee, it fired several times from the air, although Blackwater has denied this. Sources have also stated that the fighting began after an explosion, possibly a mortar round, went off close to the convoy, although this is not reflected in the incident report, which can be found here. Iraqi Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf confirmed that a mortar had landed close to the convoy and said the US firm had 'opened fire randomly at citizens'. Nine civilians were killed including one Iraqi policeman. No State Department officials were wounded or killed.  The State Department had not been notified of the Iraqi government's decision, and declined to speculate how it might affect State Department activities. Many doubt that the Iraqi government will have the resolve to revoke Blackwater's license over the long term due to Blackwater's political influence and other factors. Retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, an independent military analyst and co-chairman of security consulting firm WVC3 Group, was quoted on September 17, 2007, by the Associated Press as saying: "You can bet the U.S. embassy is doing backflips right now pressuring the Iraqis not to revoke their license."  Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said "the investigation is ongoing, and all those responsible for Sunday's killing will be referred to Iraqi justice." Iraqi authorities have issued previous complaints about shootings by private military contractors, but Iraqi courts do not have the authority to bring contractors to trial without the consent of their home country, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.. The Private Security Company Association of Iraq, in a document last updated on July 3, 2007, lists Blackwater as having applied for, though not yet as having received, the license in question. Blackwater's operations on behalf of the US Department of State and the CIA might be unaffected by this claimed license revocation. Also, it is not clear whether the license revocation is permanent. Nonetheless, the banning was described by P.W. Singer, an expert on the private military industry, as "inevitable," given the US governments' reliance on and lack of oversight of the private military industry in Iraq. Blackwater has denied any wrongdoing in the incident. The U.S. State Department said it plans to investigate what it calls a "terrible incident." Henry Waxman, the chair of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also said his committee would hold hearings "to understand what has happened and the extent of the damage to U.S. security interests." Litigation Blackwater is currently being sued by the families of the four contractors killed in Fallujah in March, 2004. The families allege that they are not suing for financial damages, but rather for the details of their sons' and husbands' deaths. They claim that Blackwater has refused to supply these details, and that in its "zeal to exploit this unexpected market for private security men, showed a callous disregard for the safety of its employees." Four family members testified in front of the House Government Reform Committee on February 7, 2007. They asked that Blackwater be held accountable for future negligence of employees' lives, and that Federal legislation be drawn up to govern contracts between the Department of Defense and the defense contractor. Blackwater has counter-sued the lawyer representing the empty estates of the deceased for $10 million on the grounds that the lawsuit was contractually prohibited from ever being filed. On April 19, 2006, The Nation magazine published an article titled, "Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater," concerning the lawsuit against Blackwater brought by some of the families of the four deceased employees. The article discussed the removal of the word "armoured" from already-signed contracts, and other allegations of wrongdoing. According to an Army report, in November 2004, a Blackwater plane, "in violation of numerous government regulations and contract requirements," crashed into a mountainside, killing all six aboard. The families of the three soldiers killed -- Lt. Col. Michael McMahon, Chief Warrant Officer Travis Grogan and Spec. Harley Miller -- filed a wrongful death suit against Blackwater, alleging negligence. However, Presidential Airways, a division of Blackwater, questioned the hastiness of the Army's report, stating that it "contains numerous errors, misstatements, and unfounded assumptions." Post-Katrina Involvement Blackwater USA was employed to assist the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. According to a company press release, it provided airlift, security, and logistics and transportation services, as well as humanitarian support. Unofficial reports claim that the company also acted as law enforcement in the disaster stricken areas, such as securing neighborhoods and "confronting criminals". Blackwater moved about 200 personnel into the area hit by Hurricane Katrina, most of whom (164 employees) were working under a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to protect government facilities, but the company held contracts with private clients as well. Overall, Blackwater had a "visible, and financially lucrative, presence in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as the use of the company contractors cost U.S. taxpayers $240,000 a day." There has been much dispute surrounding governmental contracts in post-Katrina New Orleans, especially no-bid contracts such as the one Blackwater was awarded. Blackwater's heavily-armored presence in the city was also the subject of much confusion and criticism. Other employments Blackwater USA is one of five companies picked by the Department of Defense Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office in a a five-year contract for equipment, material and services in support of counter-narcoterrorism activities. The contract is worth up to $15 billion. The other companies picked are Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Arinc Inc. Blackwater USA has also been contracted by various foreign governments. In 2005, it worked to train the Naval Sea Commando regiment of Azerbaijan, enhancing their interdiction capabilities on the Caspian Sea. Controversy and criticism In March 2006, Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA, allegedly suggested at an international conference in Amman, Jordan, that the company is ready to move towards providing security professionals up to brigade size for humanitarian efforts and low intensity conflicts. Mr. Black denies the allegation. Critics have suggested this may be going too far in putting political decisions in the hands of privately owned corporations. The company denies this was ever said. Critics claim that Blackwater's private military company self-description is a euphemism for mercenary activities. Perhaps the most thorough book about Blackwater was published in 2006 by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, titled Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Author Chris Hedges wrote about the establishment of mercenary armies as a threat to democracy in his June 3, 2007 article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, "What if our mercenaries turn on us?"  Reprinted in the New York Times, Particularly of note in the article is the question being raised of the wisdom of allowing private enterprises to become involved in combat operations, and its potential advantages and disadvantages. References 1. ^ hamptonroads Blackwater: On the Front Lines by Bill Sizemore and Joanne Kimberline, The Virginian-Pilot, July 25, 2006 2. ^ http://www.blackwaterusa.com/targetsystems/ 3. ^ Role of security companies likely to become more visible 4. ^ http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/the-penny-drops-coin-aircraft-for-blackwater-03703/ 5. ^ http://www.forceprotection.net/news/news_article.html?id=21 6. ^ http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/the-penny-drops-coin-aircraft-for-blackwater-03703/ 7. ^ http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htairfo/articles/20070827.aspx 8. ^ Blackwater Product Page 9. ^ http://www.blackwaterusa.com/training/inter_default.asp 10. ^ a b http://baltimorechronicle.com/2007/032607Cherbonnier.html 11. ^ http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=107985&ran=89575 12. ^ http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Blackwater_USA 13. ^ Ken Silverstein, "Revolving Door to Blackwater Causes Alarm at CIA," Harper's Magazine, September 12, 2006. 14. ^ Jeremy Scahill and Garrett Ordower, "From Whitewater to Blackwater" The Nation, October 26, 2006. 15. ^ Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater-thenation.com 16. ^ http://www.10news.com/news/13308753/detail.html 17. ^ http://www.thespywhobilledme.com/the_spy_who_billed_me/2007/04/blackwater_usa_.html 18. ^ http://www.sdreader.com/php/cityshow.php?id=1566 19. ^ http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/op-ed/vandeerlin/20070419-9999-lz1e19vandeer.html 20. ^ Role of security companies likely to become more visible 21. ^ Private Security Company Creates Stir in New Orleans-The Virginian-Pilot 22. ^ US-IRAQ: Blackwater Blues for Dead Contractors' Families, by Bill Berkowitz, IPS, June 29, 2007. 23. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1599682,00.html "Victims of an Outsourced War"-time.com 24. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/26/AR2007052601394.html U.S. Security Contractors Open Fire in Baghdad-washingtonpost.com] 25. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1599682,00.html 26. ^ http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1662586,00.html 27. ^ http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38379 28. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/chile/story/0,,1162441,00.html 29. ^ left on without maps or support units. The High Risk Contracting Business 30. ^ 'Residents hang slain Americans' bodies from bridge'—CNN.com 31. ^ 'Private Guards Repel Attack on U.S. Headquarters 32. ^ 'Contractors in combat: Firefight from a rooftop in Iraq 33. ^ http://najafproject.iespana.es/pages/testimonios.html 34. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/04/23/iraq.main/index.html 35. ^ http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,154280,00.html 36. ^ a b http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/04/21/africa/web.0421iraq.php 37. ^ U.S. crew of downed helicopter shot at close range—CNN.com 38. ^ 4 Americans in Iraq Crash Shot in Head—WTOP.com 39. ^ Pelton, Robert Young: "Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror," Crown, August 29, 2006 40. ^ http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=117400&ran=74075 "Iraq killing tracked to contractor could test laws" 41. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/26/AR2007052601394.html 42. ^  43. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/26/AR2007052601394.html 44. ^  45. ^ http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=117400&ran=74075 46. ^ http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1662586,00.html 47. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/16/AR2007091601062.html 48. ^ http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1662586,00.html 49. ^ http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0917/iraq.html 50. ^ http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070917/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq;_ylt=Aql4IIFirYmFfQkXWBWHmZWs0NUE 51. ^ a b Blackwater security firm banned from Iraq 52. ^ Private Security Company Association of Iraq, list retrieved, September 17, 2007. 53. ^ Blackwater: Banned in Iraq? (Updated), Wired Blog, Sharon Weinberger. 54. ^ Will Iraq Kick Out Blackwater? by Adam Zagorin & Brian Bennett, TIME, September 17, 2007: "A spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry has told reporters it has cancelled Blackwater's license and will launch an investigation into whether excessive force was used in the incident. But a senior Iraqi official contacted by TIME said that prime minister Maliki is expected to discuss the episode at a cabinet session scheduled for Tuesday and that, as far as the license being permanently revoked, "it's not a done deal yet."" 55. ^ Blackwater Ban "Inevitable" by Noah Shachtman, Wired Blog, September 17, 2007. 56. ^ a b Blackwater Denies Any Wrongdoing in Shooting Incident (Update1) by Ken Fireman and Robin Stringer, Bloomberg, September 17, 2007. 57. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1599682,00.html 58. ^ http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1599682–1,00.html 59. ^ http://www.onpointnews.com/docs/blackwater3.pdf 60. ^ http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060508/scahill 61. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/04/AR2005100401425_pf.html 62. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/04/AR2005100401425_pf.html 63. ^ Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans 64. ^ http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=92177&ran=4586 65. ^ http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38379 66. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/14/AR2005111401441.html 67. ^ http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=92177&ran=4586 68. ^ http://www.washingtontechnology.com/online/1_1/31393-1.html 69. ^ http://www.blackwaterusa.com/training/inter_default.asp 70. ^ Blackwater USA says it can supply forces for conflicts 71. ^ Inside America's Private Army (continued) 72. ^ What if our mercenaries turn on us? by Chris Hedges for the New York Times, philly.com, June 3, 2007.