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Blackwater / Xe Services / Reflex Responses (R2)

As a general rule, children from wealthy and politically connected families no longer serve in the military. Erik Prince was an exception. He enlisted in the Navy in 1992 and joined the Navy SEALs in 1993, where he served for 4 years. In 1997, he saw an opportunity to start his own company and created Blackwater Security Consulting (BSC). He has said, "We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service".

Reik's father, Edgar, cofounded the auto-parts giant Prince Corp., based in Holland, Michigan. The religious family sent Erik to parochial school and made him a shareholder of the firm at a young age. After Edgar Prince died in 1995, the family sold Prince Corp.'s automotive unit to Johnson Controls for $1.35 billion. Erik, then 26, walked away with at least $50 million.

Erik Prince was an intern in the 1990s for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who was at the time the most Russia-hostile members of Congress. For some strange reacon, somewhere along the line the views of Rohrabacher [who the FBI reportedly found had his own Kremlin code name] did a complete about face. Now his views on WikiLeaks and economic sanctions are more in line with the Kremlin's positions than the consensus in Washington. During the 2016 election, Prince regularly went on Steve Bannon's radio show to promote Trump's candidacy and occasionally spread conspiracy theories about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He spent $250,000 to help get Trump elected.

His sister Betsy DeVos served as Trump's secretary of education. DeVos is not shy about her wealth-driven political power; she has spent millions on the Republican Party in order to promote her agenda. “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” she wrote in 1997. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”

Prince is one of at least 12 Trump associates who had contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition. His role in the Russia investigation centers on the secret meeting in the Seychelles in January 2017, with a Russian banker tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Seychelles meeting was brokered by diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, weeks after an Emirati delegation met in New York with senior members of Trump's team, including Flynn, Bannon and Kushner.

Blackwater was a team of dedicated professionals who provided training to America's military and law enforcement communities and risk their lives to protect Americans in harm's way overseas. Under the direction and oversight of the U.S. Government, Blackwater provides an opportunity for military and law enforcement veterans with a record of honorable service to continue their support to the United States.

After 9/11, when the United States began its stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and then Iraq, the U.S. Government called upon Blackwater to fill the need for protective services in hostile areas. Blackwater responded immediately. Blackwater personnel supporting the country's overseas missions were all military and law enforcement veterans, many of whom have recent military deployments. No individual protected by Blackwater has ever been killed or seriously injured. There is no better evidence of the skill and dedication of these men. At the same time, by 2007 over 30 brave men had made the ultimate sacrifice while working for Blackwater and its affiliates. Numerous others had been wounded and permanently maimed.

The Worldwide Personal Protection Services Contract was competitively awarded and detailed almost every aspect of operations and contractor performance including the hiring, vetting guidelines, background checks, screening, training standards, rules of force and conduct standards. In Iraq, Blackwater reported to the embassy's regional security officer or RSO. All Blackwater movements and operations were directed by the RSO. In conjunction with internal company procedures and controls, the RSO ensured that Blackwater complies with all relevant contractual terms and conditions as well as any applicable laws and regulations. The company had approximately 1,000 professionals serving as of 2007 in Iraq as part of the Nation's total force. Blackwater did not engage in offensive or military missions but performed only defensive security functions.

The all-volunteer professional force after the Vietnam War employed the so-called Abrams Doctrine. The idea was that the US wouldn't go to war without the sufficient backing of the Nation. Outsourcing circumvented this doctrine. It allows the administration to almost double the force size without any political price being paid. If war is privatized and private contractors have a vested interest in keeping the war going, the longer the war goes on, the more money they make.

There may be no Federal contractor in America that had grown more rapidly than Blackwater. In 2000, Blackwater had just $204,000 in Government contracts. Since then, it has received over $1 billion in Federal contracts. More than half of these contracts were awarded without full and open competition. Privatizing was working exceptionally well for Blackwater. Some questioned whether outsourcing to Blackwater was a good deal for the American taxpayer, whether it was a good deal for the military and whether it ws serving US national interests.

The first part of that question is cost - sergeants in the military generally cost the Government between $50,000 to $70,000 per year. And a comparable position at Blackwater costs the Federal Government over $400,000, six times as much. Blackwater charged the Government so much because it can lure highly trained soldiers out of US forces to work for them.

There were serious questions about Blackwater's performance. The 16 September 2007 shooting that killed at least 11 Iraqis was just the latest in a series of troubling Blackwater incidents. The September 16, 2007, shootings caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare.

By 2007 there had been a total of 195 shooting incidents involving Blackwater forces since 2005. Blackwater's contract says the company is hired to provide defensive services, but in most of these incidents it was Blackwater forces who fired first. At least 122 Blackwater employees, one seventh of the company's work force in Iraq, had been terminated for improper conduct.

On December 24, 2006, a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President. This didn't happen out on a mission protecting diplomats. It occurred inside the protected Green Zone. If this had happened in the United States, the contractor would have been arrested and a criminal investigation launched. If a drunken U.S. soldier had killed an Iraqi guard, the soldier would have faced a court martial, but all that has happened to the Blackwater contractor is that he lost his job.

The State Department advised Blackwater how much to pay the family to make the problem go away and then allowed the contractor to leave Iraq just 36 hours after the shooting. Incredibly, internal emails document a debate over the size of the payment. The charge d'affaires recommended a $250,000 payment, but this was cut to $15,000 because the Diplomatic Security Service said Iraqis would try to get themselves killed for such a large payout.

In February 2009 Blackwater Worldwide (BW) received permission from the Government of Djibouti to operate an armed ship from the port of Djibouti, to protect commercial shipping from pirates off the coast of Somalia. Blackwater's U.S.-flagged ship was expected to arrive in early March, and will have a crew of 33 AmCits, including three 6-man armed teams who will operate in continuous shifts. The Djiboutian Navy will secure Blackwater's weapons (i.e., .50-caliber machine guns) while ashore in Djibouti. Blackwater does not intend to take any pirates into custody, but will use lethal force against pirates if necessary; it is developing an SOP that is currently under legal review and will be shared with the USG. Blackwater's counter-piracy operation did not have any clients yet, but Blackwater expects business to develop following a public launch in Djibouti in March with GODJ officials.

The Vanity Fair story on Blackwater/Xe founder and CEO Erik Prince generated considerable German media coverage. According to the article a Blackwater-trained CIA team was dispatched to Hamburg to identify and assassinate Syrian-German national Mamoun Darkazanli, who is alleged to have had connections with 9/11 Hamburg cell members, including Mohammed Atta. (German authorities arrested Darkazanli in October 2004 on the basis of a Spanish warrant, but he was freed in July 2005 after a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court). The Vanity Fair article alleges that the Hamburg mission was part of a President Bush-authorized post-9/11 decision to identify and kill al-Qaida terrorists and supporters around the world. The article claims the team operated in Hamburg for weeks without the knowledge of the CIA-station in Germany or the German government and contends that the mission was eventually aborted due to a "lack of political will."

Blackwater’s departure from Iraq came after its contract was terminated in 2009. Blackwater changed its name — first to Xe Services and then to ACADEMI — and Prince left the company to start a new security organization. In the end, he notes, “If I had it to do all over again, I’m not sure I would.”

In November 2009 company President Gary Jackson says "effective immediately" the name for the firm's parent company has been changed to Xe, pronounced "zee". Subsidiaries of the U.S.-based firm were also being changed, with Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, best-known for preparing workers for overseas operations, now to be called the U.S. Training Center. In a memo to employees, Jackson said the reorganization will help "create unique brand identities for its products and services."

The rebranding came as five former Blackwater guards face charges in the shooting deaths of 14 unarmed civilians. A sixth man pled guilty in the 2007 incident, which resulted in Blackwater losing its license to operate in Iraq. The former employees said they were ambushed by insurgents as they were protecting a U.S. convoy. Iraqi authorities say 17 civilians were killed in the incident, and witnesses say the attack was unprovoked. The defense to arged that the guards acted in self-defense because they said the Blackwater team was under fire from insurgents. US government prosecutors contended that the use of deadly force was unnecessary. Four former Blackwater employees were convicted in 2014 for their part in a 2007 mass shooting that left at least 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Blackwater created 30 subsidiary companies to continue to seek government contracts after the company was accused of misconduct in Iraq. At least three subsidiary businesses had deals with the U.S. military and the CIA. At least two of the affiliate companies, XPG and Greystone, obtained secret contracts with the CIA.

In August 2017 Blackwater founder Erik Prince's controversial proposal to privatize a large portion of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is being met with growing opposition in Kabul and Washington. President Donald Trump was reportedly considering the proposal as part of his monthslong review of the war in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is locked in a stalemate with the Taliban after 16 years of fighting. Prince touts the plan as a cost-effective way to turn the war around. Under the proposal, about 5,000 contractors would replace U.S. troops currently advising Afghan forces. They'd be backed by a 90-plane private air force. The contractors would operate under Afghan control, Prince said. "This is very much under the authority of the central government and the control of the chief of staff of the Afghan armed forces. This is not a local militia that's going to be raised," Prince said.

The 5,000 contractors would attach to Afghan military units and would "live with, train with and fight alongside them, when necessary," Prince said. They would report to Afghanistan's government, he added. "These would be contracted professionals attached to the Afghan army. So even by United Nations definitions, those are not mercenaries. They would be attached to and serving with the Afghan forces," he said. Prince also proposes a "big increase" in air support. The 90 planes in his private air force "would be badged as Afghan aircraft, with Afghan call signs, with an Afghan on board, and Afghans making the weapons release decisions," he said.

Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 and now owned a Hong Kong-based company that would carry out the Afghanistan proposal, incidents like that could complicate his proposal. Erik Prince, and DynCorp owner Stephen Feinberg, offered proposals to the White House to use contractors instead of US troops. But increasing numbers of influential Afghans were concerned private firms would not be accountable. They are concerned using contractors risks a reoccurrence of the heinous acts Blackwater Security Company guards committed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But a growing number of prominent Afghans feared that Prince's for-profit, private military would be unaccountable and say the move risks a repeat of the atrocities carried out by Blackwater guards in Iraq and Afghanistan during the 2000s. Afghanistan's government has not yet officially responded to the proposal. But a senior Afghan defense official told VOA, "The plan has legal problems and raises questions about our mutual security agreements with the U.S."

Thomas Johnson, who specializes in Afghanistan and national security issues at the Naval Postgraduate School, said, "This has to be one of the most insane, dangerous proposals I have ever heard. This would basically be a foreign mercenary force that couldn't speak the languages, would wear ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] uniforms, and would basically employ deadly military force outside the standard Law of Armed Conflict controls," Johnson said. "It would represent one of our greatest abominations of military and international responsibilities in our history," he added.

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Page last modified: 16-07-2018 23:28:21 ZULU