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Entries in Iraq (2)

Monday
Dec122011

Blackwater Renames Itself, Wants to Go Back to Iraq

Thinkstock/Comstock(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- The private security firm once known as Blackwater, which was forced out of Iraq after a shooting incident in which 17 civilians died, has changed its name for the second time in three years as it tries to win the right to do business in Iraq again.

CEO Ted Wright said that the newest name, Academi, was an attempt to demonstrate that the firm had become "a new company" since investors bought it one year ago from founder Erik Prince -- a company that potential clients would find nice and "boring."

Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in early 2009, and also had a number of subsidiary and affiliate companies that did business under other names. Wright said that all branches would now operate under the new name. "We have simplified our legal structure so everything is under the Academi name, with the exception of joint ventures."

Under the name Academi, the company is working with a consulting firm to win a license to work in Iraq again. "The opportunity in Iraq is large," said Wright, "and after U.S. troops leave, commercial companies doing business in Iraq will also need our services."

The company's license to operate in Iraq was revoked after a Sept. 16, 2007 incident in which 17 civilians were killed by Blackwater contractors in Baghdad's Nisour Square. Blackwater guards opened fire while attempting to clear the path for a State Department convoy. Manslaughter charges against the contractors were ultimately dropped.

Asked whether Prince would have any relationship with the new company, Mr. Wright replied, "no, [Prince] has no involvement, ownership or control operationally. I've never met the man."

Prince, a former Navy SEAL, founded Blackwater in 1997 and built a multi-thousand-acre complex in Moyock, North Carolina. Blackwater won more than $2 billion in federal contracts and became the preeminent supplier of private security for State Dept. installations. Prince resigned from the company soon after it changed its name to Xe, and in 2010 moved to Abu Dhabi.

In November, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D.-Ill., claimed that Prince was trying to intimidate her by threatening a defamation suit after she allegedly told a British paper he had moved abroad to avoid criminal consequences for Blackwater's actions.

Wright said that Academi's customers don't want to read about the company in the press, at least "in a negative fashion."

Wright said Academi planned to keep doing "the great job we've done," and stay away from negative press. "So in that sense, we'll be boring," said Wright.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun102011

'Blackwater' Videogame Courts Controversy; It's 'Terribly Offensive,' Say Critics

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A lawyer representing the families of Iraqi citizens killed by contractors from Blackwater Worldwide said a new videogame inspired by the company and bearing its name is "terribly offensive" and never should have been made.

"Innocent people have been killed by this company. Imagine yourself as a mother or father of someone who has been killed, and now it's a videogame?" attorney Susan Burke told ABC News Friday. Burke was lead counsel for the dozens of victims and family members affected by a deadly shooting by Blackwater employees in Iraq that left 17 civilians dead and many more wounded in 2007. Blackwater settled out of court with the families in a civil suit, but the employees involved in the shooting still could face criminal charges relating to their actions that day.

"It's terribly offensive... It's staggering that anyone would use their name for a game," Burke said.

Ian Howe, president of 505 Games which plans to release "Blackwater" in the fall, said in the game's press announcement his company was "proud" to work with Blackwater.

"The Blackwater team is comprised of an amazing group of individuals and we're proud to work with them to create a video game that showcases their talent and courage," he said in 505 Games' release.

In the game, which 505 Games said was "developed in conjunction with former members of the Blackwater team," players assume the lead role in a Blackwater operation to protect a fictional North African town, "battling dangerous warlords and fighting back two opposing militia forces."

Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and ex-U.S. Navy SEAL, made a rare public statement in the same release to say the game "will give players a chance to experience what it is like to be on a Blackwater team on a mission without being dropped into a real combat situation."

In 2007 Prince was called before Congress to answer to allegations against his company stemming out of the nearly 200 shooting incidents in which the company was involved in the two previous years while providing protective services for U.S. officials in Iraq.

As scandals continued to dog the North Carolina-based company, two years later, Blackwater Worldwide changed its name to Xe Services and Prince resigned. He has since moved to the United Arab Emirates where he has been reportedly linked to other security firms.

Though many videogames are made every year based on the U.S. military, which has admitted the accidental killing of civilians several times, Burke said basing a game on Blackwater is in particularly bad taste because "the Blackwater people do it for profit... There's a difference between a mercenary and a soldier."

While the game has garned the attention of media outlets for the Blackwater connection, the game itself steers well clear of the events that put Blackwater in Congressional crosshairs.

After playing a demonstration portion of the game, a blogger for the videogame site Kotaku.com reported, "at no point was I required to fire at any innocent civilians, or commit any other atrocities."

Representatives from 505 Games declined to comment for this report.

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