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Group.png Academi  
(PMCSourcewatch WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Founder• Erik Prince
• Al Clark
HeadquartersMcLean, Virginia, U.S.
Type• private
• military
• Private Military Contractors
SloganElite Training. Trusted Protection.
Formerly known as Blackwater, a huge US-based private military contractor infamous for a string of scandals.

Academi is a private military company founded in 1997 as Blackwater USA and Blackwater Worldwide. After a number of scandals brought a bad reputation, the company was later renamed Xe Services LLC, and then Academi. Another name that is sometimes mentioned is Constellis Holdings Inc, which is the parent company that bought it in 2014. In Iraq it "gained a reputation among Iraqis and even among American military personnel serving in Iraq as a company that flaunts an aggressive, quick-draw image that leads its security personnel to take excessively violent actions to protect the people they are paid to guard", being twice as likely to use a weapon than other main contractors there.[1]

Disputed history

A user account on Wikipedia (apparently an employee of the company) requested changes to be made to the Academi article in 2018 and pointed out, that Academi is not a continuation of Xe / Blackwater:[2]

"Academi (ACADEMI), which is a Constellis company, was formed by a group of investors in 2010, who purchased certain assets from Blackwater – at which time Erik Prince ceased all connection with the organization. The tie between Academi and Blackwater is incorrect. Everything on the Academi Wikipedia page –the description, history, services, personnel and role in the Iraq war – describes Blackwater, not Academi. Erik Prince is not the founder. He has no involvement of any kind with Academi. To reiterate, Academi was not founded by Mr. Prince and there is no association between Blackwater and Academi. To have them comingled is wrong."


The presence of mercenaries in Iraq first received widespread notice after scenes of the gruesome deaths of four Xe (then Blackwater) hired guns in Fallujah were televised worldwide. Blackwater was a Moyock, N.C. based "security consulting" firm founded in 1996 by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince. The company, according to the LA Times, has "the largest private military base in the world, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 soldiers at the ready"[3].

In 2002, the company won a five year navy contract worth $35.7 million to train ten thousand navy personnel in seizing ships. More recently it won a $21 million contract with the Pentagon in Iraq to provide personal security detail for CPA head Paul Bremer and other high-level officials, besides its numerous other private ones. The company had reportedly grown 600 percent since the beginning of the war. The firm charges its clients $1,500 to $2,000 a day for each mercenary.

Academi mostly recruits from the ranks of active-duty American special-forces units some of whom earn salaries that run as high as $1,000 a day. In March 2004, it hired 60 former Chilean commandos at a monthly salary of $4,000. May South Africans are also on its payroll. Armed with weapons ranging from M4 rifles to 20mm cannon on its helicopters, its men have engaged in active combat - sometimes with regular US forces.

Academi mercenaries are notorious for their gung ho attitude and their mistreatment of Iraqis. Even the military seems to be concerned about their behavior, since they are invariably seen as part of the occupying army. Robert Fisk reported on their behavior in The Independent as follows:

Xe (Blackwater)'s thugs with guns now push and punch Iraqis who get in their way: Kurdish journalists twice walked out of a Bremer press conference because of their mistreatment by these men. Baghdad is alive with mysterious Westerners draped with hardware, shouting and abusing Iraqis in the street, drinking heavily in the city's poorly defended hotels. They have become, for ordinary Iraqis, the image of everything that is wrong with the West. We like to call them "contractors", but there is a disturbing increase in reports that mercenaries are shooting down innocent Iraqis with total impunity.

The firm drew attention again, when it was revealed in the Observer that a memo to its staff in Iraq stated that 'actually it is 'fun' to shoot some people.'

Academi also offers a psychological counselling programme to combat PTSD.

Secret contracts

Academi has a number of classified CIA contracts, according to the New York Times. In 2002, it won a classified contract to protect the CIA station in Kabul, Afghanistan.[4]

Assassination programme

In 2004 the CIA hired Academi as part of a programme to assassinate top Al Qaeda figures[5] and also to manage transportation of high-value detainees within the CIA’s illegal secret prison system.[6]

The role of an outside contractor was one reason why incoming CIA director Leon E. Panetta sought a meeting in June 2009 to tell US Congress about the programme.[7]

Drug profits

Academi has made about hundreds of millions of dollars from the US "counternarcotics" following the US invasion of Afghanistan, and the ensuing huge rise in opium production, leading to a record harvest in 2014.[8]

Information provided by former employees in litigation lawsuits

A former employee of Blackwater named as John Doe No.1, in a declaration before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2009, claimed:[9]

  • that he is filing the declaration anonymously because of suspicious deaths of other people that wanted to provide information about the company
  • that Blackwater was not abiding by the terms of the contract with the State Department, even deceiving it
  • that Blackwater smuggled weapons into Iraq, having available a M-249 automatic squad weapon that was not authorized for use there (only M-4 and pistols were allowed by contract)
  • that unnecessary, unjustified deadly force was used multiple times, that Blackwater failed to report these incidents and when questioned about it, likely lied towards State Department officials, no assistance to the people that were shot on these occasions was given
  • that Blackwater kept an employee on duty that did brag about killing people in Iraq
  • circumstances like mentioned above were recorded via dash-cams and watched after duty, erasing the file directly afterwards

2007 - Department of State investigation

Shortly before the Nisour Square shoting in Baghdad that left 17 civilians dead, the State Department had sent a team to Iraq with the mandate of conducting a Program Management Review (PMR).[10][11] When the investigators were made aware of problems with one of the dining facilities they tried to clarify with the RSO office[12] and Blackwaters's Program Manager, Daniel Carroll. Carroll responded to the investigator Jean Richter that the compound in question (WPPS II Camp Baghdad) was technically not under the authority of the Department of State, therefore jurisdiction for the inquiry not existing and he "accentuated this point by stating that he could 'kill me' at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq". After leaving Baghdad three days later Richter filed a report about the incident noting that: "it has become fully apparent to me that the management structures in place to manage and monitor our WPPS contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractor themselves. This occurrence has resulted in a situation where the oversight of these high profile and extremely lucrative contracts is merely superficial at best".[13]

2017 - Special Mission to Saudi Arabia

Around 9th November 2017 reports started to emerge that Academi mercenaries were arresting and torturing princes of the Royal Saudi Family in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.[14] In some cases it is alleged that money has been extorted, in others it was meant to remove people from their government position or circle of influence. International press started to report on the matter about two weeks later,[15][16][17][18] all relying on the reporting from the Daily Mail. While a spokesperson for Constellis, Academi's parent company, denied the claims, even having personnel in Saudi Arabia, in the same time frame Michel Aoun, Lebanon's president, said that it is Blackwater personnel who are 'securing' Lebanon's prime minister Saad Hariri after his detention there.[19] In 2018 the Daily Mail followed up with a report on the aftermath.[20]




Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
File:Isenberg Private Military Contractors.pdfpaperJanuary 2009David Isenberg


  1. Blackwater Tops Firms in Iraq in Shooting Rate New York Times, September 27, 2007 - saved at saved at
  3. Jeremy Scahill, Our Mercenaries in Iraq, Los Angeles Times, 25 January 2007.
  4. Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Sought Xe (Blackwater)’s Help to Kill Jihadists, New York Times, 19 August 2009.
  5. Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Sought Xe (Blackwater)’s Help to Kill Jihadists, New York Times, 19 August 2009.
  7. Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Sought Xe (Blackwater)’s Help to Kill Jihadists, New York Times, 19 August 2009.
  21. Xe (Blackwater), Cofer Black
  22. Blackwater Executives Get Slap on Wrist in 6-Year Criminal Case saved at saved at