The Virginian Pilot June 25, 2012
Academi plans to build a 235-bed lodge at its Moyock, N.C.,-based compound with plans to expand operations where it trains military and law enforcement personnel how to shoot better under stress, protect officials from terrorist attacks, and storm criminal hideouts, among other things.
The $3.2 million lodge is the largest expansion of facilities on the 7,000-acre compound in at least four years. It comes after a tumultuous period during which the company name changed twice and management rolled over.
Formerly known as Blackwater, Academi is the largest taxpayer in Camden County. With about 250 workers on site, it also is the largest private employer in the county, where most its facilities are based.
AOL Defense June 8, 2012
Last month, apparently without attracting any public attention (until now), they quietly bought another security firm, International Development Solutions, and took over its piece of the State Department’s $10 billion World Protective Services contract, which then-Blackwater got kicked out of years ago.
And ACADEMI plans on further acquisitions, CEO Ted Wright confirmed in an exclusive interview with AOL Defense.
The company has spent a year rebuilding and is set to grow again, said Wright, who took over in June 2011. (He was hired by a new ownership team that bought out Blackwater founder Erik Prince the previous December). “The things we said we were going to do a year ago, we’ve kind of done,” said Wright, just back from visiting employees in Afghanistan.
Since he started, the company has not only a new name but a new management team, a new board of directors — in fact it didn’t even have a board before — and a new corporate headquarters in Arlington, looking across the Potomac River straight at the headquarters of the State Department. Many of the employees doing security work in the field are new, Wright said, and the core of ACADEMI’s business, its training cadre, has turned over almost completely: Only about 10 instructors remain from the old days, compared to 30 new hires, with another 20 on the way.
James Vicini Rueters June 4, 2012
Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by four Blackwater Worldwide security guards who argued prosecutors made improper use of their statements to investigators in charging them with killing 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
The justices refused to review a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., that reinstated the criminal charges against the guards for their roles in the Baghdad shooting that outraged Iraqis and strained ties between the two nations.
The shooting occurred as the guards, U.S. State Department security contractors, escorted a heavily armed four-truck convoy of U.S. diplomats through the Iraqi capital on September 16, 2007.
The guards, U.S. military veterans, responded to a car bombing when gunfire erupted at a busy intersection. The guards told State Department investigators they opened fire in self-defense, but prosecutors said the shooting was an unprovoked attack on civilians.
by Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room December 12, 2011
Say goodbye to Xe. The company formerly known as Blackwater — the world’s most infamous private security corporation — has jettisoned the name it chose in its 2009 rebrand. Now the “security solutions provider” wants to wash away the taint of the 2007 Nisour Square shootings by adopting the new name “Academi.”
But the company is changing its name — not its core business. And it even wants back into the country where it ran its brand through the mud: Iraq.
If Blackwater — sorry, Academi – was a sports franchise, you’d consider 2011 its rebuilding year. A consortium of investors close to the family of founder Erik Prince bought the company in late 2010, and spent 2011 putting together its new leadership team. It brought on board former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Bill Clinton consigliere Jack Quinn and Suzanne Folsom from the insurance giant AIG. Wright came from military-services giant KBR. Notice a pattern? All have deep experience with crisis management.
Notice another pattern: all of those hires either worked in senior government positions or worked closely with those who did. That signals confidence in the company’s traditional business — getting big government contracts to protect diplomats, aid workers and even the military in dangerous places. On its new website, Academi says providing “stability and protection to people and locations experiencing turmoil” is its “core” business. New name; same wheelhouse.
Jan Schakowsky says that former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has “attempted intimidation” of her in response to Schakowsky’s campaign to reduce U.S. reliance on private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Schakowsky spoke on the House floor Wednesday about a letter from Prince’s attorneys, dated October 7, 2011, that was delivered by hand to Schakowsky’s office. The letter accuses Schakowsky of making “false and defamatory” statements against Prince.
The letter cites a September 8 article published by the Independent in London about Prince’s Blackwater video game. The article quotes Schakowsky as saying: “If Mr. Prince had not emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, which does not have an extradition agreement with the US, he too would now be facing prosecution.”
“Your statement to [the Independent], which imputes commission of a crime, is per se libelous,” the letter from Prince says, adding: “Your malice cannot be questioned. You have a multi-year history of making derogatory comments about Mr. Prince and his former company, Blackwater. You have abused your Congressional power to request that Mr. Prince be investigated.”
Blackwater has received more than $1 billion in federal contracts in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and became infamous after four employees were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians after allegedly opening fire in Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007. In December 2009, a judge dismissed the charges citing missteps by the Department of Justice, but earlier this year an appeals court panel ordered the judge to reconsider the case.
Prince resigned in 2009, and the company was rechristened “Xe Services” when it was sold last year.
Schakowsky has introduced the Stop Outsourcing Security Act since 2007, as a way to phase out private contractors like Blackwater. “While the problem applies to other private contractors,” she said Wednesday, “there is one company that has become synonymous with misconduct: Blackwater.”
Associated Press at SF Gate July 26, 2011
A whistleblower lawsuit against the security firm once known as Blackwater is heading to trial in Virginia.
Jury selection starts Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria in a lawsuit brought by former Blackwater employees Brad and Melan Davis.
They accuse the company of cheating the government in bills it submitted for protecting government employees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has already dismissed several of the lawsuit’s claims, including an allegation that Blackwater billed the government for prostitutes.
The Davises’ lawsuit is one of several legal skirmishes Blackwater has fought following its contract work. Blackwater now operates under the name Xe Services
Associated Press at Sacramento Bee July 25, 2011
While the company’s executive leadership will be based in Arlington, the 7,000-acre training facility in Moyock will also have an executive presence. Xe Services also has training facilities in Groton, Conn., and San Diego and a permanent 10-acre operating base in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Under the Blackwater name, the firm provided guards and services to the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It drew harsh criticism from members of Congress and others after a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 people.
Gov in the lab July 7, 2011
USTC Holdings, the parent company of Xe Services (formerly Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor at the center for several controversies in Iraq), announced Tuesday that Jack Quinn will serve as an “independent director” of the company.
Quinn was the former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton and former
chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore. Currently, he serves as the chairman of the lobbying firm Quinn Gillespie and Associates, which he founded with Republican strategist Ed Gillespie in 2000.
UTSC is a leading provider of private security services focused on operations in support of the United States government.
“I am proud to join and help lead Xe at a time when the valuable servicesit provides are most needed by our country,” said Quinn, in a statement. “The men and women of the Company demonstrate their dedication, professionalism and best-in-class service each and every day, and I am honored to support the critical mission they serve.”
Bill Sizemore The Virginian Pilot June 14, 2011
NORFOLK A former Blackwater contractor from Virginia Beach was sentenced to 37 months in prison today for involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting death of a civilian in Afghanistan.
Christopher Drotleff is the first contractor for the Moyock, N.C.-based security company now known as Xe Services to get prison time for killing a civilian in a war zone. A second man, Justin Cannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, has been convicted in the same case and faces sentencing later this month.
The two were charged with murder and tried twice. Their first trial, in September, ended in a hung jury. The manslaughter convictions in their March retrial appeared to be a compromise verdict.
Drotleff and Cannon were working for Paravant, a Blackwater subsidiary, providing weapons training for the Afghan army under a Defense Department subcontract when their two-vehicle convoy became involved in a traffic accident in Kabul, the Afghan capital, in May 2009.
They were off duty at the time and had been drinking, according to testimony.
Fareed Haji Ahmad, driving home from dinner with a co-worker, approached the scene in his Toyota Corolla and offered to help, he testified. He became confused, he said, when three men waved him on but a fourth told him to stop.
When he drove off, Drotleff and Cannon opened fire on the retreating vehicle, according to testimony. Ahmad’s passenger, Romal Mohammad Naiem, was killed.
A pedestrian, Rahib Mirza Mohammad, out walking with a friend and a dog, was also shot in the back of the head and died a month later. The contractors were acquitted of charges in his death.
Class Action filed against Blackwater Xe based on fraudulent misclassification as independent contractors
Scott Bloch blasts Blackwater on behalf of thousands of former employees who were mistreated and denied employee benefits, unemployment and other withholding based on a fraudulent misclassification as independent contractors.
Statement Concerning Filing of Class Action Tax Misclassification Against Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) on Behalf of Personal Security Specialists for Loss of Benefits and Withholding
WASHINGTON, DC (June 7, 2011) –
Since 2007, Blackwater Industries, which has changed its name to Xe Services, has employed over 10,000 personal security specialists to perform operations in Iraq and Afghanistan under lucrative contracts with departments of the United States Government including the State Department and CIA.
While employing these individuals, many of whom are decorated veterans of the armed services including Special Forces, Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Blackwater sought to avoid millions of dollars in taxes, withholding, and payments of benefits to these employees by classifying them improperly as independent contractors.
Yesterday, Scott Bloch filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of four former security specialists, who were injured while working for Blackwater, in order to recover their payment of social security, unemployment insurance, and unpaid benefits and state and local withholding and unemployment insurance, and other unspecified damages. The action is brought on their own behalf and thousands of others who have worked for Blackwater and its newly named Xe Services.
The action seeks $60,000,000 in damages and punitive damages, as well as additional amounts as proved for the class of specialists.
“These brave individuals who worked in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghani Enduring Freedom, deserve better than to be turned away without health insurance, pension benefits, unemployment benefits, and other withholding afforded to Blackwater’s other employees,” said Scott Bloch.
According to the lawsuit, the United States treasury loses billions of dollars annually to misclassified employees. Under the commonlaw and the IRS 20 questions put out in 1987 pursuant to a regulation, Blackwater was obliged to classify these individuals as employees if Blackwater had the right to control the employees’ actions, manner of performing duties, hours, training, equipment, whether the duties of the employees go to a core function of the employer or are duties that are consider ancillary to the main purpose of the company, and other factors.
The lawsuit states that Blackwater provided their equipment, including weapons issued by the government, training, and control over employees’ duties, manner of performing their security duties, operations they went on, protection details and other duties.
“These veterans were actually given diplomatic passports and classified as employees of Blackwater to the United States government in the contracts as they procured insurance required for employees, and also represented to the State Department that they were employees,” said Bloch in a statement upon filing, “yet when it came to paying taxes, paying their employer portion of social security and Medicare taxes that all Americans expect their employers to pay, they simply claimed they were independent contractors.”
The suit also states that one of the representative plaintiffs already had a determination from the IRS that Blackwater misclassified him as an independent contractor. “The IRS already determined in the case of one of my clients that he should have been classified as an employee,“ said Bloch. “Now thousands of people will have to file amended returns. Thousands of people will likely be entitled to benefits they were denied due to the misclassification, including payment of their employer share of pension, health and disability insurance premiums, and other plans that Blackwater filed with the government for its employees, promising it would not discriminate against those employees as they did here.”
In addition, claims the suit, the United States Congress previously held hearings under the Oversight and Government Reform committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, Chair, which determined that Blackwater and its related companies misclassified employees in order to avoid millions of dollars in taxes. In addition, the IRS prior to making the determination on the plaintiff in this suit, had ruled on behalf of other Blackwater security specialists, and related job titles, that Blackwater had misclassified these employees who performed services under contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Blackwater made hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers and hired thousands of former veterans of military service and police officers. They also had in their ranks Federal Agents, such as current employees of the FBI on leave of absence. They were hired as security specialists in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Bloch. “It is a grave injustice to them who were mistreated and left without any health insurance or other benefits for their families, and left to fend for themselves in paying into Social Security and Medicare. They laid down their lives to protect dignitaries and carry out duties in support of wars for America, and they deserve better than this. Many of these same men risked their lives to protect everyone from the President of the United States to U.S. Senators, Congressman, U.S. Diplomats, to Foreign Presidential & Diplomatic Figures in one of the most dangerous places on the planet.”
The case was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and covers individuals from all over the United States and some Americans living abroad, including all former and current Blackwater and Xe employees and so-called independent contractors.
Contact Scott J. Bloch, PA:
Scott Bloch, 202-496-1290 Law Offices of Scott Bloch Website
by Tom Bowen NPR May 17, 2011
A U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.
On the ground, it’s the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.
All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by year’s end, but there will still be a need for security. That means American troops will be replaced by a private army whose job will be to protect diplomats.
Already, the State Department is approving contracts, but there are questions about whether it makes sense to turn over this security job to private companies.
Security For The State Department
Overseeing the armed personnel is Patrick Kennedy, a top State Department official.
“I think the number of State Department security contractors would be somewhere in the area of between 4,500 and 5,000,” Kennedy says.
That’s roughly the size of an Army brigade, and double the number of private security contractors there now.
The State Department has an in-house security force, but it has just 2,000 people to cover the entire world. They handle everything from protecting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to guarding embassies and consulates.
Kennedy says for a tough job like Iraq, he needs help.
“In a situation like this, where you have a surge requirement that exceeds the capability of the State Department, it is normal practice to contract out for personnel to assist during those surge periods,” he says.
A Shaky Record
But the State Department has a shaky record overseeing armed guards. A recent congressional study found that many contractor abuses in Iraq were caused by those working for the State Department, not for the Pentagon.
The most notorious was the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007. Guards with the private security contractor Blackwater opened fire while protecting a State Department convoy. A U.S. investigation later found there was no threat to that convoy.
Among those contractors who will be working in Iraq next year is International Development Services, a company with links to Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services.
State Department officials say they’ve made changes since that deadly incident in Baghdad. There are now more State Department supervisors; contractors must take an interpreter on all convoys; and companies can be penalized for poor performance.
But Grant Green, a member of the Commission on Wartime Contracting created by Congress, says that’s not enough. He told a House panel recently that the State Department still isn’t ready to assume responsibility for Iraq next year.
“They do not have enough oversight today to oversee and manage those contractors in the way they should be,” Green says.
Kennedy of the State Department disputes that contention. He says there are plenty of supervisors who shadow these private contractors.
“We have trained State Department security professionals in every convoy in every movement in Iraq,” Kennedy says.
‘Beef Up’ State Department Forces?
But that raises a broader question: Should the State Department be turning over these inherently military jobs to private contractors?
Pratap Chatterjee of the Center for American Progress doesn’t think so. Chatterjee, who writes about contractors, says these are government roles that demand accountability to the public. He has another idea about what should be done.
“You might as well beef up the Bureau of Diplomatic Security,” he says.
That means greatly expanding the State Department security force of 2,000 that now covers the entire world.
“And make sure you have the capability for future operations in countries like Libya or wherever it is, rather than assuming the private contractors will do a good job because you’ve written a good contract. That’s just not good enough,” Chatterjee says.
It may be impractical to hire thousands more State Department security personnel. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says today’s wars are different — they’re lengthy and ambitious. So it doesn’t make sense to build a large force to protect diplomats.
“I don’t expect that the United States is going be engaged in a stabilization operation of the size of either Iraq or Afghanistan in the near future,” Bowen says.
That may be true. But for the time being, private security contractors — thousands more — will soon be on the job in Iraq.
The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.
Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement, an entity designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry.”
In other words, no more shooting civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan; no more signing for weapons its guards aren’t authorized to carry in warzones; no more impersonations of cartoon characters to acquire said weaponry; and no more ‘roids and coke on the job.
Ashcroft’s arrival at Xe is yet another clear signal it’s not giving up the quest for lucrative government security contracts now that it’s no longer owned by founder Erik Prince, even as it emphasizes the side of its business that trains law enforcement officers. In September, it won part of a $10 billion State Department contract to protect diplomats, starting with the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. Ashcroft, a U.S. senator before becoming attorney general in the Bush administration, is a very known quantity to the federal officials that Xe will pitch. Even if he’s not lobbying for Blackwater, Ashcroft’s addition on the board is meant to inspire confidence in government officials of its newfound rectitude.
A federal appeals court today reinstated the prosecution of a group of Blackwater security guards charged in Washington with manslaughter and weapons violations for their alleged roles in a shooting in Baghdad that killed more than a dozen civilians.
In December 2009, Judge Ricardo Urbina of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the Justice Department prosecution of five guards, saying the prosecution was tainted through the improper use of compelled statements the defendants made to investigators following the shooting in September 2007. DOJ appealed the ruling.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously reversed Urbina’s decision, sending the case back to the trial court for further hearings. The appeals court’s 17-page redacted opinion is here. (The court simultaneously filed a confidential opinion under seal. The court heard oral argument in a closed session in February.)
Lawyers for the guards were not immediately reached for comment this morning. Steptoe & Johnson counsel Bruce Bishop argued for the guards, collectively, and the Justice Department’s Demetra Lambros of the Criminal Division appellate section represented the government. “We’re pleased with the ruling and are assessing the next steps,” DOJ spokesman Dean Boyd said.
After the fatal shooting, the Blackwater guards provided sworn written statements to the State Department on forms that included a guarantee that the information would not be used in a criminal proceeding. Urbina found disclosure of the defendants’ statements tainted much of the evidence federal prosecutors presented to a grand jury.
The D.C. Circuit remanded the prosecution with instructions for Urbina to determine what evidence the government presented against each defendant that was tainted and “in the case of any such presentation, whether in light of the entire record had shown it to have been harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The panel judges—Senior Judge Stephen Williams and Judges Merrick Garland and Douglas Ginsburg—said in the court’s ruling that Urbina made “a number of systemic errors based on an erroneous legal analysis.”
The court said, among other things, the “presence, extent and possible harmfulness” of tainted evidence must be reviewed on an individual basis even though the government brought a single indictment charging five guards.
“To the extent that evidence tainted by the impact of one defendant’s immunized statements may be found to have accounted for the indictment of that defendant, it does not follow that the indictment of any other defendant was tainted,” Williams wrote in the ruling for the appeals court. “The district court assumed the contrary.”
The D.C. Circuit also said Urbina failed to detail what statements from the guards “played exactly what role” in guiding the government’s investigation of the shooting in Iraq. “We cannot uphold the judgment of dismissal to the extent that it rests on such vague propositions,” the appeals court said.
Four guards–Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball–face the potential for further prosecution in Washington federal district court. Prosecutors abandoned the case against the fifth guard, Nicholas Slatten. But DOJ moved to dismiss without prejudice, reserving the right to seek re-indictment. Please see the original at Blog of the Legal Times
What happens when you don’t pay your taxes?
Camden County and its largest taxable property owner, Xe Services, are about to find out.
Camden says Xe owes an estimated $2.9 million in non-filed personal property taxes and penalties dating back to 2005.
Camden commissioners recently voted 3-2 to deny the military and security contractor’s request for another three months to determine how much it owes Camden.
Camden Tax Administrator Mary Gaskins told commissioners that an auditor determined how much Xe owes, and that Xe has had plenty of notice about the owed taxes.
County Attorney John Morrison said if Xe appeals the county’s decision, it will be mediated before the N.C. Department of Revenue. If still unresolved, the matter would go before the Tax Commission in Raleigh and then possibly land before the N.C. Court of Appeals.
The audit report by Turner Business Appraisers determined that Xe and its affiliates had not filed property taxes in Camden on helicopters, airplanes, machinery, furniture and supplies dating back to 2005. In addition, the county has assessed tax penalties as high as 60 percent for unpaid taxes back to 2006.
A lawyer for Xe, Bart McLean of Raleigh, told commissioners many of the company’s aircraft were based in Iran, Afghanistan and Africa during the years in question and therefore are not subject to property taxes in Camden.
FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – Paravant, a private security firm, says it’s not its fault that its independent contractors killed two Afghan civilians and injured a third. It claims that Raytheon Technical Services, which hired it, “improperly demanded that Paravant indemnify it” for costs of investigating the killings, which were done “by Paravant agents when off duty and not performing under the parties’ contract.”
Paravant sued Raytheon in Fairfax County Court.
Raytheon hired Paravant as a subcontractor to train the Afghan National Army personnel in Afghanistan under Raytheon’s prime contract with the U.S. Army.
Four of Paravant’s “independent contractors” were involved in a “widely publicized” incident of May 5, 2009 in which two Afghanis were killed and another was injured, according to the complaint.
“At the time of the incident, the independent contractors were off-duty, away from any work location, and not performing any services specified in the Purchase Order,” Paravant says.
After months of investigations by various government organizations, “Raytheon for the first time claimed indemnification of Paravant for over $1 million of costs it claimed arose from the May 5 incident, principally related to attorney’s fees and expenses of Raytheon to respond to the governmental inquiries,” according to the complaint.
Paravant claims that Raytheon has refused to pay it $2.6 million it owes for Paravant’s work on the contract.
Paravant seeks a declaration that it owes no indemnification to Raytheon for the incident and that Raytheon owes it the $2.6 million.
Paravant is represented by David O’Brien with Crowell & Moring of Washington, D.C