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Group.png Academi
Founder(s) Erik Prince
Type • private
• military
Headquarters McLean, Virginia, U.S.
Slogan "Elite Training. Trusted Protection."
Wikipedia page Academi

As of December 2011, Academi is the latest name of the private military company founded in 1997 as Blackwater USA and Blackwater Worldwide and after a number of scandals gave this a bad reputation, it was later renamed Xe Services LLC and then Academi. It is the largest of the US State Department's three private security contractors.


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"[1].

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.[2]

Assassination programme

In 2004 the CIA hired Academi as part of a programme to assassinate top Al Qaeda figures.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]




  1. Jeremy Scahill, Our Mercenaries in Iraq, Los Angeles Times, 25 January 2007.
  2. Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Sought Xe (Blackwater)’s Help to Kill Jihadists, New York Times, 19 August 2009.
  3. Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Sought Xe (Blackwater)’s Help to Kill Jihadists, New York Times, 19 August 2009.
  4. Mark Mazzetti, C.I.A. Sought Xe (Blackwater)’s Help to Kill Jihadists, New York Times, 19 August 2009.
  6. Xe (Blackwater), Cofer Black, accessed 23 august 20-09