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Blackwater's Beginnings
Blackwater Book Cover
October 19, 2007

"Our corporate goal is to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did to the postal service."
--Erik Prince, CEO, Blackwater

Prince, heir to the fortune his father, Edgar Price, amassed by inventing and selling auto parts, was himself a Navy Seal, yet became "dissatisfied with the military's training," writes THE WASHINGTON POST. He, along with Navy Seal firearm trainer, Al Clark, had visions of starting their own "state of the art facility...a free-market version of how units could be trained."

In 1996, after his father's death, Prince used $900,000 of his inheritance to purchase 3,100 acres of land in North Carolina, which would become an operational military and law enforcement training facility by 1998. The name "Blackwater" refers to the black swampy waters over which the original compound was built. Early on, the company began collecting small training contracts averaging around $40,000.

Yet after al-Qaeda attacked the USS Cole in 2000, exposing "how unprepared the Navy was to defend against a new, unpredictable kind of threat," writes THE WASHINGTON POST, Blackwater began to market itself as up to the training task, eventually winning a $46 million contract in September 2002, astronomically larger than anything the company had thus far earned.

The 9/11 attacks further transformed Blackwater, propelling the organization into predominantly security-related work in Afghanistan and later in Iraq. In 2003, the company won a lucrative $25 million contract to protect L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, cementing its presence at the center of conflict in Iraq.

Today, Blackwater has more than 2,000 private contractors deployed in nine countries, including the United States. Quickly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security hired Blackwater, and the company, according to Scahill, would eventually collect more than $70 million in hurricane-related contracts. Blackwater is also building new facilities in California and Illinois, respectively called "Blackwater West" and "Blackwater North." Jeremy Scahill writes in his book:

"As one Congressmember observed, in strictly military terms, Blackwater could overthrow many of the world's governments."

Published on October 19, 2007

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