Blackwater Founder Erik Prince 'Regrets' Working for US State Dept.


After the U.S. military ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan, and then Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Blackwater contractors would become, in Prince's words, "the ultimate tool in the war on terror." Blackwater sent over a thousand contractors to the region to address the acute security needs in the lawless aftermath of war.

"The guys protected all the State Department people, members of Congress, even Senator Obama when he was visiting there," he said. "Every diplomat, bureaucrat and member of Congress that visited Iraq came home alive under our guys' care."

But it all came spiraling down in a hail storm of negative attention, starting with Blackwater's aggressive protection tactics in the streets of Iraq. Prince said his contractors were just following the rules dictated to them by the State Department, which he said stipulated that his guys had to drive "washed and waxed Chevy Suburbans between point A and point B every day with lights and sirens on."

"When the enemy is coming at you, and all you can do is drive aggressively, to move your ... person in your care from point A to point B, those are the only tactics you have left," he said.

"We would prefer to run it the way we wanted to run it, which would be to run very low-profile missions and running in nonstandard-type vehicles," Prince continued. "When the company itself would do a mission for an NGO or another customer in Iraq, and we got to pick the method of how that mission was done, we'd use a beat-up old taxi, or an armored vehicle that was looking very dilapidated."

When asked why he didn't push back when Blackwater signed the contract with the State Department if his company had these concerns, Prince said, "We tried."

"We're at the end of that tail getting whipped," he said. "My greatest regret is going to work for the State Department. ... If I sound unapologetic, I guess I am."

A State Department official told ABC News today that its agreement with Blackwater "required the use of U.S. government-furnished vehicles," but that the use of sirens was "not a contractual requirement."

The beginning of the end for Blackwater in Iraq was in September 2007, when several of its contractors were accused of firing into a crowd of civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square after a car bomb exploded a mile away. At least 11 people, including a 9-year-old boy, died.

"It's possible at Nisour Square there were civilians that were killed," Prince said.

A handful of Blackwater contractors were charged with manslaughter. One pleaded guilty. The others are contesting the charges.

In court papers, the government has alleged the guards "opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians" and that many victims were shot "while inside of civilian vehicles ... attempting to flee."

But Prince said he feels the accusations are part of a "highly political prosecution."

"If the amount of scrutiny paid to that event was paid to every other shooting of any U.S. forces or any other contractor forces it would tie up the Justice Department for the next decade," he said.

It was this incident that eventually led to Blackwater's expulsion from Iraq in 2009. But Prince now says that long before the company's reputation began to unravel, and for years after that, Blackwater took on an even larger but less conspicuous role in the global war on terror with the CIA, although he is guarded about discussing details.

"I'd say that 55 pages of my original book was schwacked by the agency," he said.

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