Friday, February 13, 2009

Blackwater changes its name but not its reputation

News out of Raleigh, N.C., today is that Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial private security firm that protected diplomats after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, is changing its name. The company said Friday that it would now be called Xe, pronounced Zee, and change its logo, apparently to distance itself from notoriety earned after a shooting incident in Baghdad that left at least a dozen civilians dead in 2007, according to the Associated Press. The U.S.-backed Iraqi government has refused to renew Blackwater's authority to operate in that country and the State Department said it will not rehire Blackwater when its current contract expires in May, the AP said. Blackwater told the AP last year that it had decided to pursue other lines of business and deemphasize private security contracting. It has one other security contract, which is classified. But it was too little, too late for Blackwater. Repercussions from the Nisoor Square shooting probably will result in an end to the U.S. military's use of outside contractors for jobs that could be filled by soldiers. "They have established themselves as the bad guys," said Katy Helvenston, who sued the company after her son died on a mission in Fallujah for Blackwater in 2004, the AP said. "They've established such a horrible reputation," Helvenston said. "Why else would they change their name?" Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who chairs the Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said a new name can't change the fact that the company's actions resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. "Blackwater's notorious reputation will outlast its name," she said.

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