Blackwater Worldwide was a private military company that was founded by former Navy Seal Erik Prince in 1997. It was later called Xe Services LLC and then ACADEMI LLC in late 2011. In 2014, ACADEMI LLC was incorporated into the Constellis Holdings company. ACADEMI LLC calls itself "a global provider of sustainable training solutions and secure logistics management".
Some critics are quick to point out Blackwater Worldwide's past controversies. From 2001-2006, Blackwater had two State Department contracts worth $832 million primarily for guarding high-profile officials and the United States Embassy in Baghdad. U.S. officials questioned Blackwater's cost-effectiveness vs. using regular U.S soldiers. This was because Blackwater charged the U.S. government $445,000 a year per private military contractor. This was over six times more than the cost of a regular U.S. soldier.
In 2004, four Blackwater employees were killed by insurgents in Fallujah. Congressional investigations concluded these guards were under-staffed and under-equipped. In 2007, Blackwater employees were guarding a State Department convoy. They then opened fire in Baghdad's Nisour Square and killed 17 innocent civilians. Many debated if the actions were appropriate and Blackwater claimed its guards were in a firefight. However, congressional hearings suggested Blackwater had reckless guards who were not always sober. In 2014, one former Blackwater guard was found guilty of murder. Three more guards were convicted on voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges.
This raises the question of accountability. Reports in 2008 say these contractors operate in a legal gray area and cannot be prosecuted in Iraqi courts. If the Justice Department wants to press charges, then they must do so under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. However, Blackwater claims their State Department contracts have no Pentagon ties. This may provide Blackwater additional legal cover to avoid charges. In 2012, ACADEMI paid a $7.5 million fine to settle various criminal charges. In 2013, the U.S. government dropped most of its remaining charges against ACADEMI.