Blackwater’s New Name

In February 2009, Blackwater Worldwide, a private military company founded in 1997 and accused of torture and gratuitous violence (not to mention tax fraud, arms trafficking and overbilling) related to its actions in Iraq, changed its name to Xe Services. Now the company paid about $1 billion of taxpayer cash between 2004 and 2009 to provide security in Iraq, has yet another new name.

The Wall Street Journal reports that:

Virginia-based Xe plans to unveil a new name—Academi—and new logo. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ted Wright, president and chief executive, said the name change aims to signal a strategy shift by one of the U.S. government’s biggest providers of training and security services. Mr. Wright said Academi will try to be more “boring.”

Mr. Wright came on board this summer as part of a continuing corporate reorganization. In recent meetings with clients, he said he explained that the new corporate identity was supposed to stress the company’s focus on regulatory compliance and contract management, in addition to its track record of protecting clients. “I tell them, from now on, I’m going to be in the background; I’m going to be boring,” he said. “You’re not going to see me in headlines.”

Part of the trouble for Blackwater/Xe/Academi whatever is that, if Blackwater indicated incompetent belligerence, Xe just signified corporate whitewashing. Xe (“Zee”) was also just such an odd word (what, was it Chinese?) that it was simply easier to remember it as just “the one the used to be called Blackwater.”

Perhaps with Academi, a name that’s both easy to pronounce and that means nothing at all (though it suggests a private school, I guess), the firm will finally get the total anonymity it so desires.

Don’t bet on it though. Blackwater was both responsible for and symbolic of the disaster that was the Second Gulf War. No one’s going to forget the company any time soon, no matter what name it uses.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer