MOYOCK, N.C. Blackwater Worldwide executives said Monday that they plan to shift away from the lucrative security contracting business because government scrutiny and negative media attention have made the business too costly.
"The experience we've had would certainly be a disincentive to any other companies that want to step in and put their entire business at risk," company founder and CEO Erik Prince told The Associated Press during a daylong visit to the company's North Carolina compound.
Blackwater executives say they have unfairly become a symbol for all contractors in Iraq and thus the company is a flash point for those opposed to the war. It plans to focus on training, aviation and logistics.
The company has been under intense scrutiny since September when its security contractors opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection while responding to a car bombing. Seventeen Iraqis were killed, prompting congressional hearings and an FBI investigation.
In 2005 and 2006, security jobs, such as guarding U.S. diplomats in Iraq and helping secure New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, represented more than 50 percent of the company's business.
It is down to about 30 percent now, and company president Gary Jackson said it will go much lower.
"If I could get it down to 2 percent or 1 percent, I would go there," he said, adding later that "security was not part of the master plan, ever."