The Atlantic Wire, By Elspeth Reeve
4 May, 2011
Notorious private contractor Blackwater (which two years ago gave itself the new name Xe Services) has tapped former Attorney General John Ashcroft to head its ethics committee. It’s a signal, Wired’s Spencer Ackerman writes, that the company will continue to pursue lucrative government security contracts. Blackwater, which has not been very successful in getting people to use the Xe Services name, has been trying to shed its Iraqi cowboy reputation since its founder, Erik Price, sold the company late last year. Ashcroft, who was the early face of the Bush administration’s War on Terror, has long-standing ties to Washington and will reassure federal officials that the company is now on the straight and narrow.
A federal judge recently reinstated the manslaughter and weapons case against Blackwater for the shooting deaths of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in 2007. The case had been tossed out in December 2009 because of the way the private contractors initial statements about what happened were obtained. Other black marks on Blackwater’s resume include contractors obtaining AK-47s under cartoon characters’ names and rampant steroid and cocaine use at parties in which personnel “would run around naked.”
Ashcroft, who famously ordered thousand of dollars’ worth of curtains to cover a Spirit of Justice statue’s aluminum breast, will not tolerate any more naked parties. Ashcroft is heading Blackwater’s “subcommittee on governance,” which will “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry,” the company said in a statement. The contractor now “aims to set the bar for industry standards against which all other companies will be measured.”