Only the company’s not really called Blackwater any more. After an almost Anthony Weiner-esque run of bad press and Q scores that were probably lower than a snake’s armpit, the PR megaminds at the company changed the company’s name to the incomprehensible Xe (zhe? zee? eksee?) Services. A makeover was probably in order because, as wired.com puts it, “under its old ownership, employees killed Iraqis at Baghdad’s Nisour Square and Afghans on the roads of Kabul; abused cocaine and steroids; and set up shell companies to ensure none of the controversies would prevent the firm from losing lucrative government contracts to guard diplomats in warzones.” When that re-branding effort proved almost as successful as New Coke, they rolled the identity dice again, this time coming up with the more intellectually oriented, professorial moniker, Academi. Whatever, they seem doomed to be referred to in just about every press account as “the company formerly known as Blackwater.” And the latest name change hasn’t improved their luck in the PR arena much . . .
That’s because two former employees, Robert Winston and Allen Wheeler, are suing the security contractor claiming they were fired after blowing the whistle on the company for letting employees slide on their firearms qualification tests administered in Afghanistan. Seems their Columbian recruits couldn’t manage to hit water if they fell out of a boat if they were holding shotties or machine guns.
On March 26, ten days after the first falsified weapons test and three days after the second, Winston and Wheeler alerted their superiors in Afghanistan about the misconduct. The lawsuit states that they were thanked for bringing it to their attention. Two days later, they were informed of their termination. The stated cause: waiting so long to report the suspected malfeasance. They say, they spent the intervening days verifying that Enlow submitted the false reporting to a State Department database. Enlow [the employee who allegedly falsified the qualification reports] has since been fired as well.
And Academi isn’t denying the details of the report at all.
A spokesman for Academi, John Procter, did not dispute the factual contentions in Winston and Wheeler’s suit when asked by Danger Room. Procter said the two were fired for taking 10 days to report the first falsified weapons qualification report — even though it was Winston and Wheeler who alerted Academi to the falsification in the first place.
“The company took swift and appropriate action to address a violation of its Code of Conduct and disciplined all those involved,” Procter tells Danger Room. “The response underscores the company’s commitment to the highest caliber of ethical conduct and business practices.”
No pun intended on that caliber comment, we’re sure. Winston and Wheeler subsequently found out they’d been placed on the State Department’s ‘do not use’ list, making it hard to get another job in the mercenary biz any time soon. At least with a US-based firm. Rumors that the Academi name will soon be tossed to the side in favor of Enron Security Services appear to be false.