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Blackwater Founder Goes on the Defense

Erik Prince, the founder of security firm Blackwater USA, is defending his company before a House oversight committee Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Prince took exception to the idea that his employees in Iraq are out of control cowboys. He told lawmakers his employees are not reckless — they are saving American lives.

However, a committee report on Blackwater actions in Iraq found that in many of the shooting incidents Blackwater has been involved with, the company's employees were the ones who fired first. The report contradicts Prince's position that his company plays defense, not offense.


The report also accuses the State Department, which has paid Blackwater an estimated $750 million between 2004 and 2006, with being an enabler, protecting Blackwater's employees from being held accountable for their actions.

Tuesday's hearing also offers a rare public glimpse at the media-shy Prince.

Sandra Svoboda, a reporter with Detroit's Metro Times, says Prince, a millionaire and former Navy SEAL, comes from a Michigan family that made its money selling auto parts. He made his first political contribution — $15,000 — to the Republican Party at the age of 19, Svoboda tells Alex Cohen.

Prince has recruited personnel for Blackwater in Detroit and given speeches at private clubs, where he discussed his security firm.

Svoboda says that people who have attended Prince's speeches described him as very friendly.


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