Blackwater officials speak out in their own defense

RALEIGH — Blackwater Worldwide, the North Carolina company that is famous — and in some quarters infamous — for its security work in Iraq, has been misunderstood and misrepresented, says the company's owner, Erik Prince.

Prince, company President Gary Jackson and spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell came to Raleigh on Wednesday as part of a public relations campaign. The effort began last fall after Blackwater guards were accused of killing 17 civilians in Baghdad while guarding a State Department convoy. That incident, which elicited furious protests from the Iraqi government, is still under federal investigation.

The executives, who had requested the meeting with a group of News & Observer editorial board members, editors and reporters, defended their company's reputation Wednesday.

Among their statements: Security contracting will likely play a shrinking role in Blackwater's income. Security work is tapering off, and the company's future is mostly in training troops and law enforcement officers. It is set up to train 1,250 people a day.

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