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November 17, 2008 

Blackwater Worldwide Issues Press Release Addressing Alleged Export Control Violations

In an unusual move, private security firm Blackwater Worldwide issued a press release on Friday containing detailed information on its export activities to "clarify misinformation stemming from several inaccurate media reports" regarding Blackwater's exports to Iraq and other export-related issues.

Blackwater stated that "these reports -- which contain plainly false allegations -- cite only anonymous government sources, anonymous former employees, and former employees who were fired by Blackwater for stealing weapons from the company."

The press release contains specific and detailed information to rebut "some of the more egregious errors" included in the reports. For example, Blackwater states that it has "never shipped so much as one automatic weapon to Iraq". In addition, Blackwater stated that recent reports about unlicensed exports to Iraq were not accurate since:

"Blackwater obtained export licenses in excess of the number of weapons actually sent to Iraq - and the U.S. government authorized the export of each of these weapons. The investigations referenced by the media do not allege that the company failed to obtain licenses or failed to ensure the government was aware of its actions; rather, the investigations concern Blackwater's not properly annotating the licenses, not timely submitting required reports, and not retaining required records."
The press release contains some interesting information on Blackwater's shipping practices, including packing "shipping pallets with valuable and pilferable items, including weapons, interior to bags of dog food or other low-theft items [in order to] prevent corrupt foreign customs agents and shipping workers from stealing the valuables."

The press release also states that:
"We acknowledge that we have made numerous mistakes in complex and demanding area of export compliance over the years. However, the majority of those violations have been failures of paperwork and timeliness while supporting the United States and its allies, not nefarious smuggling or aid to enemies. This is in no way meant to diminish the seriousness of U.S. export control laws, but rather to clearly state: Blackwater has not committed any of the sensational violations that have been reported recently."
Finally, Blackwater's press release notes that:
Because of the weaknesses that have been uncovered concerning its export processes, Blackwater announced [on October 8, 2008] a comprehensive initiative to enhance export compliance throughout its global operations. The initiative, under development for several months, includes the creation of an independent committee of experienced outside experts to oversee export compliance and the addition of a Vice President of Export Compliance. These efforts are supported by a global training initiative, proposed enhanced business controls and an increased compliance staff.

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