Blackwater was founded in 1996 in Moyock, N.C., in the northeast corner of the state, by former Navy Seal Erik Prince, a multimillionaire and conservative Republican donor.
The company began as a training facility for police and the military but began offering security services after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Prince, whose father helped bankroll conservative Christian organizations such as Focus On Family and Family Research Council, has given at least $225,000 to the Republican Party and its candidates.
The Congressional Research Service said that as of May, Blackwater had 987 security contractors in Iraq, where the company has at least $800 million in government contracts. Among Blackwater's clients in Iraq is the U.S. State Department, which hired the company to protect its staff. The director of the Private Security Company Association of Iraq told Congress in 2006 that a total of 48,000 contractors from 181 companies were providing security in Iraq.
THE COMPANY IN THE NEWS
2001: Blackwater wins contracts to protect government officials in Afghanistan and Iraq.
2004: Images of four Blackwater contractors mutilated and killed in Fallujah are broadcast around the world, bringing new attention and scrutiny to military contractors.
2005: Families of the slain contractors sue Blackwater for wrongful death, saying they were sent out unprepared and unequipped; the lawsuit has stalled, tangled in legal arguments about where the case should be heard.
2006: An off-duty Blackwater security guard kills a bodyguard of the Iraqi vice president. Blackwater brings the man back to the United States and fires him.
2007: Giant military contractor Halliburton refunds the Army $20 million for improperly charging taxpayers for security work subcontracted to Blackwater.
MONDAY: The Iraqi government says it is revoking Blackwater's license, after accusations it was involved in the deaths of nine civilians in a firefight.
McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, STAFF REPORTS