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The mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater worked as a "virtual extension of the CIA," the company's former CEO revealed to Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake, who obtained court documents showing the company argued as much when its executives were facing prosecution.

It has long been known that Blackwater, now called Academi, worked with the Central Intelligence Agency, and there were even some pretty straightforward clues that former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince was an agency asset. That relationship is strongly clarified by the company's own legal defense in a three-year prosecution that collapsed in February, going from having the potential to jail several of the company's executives to wrapping up with a guilty plea from two men punishable by probation, house arrest and a $5,000 fine.

"Blackwater's work with the CIA began when we provided specialized instructors and facilities that the Agency lacked," Prince told Lake. "In the years that followed, the company became a virtual extension of the CIA because we were asked time and again to carry out dangerous missions, which the Agency either could not or would not do in-house."

Prince added that for many missions he did not even charge the CIA, saying his work at the company came not out of a desire for enrichment, but because "in the wake of 9/11, I felt it my patriotic duty."

"[The] CIA routinely used Blackwater in missions throughout the world," the company's attorneys explain in defense filings. "These efforts were made under written and unwritten contracts and through informal requests. On many occasions the CIA paid Blackwater nothing for its assistance. Blackwater also employed CIA officers and agents, and provided cover to CIA agents and officers operating in covert and clandestine assignments. In many respects, Blackwater, or at least portions of Blackwater, was an extension of the CIA."

Lake added that sealed testimony described to him adds the caveats that the CIA had its own direct phone line, along with training and command facilities, in Blackwater's North Carolina headquarters.

The company came to notoriety over a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left 17 people dead, including unarmed women and children. Blackwater was banned from Iraq after that, but it reformed into numerous shell companies and many of its contractors returned under new employment.

Prince sold Blackwater in 2010 for $200 million and has since gone on to form a new mercenary group in the United Arab Emirates.