NEW YORK Blackwater tried to buy the silence of Iraqi officials after the security companys guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians more than two years ago, former company officials said. They told The New York Times that the executives of Blackwater Worldwide had authorised secret payments totalling about $1 million to Iraqi officials in return for their agreeing to mute criticism and to support the company after the September 2007 shootings in Baghdad. Blackwater, the Times said, approved the payments in December 2007 after US and Iraqi investigators had determined the shootings were unjustified and Iraqi officials called for the company to leave the country. The newspaper reported four former Blackwater executives said Gary Jackson, then the companys president, approved the bribes and that the money went from Amman, Jordan, where the company has offices, to Iraq. The officials, however, told the newspaper that they did not know if the cash went to Iraqi officials or the names of potential recipients. Blackwater was perturbed by the fact that it could be refused an operating license it needed to keep contracts, worth hundreds of millions, with the US State Department and private clients, the report said. The company has since changed its name to Xe. The bribery attempt divided company officials, the Times said. It quoted officials as saying Cofer Black, then the companys vice chairman, had asked the companys chairman and founder, Erik Prince, about the bribery plan, and Prince did not deny it.