Haiti Feed

Think of something to do for Haiti today.

When a country has a large earthquake that destroys building, trapping thousands of people in the rubble, it is as if the country has had a stroke: time is brain. Fast help can make a major difference.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Haiti has had a huge earthquake. News reports paint a grim picture: the capital city of Port au Prince largely destroyed, possible death tolls in the 100,000s, UN Headquarters collapsed with UN personnel trapped inside. Port au Prince is a city that grew fast with little oversight of building codes and the quality of construction. In a major earthquake, poor construction means death.

Do something today to help. Don't wait.


Here are a couple of Flickr photosets showing the damage:

The Maproom is collecting links to online maps intended to help with disaster relief. Here is a Goole Earth KML of a map I made of the area in 2006 in connection with the Haitian elections. (Or you can view the map online at CommunityWalk. It has some relevant landmarks such as the Presidential Palace and the airport.

Do send money to one of the charities, such as the Red Cross, that is sending aid. But don't stop there. 

Your ideas can be more valuable than your cash. Think of innovative was to save these people.

Haiti: Rene Preval's Inaugeration to Be Delayed

From the BBC:

Haiti's electoral council says the second round of parliamentary elections will be delayed.

Council head Rosemond Pradel said it was impossible to keep to the 19 March date because complaints from the first round were still being dealt with.

This means that in the absence of a parliament, the inauguration of President-elect Rene Preval, set for 29 March, must also be delayed.

(see also my Haiti archive.)

CAG's got a blog!

I just discovered this morning that the strange, secretive private intelligence company Consultants Advisory Group (CAG) has a blog. I'm trying to figure out how to stuff it and mount it properly to be hung on my wall.

I have a letter in to UN Legal inquiring about the relationship between MINUSTAH and CAG. The CAG site (including blog) is sitting on a Yahoo server in Sunnyvale, CA, near as I can tell.

René Préval Declared the Winner of Haiti's Election

NytprevalFrom the NYT around 10AM:

A high-ranking official from the Organization of American States, who insisted on anonymity because of the fragile nature of the agreement, said on Wednesday night that loopholes in Haitian electoral law allow the government to discard an estimated 85,000 blank ballots included in the original tally. By excluding them, Mr. Préval's lead would increase from 48.7 percent of the votes to slightly more than 51 percent.

Under election rules, the winner needs 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a run-off.

From the San Jose Mercury News first thing this morning: Winner declared in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Officials of Haiti's interim government and electoral council announced early today that they had reached agreement to declare front-runner René Préval the winner of Haiti's presidential elections.

"We have reached a solution to the problem,'' said Max Mathurin, president of the Provisional Electoral Council. "We feel a huge satisfaction at having liberated the country from a truly difficult situation.''

"We acknowledge the final decision of the electoral council and salute the election of Mr. René Préval as president of the republic of Haiti,'' Prime Minister Gerard Latortue told the Associated Press.

Former President Préval was just a hair short of the 50 percent-plus-one majority he needed to win the Feb. 7 vote without a runoff, and the discovery of thousands of crumpled ballots at the municipal dump diminished hope that a vote recount would offer Haitians any greater confidence in the electoral process. Only political negotiations, foreign experts said, could resolve the situation.

"The margin of uncertainty is larger than the margin of victory and defeat,'' said a fraud specialist for the International Mission of Evaluation of Elections in Haiti, who asked to remain anonymous because the group leaders have been prohibited from speaking publicly about the balloting.

"The only solution now is a political solution,'' the specialist told a Knight Ridder reporter who went to the city dump Wednesday morning.

Preval pulled more than four times the votes of any other candidate.

Burned Ballots Found in Haiti

From Reuters: Burned ballots inflame Haitian election tensions

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Haiti's electoral council said on Tuesday it would launch an investigation after burned ballots, many cast a week ago for former president Rene Preval, were found still smoldering in a state dump.

Preval, a one-time ally of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide opposed by the same wealthy elite who helped drive Aristide from power two years ago, said on Tuesday that only "massive fraud" had prevented him from winning a first-round victory in the February 7 election.

A few hours later, reports that hundreds and maybe thousands of ballots had been found discarded in a massive garbage dump in Port-au-Prince rippled through the ranks of Preval supporters, triggering anger and demonstrations after nightfall.

"That's absolutely unacceptable," said Rosemond Pradel, secretary-general of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) charged with organizing the impoverished Caribbean country's presidential election -- the first vote since Aristide was ousted by an armed revolt and international pressure to quit.

"The CEP was not handling the ballots," Pradel said. He said securing the ballots after they had been cast was the responsibility of the 9,000-strong U.N. force trying to keep the peace in Haiti, known by its acronym MINUSTAH.

"I cannot answer to those problems but we are going to set up a commission to investigate the problem," Pradel said.

U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst said ballots were supposed to have been sealed in bags and placed in a container, protected by U.N. troops. "It's not normal to have these ballots there."

Post mirrored from Jeb Sprauge at Free Haiti:

Election manipulation in Haiti is no joke. Only a few in the mainstream press, as of yet, have covered these burned/trashed ballots. Today vote monitors and members of AUMOHD discovered piles and piles of burned and trashed ballots marked for Preval. Here are some photos. AUMOHD writes, "Thanks to our volunteer accompanier, Jared Sibbitt, here are three of pics of the burned ballots.  Our information is that these were found in an area called Marcial near Cite Soleil.  I have placed more pics on our website since this listserve has some limits on size of messages."

From AP:  "We expected these MREs to do anything in their power to steal the elections and they did not disappoint us. Guy Delva of Reuters News Agency reported that hundreth and possibly and possibly thousands of burnt and still smoldering ballots, many cast a week ago for Preval, were found on a Port-au-Prince garbage dump, outraging Preval supporters and setting off demonstrations after nightfall.     "Steve Jacobson of AP also reported Local Telemax TV news Tuesday night showed smashed white ballot boxes in a garbage dump, with wads of ballots strewn about. Ballot after ballot was marked for Preval."

Corbbet Lister Patrick Tortora writes, "On Haitian Television Channel 5 this evening a cameraman was following Haitians who were taking him through a rubbish dump near Citi Soleil. The people leading the cameraman around were showing hundreds if not thousands of presidential ballots that had been marked for a presidential candidate and signed on the reverse by an official of the Electoral Council. All the ballots that were shown to the camera were marked for Preval. There were also many cardboard ballot boxes littering the dump. The inference was that legally marked ballots were dumped in the landfill. Even if these ballots were counted before being discarded, what were they doing in the dump before all ballots were counted and before election result were announced, not to say anything about a possible recount?"

Meanwhile, David Wimhurst, of MINUSTAH continues his attempts at covering up this mess. Wimhurst said it was possible someone dumped the ransacked ballots to create an appearance of fraud. Wimhurst also said there was no evidence of fraud. The U.N. provided security for the vote (much like they provided "security" for the Haitian National Police while they have massacred poor Haitians for the last two years) and helped ship election returns to the capital but is not directly involved in counting ballots. Coup President Boniface Alexandre's chief adviser Michael Brunache announced the votes will be reviewed by a commission which will include presidential candidate Rene Preval's attorneys.

Why were these ballots thrown in the trash heaps and why are so many of them burned? Haiti's interim CEP has some explaining to do.


Haitian Election: "two of nine members of the elections council have themselves alleged fraud, blaming the council's director general, Jacques Bernard."

A post mirrored from Babylon Project:

Haiti: Letter to CBC Radio - Connie Watson

Connie Watson has distorted the truth in her reports consistently on CBC radio, one of the few outlets that you would expect to find a more serious commitment to the facts. Reproduced here is a letter of complaint from Dr. James Winter.

CBC Radio News:

Your correspondent in Haiti, Connie Watson, reported this morning that dissatisfaction with vote counting and allegations of fraud are  coming entirely from the poor and disenfranchised in Haiti, who  support Rene Preval for president.

Nowhere to be found was mention of what Reuters reported yesterday: two of nine members of the elections council have themselves alleged fraud, blaming the council's director general, Jacques Bernard.

"Pierre Richard Duchemin and Patrick Fequiere, two of the nine  members of the elections council, said the vote tabulation was being  manipulated and blamed Bernard," Reuters reported.

"There is an unwholesome manipulation of the data," concluded Duchemin.

You do a disservice to your listeners when you omit crucial information such as this from your report.

Indeed, CBC News On line has an excellent report on this, which apparently your correspondent has not read.

Must we go on line to get the news, or can we rely on radio news to  give us a complete report?


Dr. James Winter

Dr. James Winter,
Communication Studies,
The University of Windsor

The Hotel Montana as a setting for the Haitian Election Drama: "This is a wonderful day to see the children of Cite Soleil swimming in the pools of Hotel Montana."


"un site unique, une histoire d'atmosphèrs . . ."

—the Hotel Montana website

There is a movie to be made of the Haitian election drama, and one of the key settings in this movie will be Port-au-Prince's Hotel Montana. I first heard of the place on December 15th  in correspondence with Valerie Sendecki of the mysterious security contractor Consultants Advisory Group. She wrote:

I wish we could talk about this over a fine cup of  Haitian coffee so that you could enjoy the beautiful [view] from the Hotel Montana.  It’s breathtaking.

HotelMontana2The hotel is the scene of the alleged suicide of General Bacellar, head of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping forces on January 7th. It's my impression that it's the hotel where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed as they passed through. And it's where that guy "David Reuther," who was trolling in my comment section a while back claimed to be staying.

Watching the Haiti feed on Flickr, I've watched guests come and go at the Montana. I've seen guest's shots of the pool, the restaurant, and that view of which Val Sedecki spoke so highly.

About a week ago, just before the election, I wrote a fictionalized account of the Haitian election drama, revolving around one "Hotel California," entitled "Duck Soup in the 21st Century." It is currently on submission (as fiction) to a major magazine. The ending of this first draft involves a crowd bursting into the hotel lobby and shots being fired (just as Mrs. Teasdale is checking out).

So, imagine my surprise to read in Forbes, of all places, the AP story, Violence Erupts Over Haiti Vote Count:

Supporters of Haitian presidential candidate Rene Preval erected smoldering roadblocks across the capital and occupied a luxury hotel Monday. At least one protester was killed, but U.N. peacekeepers denied witness accounts that they had shot him.

Now. Who speaks for the UN Peacekeepers? My God, if it isn't David Wimhurst. (For anyone who has been following this space, Wimhurst has zero credibility with me.) And was it the Hotel Montana? Oh. Yes. It was.

"MINUSTAH killed my brother. MINUSTAH, killed my brother," a woman wailed.

Meanwhile, in the Petionville neighbourhood above Port-au-Prince, protesters converged on the upscale Montana Hotel where election officials have announced results of Tuesday's elections.

UN peacekeepers kept close watch from a driveway and rooftops as protesters squeezed into the hotel's lobby and down the steep sloping driveway, waving posters and tree branches and chanting: "Now is the time! Now is the time!"

South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who had appealed for calm at church services Sunday, was seen on a balcony surveying the crowd as helicopters landed on the roof to evacuate people.

But of course life is stranger than fiction: I never could have anticipated Desmond Tutu on the balcony calming the crowds. (I wonder if they gave him Bacellar's suite.)

Desmond Tutu on the balcony of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-PrinceTo those staying at the Montana: I know you've all got digital cameras. Please go up to your rooms and upload your pictures of the incident to the Internet. David Wimhurst needs to know that the whole world is watching; that now all of us are the Eye in the Sky; that in the 21st Century, things will be different and better.

Also from AP, via Forbes:

With about 90 percent of the vote counted, Preval was leading with 48.7 percent, Haiti's electoral council said on its Web site. His nearest opponent was Leslie Manigat, another former president, who had 11.8 percent.

But of the 2.2 million ballots cast, about 125,000 ballots have been declared invalid because of irregularities, raising suspicion among Preval supporters that polling officials were rigging the election.

Another 4 percent of the ballots were blank but were still added into the total, making it harder for Preval to obtain the 50 percent plus one vote needed.

Jacques Bernard, director-general of the nine-member electoral council, denied accusations that the council voided many votes for Preval.

Council member Patrick Fequiere said Bernard was releasing results without notifying other council members, who did not know where Bernard was obtaining his information. And another council member, Pierre Richard Duchemin, said he was being denied access to the tabulation process.

"According to me, there's a certain level of manipulation," Duchemin said, adding that "there is an effort to stop people from asking questions."

Here's a photo of the pool scene today:


Anyone got GPS coordinates of the Hotel Montana? I would love to be able to mark some of this stuff one Google Earth.


This is a wonderful day to see the children of Cite Soleil swimming in the pools of Hotel Montana. Today, after officials within the CEP have criticized other officials for vote tampering and one demonstrator was killed (reportedly by UN MINUSTAH forces), the Haitian masses from Bel Air, Cite Soleil, Delmas, and other neighborhoods have marched on Hotel Montana. UN troops were landed by helicopter on the Hotel's roof. Here are some photos from Yahoonews.
The people came down the road meaning buisness. They demanded that their vote be respected.


Please post links to additional photos in the comment section. (See also the Yahoo photo feed.)

Haitians Voting by Candlelight

I think this photo has such amazing atmosphere. It makes voting seem like a sacred act, which I suppose in some sense it is. The caption reads:

Haitians vote late into the night by candle light at a polling station on February 7, 2006 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Many voting stations were overwhelmed by the amount of people showing up to vote and stations had to be kept open all night to make sure everyone could vote. For the most part, the first election since Aristide went off with little violence. (Michael Orin Kleinfeld)

Here is the rest of the photoset. [UPDATE: I'm not sure what happened. That whole photoset vanished. here's the photostream it came from; maybe the photographer found a buyer.] FURTHER UPDATE: Now the photo is back up. HERE is a link to a big version, and HERE is a link to the photoset.

Haitian elections "off to a stumbling start";
One would-be voter dead of asphixiation; another dead of a heart attack; Polls to extend hours

From Reuters this morning: Haiti election off to stumbling start

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Haiti's presidential election got off to a rocky start on Tuesday after repeated delays as thousands of people trekked to polling stations in the capital only to find them still closed.

At a large voting center outside the sprawling Cite Soleil slum, at least 5,000 people milled about but there were no ballots or other voting materials to be seen an hour after the polls were scheduled to open at 6 a.m. (1100 GMT).

At least seven other polling centers across the capital were closed, but a U.N. official said some had opened.

Cite Soleil residents walked by the thousands to voting centers outside the teeming seaside shantytown, many determined to return ex-President Rene Preval, a protege of the exiled Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to the National Palace.

A couple of days ago, I set up a CommunityWalk map for the Haiti elections was a way of organizing information in case things get weird. You, dear reader, can annotate this map and add your own information, including adding pictures, links to websites, audio or video, etc. Also, the CommunityWalk map is exportable as a Google Earth KML file which will retain these annotations. It's there should anyone want to use it.

Also, keep an eye on the Flickr photofeed for the tag "Haiti." (See also my post Earthquake in Tokyo, plus How to Document Human Rights Violations Using Flickr.)

UPDATE from AFP via Yahoo: Crowds storm voting centers in Haiti; one dead

A 65-year-old man died of asphyxiation on Tuesday as crowds rushed the gate of a voting center in the Petionville suburb of Port-au-Prince, Radio Caraibes reported.

At another voting center in the capital, a woman suffered burns as she fell over the hot exhaust of a police motorcycle as mobs stormed into the building which police desperately tried to keep closed until electoral officials completed preparations.

Anger mounted among the massive crowds that showed up early to vote but still faced closed gates two hours after the balloting officially started.

Similar situations were reported in other parts of the country.

Tension was particularly high around the notoriously violent Cite Soleil slum, where voters voiced their anger chanting "open up, open up."

Many voters around the country had to walk for hours to reach the voting centers.

UN troops in full combat gear were positioned in key areas of Haiti to prevent any violence during the elections held to replace Jean Bertrand Aristide who resigned the presidency and fled the country on February 29, 2004.

UPDATE from the Mail & Guardian in South Africa. One would-be voter dead of a heart attack: Crowds storm polling stations in Haiti, two dead

Voting got off to a rough start in volatile Haiti as angry mobs stormed voting centres that failed to open on time, with one person dying of a heart attack and another of asphyxia.

Several more people were injured or fainted as they were trampled or shoved by crowds that rushed voting centres.

Many voters rose well before dawn, walked for several hours only to wait in long lines to cast their ballot in the first election since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the violence-wracked country two years ago.

There were no reports of violence overnight.

UPDATE from Associated Press:

Haiti extends hours of presidential vote
Associated Press
Port-au-Prince — Polling stations opened late – or not at all – and scuffles broke out Tuesday as Haitians cast ballots in the first presidential election since a bloody revolt two years ago pushed this bloodied, impoverished nation toward total collapse.

Although polls were scheduled to open at 6 a.m. EST, some did not open until hours later. Because of the organizational problems, voting hours originally set to end at 4 p.m. EST were extended by at least two hours, Rosemond Pradel, the secretary-general of Haiti's nine-member Electoral Council, told the Associated Press.

"You watch my back and I'll say cheese"

  You watch my back and I'll say cheese 
  Originally uploaded by Tampen.

MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,  as seem on Flickr this morning. The photographer's caption reads:

Self-portrait with Brazilian peacekeeper, taken with my little Canon point-and-shoot. Though shoot is probably the wrong word....

The photographer is Tony Allen-Mills, a journalist for the Sunday Times of London.

He's also got a shot of the view from the terrace of the Hotel Montana:

A Response to MINUSTAH's February Report on Haiti to the UN Security Council: Get CAG Out of Haiti

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

ScrMINUSTAH's just-published report to the UN Security Council begins:

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which expires on 15 February. After a very bad month for both MINUSTAH and Haiti in January the Council will also be looking to bolster the electoral process, reinvigorate MINUSTAH and encourage a reduction in violence.

Recent Developments
Haiti's presidential elections were postponed for the fourth time in late December on the grounds that technical difficulties were unresolved and that insecurity was hampering the electoral process. The Council, increasingly concerned at the performance of the Transitional Government, adopted a presidential statement on 6 January, urging the quick announcement of another election date no later than 7 February. Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council subsequently declared 7 February as the date of the first round of elections, with a run-off on 19 March if necessary. The official transfer of power to a newly elected leader is scheduled for 29 March.

In January:

  • The security situation deteriorated dramatically, with many kidnappings and assassinations as well as the death of two UN peacekeepers.
  • Sectors of the local business community mounted a campaign to discredit MINUSTAH. The campaign was condemned by the UN Secretary-General.
  • MINUSTAH's Force Commander, General Urano Bacellar of Brazil, committed suicide.

WimhurstSince MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst has accused me of participating in the alleged campaign to discredit MINUSTAH, I'll throw in my two cents.

MINUSTAH has involved itself in some capacity with Consultants Advisory Group, a company

If MINUSTAH wishes to pretend that rumors of CAG's activities are part of a campaign by others to discredit MINUSTAH, here are two important action items:

  1. Stop providing CAG with Internet access via IP#, which (though they use it more sparingly than in the past) they continue to make use of. And . . .
  2. Get CAG out of Haiti.

I have no idea of whether the business community there is trying to bring down any unfair criticism on MINUSTAH's head. But just days ago, MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst refused to answer my questions about CAG, choosing instead to threaten me with UN legal action.

No good purpose can be served by a United Nations organization associating itself with an outfit with the furtive habits of CAG. If MINUSTAH continues to associate with and cover for CAG, they are discrediting themselves.

Further to the Subject of PowerPoint

Now that I completely dumped on PowerPoint yesterday, I did want to remind people of our friend Peter Watts' brilliant piece of very dark humor, "Vampire Domestication."

I'm not sure we could say that "Vampire Domestication" redeems PowerPoint. It would probably be more accurate to say that it exploits what's wrong with the program to artistic effect.


MEANWHILE, from Reuthers (non-fiction):

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb 2 (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers are ready to secure Haiti's oft-delayed election with a rapid-strike force to put down any violence at polling stations, their commander said on Thursday.

Wonder what the PowerPoint plan might look like.

Earthquake in Tokyo, plus How to Document Human Rights Violations Using Flickr

I just noticed via my Flickr photo-feed for the tag earthquake that there has been an earthquake in Tokyo (5.1 magnitude). I looked at my earthquake Flickr badge and saw all these photos of the Tokyo subways, And sure enough, there was an earthquake today.

This reminds me of something I've been meaning to mention for a while: how easy it would be to document human rights violations using systems like Flickr. And to some extent this is already being done. I wrote this up a while back in private correspondence, meaning to revise. But I think I'll just put this out there now. The world needs to know that there are much better ways to document human rights violations than sending documents via email to Westchester housewives like, say, me. Here's a rough outline of what I was thinking:

I am working from how I tracked info on the situation in Pakistan following the earthquake, but  this would work just as well for human rights violations. There's some really gruesome stuff in Flickr documenting the arrival of medical teams in remote places weeks after the earthquake that had had no relief whatsoever. I had never seen three week old untreated wounds before. And the people in the pictures look so grateful to finally be getting help.

To document human rights violations, all they have to do is take digital photos and upload them to Flickr; tag them with relevant tags, like say HAITI and MASSACRE and such; geotag them: i.e. give lat and lon coords, or street address, or other really specific info. The photos come in date stamped in the first place with the data from the camera, but sometimes the camera is set wrong, so they want to be sure. And my additional advice to any one doing that wold be to add little or no political rhetoric, because what is important is for the objective observer over the Internet to ascertain that something happened and what it was.

In Flickr, one can make what are called Flickr badges. I have a couple on my site. You can make Flickr badges with feeds for specific tags. I've got one for "earthquake", and one for "Google Earth" and also that's how the photos at the top of my page work.

So you get the photos uploaded to Flickr. Then you can set up blogs all over the place with Flickr tags that will broadcast those pix. You can, at your leisure, add info to those blogs to go with the pix. Also, you don't have to have just one Flickr account. You can set up a new one each time you want to upload if your really want to. And there are other photo uploading services. That's just the one I know best and used to get hard info out of Pakistan after the earthquake and out of NOLA before that.

One of my new years resolutions is that certain things are going to be different and better in the 21st century. This is a start, and it's only February 1st.

A Response to MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

After having been provided with the email address of David Wimhurst of MINUSTAH in Haiti yesterday morning, I sent Wimhurst a polite note asking him if I might submit to his office questions concerning Consultants Advisory Group. The response I received from him -- not befitting an employee of a "Communications and Public Information Office" -- was intended to intimidate me. I was duly intimidated. But now I've had a good night's sleep and I'm over it.

The main purpose of this post is to discuss the two slides Wimhurst submitted to me as the "originals" by way of claiming the PowerPoint presentation in my possession has been doctored. I will address that presently. [Note that Wimhust submitted only two slides, not an entire presentation that might be compared to the one in my possession.]

Part 1: Addressing WImhurst’s Questions

First, however, I will attempt to address the questions Wimhurst claims I must answer. In the course of his unprofessionally rude and threatening letter, which I will show him the mercy of not publishing for the moment, what he seems to demand is any evidence in my possession that the PowerPoint presentation downloadable from my web site was altered by anyone for the purpose of undermining the UN operations in Haiti. Let me say unequivocally, for the record, that there is no evidence whatsoever in my possession that anyone doctored the PowerPoint presentation for the purpose of undermining the UN operations in Haiti. None. Zip. Zero. Sorry to disappoint.

HOWEVER, there is an abundance of evidence in my possession, much of it unpublished, that the Consultants Advisory Group is an amateurish operation which changes its story whenever convenient; an outfit that makes the Keystone Cops look like pros.

As nearly as I can tell, CAG's Valerie Sendecki initiated communications with me last month for the purpose of finding out how I learned of CAG and their connection to Top Cat Marine Security. Despite Sendecki's claims to have had lunch with Jordan Sage and later to have had her arrested and deported, my current thinking is that access to Sage's email account was gained by keystroke logging on UN-owned computers and that Sendecki and co. never knew her identity. What they had access to was her correspondence and her address book. My suspicion is that someone found Mariely Puello's name and phone number in Jordan Sage's email account and used the name to create a gmail account under her name.

The Mariely Puello, whose phone number appears in the email I received, is not the author of the letter I was sent. How do I know this? She doesn't have the English skills. When I called her number and got her on the phone, we were unable to have a conversation. She and I have no common language. A third party has contacted me on her behalf and explained her situation, but it is frustrating because I am unable to converse or correspond with her. From what I understand, while she was visited by some police, she has nothing to do with the sending of the PowerPoint presentation. I'm told that she is a very good girl and that she is terrified. Further, Sendecki could not have had her detained in Haiti as Sendecki claimed, because Puello was not in Haiti at the time. There is no reason to expect that Puello even knows the identity of "Jordan Sage," even if she has corresponded with that person. Other than Valerie Sendecki's claim to have lunched with Sage, no one has yet come forward to say they know her. The name was not contained in the email address under which "Sage" wrote and is, I suspect, an alias.

CAG may well, as they claimed, have had a few people in Haiti arrested. But if their intel was based on keystroke logging, CAG has no way of knowing if they arrested the right ones.

So. Why do I think access to Jordan Sage's account was obtained by keystroke logging? Because otherwise CAG's whole clown circus of incompetent psyops operatives would not be after information that should already be in their possession. It is my belief that CAG's operatives have not been candid with their employer about the full extent of their attempts to do damage control on my discovery of their existence. Inasmuch as I have any evidence that a document might have been altered, this evidence suggests that it was an inside job conducted in the interests of CAG.

Interestingly absent from Wimhurst’s letter is any hint that he is aware that I provided the “Puello” letter plus the PowerPoint presentation to two other people immediately upon receipt. It is my strong impression that CAG has communicated to Wimhurst neither the identities of these two people nor the contents of CAG’s communications with them. Wimhurst would be much more uncomfortable involving the UN legal office in this affair if he had received full disclosure from CAG.

MEANWHILE, I hear through the grapevine that CAG's Jay Fullerton claims Sendecki has resigned. If Wimhurst were receiving full disclosure, Fullerton would also need to resign.

Part 2: Thinking with Bullets

TufteA few years ago, Edward Tufte published a book entitled The Cognitive Style of Power Point which I have been meaning to read some time. While I am a heavy user of both Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, until I got an enormous hard drive I used to routinely throw PowerPoint off my hard drive because I think it is a mostly useless and actively pernicious program.

Here’s a little snip of how Presentations.com summarizes Tufte’s objections to PowerPoint and the reactions to them:

Another reason for PowerPoint's sudden spike in notoriety is that the program finally caught the attention of Edward R. Tufte, a professor of information design at Yale University. Often referred to as the world's leading guru of information design, Tufte's books – The Visual Display of Information, Envisioning Information, and Visual Explanations – redefined the art of presenting information in visual form (charts, tables, graphs, etc.). No one knows more about effective data design, and no one in the field is more respected.

So when, in March 2003, Tufte published a 23-page denunciation of PowerPoint entitled "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint," many people who had never before taken PowerPoint seriously began paying attention. It was Tufte who brought NASA's now infamous PowerPoint slide to the public's attention. It was Tufte's work that emboldened The New York Times to suggest that information manipulation via electronic slides may have helped Secretary of State Colin Powell make his case to the United Nations for declaring war on Iraq. And it is Tufte, in his 23-page screed, who uses such words as stupid, smarmy, incoherent, witless, medieval and dementia to describe the trivializing effect of PowerPoint slides on pure, defenseless data. Tufte doesn't stop short of calling PowerPoint evil – he does call it evil, most visibly in an excerpt published in Wired last year succinctly titled "PowerPoint is evil." Indeed, the photo on the pamphlet's cover is of a 1956 Russian military parade in which a statue of Stalin is depicted saying, "Next slide, please."

If there is something right with PowerPoint, it is the program's ability to combine either images and text, or a sequence of bulleted items, in order to make an argument.

The UN-restricted PowerPoint presentation I was provided with initially seems to make several layers of argument, a couple of which I am unhappy with. Though the authoring info on the document listed the author as “pkf” and the company as “UN,” the implicit narrative voice is that of CAG; one of the document’s arguments is how useful CAG is making itself. Though perhaps composed on UN computers, my sense is that the docment's author works for CAG.

Now, let us turn to the two slides provided by Wimhurst which he claims are the “originals.”

Slide 1: What might the point of this slide be?  


It seems to be lacking a point, but I’ll have a go at it: For those of you Peace Keepers fresh off the plane, Waaf Jeremie and Cite Soleil are on the coast, not in the mountains, and the coastline between them is completely surrounded by WATER!

Click. Next slide, please!

Slide 2: This page is a little sparse, too. Um, and why bullet something that’s all alone on the page?


I’ll have a go at the voiceover: And men, remember, when creating PowerPoint presentations for military use, it’s very important to leave plenty of room to allow space for others to add their thoughts, so be sure to push the text as high up as you can. Also, the resulting expanse of blue will subliminally remind your audience that the Haitian coastline is completely surrounded by WATER!


Look. Um. Wimhust. This is embarrassing. Are these really the originals from an actual PowerPoint presentation? The best face I can put on this is that these are the materials from which a final presentation might have been made, not the final presentation itself. It is also possible that these really are slides from a real presentation. But if that is the case, the presentation’s author is incompetent to use the program and perhaps should explore some other mode of communication.

This does not prove that the presentation I was emailed was in fact presented or that its contents mean what they appear to. But the incompleteness of Wimhurst's "originals" does call into question the plausibility of the only actual information I have received from MINUSTAH.

In Wimhurst's one communication to me his prose style suggests his background is in yelling at people in uniform, not in answering questions. Who hired this Wimhurst guy, anyway?  What I find most peculiar about Wimhurst's letter to me is that he seems to take the attitude that CAGs Clown Crew had already said what he had to say to me by proxy and that he had nothing further to add. Were Sendecki-Fullerton-Reuther really speaking for Wimhurst?

(Thanks for the support, Alex!)

UPDATE 2/2/06: Rereading our exchange, I note that in my email to Wimhurst I specifically expressed concern that CAG " may be under contract to the Brazilian Peacekeeping Forces and may have been using their office computers." It occurred to me this morning that Wimhurst's reply that he had "no intention of answering any of [my] questions" was in fact Wimhurst declining comment on

  1. Whether CAG is under contract to Brazilian Peacekeeping Forces, and
  2. Whether CAG is using the office computers of the Brazilian Peackeepers.

All right then. He has no comment. I'll probably revisit that subject in a subsequent post.

Noriegaville News: "Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti"

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

Well. Dutch reporter Okke Ornstein, who lives in Panama and reports on business news there for the news site, Noriegaville News,  took an interest in my writings about the Consultants Advisory Group. He contacted me and asked me questions, so I answered them. He contacted CAG, and I gather from his article that they were less forthcoming than I was. The result of this research is his article, Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti, posted to the Noriegaville News site last night.

So. One thing I learn from Ornstein's article is that CAG had a good reason for pulling its supposed Panama City address off its web site and having the site go "UNDER CONSTRUCTION." The address they listed was on the seventh floor of a three-storey building. (Guess they needed to go back and construct four more floors. That should take them a while.)

Another thing I learn from Ornstein's article is that were CAG to be an authentic Panama corporation -- which they may or may not be -- whether they are doing what I think they are or what they claim they are, it looks to be illegal under Panamanian law. (I am in touch with Rogelio Cruz Rios to sort out whether CAG, S.A. has anything to do with the Sendecki-Fullerton-Reuther ops going on in Haiti.) And also, Ornstein remarks that were any Top Cat Marine Security boats to be built in Panama, or copy-cats of TCMS boats, it would be illegal under Panama law to export such patrol boats to Haiti.

Interesting stuff.

ALSO, following the revelation that the IP address was shared by "David Reuther" trolling in my comment section,  "CAG Haiti" denouncing me in comment sections across the blogosphere, and some bored and homesick Brazilian Peace Keepers in Port au Prince, I made some direct inquiries as to whether could be an IP used by the UN Brazilian Peace Keeping Forces, and whether Valerie Sendecki, Jay Fullerton, and David Reuther of CAG were using the office computers of Brazilian Peace Keepers to post their blog comments. I do not yet have a definitive answer to that question. But stopped its relentless visits to my site yesterday afternoon.

Who exactly are Sendecki, Fullerton, and Reuther? I don't really have enough info about Sendecki, though I suspect that "Sendecki" is not her last name on her passport. Inquiries concerning her supposed military record are not back yet. Googling "Jay Fullerton" along with intelligence yields the bio of a guy with  a military intelligence Special Forces background who, if you dig deeper, seems to have lived in Fayetteville, NC, around the same time as Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema (this last bit is probably pure coincidence). There is a "David Reuther" who has given speeches claiming to be a retired FSO; when I inquired of the David Reuther who was posting comments in my comment section whether he was the same guy, he replied:

Two of the things I learned in 32 years of government service:
"Do not look a gift horse in the mouth."
"Always have a plausible denial handy."

This oracular pronouncement sounds more like the answer of a retired CIA agent than a retired FSO. Who can tell? David Reuther, the retired government servant, has also complained in print that retired FSOs just don't make enough money. Back when I was the wife of a US Foreign Service Officer, we were not exactly rolling in dough, so I'm sure his complaint about his remuneration in retirement is legitimate. Nonetheless, it appears to me that our man Reuther was hurting for money not long ago.

I would be interested to receive pictures of any of these people.

Finally, I guess I should add that I have no opinions on the relative merits of Haitian presidential candidates, and that in general, in the grand scheme of things, I have a vaguely positive opinion of the United Nations and its efforts in the larger world as a whole. My focus is and has been on the role of private military and security companies. I believe that PMCs can have a legitimate role in international peacekeeping. But only legitimate companies can have a legitmate role, and legitimate companies have valid addresses and identifiable management teams and verifiable corporate registrations. A company which lacks all three has no place in Haiti right before the elections.

(Thanks Dan, Jonathan, Matt, and Cory!)

UPDATE: I was furnished the email address of David Wimhurst of MINUSTAH by a journalist and I wrote to him and asked to submit a list of questions. I specifically mentioned my concern that CAG was using Brazilian Forces office computers. He sent back a letter intended to intimidate me, specifically declining to answer my questions. He sent along two slide from a PowerPoint document that he claims are the "unaltered" versions of the screen shots posted on my site. I have asked whether "David Reuther" was acting on Wimhurst's behalf in any capacity when Reuther wrote to me.

Gee, I feel so naïve. I thought the purpose of press offices was to answer questions. Guess not in Haiti.

UPDATE: See A Response to MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst.

A Call for Submissions: Go-Fast Boat Photos

I've been reading up on the subject of "go-fast boats." From Wikipedia:

The go-fast boat is the generic name for the drug smuggling boat of choice in many parts of the world in the 1990s and first years of the 21st century. The name is also more widely used for high performance craft of the characteristic design.

To all you boat photographers out there: send me your pix of go-fast boats. I am specifically interested in receiving photos of go-fast boats in the areas of Haiti, Columbia, and also Somalia. Please provide as much accompanying information as possible, especially about location, date, time, and the context of the photo. I'd like to do a little photo essay, but I need your help!

Submissions should preferably come via email, but photos can also be mailed to P.O. Box 78, Pleasantville, NY 10570.


The Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG) Web Site in History

This is part of an ongoing series on Consultants Advisory Group.

December 6, 2005: The caginternational.com domain name is registered.

Consutants Advisory Group page, December 13th, 2005, 9:33 PMDecember 13, 2005: The CAG web site touts the corporate security clearances and credit rating, but gives no address or phone number. I ridicule them for their lack of transparency.

CAG web page, January 20th, 2006, 10:10AMJanuary 20, 2006: The CAG web site has dropped claims of security clearances and credit ratings and has added an address in Tampa and an address in Panama plus a "message center" phone number. Under scrutiny, both street addresses seem to be some form of message center. On January 18th, I had published a post which began, "I seem to have uncovered a strange little black ops organization that's spying in Haiti and elsewhere. "

January 26, 2006: Following inquiries as to the corporation's relationship to former Panama Attorney General Rogelio Cruz Rios, the CAG web site goes "Under Construction." (For those with press credentials who would like to hear their side of things, their now-missing message center phone number, which is I think is a number in Tampa, is (813)315-6493.)

CAG web page 1/26/06, 4:09 PM

UPDATE, 1/27/06: Here is a screen shot from the Panama Public Registry of the listing for CAG, S.A.:

CAG,S.A. Panama registration, screen 1

Even if Rogelio Cruz Rios were the registrar of their corporation, it may mean nothing. I find it really curious that CAG would rather pull info off their web site than answer questions about their association with him. If CAG has a different registered corporate name in Panama than CAG, S.A. then presumably they could say so. And even if this is he right name, the nature of the relationship could mean little. So why go "UNDER CONSTRUCTION"?

[2/2/06: Note that the trademark sign disappears with this version of the page and does not reappear; I checked the US Patent and Trademark database and found no trademark listing for "Consultants Advisory Group," though it seems possible that they hold a trademark on the name in some other country.]

January 29, 2006: Here we go again. The only problem is, that corporate name does not seem to be present in the Panama Public Registry. Hmmm. (Why can't they back down? If the name isn't in th regsitry, it isn't in the registry.)

CAG's new page, January 29, 2006, 5:35 PM

February 1, 2006: Back to PÁGINA BAJO CONSTRUCCIÓN. This time without details.


Why are these guys so wedded to the corporate name? Have they been using it as a tax shelter on their US tax returns or something? I can't think of any other explanation.

Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG): Was the Company Registered in Panama by Rogelio Cruz Rios?

Further to my post Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG) Spying in Haiti; Whistleblowers Detained for Reporting Human Rights Violations, according to the Public Registry of Panama corporations—accessed for me by a correspondent—there is no CAG Internacional, S. A. (the corporate name given by the corporate spokesperson, Valerie Sendecki) but there is a CAG, S.A. That corporation was registered using Rogelio Cruz Rios as the registration agent. What I gather is that Rogelio Cruz Rios was Panama's Attorney General following the US invasion, but was forced to step down. A 1992 Houston Chronicle article has what seem to be some of the details:

PANAMA CITY -- Panama's top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Rogelio Cruz Rios, may have assisted a Colombian cocaine cartel by releasing more than $1 million frozen in the cartel's bank accounts here, according to U.S. and Panamanian officials.

The officials said Cruz unfroze bank accounts that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration believes were used in a money-laundering operation by the Cali cartel, Colombia's second-largest cocaine-trafficking syndicate.

According to a subsequent ruling by the Panamanian Supreme Court, Cruz did not have the authority to take such action.

U.S. officials acknowledged that Cruz's action has, at the very least, set back efforts to curtail Colombian drug operations here.

The United States invaded Panama and installed a pro-American government in 1989 with the express purpose of eradicating this country's high-level cooperation with Colombian drug traffickers.

Since this differs from the full corporate name given by Sendecki, it is possible that this is not the same company providing apparent espioage services in Haiti. But if it's not the same company, then it appears that I was not given the straight story about Consultants Advisory Group being a corporation registered in Panama.

If I've got the wrong CAG, I suggest that the company's representatives come forward with better information.

Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG) aka "Groupe de Consultation et Conseillers" Spying in Haiti; Whistleblowers Detained for Reporting Human Rights Violations

Tcpatrol_1I seem to have uncovered a strange little black ops organization that's spying in Haiti and elsewhere. Not long ago, they were also looking to drum up some business in the US in the Homeland Security market. I got a few tips from whistleblowers. But all of the most substantial information has come from one of their own employees who wrote me a number of long letters.

This post covers a lot of ground, ranging from a mysterious company owned by US ex-pats placing spies disguised as journalists in the audience of Haitian presidential debates, to CAG arranging for the detention of people who wrote to me to ask for information about CAG and complain about CAG's involvement in human rights violations in Haiti. So bear with me. This is my second post about CAG, and part of an ongoing series on Top Cat Marine Security. [UPDATE 1/27: The company operates in Haiti under the name "Groupe de Consultation et Conseillers." (Thanx, Reuther!)]

A while back, when I was writing about the would-be pirate hunters, Top Cat Marine Security, I got a query from someone in Haiti asking what I knew about a company called Consultants Advisory Group and if I had any idea of why they were following Top Cat Marine Security's sales leads.  I looked into the matter of CAG, resulting in the post Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG): A Security Company Born Every Minute?  CAG had a domain name registered a week earlier (just about the time the US State Department issued Top Cat a cease and desist order) and CAG was using Melbourne IT's domain privacy service beloved of spammers and scammers. So I toasted them a bit to see what they had to say for themselves.

A CAG representative, Valerie Sendecki, obediently appeared to try to discuss matters, requesting that we settle this as "ladies." The resulting exchange was pretty strange, but the general upshot was that CAG, ostensibly staffed with ex-military and ex-"agency" personnel, wished to remain unknown and inasmuch as it was known, it wished to be known as a "management consulting" company. It was founded by US ex-patriates and is registered in Panama. And, very specifically, CAG did not wish to be seen as either a private military company or as a security company. They claimed to be management consultants.

Well. All right then. Management consulting.

So time goes by. I hear nothing further from my initial correspondent, Jordan Sage Thomas, who initially queried me about CAG. In her second and last note to me, she said that she had dropped CAG for her list of potential vendors, whatever that meant. And so I thought that was that.

Then, on January 10th, I got a note which read:

Sra Cramer,
    Dr Sage requested I send to you this MINUSTAH document concerning the use of Mercenaries by the UN in Haiti.  The TopCat Blancs are killing poor Haitians fleeing by sea from UN oppression in Cite-Soliel. The US spies called CAG are undermining the election process to prevent the popular election of Rene Preval and the return of President Aristide.
    Dr Sage is afraid that Comandante <Comander??> Sendecki of the US Navy is going to harm her for exposing this dispised behavior.  She has been reassigned to Jeremie and has no acess to internet.  This is her response to the abuse.  She advices you to be very careful as they having eyes many and wishes you the best of luck.

Mariely Puello

It came with an attachment in PowerPoint, which I will get to presently. But first, I want to be very clear that neither Valerie Sendecki nor CAG are in the employ of any aspect of the US government inasmuch as I have been able to check. I talked to some people who talked to some people and no one, I mean NO ONE, knows who the heck these people are. But to be very specific, Sendecki is not in the US Navy.

(I wonder how people got that impression. Has CAG represented themselves as having current ties to the US military?)

But, OK, is the UN using mercenaries to kill civilians in Haiti? I don't know. But there were recent news reports of civilians killed in Haiti by the UN. (Here is what Amnesty International has to say about that.) And what did Puello specifically say CAG was up to? "The US spies called CAG are undermining the election process to prevent the popular election of Rene Preval . . ." So the key claims are, then, that (a) CAG is spying (and that the company is what might be called a private intelligence company), and (b) that CAG is attempting to undermine the upcoming election.

(Both Valerie Sendecki and Mariely Puello agree that CAG is run by US citizens.)

Also, Puello claimed that "Dr. Sage" was concerned for her own personal safety. So I called the number at the bottom of Puello's letter and got a cheerful woman in the Dominican Republic who spoke only Spanish. I tried Jordan Sage's email address, writing only to ask whether Sage was able to receive email at that address.

Instead of a reply from Jordan Sage, I got a sinister message from Sendecki explaining that the phone line I'd called had been tapped (and giving the reverse look-up for my number to prove the point); that the two email addresses I had -- Jordan Sage's and Mariely Puello's -- were now under CAG's control. This sounded ominous, and so I asked Sendecki about the fate of my correspondents. She replied:

Sage and Puello were taken into custody by lawful authorities in Haiti and the DR.  Sage had diplomatic immunity so she has already been released and expelled from Haiti.  She's against democracy but of course she headed straight to the Miami from here.  Puello was detained for questioning by Dominican authorities and her status is unclear.  Both "ladies" agreed to give full access to their accounts and phones in order to fully confirm the extent of their treachery rather than be subject to further legal consequences.

On January 13th, I asked Sendecki for documentation to support her version of what had happened to these people:

Dear Val:

I would appreciate some documentation that these individuals were (a) lawfully detained, and (b) that Dr. Sage was in fact released, (c) the exact location and circumstances of Mariely Puello's detention with contact info and (d) that both of these individuals are in fact alive and in good condition.

I'm sure you will understand the reason for this.


As of today, January 18th, I still have not heard back from Sendecki, presumably because she is unwilling to provide the documentation I requested.

I spent a little while looking up the precise definitions of verbs like "arrest," "detain," "abduct," and "kidnap." The most value-neutral of these words is detain, in that the term does not address the lawfulness of the act. However the distinction between an arrest, on the one hand, and a kidnapping or abduction, on the other has to do with whether the detention takes place under lawful authority. So what I'm trying to establish is that CAG are not simply affiliated with kidnappers.

Given the evidence Ms. Sendecki has furnished me with, it's pretty clear that CAG has the skill set to do spying. The question is whether that is their core competency, or just a sideline. So let's have a look inside that PowerPoint document I mentioned earlier. It is seven screens long. It seems to document the following items of interest:

  1. There are "Topcat" patrol boats off Cite Soleil, and
  2. CAG provided "covert surveillance" in the form of operatives disguised as reporters who had color-coded press passes for "a public debate between representatives of presidential candidates  . . .  in Fort Liberte."

CAG has claimed in the past that they do not sell Top Cat boats, but only recommend their purchase. Are these "Topcat patrols" boats supplied by Top Cat Marine Security? Is so, who was the purchaser? And who was the seller? Did Top Cat Marine Security export these boats to Haiti? As discussed in a previous post on Top Cat, Top Cat Marine Security is not registered with the US Department of State to export items on the munitions list, as these boats are. And what is being done with these boats? Mariely Puello claims, "The TopCat Blancs are killing poor Haitians fleeing by sea." To the best of my ability to check, I established that CAG is not under contract to the UN. Just who is manning those boats?

And then we return to the subject of CAG, which looks more and more like a low-end private intelligence company. What are we to make of the idea of a private intelligence company stocking the crowd at a presidential debate with secret agents disguised as reporters? This would seem to support Puello's claim that their purpose is to undermine the election.

What is CAG, really, and who are they working for? I'd like to know.


Note that the PowerPoint document makes it appear that the United Nations seems to support the concept of CAG posing as press to spy on innocent people. I wonder what the UN really thinks. I doubt they are in the habit of deploying private spooks disguised as reporters.

The document user info on the original of the PowerPoint document displays Author as "pkf" (perhaps short for "Peace Keeping Forces"?) and Company as "UN."

On December 15th, Valerie Sendecki wrote to me:

I wish we could talk about this over a fine cup of Haitian coffee so
that you could enjoy the beautiful from the Hotel Montana.  It's

To the best of my knowledge, she's still registered there.

On January 7th, The Globe and Mail reported: UN commander kills himself in Haiti

The Brazilian commander of UN peacekeepers in Haiti was found dead on the balcony of his hotel room Saturday after shooting himself in the head, authorities said, in a blow to the 9,000-strong force and efforts to restore democracy in Haiti.

UN officials and Haitian police swarmed the upscale Hotel Montana where Lt.-Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar was slumped on a tile floor against the balcony, blood staining his white T-shirt.



Anyone know if this room -- the Presidential Suite -- was his room? [1/20 Update: I'm told by someone who stayed in the hotel during this general time period that the Presidential Suite was occupied by someone else, and so presumably Gen. Bacellar stayed in a different suite; apparently the hotel has a number of fine suites.]

UPDATE, January 19th: I have published an edition of the collected letters of Valerie Sendecki in pdf. Click HERE to download.

UPDATE: CAG's website's got a new look and an address in Panama: Sun Tower, 7th Floor, Panama City, Republic of Panama.

Now, they don't give a suite number for the Tampa location, but Suite 101 at that address has an awful lot of other businesses using it, suggesting that there may be a message center at that address. The Sun Tower in Panama City just happens to be the location of Panama Offshore Services, Inc., "Best source for Panama Corporation, Foundations & Offshore Accounts"! But it is actually possible that CAG has real offices at these locations. Can one of my Panama City readers take a stroll over to the Sun Tower and have a look?

So. Is this Panama office a place? Or just a state of mind?

For a Google Earth view of the image of the harbor at the top, click here HERE for the KMZ file.

UPDATE 1/25/06: I have an unconfirmed report that one of the two people Sendecki claimed had been "arrested" is OK. More later.

UPDATE 1/28/06: I received an email from a caginternational.com email address last night reiterating their refusal to answer any of my question or answer question from anyone associated with me (and if you're reading this, that probably means you, too), and requesting that I never contact them again. The signature on the email reads:

J Fullerton
Program Manager
Groupe de Consultation et Conseillers

I gather that its author's full name is Jay Fullerton. There exists a Jay Fullerton who published an article entitled "TTP for the Special Forces Battalion S2 at JRTC and NTC - tips for Joint Readiness Training Center and National Training Center" in 2001 in the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin whose bio reads:

Major Jay Fullerton is the S2 and Senior Special Operations Forces (SOF) Intelligence Observer/Controller at the Special Operations Training Detachment, Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana. His previous assignments include Platoon Leader and Company XO, 102d Military Intelligence Battalion, 2d Infantry Division; Assistant S2, 3-327th Infantry and S1, 311th MI Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); and S2 and MI Detachment Commander, 3d Battalion, 3d Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(See also my two more recent posts: Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG): Was the Company Registered in Panama by Rogelio Cruz Rios? and The Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG) Web Site in History.)

UPDATE 1/28/06: I'm told by two different people that UN officials in Haiti claim that the PowerPoint document I received was "doctored." I had to change the file name to upload it to the Internet, since Typepad would not upload a document with spaces in the file name. The original file name was U2 -29  DEC 05 PM.ppt. (Copies available for inspection via email.) Other than changing the file name, I did nothing to it.

So. What, specifically, is doctored about it? (That part hasn't made it through the grape vine yet.) Can I please see an official statement in writing about the document? Anyone? MINUSTAH never answered my email. [UPDATE: see A Response to MINUSTAH's David Wimhurst.]

UPDATE 1/30/06: It appears a representative from CAG was all over the blogosphere this morning disavowing the contents of the Collected Letters of Valerie Sendecki. I stand by their authenticity.

Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG): A Security Company Born Every Minute?

Following the New Orleans disaster, a lot of us were wondering where all that money for "homeland security" went, since not much securing of the homeland seems to have taken place. I think I'm beginning to understand.

Consutants Advisory Group pageHave a look at this:

Consultants Advisory Group (CAG) specializes in:

  • Anti-Terrorism & Terrorism Incident Response;
  • Special Agency Services and Representation;
  • Strategic Intelligence Management;
  • High Risk Operations Management;
  • Risk & Crisis Management;
  • Business Continuity Management (BCM);
  • Emergency & Disaster Management;
  • NFPA 1600 2004 Compliance Audits.

CAG provides services under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) classifications:

541611    General Management Consulting Services
541618    Other Management Consulting Services
561210    Facilities Support Services

CAG consistently delivers creative and enduring total business solutions.  CAG enjoys the highest possible credit rating and is capable of servicing classified contracts.

So how long has this venerable company, boasting of the highest possible credit rating and the capability of servicing classified contracts been around?  I'll have you know, its been around an entire week!

Though they don't give their address on their web site, a whois lookup provides some interesting information:

caginternational.com Whois lookup

So are these guys with the great credit rating and the security clearances really sharing a P O Box with any number of phishing schemes and other dubious businesses in EmeryVille, California? Or do they just have really bad taste in domain registration privacy services? (For you Panix customers, the registering ISP is Melbourne IT, the company that approved the Panix domain hijacking. As a Panix customer who lost a couple of days of email over that, I have to wonder why Melbourne IT is still in business.)

EmeryvilleSo, is CAG really located in glamorous EmeryVille? Or not? (I suppose it would be wretched excess to mention that the site graphics are clip art.)

How many more of these dubious security companies are there, anyway?

UPDATE: I have had a correspondence with a representative from CAG who has the affect of someone with a background in sales. CAG Internacional, S.A. is a Panama City, Republic of Panama registered corporation and is staffed exclusively with former military and "agency" personnel. It has no public address ostensibly because it is "a virtual company, a model developed by the Harvard Business School." CAG wishes to be perceived as a "management consulting" company, not a security or private military company. They claim to be receiving no moneys from US government sources:

CAG is not a recipient of any US public funds so we are entitled to privacy as anyone else is.  How could our work be against the best interest of the United States?

Though I had made no mention of Top Cat in our exchange, my CAG correspondent volunteered that CAG is not selling Top Cat Marine Security's predator style Cobra boats to Haiti, but only recommending their purchase.

As far as I know, neither Top Cat nor CAG are registered with or licensed by the Department of State to export items covered the US Munitions list, as the boats in question are. I was not informed who the intended export broker was to be.

The subject of Top Cat having been raised, I asked two of my unanswered questions to which I thought my correspondent might know the answer: Who are the executives of Top Cat? Who owns it? My CAG correspondent replied:

That is not public information.

I find it extremely interesting that there seems to be a whole emergent little industry of companies like Top Cat and CAG for whom the very concept of transparency is an abomination.

A relevant quote from another topic:

At the least, a dummy company ought to create the appearance of activity, with an office and a valid mailing address, he said. "A cover that falls apart on first inspection isn't very good. What you want is a cover that actually holds up . . . and this one certainly doesn't."

Raymond Stanley Archer

I realized when I woke up this morning that when writing my post Is This World a Little Too Small?I had misread IOL's discussion of Raymond Stanley Archer. His testimony at the N4610 trial does not so much suggest that he worked for the American security company the Steele Foundation (which guarded Aristide prior to his removal from power), but rather that he was with Aristide after or perhaps even during.

One of the 70 alleged South African mercenaries on trial in Zimbabwe was guarding deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide days before he was taken into custody. . . . He said he had arrived back in South Africa three days earlier after an assignment as a bodyguard to Aristide . . . when a man whom he identified as James Kershaw contacted him on his cellphone.

Not much time passes between Aristide's last day in power, February 28th, and Archer finding himself in jail in Zimbabwe on March 7th. And according to Archer, he was at home in South Africa for three days in between. (Here's an Aristide timeline.)

On March 1st, Aristide was flown directly from Haiti to Central African Republic in a US chartered jet. He does not leave CAR for Jamaica until March 15th, by which time Archer is already in jail.

So there are only a few possibilities here: (1) I was right in the first place; Archer worked for Steele even though Steele's usual folks are former US special forces. (2) Archer was in Haiti and then in CAR with Aristide. Or (3) Archer was with Aristide only in CAR. Of the three possibilities, number 3 makes the least sense, because Archer is finished with the job and home by March 4th. And if he worked for Steele (1), wouldn't there have been fuss about American involvement if one of the men on N4610 had been employed by a US private military firm less than a week earlier? What looks most likely is that Archer's assignment was to help get Aristide out of Haiti to CAR; that he was part of the group that escorted/abducted (depending on your source) Aristide from Haiti.

Another question: who hired him to "guard" Aristide? If it wasn't Steele, it looks to be either the US government or a subcontractor. The US chartered the plane that took Aristide out of Haiti. Presumably whoever chartered the plane also took care of personnel needs. Was it the US Department of State? Colin Powell's choice of pronouns immediately after the fact suggests as much:

Mr Powell insisted: "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that's the truth."

Aristide's phone calls to the outside world immediately following his flight were apparently placed on a cell phone that had been "smuggled" into his room, so I doubt he did the booking, (unless of course Archer worked for Steele).

So this leaves us with a number of questions: First of all, how did a man who would have been vetted for security work either by a reputable US security firm or by the US government end up on N4610? Secondly, were any of the 10 men Archer said he recognized among the N4610 bunch similarly vetted? And had they had similar recent employment? And finally, who is "James Kershaw"?

The darkest interpretation of this odd linkage is that Archer is some kind of coup specialist, experienced at escorting heads of state from their home countries into exile.

UPDATE: In the comments on a nearby post somone who claims to have worked for Steele identifies Archer as a former Steele employee. Thanks!

Is This World a Little Too Small?

I've been reading the coverage of the N4610 trial, waiting for something interesting to happen. The defense has concluded its arguments; the mercenaries will not be extradited to Equatorial Guinea.

But here's an interesting bit: Mercenary accused 'guarded' Haiti's Aristide:

Harare - One of the 70 alleged South African mercenaries on trial in Zimbabwe was guarding deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide days before he was taken into custody.

Raymond Stanley Archer told a makeshift court in Zimbabwe's maximum security jail on Thursday that he was having lunch with his ex-wife in Johannesburg when he got a phone call offering him a job to guard a mine.

He said he had arrived back in South Africa three days earlier after an assignment as a bodyguard to Aristide - who has since been granted temporary asylum in South Africa - when a man whom he identified as James Kershaw contacted him on his cellphone.

"He said if I could get to the airport within an hour, I could have the job. I met the rest of the accused and flew out. I had met about 10 of them before.

"As far as I was concerned, we stopped in Harare to refuel."

Now, I know it's a Small World After All, but wasn't a San Francisco-based company provinding Aristide's security? Wasn't it the Steele Foundation? Did Raymond Stanley Archerwork for Steele? How peculiar.

MEANWHILE, Derek Davids (aka Johnathan Constable), chief executive of International Intelligence Risk Management, has been released by South African police following a raid of his company's offices for suspected mercenary activity.

John Cramer Writes to New Scientist

[NOTE, 12/13: I have included the comment section of this post when resrrecting it in Typepad.]
John Cramer (my dad, for those who came in late) responds to issues raised in the the New Scientist Letter Column regarding the Afshar experiment. This just in via email:

Dear Kathryn,

        I sent the following letter-to-the-editor to New Scientist:


A number of your readers have pointed out that Afshar's grid wires are
placed in just the positions that would form a diffraction grating creating
an image of pinhole 1 at the position of the pinhole 2 image.  Does this
destroy the purity of Afshar's "which-way" measurement?

I raised the same question with Afshar earlier this year, and the answer is
no.   Reason: the wires intercept no light and so cannot diffract.  He has
done a variation of his experiment using ONLY A SINGLE WIRE and recorded all
the light in the focal plane of the pinholes under three conditions: (1)
wire in, one pinhole; (2) wire in, two pinholes; and (3) wire out, two
pinholes.  Measurement (1) shows lots of scattering from the wire away from
the image points, indicating that with only one pinhole open the wire is
intercepting and scattering light  Measurements (2) and (3) show clear
images of the pinholes with nothing in between and are indistinguishable.

Conclusion: no light is scattered or intercepted by the wire in measurement
(2) because the interference pattern is present, and the wire is at an
intensity-zero position of the pattern.  A single wire cannot function as a
diffraction grating.   Bohr is still wrong.

John G. Cramer
Professor of Physics
University of Washington

Kathryn Cramer at August  6, 2004 01:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Purple Numbers  | Edit


Cramer says ( see his power point ): Copenhagen-influenced expectation: The measurement-type forces particle-like behavior, so there should be no interference, and no minima. Therefore, 6% of the particles should be intercepted.

This means (following Cramer) that Bohr will predict that there is no interference in front of the lens. But I have a reply evident to Cramer : Are you sure that you have a which path experiment ???? If you have such proof (I have the proof of the opposite) I think that Afshar could give you his 1000 $ (that he proposed to me and to others ) because you will prove in the same time that Schrodinger equation is wrong or that 1+1 =3.

My conclusion (or my introduction):
A quantum system can not carry enough information to provide definite answers to all questions that can be questionned experimentally ....

my former boss who wrote this sentence and knows quite well quantum mechanics is certainly right...

Think a little to it: the most important word is experimentally but the rest is nice too...
Aurel.: a advocate of Bohr and Einstein (and of beer)

NB: even If dont like the point of view of Bohr it seems that Bohr will win again and again ( always?) . It is sad but Ok we can continue to drink beer ....nevertheless.... perhaps

NB(2): If you can give me a preprint of the  Afshar paper I can write you a comment for FREE  to incredible physics letters  a new journal about donald duck in the quantum word   


Posted by: le grand schtroumph at August 10, 2004 02:01 PM

Raymond Archer was an employee of the Steele Foundation he had been hired sometime around March or April of 2003.

He is not a coup specialist...he was hired as part of the dignitary protection team assigned to protect aristide.

His employment ended when aristide was ousted as did they employment of other Steele members who were not reassigned to contracts in the middle east

Posted by: Former Steele Member at August 24, 2004 04:06 PM

For further clarification:

The protection detail assigned to Aristide was a US State Dept approved contract awarded to The Steele Foundation

The protection team was an international team consisting former US military, former British military, and a few former South African Special Forces.

The protection detail was forced to leave by the U.S. with Aristide. For more info concerning this go to Interview with Kenneth Kurtz, Steele Foundation conducted by Amy Goodman on Tuesday March 2nd 2004 in the Democracy Now (www.democracynow.org) 
There are major flaws in the answers provided in this interview

Posted by: Former Steele Member at August 25, 2004 09:03 AM

I am surpised by the presence of th South Africans, since the news reports I had read of the Steele Aristide group portrayed them as exclusively US special forces.

When you say "The protection detail was forced to leave by the U.S. with Aristide," I presume that what you mean by "with" is simultaneous with, as opposed to accompanying; which is to say that you are not telling me they were forced onto the plane with him?

(That interview on Democracy Now is pretty evasive, isn't it?)

Posted by: Kathryn Cramer at August 25, 2004 09:59 AM

The protection detail left Haiti on the same  aircraft as Aristide. There was a meeting late in the evening the night before we departed the country with protection team members and reps from the U.S. Some of us (protection team) inquired about staying behind and not leaving with Arisitde. We were told we had no choice in the matter and refusal could put in jeopardy our military retirement (US personnel only). This information never was reported or printed anywhere to my knowledge and was certainly not covered by Mr. Kurtz in his interview. The entire detail left with Aristide. Mr. Kurtz denies in the article they (protection team) were forced to leave. This is simply not true. For a more detailed account of the departure and ruse employed by the US Government go to interview with Aristide and his bodyguards conducted by Amy Goodman March 16, 2004 in Democracy Now (democracynow.org) or (www.thirdworldtraveler.com/haiti/aristide&bodyguard_DN.html) 

Posted by: Former Steele Member at August 26, 2004 07:40 AM

Thanks. This is fascinating.

Posted by: Kathryn Cramer at August 26, 2004 07:43 AM

Iraq: The Secret Policeman's Other Ball

In principle, the use of mercenaries has been banned since 1989 by the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, 4 December 1989, an additional protocol to the Geneva Convention. Nineteen countries have ratified the Convention: Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Cameroon, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Suriname, Togo, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Uzbekistan. An additional nine have signed but have yet to ratify the Convention: Angola, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The US and UK, each with a huge private military industry, are notable for their absence as signatories.

We should ask John Kerry to commit in favor of the US signing this convention.

I started this post -- concerning the role of private military companies and mercenaries in Iraq yesterday. But I was so shocked at what I was finding that I had to sleep on it before I could continue.

The Economist calls the phenomenon The Baghdad Boom:

British companies have been grousing about losing out to the Americans in Iraq. But in one area, British companies excel: security

The sight of a mob of Iraqi stone-throwers attacking the gates to the Basra palace where the coalition has its southern headquarters is no surprise. What's odd is the identity of the uniformed men holding them off. The single Briton prodding his six Fijians to stand their ground are not British army soldiers but employees of Global Risk Strategies, a London-based security company.

Private military companies ( PMC s)—mercenaries, in oldspeak—manning the occupation administration's front lines are now the third-largest contributor to the war effort after the United States and Britain. British ones are popular, largely because of the reputation of the Special Air Service (SAS) regiment whose ex-employees run and man many of the companies. They maintain they have twice as many men on the ground as their American counterparts. According to David Claridge, managing director of Janusian, a London-based security firm, Iraq has boosted British military companies' revenues from ��200m ($320m) before the war to over ��1 billion, making security by far Britain's most lucrative post-war export to Iraq.

The best pieces I found were a must-read story from The Independent, By Robert Fisk in Baghdad and Severin Carrell in London: Occupiers spend millions on private army of security men ( which also appeared  from The Star in South Africa as Security firms and mercenaries coining it in Iraq) and Britain's secret army in Iraq: thousands of armed security men who answer to nobody

An army of thousands of mercenaries has appeared in Iraq's major cities, many of them former British and American soldiers hired by the occupying Anglo-American authorities and by dozens of companies who fear for the lives of their employees.

Many of the armed Britons are former SAS soldiers and heavily armed South Africans are also working for the occupation. "My people know how to use weapons and they're all SAS," said the British leader of one security team in southern Baghdad. "But there are people running around with guns now who are just cowboys. We always conceal our weapons, but these guys think they're in a Hollywood film."

There are serious doubts even within the occupying power about America's choice to send Chilean mercenaries, many trained during General Pinochet's vicious dictatorship, to guard Baghdad airport. Many South Africans are in Iraq illegally - they are breaking new laws, passed by the government in Pretoria, to control South Africa's booming export of mercenaries. Many have been arrested on their return home because they are do not have the licence now required by private soldiers.

Casualties among the mercenaries are not included in the regular body count put out by the occupation authorities, which may account for the persistent suspicion among Iraqis that the US is underestimating its figures of military dead and wounded. Some British experts claim that private policing is now the UK's biggest export to Iraq - a growth fueled by the surge in bomb attacks on coalition forces, aid agencies and UN buildings since the official end of the war in May last year.

Many companies operate from villas in middle-class areas of Baghdad with no name on the door. Some security men claim they can earn more than ��80,000 a year; but short-term, high-risk mercenary work can bring much higher rewards. Security personnel working a seven-day contract in cities like Fallujah, can make $1,000 a day.

They also mention ArmorGroup:

Another British-owned company, ArmorGroup has an ��876,000 contract to supply 20 security guards for the Foreign Office. That figure will rise by 50 per cent in July. The firm also employs about 500 Gurkhas to guard executives with the US firms Bechtel and Kellogg Brown & Root.

Check out this nice bit from an Armor press release:

While Armor's products division is tied to law enforcement, its security division -- ArmorGroup Services -- is more closely allied with the world of espionage.

That's why it is useful to have former KGB members such as Mikhail Golovatov, former head of the Alpha Group -- the KGB's counter-mafia and counter-terrorism unit -- on the Armor payroll in Russia.


"I'm very happy with the progress Armor is making and what the company is doing with its business mix. That should show up in its numbers in the next nine months to a year," he said.

Armor executives, meanwhile, say recession or an economic downturn shouldn't hold the company back.  In fact, Latin America's economic doldrums are carving out new business possibilities for Armor, and in the near future it plans to open a Miami office to run its Latin American operations.

"Multinational companies always tend to have money to spend to protect their physical and personal assets," Spiller said. "Our business can only get better as people become more aware of the risks."

(Robert Fisk also did a brilliant write-up of the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war; not to be missed!)

In The Herald in Scotland, Ian Bruce, Defence Correspondent reports that security/mercenary services are now the UK's most profitable export: SAS veterans among the bulldogs of war cashing in on boom

British mercenary firms have made an estimated ��800m from providing private armies for security duties in post-Saddam Iraq, and now qualify as the UK's most lucrative export earner from the country in the past year. Armed mercenaries being paid out of government or corporate funds outnumber the Army's 8800-strong garrison in the country by "at least a factor of two", according to concerned military sources. Senior sources also say there are more ex-SAS soldiers acting as advisers for "private military companies" than currently serving in the elite, 300-man regiment based near Hereford.

SFGate.com: Global security firms fill in as private armies
15,000 agents patrol violent streets of Iraq

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2004

A group of American construction executives was traveling in a  convoy down a palm-lined highway 30 miles north of Baghdad one January day  when gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades suddenly exploded everywhere.

Private security agents riding with the convoy fought off the attackers  in a hail of gunfire. Two of the agents died, as did an unknown number of  guerrillas.

The bloodshed was not publicly reported at the time, and the agents'  employer, the Steele Foundation of San Francisco, drew a cloak of discreet  silence over the incident to protect its clients' identity.

The shootout was just one more example of the behind-the-scenes role  played in Iraq by an estimated 15,000 private security agents from the United  States, Britain and countries as varied as Nepal, Chile, Ukraine, Israel,  South Africa and Fiji. They are employed by about 25 different firms that are  playing their part in Iraq's highly dangerous postwar environment by  performing tasks ranging from training the country's new police and army to  protecting government leaders to providing logistics for the U.S. military.

"The rate of growth in the security industry is phenomenal," said Deborah  Avant, a professor of political science and international affairs at George  Washington University in Washington, D.C. "If you had asked a year ago whether  there would be 15,000 private security in Iraq, everyone would have said  you're nuts. It has moved very quickly over the past decade, but Iraq has  escalated it dramatically."

The boom in Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg for the $100 billion-a- year industry, which experts say has been the fastest-growing sector of the  global economy during the past decade. From oil companies in the African  hinterland to heads of state in Haiti and Afghanistan to international aid  agencies in hotspots around the world, the difference between life and death  is decided by private guns for hire.

Meanwhile, Blackwater USA is hiring Chilean guys who trained under Pinochet to help us out in Iraq: US contractor recruits guards for Iraq in Chile

"We scour the ends of the earth to find professionals - the Chilean commandos are very, very professional and they fit within the Blackwater system," he said.

Chile was the only Latin American country where his firm had hired commandos for Iraq. He estimated that "about 95%" of his work came from government contracts and said his business was booming.

"We have grown 300% over each of the past three years and we are small compared to the big ones.

"We have a very small niche market, we work towards putting out the cream of the crop, the best."

The privatisation of security in Iraq is growing as the US seeks to reduce its commitment of troops.

Lisa Ashkenaz Croke wrting for the Yellowtimes.com elaborates: Mercenaries Hired to Keep Order in Iraq

USA Blackwater isn't the only security firm hiring ex-military of disturbing origin.  Last month, The Forward's Marc Perelman reported that contractor Erinys International utilized "former henchman of South Africa's apartheid regime" to guard oil facilities and train new Iraqi police.

"Franois Strydom, who was killed in the January 28 bombing of a hotel in Baghdad, was a former member of the Koevoet, a notoriously brutal counterinsurgency arm of the South African military that operated in Namibia during the neighboring state's fight for independence in the 1980s. His colleague Deon Gouws, who was injured in the attack, is a former officer of the Vlakplaas, a secret police unit in South Africa," wrote Perelman.

Who would have thought that Iraq needed to import torturers!

From IRINNews.com, (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) SOUTH AFRICA: Authorities target alleged mercenaries

Military analyst Henri Boshoff, of the Institute for Security Studies, told IRIN reports that up to 1,500 South Africans could be operating in Iraq were "speculation - 1,500 is a lot of people and I'm sure [South African] customs would have picked it up".

A discussion of the reaction of some governments is provided by Bill Berkowitz, writing for Alternet: Mercenaries 'R' Us

The recruitment of its citizens, however, isn't making either the Chilean or the South African governments happy. The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act prohibits South African citizens from direct participation as a combatant in armed conflict for private gain. Michelle Bachelet, Chile's defense minister, has ordered an investigation into whether such recruitment is legal under Chilean laws. Bachelet also was troubled by stories that soldiers on active duty are leaving the company to sign up as mercenaries.

It is also only a matter of time before U.S. soldiers grow unhappy with the presence of mercenaries in their midst. The high salaries and shorter terms of employment offered to mercenaries will inevitably make a serious dent on the military's budget. As Blackwater's Jackson acknowledged in the Guardian, "If they are going to outsource tasks that were once held by active-duty military and are now using private contractors, those guys [on active duty] are looking and asking, 'Where is the money?'"

This last question seems to be very much in the minds of the new Iraqi security forces the U. S. trains, half of whom leave over issues of pay.

... and from the Washington Times: Use of private security firms in Iraq draws concerns

"This is a very touchy issue," said a high-level coalition military official who opposes expanded use of private soldiers in Iraq. "There's a lot of pressure to use these contractors. Some oppose it. Some support it."

Some soldiers said privately that the soldiers-for-hire walk around with their weapons in full view as if they belong to a coalition army. They worry that the private-sector soldiers might not be constrained by the same rules of engagement and that any rogues among them who kill or hurt Iraqis could bring reprisals on all foreign forces.

"What are the rules of engagement [for the PMCs]?" asked one coalition military official in Baghdad. "Are they civilians or are they military? I don't know who they are, and I don't want to go anywhere near them."

The Coalition Provisional Authority did not respond to several formal requests for information about private military activities in Iraq. The coalition military commander in Iraq, U.S. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, responding to a question at a press conference several weeks ago, said he did not know of any plans to use contractors to perform security functions for the military.

On the ground, however, the private soldiers are occasionally finding themselves in firefights with Iraqis.

Richard Galustian of Pilgrims, a contractor that provides security for many Western media outlets, described one incident in which his firm's security officials opened fire on a group of suspected bandits along the road from Baghdad to the Jordanian border. "Certainly at least one or two people were hit," he said.

A former Special Forces member now in Baghdad said military contractors guarding ministries on behalf of coalition authorities have killed Iraqis who were trying to loot or attack the buildings.

"It's Iraq," he said. "You're accountable to nobody. But I guess ultimately you're accountable to the U.S. military for what happens."

MEANWHILE, Forbes, "The Capitalist Tool," in an article on the upcoming Baghdad Trade Fair, reports tepid interest in investing in Baghdad:

Although subcontracts are on offer in Iraq, few foreign companies have chosen to set up in the country as instability continues and facilities such as hotels come under attack.

A U.S. engineering executive doing business in the Gulf said his company has been offered subcontracts in Iraq but turned them down.

"Nobody is exactly rushing to go into Iraq," the executive said.

Who needs trade anyway when war for war's sake is making such a profit?

And what will we do for Bad Guys when they've all gotten jobs in Iraq? Will a Bad Guy just be a thug with out a job?

Seriously, the US and the UK are squandering two hundred years of emergent citizenship, patriotism, and respect for the nation-state for political expediency and the financial gain of their mercenary and oil industries. The mercenary situation is way out of control.

All this reminds me of the rhetoric last summer about how Iraq would be a "magnet" for terrorists. Here's Peter Bergen, CNN's analyst, towing the party line:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraq is becoming a major "magnet" for al Qaeda terrorists, who now pose more of a threat than remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, two analysts said Tuesday after a truck bomb killed 17 at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

"A half-dozen U.S. officials who investigate or analyze al Qaeda ... say that Iraq has become an important battleground for al Qaeda in the past several months," CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen said.

"The officials use words such as 'magnet' and 'super magnet' to describe the attraction that Iraq has for al Qaeda and other 'jihadists,' " said Bergen, author of "Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden."

James Rubin, a former U.S. deputy secretary of state, agreed that the terrorism milieu in Iraq has changed, pointing to increased attacks against civilian targets and fewer large-scale attacks against U.S. soldiers.

"It is my suspicion that the types of attacks in Iraq are either backed or funded by Islamic extremists."

They are coming from other countries and "see it as a rich place to conduct their bloody business," he said.

I'm having one of those experiences when I discover that the world as it actually is is very different from my conception of it. I want my worldview back.

And just in case military contractors feel they need another house or plane, the GOP is surveying its members about where we go from here (AP):

A voter survey tied to a Republican effort to raise money for House candidates mislabels Thailand and the Philippines as countries that "harbor and aid terrorists," say officials from both governments.

A question on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Ask America 2004 Nationwide Policy Survey" asks: "Should America broaden the war on terrorism into other countries that harbor and aid terrorists such as Thailand, Syria, Somalia, the Philippines, etc.?"

Accompanying the NRCC survey, which also poses questions about health care, the economy and other issues, was a four-page letter signed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that seeks money to help "keep the Republican Party in control of the U.S. House."

Finally, I'm shaking my head over the story of the "4 American civilian contractors" killed today in Iraq. Here's the best paragraph from the Washington Post version:

[Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military's deputy director of operations] added that "the contractors stand side by side with the Iraqi security forces, side by side with the coalition forces. Every time they go out, they know they're taking risk; and they're willing to take that risk for many, many reasons, one of which, they understand that they're part of this process of bringing this country a future that they have not had for 35 years."

I don't dare hope that any reporter will be astute enough to ask directly if they worked for any of the myrid PMCs.

RIDDLE: When is a civilian contractor not a civilian? And when is a dead civilian contractor not a civilian casualty?

AND MEANWHILE: There ahve been coup attempts in Congo (link via African  Oil Politics) and Sudan (both links by subscription).

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