Mercenaries & Private Military Contractors Feed

Obama and the privatized military industry

I have been wondering what Barack Obama is going to do with or about the privatized military industry that grew and flourished under George W. Bush. Presumably, Obama has a more sensible and less opportunistic approach than his soon-to-be-predecessor.

David Isenberg writes:

Obama's campaign said he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors.
Accountability is nice. And phasing back in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security as the provider of security for diplomats and their entourages etc. in places like Iraq is a really good idea. Also, as Isenberg discusses, ending the "outsourcing" of things this like interrogation of enemy prisoners of war is also essential.

But there are other problems than the lack of accountability and inappropriate with the emergence of the PMC industry. As with most other industries, US governmental entities are not its only clients. And inasmuch as the government reduces its spending on security contractors, companies will look for other clients.

One possible scenario is that as the US pulls its military forces out of Iraq, security contractors of various nationalities replace them. This will probably happen to some extent. There is wide variation among those who sell security services, and inasmuch as the US is not paying the tab, the US loses the possibility of demanding accountability. It is not in the national interests of the US to have a large PMC industry that the US has little or no control over out there in the world selling security services to whomever will buy them.

Blackwater CEO and Chairman Erik Prince is well known for his large political contributions to Republican and right-wing causes. Unsurprisingly, he gave $20,000 in July of 2007 to the Republican National Committee. But while he gave the maximum to George W. Bush in addition to a $25,000 contributions to the RNC in 2003 and 2005, Prince appears not to have contributed directly to the campaign of John McCain.

It's hard to know where the US government relationship with PMCs is going, but I am hopeful.


How to Investigate Blackwater USA

The minute the Congress called my name
I'd say, "Now who do
Who do you think you're fooling?"

Paul Simon, "Loves Me Like a Rock" (1973)

"We're a private company, and there's a key word there -- private,"

—Erik Prince, Owner and CEO of Blackwater USA, testifying before The US House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, 10/2/07 when asked to share Blackwater's financials with Congress

That rumor you heard about me trying to kill at least one savage everytime I left the wire? TRUE.

WHAT WILL YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Ben Thomas, aka Mookie Spicoli, formerly employed by Blackwater USA in Iraq, as he posted April 8, 2006 to the discussion board Get Off the X.

So at long last, Congress has started to investigate Blackwater USA in earnest. That's great, but way too late.

Hauling Erik Prince in to testify before Congress was a necessary first step but won't get anyone very far. Prince has made a fetish of his privacy, and with the State Department's collusion, there isn't much that our elected representatives can get Prince to say on a public forum. But Prince did say one big important thing: What Blackwater does when its contractors run amok is fire them.

So here's how Congress should go about investigating Blackwater: They should subpoena all personnel records that resulted in the firing of their security contractors, and all documents related to the firings, and they should subpoena the entire group of ex-Blackwater security contractors who were let go for cause.

That is, as it were, where the bodies are buried. I also suggest they start their list of ex-Blackwater subpoenas with Ben Thomas.


The continuing Blackwater saga: You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows

The National Review -- yes that National Review as in NRO online -- has just run an article by Mario Loyola which essentially explains why Blackwater and the other PMC should leave Iraq, and even uses the word "mercenaries" right there in its title: Mercenaries vs. Counterinsurgency: Blackwater could be a worse problem than you think.

The best way to protect your forces in a war is to the win and get them out. If, in the meantime, that requires that soldiers throw themselves at certain death on the beaches of Normandy — or on Haifa Street in Baghdad — then that is what they are expected to do.

And today in Iraq, that is exactly what they are doing. In countless situations, they fight against their survival instincts and lower their guard so the population feels safer. They refuse to return fire when fired upon if they cannot positively “ID” the shooter. They offer their lives so the insurgents don’t find a way to take advantage of their firepower. Their willingness to give their lives for the mission is what the military is all about — and it is what the counterinsurgency strategy presumes most vitally.

The problem with security contractors is pretty clear: Central Command isn’t even sure how many there are — according to one source in the Post article, there could be as many as 50,000. They are heavily armed, and use their best judgment of what is necessary for their own protection — not for winning the war. The COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy doesn’t apply to them. But because neither the insurgents nor the Iraqi people distinguish between contractors and soldiers, what you have in Iraq today is a situation in which perhaps 25-percent of the perceived coalition "force" is operating outside the chain of command, and in violation of the stated strategy.

That means that in the neighborhoods of Baghdad, our soldiers are exercising deadly restraint to win over the population, day after day, for months and weeks on end — and all of their work can unravel, all of their sacrifices thrown to the wind because of just one shooting incident carried out by private mercenaries. This is unacceptable — not least because the resulting effect is an increase in risks for our soldiers.

Amen.

UDPATE 9/28/07: From The New York Times:

Participants in a contentious Baghdad security operation this month have told American investigators that during the operation at least one guard continued firing on civilians while colleagues urgently called for a cease-fire. At least one guard apparently also drew a weapon on a fellow guard who did not stop shooting, an American official said.


Iraq bans Blackwater? US State Dept turtle to operate without its shell?

Wow. Iraq has banned Blackwater, icon of the boom in military privatization, from operating anywhere in Iraq following a shootout involving some of its contractors in which civilians were killed.

I would have liked to think this was inevitable, but I am astonished. I'm told, however, that Blackwater doesn't need a license to operate in Iraq there since they work exclusively for the US State dept there. Wonder how this will play out.

One of the truisms of the private military industry is that everyone involved talks about the other guys being "cowboys" but describes themselves as professionals. The incident  that lead the Iraqi Interior Ministry to pull their license to operate in Iraq, as described by the AP, sounds like an Old West shootout.

The convoy carrying officials from the US state department came under attack at about 1230 local time on Sunday as it passed through Nisoor Square in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour.

The Blackwater security guards accompanying the convoy returned fire, killing eight people and wounding 13 others, Iraqi officials said.

Most of the dead and wounded were bystanders, the officials added. One of those killed was a policeman.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Baghdad later confirmed its security vehicles had been involved in the gunfight.

"They received small arms fire. One of the vehicles was disabled in the shooting and had to be towed from the scene," he said.

"The incident is being investigated by department of state diplomatic security service law enforcement officials in co-operation with the government of Iraq and multinational forces."

Blackwater has not yet commented on the incident.

Imagining how the US State Department would operate in Iraq without Blackwater is like imagining how a turtle would live without its shell.

Blackwater's website is only intermittently reachable this morning.

(Thanks, Rich. Also, thanks, RYP, for licensing info.)

See also Wired's write-up.

UPDATE: Apparently the work "inevitable" also came to P. W. Singer's mind. See Noah Shachtman's interesting piece Blackwater Ban "Inevitable." Looks to me like this is shaping up to be one of them there Historical Lessons.


How to survive your own beheading

SurvivebeheadingI can't tell you how, but if you give these guys in Las Vegas a bunch of money & three days of your life, they'll teach you how.

Perhaps there are prerequisites for the course. Such as thinking with some other part of your anatomy. I wonder if the course is guarenteed and whether they've actually tested the technique. Did they get a celebrity endorsement from Ted Williams or Ichabod Crane?

Can you learn to survive your own beheading? I guess you never know until you try!


The Domestic Uses of Mercenaries: They Can Come in Handy When Dealing with Your Ex?

Well, what an uplifting Christmas tale! Mom hires mercenaries to re-kinap her kids! Mom lives in Canada, dad in Australia.

From Electric News in Singapore: Were Mercenaries Hired to Nab Kids?

WHEN her estranged husband took her two little daughters to Lebanon and informed her that she would never see them again, Ms Melissa Hawach reportedly hired a group of mercenaries to re-unite her with her daughters, Hannah, 5, and Cedar, 3.

She got her daughters back but is now on the run from the Lebanese authorities.

Two of the mercenaries allegedly hired by Ms Hawach were arrested by Lebanese authorities at the Beirut International airport yesterday.


They were just minutes away from their flight taking off.

The two mercenaries Brian Corrigan, 38, a former Australian soldier and New Zealander David Pemberton were charged with the kidnapping of the two girls.

They face up to 15 years in jail if they are proven guilty, on the charge of kidnapping minors.


Merry 21st centery Christmas! (Good God!)


Iraq's Former Electricity Minister Sprung from the Green Zone by Security Contractors?

From Defensetech, Behind the Green Zone Jail Break:

In a war filled with too-strange-for-fiction stories, this may be the strangest yet.  Was Iraq's former electricity minister, jailed on corruption charges, really "sprung from a Green Zone prison this weekend by U.S. security contractors?"  If so, how did they pull it off?  And what does it say about the rapidly-expanding, ridiculously-lucrative, morally-ambiguous field of private militaries?

Robert Young Pelton, author of the recently-published  Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, tells Defense Tech that his "guess (if the story is true) is that they simply presented their DoD and other credentials and said [the contractors] were there to accompany him to some mythical destination. Once out of prison it is very easy to leave the Green Zone and then take a taxi to Jordan, Syria, Kuwait or Kurdistan."

He also figures that "there was no gunplay or violence involved... [A]nother likely scenario would be to simply bribe the jailer (by paying a family member) and then the jailer making up some cock and bull story."

See also Mountain Runner: The inevitable happened: "Security Contractors" break a man out of a US military facility... and a GAO report is released.


I've Made "Silence of the City"

Silenceofthecity

Back in March, I came close to appearing in The New Yorker's Talk of the Town. Now the article, concerning my adventures blogging Top Cat Marine Security and their $55 million contract with the transitional government of Somalia, has appeared on Silence of the City, a new website that publishes items rejected from the Talk of the Town. I'm told the piece went through 3 or 4 rounds of editing before it was ultimately rejected.

Well, I suppose it is in the end just a tale of the adventures of a suburban woman in her dining room. I'll have you know I can get in really a lot of trouble in this dining room! (Somewhere in the background someone is muttering, Well, OK. So she did Silence of the City. But can she do Silence of the Lambs?)


Robert Young Pelton's Licensed to Kill: A Review

Ryp At long last, Robert Young Pelton's book, Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, is out. (Back in December of 2005 when I pre-ordered it, I think it's scheduled pub date was something like April.) Despite its subject matter, the world of mercenaries and private military contractors, the book reads like a fascinating letter from a friend. It is thoughtful, funny, and humane in its exploration of a politically loaded topic.

Licensedtokill_1 In general, I expect that opinions on this book are going to gravitate around this issue of whether or not it's "biased," and in which direction. I'm not going to venture an opinion on that, since surely I am at least as "biased" as Pelton. What I will say is that Pelton treats his subjectmatter as ethically complex, which indeed it is. And he neither succumbs to over-identifying with the dudes he's hanging with, nor to simple repulsion at the whole enterprise.

The book opens with a Prologue detailing his meeting with Eric Prince, owner and founder of Blackwater, who articulates Blackwater’s ambitions, a corporately oriented optimism about the future of privatized military services. In the prologue, Pelton distinguishes between what in generally understood to be the distinction between mercenaries and security contractors:

Mercenaries fight, while security contractors protect,  . . . at least, that’s the dividing line that’s supposed to exist. (5)

Destabilizing this apparent distinction is a theme that continues throughout the book.

The book’s Introduction is just the sort of action scene editor’s like to have at the beginning of books: a round trip down the legendarily dangerous “Route Irish” to the Baghdad Airport with Blackwater’s Mamba Team:

. . . it’s 2:43 and we’ve just completed the most perilous eight-minute drive in the world. (13)

The main text of the book is in three sections:

1. Hired Guns, which discusses

  • the longest running CIA contractor, Billy Waugh,
  • contractors inside Pakistan involved in operations that aren't supposed to exist,
  • and the problematic use of American security contractors to guard foreign heads of state;

2. The New Breed, which focuses mostly on Blackwater; and

3. Of Rogues and Tycoons, which covers such characters as Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema, Tim Spicer, executives of Blackwater, Richard Bethell (Lord Westbury), Simon Mann, and Niek Du Toit.

A fair amount of what is in this book has been touched on at one point or another in my blog.

Billywaugh_1 The Prologue and Introduction introduce companies, characters and topics, while also promising more thrilling action. But it is with Chapter 1, Kill them All, that we really get going. It is the chapter about Billy Waugh and what, through a certain lens, might be seen as the Good Old Days when the CIA and it’s contractors could just go out and kill people; how the backlash against the Vietnam War reined in the CIA; how this played itself out later; how Waugh could have killed Osama bin Laden and didn’t because he wasn’t allowed to; and how this legacy played itself out in post-9/11 Afghanistan with both the CIA and the emergence of companies like Blackwater. Fascinating stuff. In principle, I knew a fair amount of what was in the chapter from reading a pile of CIA memoirs a while back, but Pelton’s chapter has a deeply unsettling historical momentum about it that the memoirs lack.

Chapter 2, Edge of Empire, is a wry discussion of the geopolitical realities (or unrealities?) of the area surrounding the Afghanistan/Pakistan border where bin Laden is sometimes said to be hiding. He finds an American base inside Pakistan that is not supposed to exist, that the actual border seems to be almost unmarked, and much else involving security contractors and surreal layers of deniability cleaving the official story from reality. Last year, when I was helping with disaster relief mapping following the Pakistan earthquake, I heard many peculiar things about the Pakistani government’s attitude towards maps—for example, that the exact location of some of the towns affected by the earthquake was initially considered by the government to be classified information—and this chapter puts some of that insanity into context for me.

Karzaisecurity Chapter 3, The Praetorian Guard, is an interesting exploration of the role of American security contractors as protectors for foreign heads of state. The examples in this chapter are Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, but Pelton revisits this topic toward the end of the book in his discussion of the Equatorial Guinea coup plot, and what would have been Severo Moto’s situation had the coup succeeded: not good at all.

In Chapter 4, Confirmed Kills, we get a sense of the new security contractor utopia. The chapter opens at the Dallas Convention Center during the American Society for Industrial Security convention.

Before 9/11, the industry had only a limited market for the services of the men who now flock to these conferences looking for IC opportunities. The war in Afghanistan opened the door to more widespread employment of independent security contractors, and then Iraq kicked that door off it's hinges, stomped on it,  burned it, and scattered the ashes. Iraq has been to the private security industry what the development of the first user-friendly Web browser was to the dot-com boom. (97)

Bremer The chapter concludes with an important discussion of the role of Paul Bremer in the creation of this utopia, a section entitled "On Rules and Resentment."

Bush had opened up the War on Terror by issuing a license to kill with his post-9/11 presidential finding authorizing targeted assassination, but it would be Bremer's Order 17 that would really unleash the security contractors in Iraq. (114)

And this is what the Billy Waugh chapter has set us up for—to understand the nature of this utopia: these guys who might only find marginal employment in the US, can make $600 a day to go to Iraq and do what Waugh, for many years, was not allowed to do. The leash is off and the dogs are out.

Chapter 5, Blackwater Bridge, discusses the Fallujah incident, in which four Blackwater contractors died in gruesome ways and their remains paraded through the streets and hung from a bridge, as a turning point for the public perception of "security contractors" in Iraq, and its complex aftermath.

Chapters 6, Under Siege, is perhaps my favorite in the book. It explores the complexities of two notable combat situations, An Najaf and Al Kut. In the former situation, it seems that security contractors (whom the US military observed but did not assist) were expected to abandon their position on the roof of the Najaf CPA compound. Instead they stayed to fight and videotaped themselves doing it. The videos subsequently circulated on the Internet.

While the rules of engagement allowed contractors to fire in defense of their lives, the formulations of those rules had not anticipated contractors being dropped into a situation where they would engage in hours of combat without outside support. The other outcome that became very clear was that ex-soldiers given a license to kill may choose not to cut and run as they are trained and paid to do, but eagerly and repeatedly fire into the crowds that surround them. (153-154)

Najaf_1 This section gives a much clearer picture of why the security contractors circulated videos of themselves shooting at Iraqis: they were allowed to shoot when the US military and coalition forces were held back. In the "turkey shoot" video, the shooter, whom Pelton identifies as "Mookie Spicoli" clearly enjoys what he is doing.

The Al Kut incident shows the flip-side of this. A group of security contractors alert Bremer to impending problems, who asks them not to exaggerate. The men are unsupported and under attack for days. Some are killed. When they finally come up with a plan to escape with their lives, an official of the CPA tries to prevent their escape. The CPA seemed determined to use them up and throw them away like so much Kleenex: truly appalling. Apparently, although the dogs are out, they are sometimes treated like dogs.

Chapter 7, The Dog Track and the Swamp, chronicles Pelton's visits to Blackwater training facilities, one of which is a dog track. This chapter contains one of the most entertaining sections of the book in which Pelton himself gets to teach in a training program called Mirror Image which simulates, "terrorist recruiting, training techniques, and operational tactics." His students are "Special Forces, Secret Service, marines, FBI agents, independent contractors, and other hand-picked attendees." (183)  Pelton, who has been to Chechnya, has his team play "Chechens." The section is hilarious. I wish they had video of this.

The targets will be expecting the attackers to approach via one of the roads that lead into the village, so the Chechens sneak in from behind the berm of a live firing range and attack from behind, something that freaks out the lead instructor, but gives the team the perfect element of surprise. (192)

Clearly, Pelton was having a good time.

In Chapter 8, we revisit the Blackwater's Team Mamba in Baghdad, first introduced in the book's Introduction. Pelton gives a detailed sense of their day-to-day existence and of the circumstances of their employment. The chapter contains another of the book's funniest sections: when outgoing Blackwater security contractors and the plane crew go through security at Baghdad International Air Port on their way out of Iraq to Jordan:

At the gate, an older American with a bad comb-over pats us all down in a needlessly touchy body search—particularly needless when a flight member admits to Mr. Comb-Over that he is wearing a loaded 9-mm Glock. He gets searched anyway, and then hilariously they put his gun through the X-ray machine before returning it. . . .

Once we're on the plane, the Blackwater crew breaks open a large aluminum box and hands out a loaded M4 weapon to each passenger. (223)

Part 3, Of Rogues and Tycoons, begins with another of the book's funniest sections: Pelton's chapter on Jack Idema, a man emblematic of just how far a wannabee can go in a failed state, in this case Afghanistan in the post-9/11 culture of fear and confusion. The voice of Billy Waugh returns:

We only had 80 guys involved in our [Afghanistan] operations and Idema wasn't one of them. (239)

The best part of the chapter concerns Idema's rewriting of Robin Moore's The Hunt for bin Laden prior to its publication. Pelton writes:

I am actually featured in The Hunt for bin Laden and can speak from my own experience . . . Though they never met or talked to Idema, and despite the fact that almost ten members had carefully detailed their actions to Moore at K2, the first chapter puts forth an account of the team's infill into Afghanistan that the men tell me has been entirely fabricated. (243)

The chapter concludes with a paragraph that begins:

That such a transparent criminal could so easily label himself a contractor to act out his own covert paramilitary fantasy is a warning about the growing ubiquity of independent contractors. (250)

Bookcover Chapter 10, The Very Model of a Modern Major Mercenary, concerns the rise of Tim Spicer, former President of Sandline, widely regarded as an example of upward-mobile failure (though Pelton does not say this), and Spicer's new company Aegis. The description of Pelton's interview with Spicer is a comedy of manners. What Pelton does not mention is that he was previously sued and settled out of court for his depiction of Spicer in a previous book. Our narrator, however, is the author of The World's Most Dangerous Places and so does not fear to tread into the office of someone who sued him.  (I myself once had my own run-in with Spicer's attorney, Richard Slowe.) What I found most interesting in the chapter was former Sandline accountant Michael Grunberg's account of what the take was for those running Executive Outcomes:

Even though they had difficulty extracting payments from the second operation, the men had generated extraordinary persona income. After the successes in Angola and Sierra Leone, EO had come to a natural end. According to Grunberg, "Eben [Barlow] took ten million and walked away. They all did very well. Simon [Mann] pocketed $60 million and Tony [Buckingham] banked $90 million." (263)

Simon Mann, one of the Executive Outcomes founders, is to have a starring role in Chapter 12, in which the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt is discussed. Apparently, he wanted more from life.

Chapter 11, The Lord and the Prince, is an examination of how the legacy of Executive Outcomes ans Sandline informs and shapes the ambitions of the principals of Blackwater and of HART Security. Of particular interest to me was the account of HART's contract with the government of Somalia in light of my adventure late last year writing about Top Cat Marine Security's signing of a contract with the Transitional Government of Somalia. Pelton remarks of the HART contract:

Other similar ventures by former soldiers have always fallen apart due to inherent corruption in local governments. (290)

coup5.jpgChapter 12, The Bight of Benin Company, is the chapter I ordered the book for in the first place, back in December. It concerns the Equatorial Guinea coup plot, which is what first interested me in the subject of military privatization. If not for my reading about and researching what was up with N4610, a former US military plane which ended up in Zimbabwe with a load of mercenaries in it, back in March of 2004, I would not be writing this now, nor would I have read this book.

In addition to providing a smooth, gripping narrative of events I learned about by obsessively reading news stories coming out of Africa two years ago, he covers some documents I had previous access to, most notably a document entitled "Assisted Regime Change." All by themselves, these documents, with their paranoia and layers of duplicity even among plotters, give us a blueprint for a future dystopia if "regime change" is privatized on a large scale. Here's a sample:

The "Bight of Benin Company" (BBC), written in the archaic British schoolboy style typical of Simon Mann, is a Machiavellian plan laced with paranoia and greed. The document lays out a plan to turn EG into something resembling the British East India Company. It details the coup backers' intent to claim the sole right to make agreements ad contracts wit the newly installed government . . . The BBC makes it abundantly clear that Moto is disposable and that his main backer, Eli Khalil, was not to be trusted. (318)

N4610 One document he doesn't talk much about, but I have been told the contents of, is the contract for the purchase of N4610 from Dodson. One idiocy of the coup plot was that N4610 was a tail number registered to the US Air National Guard. So to me one big question was always why didn't the plotters take the trouble to paint on a different tail number. The answer is, I think, in the contract. The contract specified a buy-back price for the plane; viewed that way, it was essentially a rental agreement with a damage deposit. In my opinion, they didn't paint over the tail number because the plotters had to give the plane back; Sandline declared itself defunct about a month after the plane was impounded.

coup3.jpgWhile previous chapters showed how security contractors could be treated like dogs by those who employed them, one of the features of the Equatorial Guinea coup plot narrative is "the divide between the backers and those in prison." Though I have little sympathy for Simon Mann, for whom a $60 million take from Executive Outcomes was not enough, the coup backers did far too little to help him  -- and those arrested with him -- once he got busted. Simon Man is currently fighting extradition from his jail cell in Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea, where he could expect a much longer jail sentence.

Pelton as it happens had once retained Nick du Toit, leader of the EQ-based portion of the plot, for security in a 2002 trip to Africa. He returns to Africa and interviews du Toit in jail.

What I learned from Niek is that in the debate between contractor and mercenary, it will always come down to the individual. When Niek du Toit was my security man, I knew him as an upstanding, loyal, dependable provider of security in what was at the time the world's most dangerous place. Now, four years later, he is a criminal behind bars for what appears to be the rest of his life. (333)

The book concludes with an Epilogue in which Pelton visits one of the Blackwater contractors he spent time with in Baghdad after the man's return the the US. The man was badly injured after Pelton's departure. The epilogue is a mediation on both the lack of accounting on the actual number of security contractor deaths, and on the contractors' own lack of accountability:

As of spring 2006, there has not been one single contractor charged for any crime that occurred in Iraq, though hundreds of soldiers have been court-martialed for offenses ranging from minor violations of military code to murder. (341)

He remarks also:

Working in violent areas and being given a license to kill can be frightening to some and an addictive adrenaline rush to others. It is impossible to predict how successfully the thousands of security contractors now working in Iraq will integrate back into normal civilian life after their wellspring of employment dries up.  (342)

Rypinshadowcompany Elsewhere, interviewed in  Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque's documentary Shadow Company, Pelton is a bit more blunt. He says: "Some of these guys couldn't work in Walmart."

Corporatizing war is presented by the purveyors of private military services as a way of streamlining, of cutting out the red tape, of increasing efficiency, under controlled circumstances. But throughout the book, Pelton has shown just how fluid the line is between security contractor and mercenary, between defending a fixed asset and just plain combat, between security guard and criminal.

Combine this with the current nostalgia for the olden days when political assassination was an essential part of the toolbox of American foreign policy, and a move to reinstate that practice happening simultaneously with a massive swing toward privatization, and we find that our world is a strange place indeed.

An important theme of the book is the contrast between American and British attitudes toward privatized security:

It becomes clear to me during the meeting that there remains a very high wall between the HART's very English view of security, and of Blackwater's view of a brave new neocon world.  . . . While [Blackwater's Erik] Prince paints a flashy, high-tech, road-warrior-style military company that could solve any client's problem by an application of sheer brute force and advanced weaponry, [HART's] Richard [Bethell] and George [Simm] calmly promote the idea of low-key and culturally integrated solutions. (301)

This contrast corresponds roughly to the contrast between American and British imperialism, but an imperialism at least partly uncoupled from the traditional imperialist powers, namely governments; an imperialism increasingly removed from oversight by the British and American publics.

What we have here, in the end, is an important book on where the 21st century is taking us, exploring the dystopian potiential of military privatization, even for the very people engaged in it. If there is any possibility to avert the dystopia, it lies in transparency. And so this book is very much a step in the right direction.


A Week's Worth of Blogging in One Post

A few entertaining items:

  1. Alex Harrowell on a large quantity of disappeared guns:

    99 Tonnes of Guns

    Were purchased from leftover Bosnian war stocks for the Iraqi security forces by U.S. agents in BiH, and flown out of the country by Aerocom in four runs with the Ilyushin 76 ER-IBV, serial no. 3423699. But where they were delivered remains a mystery, and it is feared that the weapons actually went to the insurgents.
  2. An American named Michael Chemidlin, was arrested in Sierra Leone for photographing the place where Charles Taylor's war crimes trial is scheduled to be. Hard to tell what's going on from the news coverage, but the implication is that he is suspected of some plot to free Taylor. See Sierra Leone: Suspected Special Court Spy, Three Others Charged and US man held for war crimes pics.
  3. Further to the subject of fascist sexuality, Alex Harrowell emailed me a couple of hilarious links: BNP's council leader made film labelled as 'Marxist gay cinema'

    A BNP leader has produced and directed a "gay pornographic film", despite his party's criticism of indecency and hatred of gays.

    . . . and Video harms chances of BNP candidate

    Forty eight hours ago, few people had heard of the film HMS Discovery, a production in the "gay Marxist genre" for which Mr Barnbrook was producer, director and co-writer.

    But news spread quickly after activists from the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight leaked details to the area's two local newspapers, both of which put the story on the front page.

    Ah, the sexualizing gaze of the fetistish! Ban what you yourself find exciting!
  4. Nick Bicanic sends in a link to a show available on Google Video about Shadow Company, his forthcoming documentary on private military companies and security contractors.
  5. A really nice AP story (with an unreasonably menacing headline), which discusses how the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency helped with disaster relief following last fall's hurricanes: Spy Agency Watching Americans From Space:

    In an era when other intelligence agencies try to hide those operations, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, is proud of that domestic mission.

    He said the work the agency did after hurricanes Rita and Katrina was the best he'd seen an intelligence agency do in his 42 years in the spy business.

    "This was kind of a direct payback to the taxpayers for the investment made in this agency over the years, even though in its original design it was intended for foreign intelligence purposes," Clapper said in a Thursday interview with The Associated Press.

  6. And finally, Robert F. Kane's trial for illegal possession of rocket launchers, in connection with Security Aviation's mysterious private military build-up, starts the 15th. I will be blogging it. As preparation for this entertainment, I suggest you read up on The Story So Far. For your convenience, I have posted a complete list of links to related news stories in my left-hand side-bar. For your convenience and for ease of reading, I'll also toss them in below the cut. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! (Especially the stories from adn.com, The Anchorage Daily News, which are quite excellent.)

Continue reading "A Week's Worth of Blogging in One Post" »


Map of a Universal Dynamic of 21st-Century Greed

I've been working on a research project using Eastgate System's "personal content management tool" Tinderbox to organize my notes. While working with it, I discovered this bit of serendipity that emerged from the "Map View" of the software. I looked at this image and realized that it was a sort of map to the dynamics of private sector 21st century greed. If you click on the image you'll be able to read the labels better.

21stcenturygreed


Rent-a-Fed: Consultants Advisory Group is back and they're offering the best US government services money can buy!

Regular readers will remember my adventures earlier this year involving a strange secretive company called the Consultants Advisory Group (CAG). (See also the Noriegaville News: Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti.) The are re-marketing themselves in their new improved website, offering the best US government services money can buy.

Got to love this ad copy:

Established in 1997, CAG INTERNACIONAL S.A. is a privately owned international business corporation closely held by American expatriates and staffed by the finest independent contractors from the CIA, FBI, US and Foreign Military Services, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the Departments of Justice and Commerce.

Wow. Is this going to be a franchise like MacDonald's? Government in a Happy Meal box? One stop shopping for your governmental authority needs? This is a pretty ambitious product line. One wonders if they are also planning to add national parks and a space program!

(I mean really, are they begging to be perceived as a CIA proprietary, or what? And if they were one, would they be on their knees trying to convince you? This is practically a Rent-a-Fed operation according to their copy. I doubt they can deliver that in actuality.)

Countries where they claim to be active include Panama, Kenya, and Somalia. How active is a matter for speculation, but it doesn't look like they are very active yet. And how come they didn't mention Haiti?

Despite CAG's persistent claims, I have a hard time believing that the proprietors of CAG are US ex-pats. CAG tries too hard to push the Americanness of their enterprise without a sense of how Americans do business. Note that their site lacks most of the usual contact info and does not even give an indication of the country in which they are incorporated.

(Thanks GW!)


More4's Two Segments on Aegis and the Infamous Security Contractor Videos

More4 News in the UK has two TV segments concerning the infamous Aegis security contractor videos. One came out a week ago and one came out today.

The first segment, Under the Aegis, came out on the 31st:  More 4 News has exclusively interviewed a team member of Aegis that allegedly shot at Iraqi civilians.

Safariscreensnapz065

The second segment, Road Wars, came out today:

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More4 News has learnt that the security company Aegis is trying to close down the website which claims to show videos of Aegis employees firing at civilians in Iraq.

With a multi-million pound contract from the U.S government, the security firm Aegis is a company that makes big profits from the chaos in Iraq.

Last week More4 news uncovered evidence linking the firm directly to videos that surfaced last year of contractors shooting at civilian cars to keep them away.

The former Aegis worker who published the videos on his website spoke to us last week on condition of anonymity.

Now he's agreed to talk openly to Nima Elbagir about the videos, his website - and the High Court action Aegis is taking tomorrow to close it down. Here's her exclusive report.

The most interesting aspect, to me, about these is that More4 claims to have legal documents from the law firm S. J. Berwin (which also represented Sandline) claiming that the security contractor who filmed and distributed the video is in violation of Aegis's copyright, presumably because since he filmed it at work, such videos would be considered work for hire. That strikes me as an . . . um . . .  innovative use of copyright law.


Forthcoming screenings of Shadow Company

From Nick Bacanic of Purpose Films:

Two sets of screenings to announce and some quick news.

1. HOTdocs Toronto - North America's premier
documentary film festival - "Shadow Company" screens twice

Screening #1: May 1st 8:30pm - Bloor Cinema
Screening #2: May 5th 11:30pm - Bloor Cinema

The director of the film (that is, me) will also  be speaking on a filmmaking panel earlier that  day about the making of "Shadow Company" (time to be determined) If you are a morning person you can also catch  Alan Bell and me on Canada AM (CTV) at 7:45am -  as well as a guest appearance on "The Hour" a one-hour CBC chat show that should make for some interesting discussion.

2. Boston Independent Film Festival - for those of you in New England the screening times are

Screening #1: April 21st 2006, 10:00pm, Somerville 2
Screening #2: April 22nd 2006, 12:45pm, Somerville 3

3. Washington DC screenings - locations/dates are  not confirmed yet but a number of non-governmental organisations (as well as members of the US government) have approached us about screening the film - so we will definitely be going ahead with a screening and a detailed Q&A in DC as soon as it's practical to organise the event and the invite list.

A review from the Toronto Star is below the cut.

Continue reading "Forthcoming screenings of Shadow Company" »


Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!

From the Kenya Times, this entertaining passage:

After a long silence, Artur Margaryan, now says he has brought to his residence more dogs and crocodiles to beef up his security. This is in addition to the ten dogs he had imported earlier. Westlands legislator Fred Gumo and his Makadara counterpart Reuben Ndolo should probably be warned not to take their threats to storm his residence, lest they be devoured by the crocodiles.

There's something reminiscent of The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly here. I've been wondering where this story is going. Perhaps it will end with the the Arturs being eaten by their, er, security forces.

(Who is cleaning up after all the animals, anyway? They have how many killer dogs? Wonder how it smells in there.)

I remain really interested in finding out who these guys are and where they came from.

On a more somber note, while these clowns hole up with large but untraceable amounts of cash, famine spreads across East Africa. And meanwhile Kenya is also having an outbreak of measles because of lack of vaccinations.

See also my previous posts:

Below the cut is an abundance of related links along with what I thought was the best line from each.

Continue reading "Update on the Wild & Crazy Armenian Brothers in Kenya: Send in the Crocodiles!" »


Kenya: More on the Mysterious Armenian Brothers


   Artur Margaryan 
  Photo by by mwasb (Boniface Mwangi).

The Kenyan investigative journalists have been doing an amazing job of investigating the mysterious Armenian brothers who have become embroiled in the growing corruption scandal in Nairobi in the aftermath of the Kenyan media raids of a few weeks ago. (Among other things, the brother are alledged to be the white guys on cell phones in the TV station security cam footage of the raid.)

Kenya's journalists are writing articles faster than I can blog them, so I've added a Typelist on the subject to my left-hand sidebar, giving links to articles of interest so I can just toss in new ones as I go along. I have my theories of what is going on here, but the pool of available information is growing so fast that I'll hold off on theorizing.

Here are a few favorite items from the links in the sidebar. First of all, they have IDed Artur Margaryan's intriguing bodyguard:

Ms Shefana Igbal, is a daughter of a renown Mombasa businessman said to be close to businessmen in the underworld and particularly drug barons, our sources confided to us. The armed woman is known for her daring driving skills and apart from chauffeuring Artur Margaryan around the city, she also doubles as a bodyguard.

This next item is of Jamesian narrative complexity. Parse the point of view on this one:

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Michuki Questioned As 'Armenian' Plot Thickens
Michuki further claimed that the Group intended to publish a series of stories linking key government officials to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, sources close to the Committee said. "It was a government action. The Standard Group has a propaganda unit which wanted to run stories that key government officials have Al-Qaeda links," a source close to the committee said of Michuki.

So, the Standard -- raided by police apparently under orders from Michuki -- reports that someone said that Michuki claimed that the Standard was going to run stories linking various government officials to Al Qaeda. Kenyan politics has a very subtle aesthetic. I feel like this is what I went to grad school in literature for! As Alex Harrowell remarks, ". . . yes, the government tactically leaked the information that the opposition were accusing them of terrorism in order to bash them for playing the terrorism card . . . or something."

Artur Margaryan, on the other hand, is not a subtle fellow. Gotta love this quote:

Margargran, interjected: "Your country's budget is not enough for the country. It is not enough to hire us."

. . . and this one:

Foreigner Artur Margaryan yesterday told Internal Security Minister John Michuki to stop commenting on their issue until investigations are complete. . . . He also cautioned Michuki against commenting on issues "he knows nothing about".

Margaryan can't possibly mean that bit about AQ, can he? He keeps going on about being a Christian.

Meanwhile the Standard manages to be at least a little forgiving and takes Michuki's side against Margaryan:

What sticks in the craw is that Michuki is just the latest in Artur Margaryan's line of fire. Wearing his arrogance and disdain proudly and loudly this man seems bent on belittling every prominent Kenyan he comes across.

A number of editorialists called for the Armenian brothers to be expelled from Kenya, but interestingly Health Minister Charity Ngilu made a somewhat tortured argument as to why they should not be deported:

HEALTH Minister Charity Ngilu yesterday asked the government not to deport the two Armenians at the centre of the mercenaries row before Kenyans knew their true identity and motive. Ngilu who is the Kitui Central MP said the duo should remain in the country so that Kenyans can get to the bottom of the truth.

Why would a health minister come to the aid of guys who seem a bit too cozy with the world of drug trafficking?

And then there's this business article which makes a sad but remarkable claim:

Two brothers from the Trans-Caucasian republic of Armenia are believed to be the only significant foreign investors Narc has so far managed to attract.

One of the most interesting things about these investors is that they have no need of bank accounts:

THE saga surrounding two Armenians, variously referred to as mercenaries and investors on the other hand took a new twist yesterday, when it become apparent that the duo have no known accounts in any Kenyan bank. Sources close to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have confirmed that Mr Artur Margaryan and his brother Arur Sargayan, neither operate a bank account indivindually, nor in any of the companies associated with them. Neither the Brotherhood International Company, nor any other company associated with them has a bank account in any of the 42 banks registered in Kenya, or in any of the existing forex bureaux in Kenya. . . . This means that the Sh 150,000 the duo are claiming to be spending daily cannot be accounted for, alluding to a possibility of massive money laundering in the country.

And don't miss this batch of photos by the talented young Kenyan photographer, Boniface Mwangi.

And there's this piece, suggesting that the members of the current administration have been unlucky and have been having problems with their life expectancy. Subtext is all. And that subtext does beg the question of the identity of that "snake" of John Michuki's now infamous remark, "When you rattle a snake, you should be prepared to be bitten by it."

This does all have a kind of startup/venture capital feeling about it. Perhaps the MacGuffin in this strange tale is the eighty million dolars worth of cocaine -- "1.1 metric ton shipment, confiscated in December 2004" -- that's been sitting around in a warehouse for a while, that the Kenyan government has just agreed to destroy. If you were a criminal, woudn't you want it? That may be the simplest explaination for what's driving this circus.

Wonder how much of it is left.

(See also The Yorkshire Ranter. and the tHiNkEr’S rOoM.)


Kenya: "He was accompanied by a woman who on Monday he claimed was his bodyguard."

In the aftermath of the Kenya media raids, there have been conflicting reports of the involvement of "Russian mercenaries" in one aspect or another of the situation. Now we are getting a few more specifics, and boy are they strange. First of all, there's this story from the Nation: NARC Politician is Linked to Armenians

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) yesterday linked a Narc politician to a press conference by two former Soviet bloc foreigners Langata MP Raila Odinga describes as mercenaries.

And the movement accused the Government of providing state security to Mr Artur Sargsyan and Mr Artur Margaryan, who they claimed were "international criminals." . . .

In a move that added more mystery to the saga behind the two Armenians, the former Roads minister claimed Mr Sargsyan, who had been said to have flown into the country a few minutes before the Press conference, was in fact in the country. . . .

The two said they had been introduced to both Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka by another businessman, and had been asked by Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka to fund the ODM's no-vote campaign in the last year's November 21 referendum on the proposed Constitution.

They said they refused to do this, saying they never helped to fund political work, but said that instead they agreed to a request by Mr Odinga to lend him $1.5 million (about Sh108 million).

Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka have denied the claims and accused the Government of being behind the allegations "to tarnish the integrity of ODM leaders". . . .

"It is clear to us that the presence in Kenya of the two persons of questionable character and integrity is with the express knowledge of the Government at a very high level," he said at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi.

The leaders also queried the source of huge sums of money for the Armenians' investment and the bank through which the transactions were carried out.

And then there's this one, also from Kenya, which identifies the company involved as Brotherlink International: Confusion As Police Confront Armenian

The eight had gone to House 977 on Glory Road, off Runda Grove, as an advance team to provide security for detectives investigating the activities of Mr Margaryan and his brother, Mr Artur Sargsyan.

Mr Margaryan was to have been interviewed by Nairobi deputy provincial CID chief Isaiah Osugo, who was appointed last week by police commissioner Mohamed Hussein Ali to investigate claims by Lang'ata MP Raila Odinga that the brothers were mercenaries.  . . .

Mr Margaryan repeated his claims that he had in the past met Mr Odinga. He said it was between December 13 and 15, last year in Dubai, when he allegedly gave him the equivalent of Sh100,000 in UAE currency (dirham), to spend as he wished.

He said his brother would be returning to Kenya next week.

He went on: "I will go to court as well as demand protection from the Government because it was my right to ask for protection."

Mr Margaryan acknowledged that his company Brotherlink International Ltd had entered into a contract in January this year to rent the house. His company was involved in various businesses including car imports, electronics and real estate. . . .

Asked to explain why his brother's particulars were missing from the passenger manifest on the flight he claimed he had taken from Dubai to Kenya, he said all passengers from Arab countries used their mothers' names and not their own or their fathers'. . . .

After his brief chat with the journalists, Mr Margaryan returned to his compound and later drove off in a dark blue Subaru whose number plates were hidden behind strips of cardboard. He was accompanied by a woman who on Monday he claimed was his bodyguard.

This sure is getting interesting. I wonder where it will go.

MEANWHILE IN UGANDA, Peter Wadron (see my previous post) is facing charges. The Arms Dealer of the Lord turns out to also be a Bounty Hunter of the Lord as well: Jailed American Wanted to Grab Kony

Dr Peter Waldron, an American facing charges of illegal possession of arms, planned to use a Congolese rebel militia to capture Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

A highly placed source said Waldron planned to claim the $1.7 million bounty on Kony's head. Ugandan and US officials, however, remained tightlipped about the case, which is set to raise more eyebrows about Waldron and his involvement in Uganda.

The Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, told Daily Monitor that a charge of terrorism could be added after initial police investigations linked Waldron to anti-government propaganda. Among Waldron's various businesses and professional interests is a publication Africa Dispatch which has been critical of the arrest of Dr Kizza Besigye and the deployment of armed men at the High Court in Kampala during his trial in January.

"Obviously the Criminal Investigations Department have established a link between Waldron and several Congolese that were arrested in connection with illegally possessing guns," Kayihura said yesterday.

Until now the arrest of Waldron, an IT consultant with the Ministry of Health, who doubled as a born-again businessman with a variety of interests, has perplexed most observers.

Daily Monitor can now reveal that Dido Manyiroha, Waldron's co-accused, is one of the topmost leaders of Movement Révoluntionaire du Congo (MRC), a rebel outfit operating in Eastern Congo.

"He [Waldron] made a deal with MRC to do an operation in Garamba Park where Kony and his group are said to be hiding." a security source who declined to be named said.

"He promised to claim the reward on Kony's capture and share it with the group afterwards. He also advanced them $20,000 to organise the operation."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Kony, his field commander Vincent Otti and others, and has promised a reward of $1.7 million (over Shs3 billion) for his capture.

"MRC promised Waldron they have the men and the capacity to grab Kony because they are Congolese and they know the forests,"
the source added.

Praise the Lord, pass the amunition. Or something. (Thanks GW!) WALDRON UPDATE, 3/28/06: Waldron has been released and deported from Uganda. See Soj.

KENYA UPDATE: The Nation (whose registration process I finally managed to get to work) has some more lovely details on the Amrenian brothers:

Mr Musyoka emerged from a one-and-a-half hour session with the CID officer tasked to investigate the mercenaries allegations, Mr Isaiah Osugo, to state that he has never requested for funding from the two Armenians.

He said Mr Sanghani introduced the two foreigners, whom he described as "flamboyantly endowed in gold chains, rings, bracelets and watches" at the Grand Regency's Summit Club in late November last year.

"Whilst at the club, businessman Raju Sanghani walked over to where I was seated accompanied by two persons who were casually dressed and introduced them as businessmen from Dubai," Mr Musyoka said.

Mr Sanghani is the former owner of Guilders International Bank, chairman of Real Motors Group and an estate management firm.

During the 10-minute encounter, Mr Musyoka said one of the two foreigners introduced himself as a relative of the Armenian President and that he had set his eyes on a top political seat in his country.

In apparent reference to Mr Sargsyan, he said the Armenian told him of his business interests in DR Congo and inquired if Mr Musyoka could use his influence as a former Foreign minister to introduce him to President Kabila.

"I informed them that I knew President Kabila but was not well-acquainted with him. That was the end of our discussion," narrated the Mwingi North MP.

Contacted last evening, Mr Sanghani confirmed he had introduced Mr Musyoka to the two men in an "accidental" meeting.

He said the two were associates of a Dubai businessman, Mr Zakher Omar, a friend he had met in Mumbai, India, last year. Mr Omar deals in general commodities, steel rolling and real estate development in Dubai and India.

"He and l met accidentally at the hotel l was staying in and we got talking. I tried to interest him in investing in Kenya especially in real estate..."

"Sometime in November he came with two people he introduced as Arthur and James. He claimed they were members of the "royal" family in Armenia," Mr Sanghani said in a telephone interview.

He said that one evening during the three or four days which Mr Omar and his associates spent in the country, he took them to the Summit Club in the Grand Regency where they met Mr Musyoka.

"It was a casual, accidental meeting. I introduced them and told Mr Musyoka that they were members of the Armenian "royal" family. Indeed, l told him that one of the men was a presidential aspirant. I also told him that the men were interested in investing in gold and diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Mr Sanghani said.

On the face of it, these guys sound to me more like criminals and con-artits than mercenaries as such.

(See also The Yorkshire Ranter.)


Firedump: 3C-QRF the Second

Post mirrored from Soj at Flogging the Simian via also Alex Harrowell at The Yorkshire Ranter, as part of Operation Firedump, for the purpose of taking Viktor "Merchant of Death" Bout's planes out of circulation:

Right, another go to get 3C-QRF seized...

Soj is going for the Romanian Ministry of Transport. Post mirrored..

This is the text in Romanian language. If you want to participate, copy this:

    Domnul Ministru Gheorghe Dobru,

    Va scriem pentru a va informa cu respect despre existenta aeronavei model BAC-111, cu numarul de inregistrare 3C-QRF, cu numarul de fabricatie 61, care in prezent este localizata pe aeroportul Baneasa in Bucuresti, Romania.

    Aceasta aeronava este utilizata de compania "Jetex Flight Support", care este inregistrata in Guineea Ecuatoriala, dar in principal isi realizeaza afacerile in Sharjah in Emiratele Arabe Unite.

    Aceasta aeronava cu numarul de inregistrare 3C-QRF apartine companiei "San Air General Trading". In data de 16 martie 2004, Comitetul Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite a pus in discutie o lista care contine nume a indivizilor si companiilor carora le este interzisa calatoria si desfasurarea afacerilor datorita implicarii lor in razboiul civil din Liberia.

    http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia3/1521_list.htm

    Compania "San Air General Trading" se afla pe aceasta lista. Aeronava QC-3RF a fost de asemenea utilizata pentru a transporta arme catre Republica Democrata Congo in 2004, ceea ce reprezinta o violare a Hotararii Comitetului Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite.

    Desfasurand afaceri cu aceasta companie si aproband planurile sale privind operarea in Romania reprezinta o violare a Rezolutiei 1521 a Comitetului Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite.

    Cu respect va cerem luarea masurilor, de urgenta, necesare pentru interzicerea derularii afacerilor sau uzului personal pe aceasta aeronava. Aven informatii privind montarea unui alt motor pe aeronava, de asemenea, am dori confiscarea acestei aeronave de catre autoritati.

    Va multumim pentru timpul acordat si pentru luarea in considerare a cererii noastre.

    (your name and contact info)

It should be sent to this email: bpresa@mt.ro (Romanian Ministry of Transportation)
CC emails to Romanian press: marius.tuca@jurnalul.ro, razvan.ionescu@evz.ro, redactia@adevarulonline.ro, carol@cotidianul.ro, office@realitatea.tv, pr@protv.ro, stiri@antena3.ro

This is the English translation of the above letter. This is simply for non-Romanian speakers.

    Dear [Transportation] Minister Gheorghe Dobru,

    We write to respectfully inform you that there is a model BAC-111 aircraft, registration number 3C-QRF, serial number 61, which is currently located at the Baneasa Airport in Bucuresti, Romania.

    This airplane is being leased by the company "Jetex Flight Support", which is registered in Equatorial Guinea, but does business primarily in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

    This airplane with registration number 3C-QRF belongs to San Air General Trading, Inc. On March 16, 2004, the United Nations Security Council Committee issued a list of individuals and companies prohibited from traveling and doing business because of their involvement in the civil war in Liberia.

    http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia3/1521_list.htm

    The company San Air Trading, Inc. is on this list. This airplane QC-3RF was also used to fly in weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004, also in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

    Doing business with this company and allowing their planes to operate in Romania is violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1521.

    We ask that you immediately issue a prohibition for any business or individual to use this airplane. We have information that a replacement motor is soon to be installed on this plane, therefore we ask that this airplane be immediately confiscated by the authorities.

    We thank you for your consideration in this matter,

    (your name, contact info)

Time to move, lads. We may not have much.


Shadow Company Advance Screenings to be Held in Austin
March 12th, 14th, & 18th

Purpose Films has a rather good documentary on the private military industry, Shadow Company, coming out soon. There will be screenings at the South by SouthWest Festival in Austin. I highly recommend it. (I saw a draft version.) You can see a trailer via their website.  Also, do read Matt Armstrong's favorable review HERE.

2:00 PM, Sunday March 12th - Austin Convention Center
11:15 AM, Tuesday March 14th - Austin Convention Center
7:15 PM, Saturday March 18th - Alamo S. Lamar 1

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Guns & Christianity in Uganda

WaldronAlex of Yorkshire Ranter has just emailed me a link to my kind of blog post from  Bartholomew's notes on religion: US Christian Right Activist in Ugandan Jail over Illegal Guns. Anyone have any idea what's up with this? This seems like a narratively interesting situation if there ever was one. I know that certain segments of the American evangelical far right have a sweet tooth for the idea of mercenaries in Africa. I wonder if this situation has anything to do with the evangelical mercenary fetish.

Could face terror charges


Strange news from Uganda. The Kampala Monitor reported two days ago that

police in Kampala are holding an American national who was allegedly found with four illegal guns and 184 rounds of live ammunition. Police Spokesman Assuman Mugenyi told journalists at a press conference at Kibuli Police headquarters yesterday that Dr Peter E Waldron was arrested at about 8pm on Monday.


Waldron, 59, works as an Information Technology consultant for the Ministry of Health and has been living in Uganda since 2002. He was arrested at his home in Kisugu near International Hospital after a tip off.


Documents found on him indicate that Waldron is also an advisor to the President of Rocky Mountain Technology Group, Contact America Group Inc and Founder of City of Faith Ministries in Kampala.

(Actually, according Waldron’s website that should be “Cities of Faith Ministries”)

Apparently three men were seen near Waldron’s home dropping a bag; when a passer-by asked them what they were up to, he had a gun waved at him for his trouble. This rather unfortunate move led to an alarm being raised, and a hostile crowd forming:

They pleaded with the mob not to lynch them saying they would show them where more guns were hidden. "The suspects led the police to Waldron's house in Kisugu and on conducting a search, two more SMG rifles were recovered with 94 rounds of ammunition in a wardrobe in his bedroom and copies of The Africa Dispatch newsletter," he said. One of the men who were arrested was a Congolese national.

The Monitor also reports that

…Some of the pictures in the magazine show Waldron with diplomats in the High Court during the trial of [Dr Kizza] Besigye.

This raised the spectre of terrorism at the high court; however, a Reuters report says that this was incorrect:

Police mistakenly identified Waldron on Tuesday as being in a picture taken at the trial of opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and this, they said, was proof of a terrorist threat.

 

But on Wednesday they said they had been mistaken and the man in the picture was a senior diplomat, not the suspect.

This is a bit curious, given that Waldron’s appearance is somewhat distinctive (he has a large moustache). Reuters also provides some extra information:

An American evangelical and IT consultant, arrested in Uganda with assault rifles this week, planned to set up a political party, police said on Wednesday.

… Major-General Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, told a news conference Waldron was suspected of links to a group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and "planned to set up a political party here based on Christian principles."…

See also Jesus' General: Faith-based covert ops? 

Dr Peter E Waldron of Cities of Faith Ministries is the latest victim of Christian persecution in Africa. The former GOP operative, ex-President of The Save The Family Foundation, and member of the secretive Council for National Policy was arrested recently in Uganda for selling illegal "SMG rifles" (sub-machine guns).

Although such persecution is not unusual in Africa, this is the first case involving an arms dealer of the Lord. It is unclear whether Dr. Waldron was operating under a faith-based covert operations grant. There is no record on the Central Intelligence Agency website of anyone receiving such funding.

Just what is it about elections in places with fragile democracies that seems to draw the secretive American nutcases, anyway?

On his web site, Waldron explains his plan for Uganda: he plans to change the place through the miracle of branding (as in products, presumably, not irons). Exactly why he needed weapons to accomplish this is a bit mysterious.


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.

Cagblog
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.


Somalian TFG Cabinet minister Hassan Abshir insists Top Cat Marine Security, with which his government signed a two-year $55 million deal, is not only real, but also that TC is ready for combat

This is part of an ongoing series on the private military company Top Cat Marine Security, which is intertwined with a series on Consultants Advisory Group; both companies lack a valid street address and & refuse to disclose the identities of their management or owners.

From The Daily Nation in Kenya: Doubts over US firm in deal with Somalia

Story by KEVIN J. KELLEY in New York and STEPHEN MBURU in Nairobi
Publication Date: 2/5/2006
Mystery surrounds the operations of a US-based company, two months after it struck a controversial multi-million dollar contract with the Somali Transitional Federal Government to end piracy off the Horn of Africa's coastline.

But a TFG Cabinet minister Hassan Abshir insists Top Cat Marine Security, with which his government signed a two-year $55 million deal, is not only real, but also ready to combat persistent insecurity along the country's 2,000-kilometre-long coastline.

Mr Abshir, the Fisheries minister, sealed the deal in Naiorbi, with Top Cat's head of research and development Peter Casini.

Among those who witnessed the pact was Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi.

Telephone disconnected

But investigations by the Sunday Nation found that Top Cat's office in Manhattan is actually nothing more than a call-answering operation. There's no indication of Top Cat officials working there. The company's telephone number at its former headquarters in South Carolina has been disconnected.

A State Department official suggested that the TFG's contract with Top Cat for anti-piracy operations may well result in violation of the United Nations' arms embargo against Somalia.

While declining to comment specifically on the case of Top Cat, another State Department official said the US does not license exports of military items to countries that are under a US arms embargo. The ships that Top Cat says it will use in pirate interdiction actions would probably qualify as military items. The ships would also presumably be equipped with guns and other weapons.

A US-based company such as Top Cat would be subject to export licensing requirements regardless of where its military hardware would be imported from, the official added.

If a US company is found to be in violation of the licensing rules, it would be subjected to penalties under the US Arms Control Export Act. The official said the penalties would be financial and "of other sorts".

The Sunday Nation left four messages with Top Cat's answering centre in New York for Maryann Johnson, the company's vice president for public relations, but despite assurances that she, or another Top Cat official, would get back to us regarding the status of the Somalia contract, we never received a response.

And in Nairobi, Mr Abshir declined to discuss the deal with the Sunday Nation.

We wanted him to shed light on a number of issues including the existence of Top Cat, its capacity to carry out the contracted operations, when the work would begin, the procedure Somali government used to select the company, whether some consultants had been engaged, who would fund the deal and if it would be possible to implement the project as Somalia is under the UN and US arms embargo.

He only said: "They (Top Cat) are ready to come. When they come, I will call and give you all the details."


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?  

Slide1

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?

Slide2

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!

Ahem.

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 200.2.128.3 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 200.2.128.3 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 200.2.128.3 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.