Wikileaks: CONFIDENTIAL CABLE – Djibouti Approved Blackwater for Commercial Counter-Piracy Operations

“Western private security firms are seeking to re-establish the centuries-old system of ‘letters of marque and reprisal‘ that allows privateers to pursue maritime marauders.” (UPI story below).

CONFIDENTIAL Diplomatic cable from the American Embassy in Djibouti
to the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton included here.

What do they call it when something is not done to its fullest completion? — Half-assed?  Combatting Somali pirates without resorting to the constitutional authority of the Letters of Marque and Reprisals means the the U.S. Government is doing its job in a half-assed manner just like the job on securing the borders is half-assed and just like the NRA allegedly fighting for the Second Amendment but ignores the National Open Carry aspect of the Second Amendment as if it is a fright to keep keep and bear arms.

My constitutional question on National Open Carry and
Letters of Marque and Reprisal is:

“Why the Hell Not!?  

It seems to me that the Constitution of the United States specifically intended to preserve National Open Carry on land as well as on the high seas and any argument to the contary is political bullshit!

Alan McLean, Scott Shane, and Archie Tse, A Selection From the Cache of Diplomatic Dispatches, New York Times | World | State Secrets: A cache of diplomatic cables provides a chronicle of the United States’ relations with the World, December 17, 2010:

Date 2009-02-12 16:01:00
Source Embassy Djibouti Classification CONFIDENTIAL
DE RUEHDJ #0113/01 0431600
R 121601Z FEB 09
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0099 (Secretary of State, Washington, DC)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019-02-12
CLASSIFIED BY: Eric Wong, DCM, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy, 
Djibouti; REASON: 1.4(D)
1. (C) SUMMARY. U.S. security firm, Blackwater Worldwide (BW), has
received permission from the Government of Djibouti to operate an armed 
ship from the port of Djibouti, to protect commercial shipping from 
pirates off the coast of Somalia. Blackwater's U.S.-flagged ship is 
expected to arrive in early March, and will have a crew of 
33 [American Citizens], including three 6-man armed teams who will 
operate in continuous shifts. The Djiboutian Navy will secure Blackwater's 
weapons (i.e., .50-caliber machine guns) while ashore in Djibouti. 
Blackwater does not intend to take any pirates into custody, but will 
use lethal force against pirates if necessary; it is developing an SOP that 
is currently under legal review and will be shared with the 
[U.S. Government]. Blackwater's counter-piracy operation does not have any 
clients yet, but Blackwater expects business to develop following a public 
launch in Djibouti in March with [Government of Djibouti] 
officials. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) On Feb. 8, ex-FSO Robert Emmett Downey, Blackwater Worldwide's 
Development Manager for Africa, provided the following update to Amb. Swan, 
DCM, and Bob Patterson (TDY from Embassy Nairobi):
    a) Hassan Said Khaireh--triple-hatted as Djibouti's national security 
advisor, head of the security/intelligence service, and director of 
President Guelleh's Military Office--has given BW permission to operate 
its armed ship in Djibouti. BW met with Hassan Said on Feb. 7, following 
an earlier meeting in WashDC between BW's CEO Erik Prince and Cofer Black 
with Djiboutian Amb. to the U.S. Robleh Olhaye. This is the only such 
arrangement so far that BW has made with a host government in the region, 
but BW will likely engage Oman and Kenya in the future (e.g., in the 
event of a mechanical malfunction, the only facilities capable of
repairing BW's ship are located in Mombasa.) Within the [U.S. Government], 
BW has briefed AFRICOM, CENTCOM, and Embassy Nairobi officials.
    b) BW's ship is the 'McArthur," a U.S.-flagged 183-foot ex-NOAA vessel. 
While it has landing space for two helicopters, it will have an unarmed 
UAV, but no helicopters (which BW considers too expensive). The ship will 
be armed with .50-caliber machine guns, and is able to protect a 3-ship 
convoy. The Djiboutian Navy will secure BW's weapons, once ashore, and will 
inspect BW's weapons lockers. According to Downey, BW's business 
concept--having its armed ship escort other ships requiring protection--is 
consistent withrecent IMO/industry recommendations discouraging the 
carriage of firearms, or the presence of embarked armed security teams, 
aboard commercial ships themselves (e.g., see reftel, on the 85th session
of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee). The 'McArthur' will dock in Djibouti 
for 36-72 hours every 30 days, to replenish its stores. According to 
Downey, BW is the only such firm with its own ship.
    c) All personnel on BW's ship will be U.S. citizens: comprising 
15 crew and 18 armed security personnel (three 6-man teams who will operate 
in continuous 8-hour shifts). These 33 "operators" will rotate every 
60 days. For medical contingencies, BW has arranged--through its local 
agent in Djibouti, Inchcape (London-based international shipper with 
numerous business activities in Djibouti)--access to Bouffard, the French 
military hospital in Djibouti. The 'McArthur" will arrive in Djibouti in 
early March, after transitting Gilbraltar and Acaba, Jordan. BW CEO Erik 
Prince plans to travel to DJ for its public launch.
    d) Downey underscored BW's emphasis on compliance with U.S. laws, 
including defense trade controls: BW has a VP for export compliance, and 
depends on the [U.S. Government] (DOD) for contracts. BW's ship, the 
'McArthur", will have video cameras to record BW counter-piracy activities.
    e) BW has no intention of taking any pirates into custody. While the 
French have previously put pirates ashore in Puntland, Downey said BW had 
no plans to do so, either in Somalia or Kenya (noting that Kenya's 
bilateral PUC agreements with the USG and HMG were government-to-
government). BW will share its SOP with Embassies Djibouti and Nairobi 
once approved; [Standard Operating Procedure] is currently under legal 
review, as there is "no precedent for a paramilitary operation in a purely 
commercial environment." While asserting that international maritime law 
allows the use of lethal force against pirates, BW also recognizes the need 
to respect international humanitarian obligations. Of concern, for example, 
is whether BW would be responsible for assisting injured pirates, if doing 
so endangered BW's ability to protect its client(s).
    f) BW's local agent in Djibouti is Inchcape. Bruno Pardigon, general 
manager of the newly formed "Djibouti Maritime Security Services" (DMSS), 
will provide BW with a license, following completion of an MOU with DMSS. 
Downey was unsure whether DMSS was a parastatal or a quasi-government 
agency of the GODJ. [COMMENT: Pardigon is favorably known to the Embassy 
as a French-Djiboutian businessman and marine conservationist who runs a 
diving operation
in Djibouti.] While Downey will remain in Djibouti until March 2009, BW 
has no plans now to establish an office in Djibouti.
    g) While protection is estimated to cost less than $200,000 per trip, 
BW's Djibouti operation has no contracts yet for clients. Downey commented 
that the shipping industry may assess that piracy is declining: only 
3 ships were pirated in January 2009; there are at least 4 foreign naval 
vessels currently docked in Djibouti conducting counter-piracy operations; 
and the EU's Operation Atalanta is providing military escort of ships.
3. (U) COMMENT. Djibouti's decision to permit Blackwater to begin 
counter-piracy operations follows ongoing GODJ efforts aimed at addressing 
the piracy threat. Djibouti recently hosted an IMO conference on Somali 
piracy that, inter alia, recommended Djibouti serve as a center for 
maritime training. Numerous foreign military counter-piracy operations are 
based in Djibouti--involving units from Spain, France, the UK, the 
Netherlands, and other EU members. Japan (septel) and Korea are also 
considering military deployments to Djibouti to support counter-piracy 
efforts. Djibouti is a founding member of the Contact Group on Piracy 
off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and has offered to host the group's 
planned Counter-Piracy Coordination Cell.
4. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED. Blackwater's presence in Djibouti would make 
it one of the largest U.S. businesses operating in the country. As the 
host of the only U.S. military base in Africa, as well as a country with 
extensive commercial port facilities, Djibouti has a commercial interest 
in supporting foreign investors, including U.S. contractors. Blackwater 
executives seek to involve both Djiboutian and USG principals in a 
high-profile March 2009 launch; Post would appreciate Department's 
guidance on the appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater, while also 
fulfilling the USG's commercial advocacy responsibilities to support U.S. 

The Modesto Bee, Former Blackwater Bought by Group, December 18, 2010

An investment group with ties to the founder of the company formerly known as Blackwater announced Friday that it has bought the security firm, which was heavily criticized for its contractors’ actions in Iraq. USTC Holdings said in a statement that the acquisition of the company now called Xe Services includes its training facility in North Carolina. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. But the statement said owner and founder Erik Prince will no longer have an equity stake and no longer be involved in Xe’s management or operations. The company will be managed by a board appointed by the equity holders and will include independent, unaffiliated directors, the statement said.

By Mitch Potter, Wikileaks: Harper got Special D-Day Invite to Boost Image, Toronto Stary, Washington Bureau, December 1, 2010

• President Barack Obama’s diplomats were rattled when the controversial private security company Blackwater decided to expand by going into the pirate-hunting business, newly disclosed cables show.

Just weeks after Obama’s inauguration, U.S. Ambassador to Dijbouti James Swan sent a message seeking guidance from Washington on “the appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater,” which was poised to go after Somali pirates on the high seas in aboard the McArthur a retooled 60-metre oceanographic vessel kitted with 50-calibre machineguns.

The cable said, “Blackwater does not intend to take any pirates into custody, but will use lethal force against pirates if necessary.”

Ultimately, Blackwater’s bid for pirate-chasing contracts collapsed for lack of clients. The North Carolina-based firm, since renamed Xe Services, continues to provide services to the U.S. government, including the protection of CIA bases in Afghanistan.

Troy Reimink, Blackwater: Pirate hunters for hire?, The Grand Rapids Press, (Daily Newspaper for Grand Rapids, Michigan) December 01, 2010:

Blackwater’s plans had been reported, but the news in the leaked cable is that the U.S. embassy in Djibouti, the tiny nation in the Horn of Africa, had reservations about doing business with the company, which was under fire for allegations of abuse by its guards in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also, it seems the McArthur was no Love Boat. According to the Times, reports surfaced of a drunk captain who had ordered a crew member chained to a towel rack and of racial epithets directed toward an African-American crew member. In the end, the company, now called Xe Services, abandoned its pirate-hunting aspirations because it never landed any clients. Yarr, mateys. Yarr, indeed.

UPI, Call for Private Forces to Fight Pirates, May 10, 2010

MOGADISHU, Somalia, May 10 (UPI) — As Somali pirates extend their operation deeper into the Indian Ocean, Western private security firms are seeking to re-establish the centuries-old system of “letters of marque and reprisal” that allows privateers to pursue maritime marauders.

The system was introduced by King Edward III of England in the Middle Ages but it is also on U.S. statute books as Article One, paragraph 8, clauses 10 and 11, of the U.S. Constitution, and in Title 33 of the U.S. Code, paragraphs 385 and 386.

Maj. Theodore Richard, a lawyer in the Commercial Litigation Division of the U.S. Air Force, published a lengthy article in favor of reviving letters of marque in the Public Contract Law Journal in April.

On April 15, 2009, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, advocated the use of letters of marque and reprisal against the Somali pirates. The bills he introduced weren’t passed.

Paul was instrumental in introducing the Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 in Congress following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He maintained the hijacking of U.S. airliners constituted air piracy and he wanted to grant the president the authority to issue letters of marque and reprisal against specific terrorists.

He raised the issue again on July 21, 2007, but Congress has made no move toward invoking the constitution to combat piracy.

Still, Intelligence Online, a Paris Web site that covers global security issues, reports that “several private security firms” are pressing for the U.S. government and other Western authorities to re-establish letters of marque.

These would sanction private companies to actively hunt down pirates rather than just provide security teams aboard commercial vessels. That would be in line with the wide-scale outsourcing of security missions to private security companies who are active in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in support of U.S. and allied forces.

Allowing armed privateers to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden would supplement U.S. and European naval task forces off Somalia.

But it could be applied to other key maritime zones such as the Atlantic off oil-rich West Africa, the Red Sea, the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea where pirates are active.

As Somali pirates conduct operations further afield from the Gulf of Aden, in part because of international naval intervention, there is a growing need for more warships to protect shipping lanes across the Indian Ocean, a key energy artery between the Gulf and Asia.

Among the firms showing interest in the issue is Espada Logistics & Security Group of San Antonio, Intelligence Online reports.

Espada has a fleet of five patrol vessels deployed in the Gulf of Aden working for shipping companies but Intelligence Online says “it is looking into offering its services to governments as a pirate hunter.”

Espada has hired former employees of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater. In 2008, Blackwater, which was heavily engaged in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, purchased a research vessel, the MacArthur, and turned it into a private warship to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Only two private security companies are known to have actually secured government contracts to pursue the Somalia pirates. One is a British outfit called Hart, which was hired by Puntland, an independent enclave in northeastern Somalia, in exchange for payment in fishing licenses. The other is Nordic Crisis Management of Norway which has been working for Somaliland, another independent enclave, since 2006, with funding from Norway.

Intelligence Online reports that other private security firms, including Topcat Marine Security and Northbridge Services Group of the United States, Odyssey Consulting of Switzerland and Secopex of France signed anti-piracy deals with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, but “their performance did not amount to much.”

The first recorded use of letters of marque and reprisal was an English statute in 1354 during the reign of Edward III. This led to the exploits of English raiders such as Sir Francis Drake, who famously ravaged Spanish shipping in the name of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century.

During the American Revolution, state legislatures and later the Continental Congress authorized letters of marque. These were also issued to combat the Barbary pirates in the early 19th century but none has been legitimately issued by the United States since then.


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