Continuing the thread started with Unknown paying Lesser Known, that was followed by the UPDATE, which was followed by the Son of Update, is a deeper analysis on potential issues behind this contract. Some quick research turned up some data I personally wasn’t aware of before.

To get a better handle on the piracy in the area, and the complexity of relations, check out OSS.NET’s document, and then read on.

On 18 January 1993, Mark Fineman in a front page article in the Los Angeles Times wrote

…nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to
the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the
final years before Somalia’s pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was
overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. Industry
sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising
concessions are hoping that the Bush Administration’s decision to send
U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help
protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.

Conoco was apparently the "only major multi-national corporation to maintain a functioning office in Mogadishu throughout the past two years of nationwide anarchy" and was instrumental in US operations in the region.

The "tireless exploration efforts in north-central Somalia" of Conoco had shown great promise in an alternative oil source. Conoco’s corporate compound in Mogadishu was the "de facto American embassy" before the US Marines came to town. The link between Conoco and the US military involvement was close, "leading many to liken the Somalia
operation to a miniature version of Operation Desert Storm," largely seen by many as a move to protect the American and world’s oil supply.

West Indian Ocean
So, is there a link between the pirates, anti-piracy, and the TopCat cover story? Looking at the map and heavy traffic out of the Suez and south past the Horn is admittedly vulnerable, but perhaps just as important is the field Conoco was working is widely seen as an extension of the Yemeni fields worked by Hunt Oil. From the Hunt Oil website:

Subsequent to 1987, Yemen Hunt Oil as operator, has discovered an additional 12 commercial fields in the original contract area, discovered 5 other fields in a second contract area, and produced in excess of over 544 million barrels of oil. Just as important, Hunt Oil Company has discovered over 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marib area which has led to the creation of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in which Hunt has a substantial role.

(The US isn’t the only interested in Yemeni resources, see Germany, Yemen Sign Agreements.)

What of the civil war and fights between war lords? Gareth Evans wrote an editorial in the 22 November 2005 Los Angeles Times noted "a flurry of diplomatic activity in Nairobi, Addis Ababa and New York" prevented "catastrophic new civil war looked certain to erupt in Somalia this year."

The attention on Somalia is not new even if media attention is. Energy politics with China are clearly heating up. There was a graphic I saw showing the economic and military aid China is passing out in Africa, along with energy resources. The United States has a very thirsty rival to deal with.

Increasing interest in the region, including Deputy Secretary of State’s fourth recent trip to Darfur since April 2005, is juxtaposed with Bolton’s block thrown in the UN. Interest is there, but it is limited. The US chooses a path to obstruct China? Keep the issue muddled? This Administration is clearly the obfuscation king (this author is a Republican by the way). This shuttle diplomacy and meetings with Sudanese is recently documented here and here at WashingtonPost.

A regional online newspaper has similar comments on this, including Sudan becoming "a major oil supplier to China." China has apparently invested "more than US$3 billion since 1999 building oil pipelines from southern Sudan to the Red Sea port." This has caused led to the above political moves to increasingly highlight genocide and the overall humanitarian disaster in oil-rich Darfur in southern Sudan, a move not lost on Beijing, who has "threatened a United Nations veto against any intervention against Sudan."

Between Puntland’s immigration and illegal fishing are robbing the area of future funding for a state and reducing the rich biodiversity. Eco-tourism anyone? Not when journalists are being abused. So is this what TopCat is for? To enforce fishing laws so ships are seized for ransom (so many link options here, including UN aid ships etc)?

Unlikely. Are there other maritime security outfits that already specialize in that region? Based on the US Maritime Expo exhibitor list, a good number of vendors show operate in the industry, but not perhaps in the region. (By the way, the list was updated 29 Nov 05 and TopCat Marine Security is not yet on the list. Perhaps their application is in the mail. Also, TC is apparently not watching their site because all links on their site are still broken as of early 1 Dec 05. Nor were they at Clean Gulf conference in Texas this year, but maybe they were waiting for the $50m to clear.) Considering it is a small company, it might be expected, but far from assumed, they’d show up, especially since they apparent prime customer is domestic, until now that is.

Of course TopCat will be providing more than boats in this contract. Where they will base, if its in country, and remain littoral? Then won’t TC be just like the pirates USED to be
before they acquired their "mother ship"? Will TC acquire an expensive but highly suitable ship (probably not that expensive) for blue water operations? 

If security was really a big deal, the Yemeni arms market might gain greater attention. Still, some problems continue to linger over this deal:

  1. Transparency. There is none. This provider has a checkered history. Purpose and design of this contract ($50m+ barrier for example) makes this opaque if anything.
  2. Fair play. Was TC really the best candidate for the job? Did the "local" "government" really come to the finding that this provider was superior or were there other contributing factors?
  3. Money and Morals. $50m+ is a lot of spending money for some boats. There is something else here.

One last comment. If active duty will be deployed, then again, it should and could have been done more discretely. If however, this is a completely private operation, then further "foreign policy by proxy" is not going to help when the our chief for Public Diplomacy is amazed that countries are larger than her state. The world is looking and so is our own military. Trust in the Executive branch is waning from abuse. Intelligence and military services are direct reports to the Executive branch. In effect, they serve at the whim, the intelligence services especially, of the President. The buck stops there, except in this Administration.

Intelligenct Munitions

News brief on Intelligent Munitions System (IMS) continuing the conversation / awareness of remote controlled warfare.

Matrix system uses a laptop computer to remotely control both lethal M-18 claymore munitions and nonlethal M-5 modular crowd-control devices, which contain rubber pellets. Matrix is ideal for firebase security, landing-zone security, and both infrastructure and check-point protection.

UPDATE 2 on The $50m contract to fight piracy, a primer on privatized force

The recent $50m deal between TopCat Marine Security and Somalia has apparently opened some eyes to the world of private military companies. Two leading experts / authors in the field today, Deborah Avant (The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security) and P.W. Singer (Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)), refer to these private enterprises as Private Military Companies and Private Military Firms, respectively (there are other authors and resources I’d recommend, see my reading list on the right). What many people do not understand, not through lack of caring but through a cloud of understandable and encouraged ignorance, is the private sector has long been involved in providing private tactical military force. Personally, I prefer to use the phrase "private military force" to separate legal and moral accountability and utilization questions away from for-profit motives and from other modes as logistics, training, and assistance. However, in the TopCat Marine Security and Somalia deal, money and service are inextricably linked.

Continue reading “UPDATE 2 on The $50m contract to fight piracy, a primer on privatized force

UPDATE on The $50m contract to fight piracy… the unknown paying the lesser known

Top Cat Marine Security is registered under Laura Casini, Esq. at what seems like a residential location.I mention the location because there are some interesting circumstances
surrounding this company. It had moved its operations to St Stephen,
South Carolina, to the great expectations of the locals. But, then in Oct 2004, things changed according to the local news: "the
door to Top Cat is padlocked, the company is facing
eviction, one of its top officials has been arrested on a charge of
issuing a fraudulent check and a default judgment was issued against
the company Monday." Interesting bit is the title of Peter Casini:
Chief Operating Officer. He seems to have gotten a promotion in the
last year, but in a Reuters article he’s head of research and development.

Removed from the site TopCat Marine Security site
recently is their address after some have questioned their shared
location with other sites Here’s the cached version.
It seems they share an answering service with other firms (after doing
some WhoIs searching and google address search). The office of record
is just a phone bank. Not particularly normal for a firm awarded with a
$50m international contract.

The webmaster, as of this writing, broke all the links on TopCat Marine Security, all
links now begin with: file:///macintosh%20hd/users/brian/desktop/. A little fidgeting, and the press release for the Somalia contract is available here:

Somalia, which hasn’t had an effective government since 1991, can’t deal with the pirates — and the U.S. government this week advised ships to travel in convoys or simply stay away. Top Cat’s strategy is to go
after the "mother ship" that launches small, high-speed boats
some 100 miles off the coast to carry out the attacks.

"Our goal is to take the mother ship," Casini said from Nairobi,
Kenya. "To disable, to disarm, whatever it takes."

Under their contract the company will set up five bases where former Navy
SEALs and Army Special Forces members will train the anti-pirate teams.
The firm will also provide state-of-the-art patrol boats, backed by helicopters, to go after the mother ship.

The final comments:

  • Where’s the money coming from? CNN/Reuters would like asks…
  • From the PMC commentators… "how long until a pirate attack w/ a Cobra boat?"
  • The State Department had to approve this contract. Some reports list the contract at $55 million, but that exceeds the min for notifying Congress. Likely it is just below ($49.9m), but it still required State approval.

:: SEE UPDATE 2 ::
This updates a previous article

The $50m contract to fight piracy… the unknown paying the lesser known

On 25 November 2005, the "Transitional Federal Government of Somalia" signed a $50m deal with US private marine security company Top Cat Marine Security, Inc. to "establish new Somalia Coast Guard and Security Forces". The press release on Top Cat’s website was unavailable as of this writing (403 error). According to a Chinese online newspaper, Topcat "will help fight terrorism, curb illegal fishing and combat pirates, who have used speed boats, automatic weapons and satellite phones to target UN-chartered ships and other vessels." This may provide to be an interesting case study on private security forces.

The progenitor of Topcat is likely CobraBoats, the firm owned by Peter Casini, Jr. Mr Casini holds the patents on the high-speed boat technology (see sections for 8 Feb 01 and 18 Mar 02) that Topcat was likely created to hire out.

Not sure if there’s anything to it, but Xinhua reports the deal was with "Somali Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah" and Topcat and not the head of state Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, as reported by BBC.

The absence of a functioning government in Somalia raises the obvious questions of who is funding this operation. The cost of the contract is actually curious itself: $50m. This is at, and likely just below, the threshold of required to notify Congress for contracting of defense services. It was hard to read, but it also seems Somalia is still an embargoed country, without an update since 1993.

The long of it is the Bush Administration has allowed this to take place. Why? To provide additional security through tax payer dollars to the region? Or is NATO or the EU picking up part of the bill? Highly doubtful.

:: See related Somalia posts here ::

When having a secret meeting, keep it a secret

When conducting secret negotiations, make sure both sides are entirely clear about what they can disclosure. Do the arm twisting up front. Then again, maybe it was simply posturing on the other side but what could he gain by backtracking? From UPI: Paracha Changes Story on Hughes Meeting:

Paracha initially confirmed that he met last Friday with U.S. State Department Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes and U.S. military officials at Islamabad’s Serena Hotel, according to GEO Pakistan News. The Daily Times reported that following a telephone call from "American officials in Islamabad," Paracha subsequently changed his account of what transpired and said, "I met U.S. businessmen who were visiting Pakistan in connection to the Oct. 8 earthquake. "There was no U.S. government official at the meeting. I was told was that U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes was also staying at the same hotel. I did not meet her, but saw her from close."

Not a Civil War? Civil Terrorising?

According to Gen Pace and SecDef Rumsfeld, the internal conflict in Iraq is not representative of a civil war:

Q:  Isn’t there a civil war already going on in Iraq?  And the United States presence, isn’t that exacerbating that civil war?

PACE:  There is in fact some factional fighting between Sunnis and Shia and Kurds, but that is not what you describe it to be.  What you do have is individuals in all three of those communities who want to terrorize the Iraqi people…

RUMSFELD:  I would only add one thing.  Clearly the General is correct,
there is not a civil war as such.  There is tension.  There always have

Controlling the vocabulary is very important in any debate. The end of major military operations, as the benchmark carrier landing became known (instead of "Mission Accomplished"), and the refusal to term Rwanda a genocide or the contemporary issue in Iraq as a civil war is pure propaganda in the academic sense.

Blair ‘convinced Bush’ not to launch strike at Al-Jazeera

From the website comes an extremely disturbing headline that is likely to cause a huge furor in the United States, Middle East, Europe, and the rest of the world: Blair ‘convinced Bush’ not to launch strike at Al-Jazeera.

TONY BLAIR had to persuade US President George Bush not to launch a military strike on the studios of TV station Al-Jazeera.

New reports claim the two leaders debated an attack on the station which has broadcast video messages from al-Qaida head Osama bin Laden and leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, as well as clips of dead British and US soldiers.

This possible revelation (subject to proven authenticity) would validate (unfortunate) long held beliefs of the targeting of al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi and other press services. The harm to use public diplomacy is going to be beyond compare if this story is not countered with facts. Attacking the media, regardless of the offices being housed in a friendly country, Qatar, is a heinous and reprehensible statement on the democratic tradition of free media. A dichotomy that will not be lost on "America’s enemies" (and friends).

Worse, this story will be more congruent with audiences with the recent public attacks and counter-attacks over charges of intelligence manipulation and increasing revelations and awareness of poor war and post-conflict planning. The Murtha exchanges and the "reprehensible comments" (MSNBC, LA Times, WashingtonPost) will simply make this story resonate all the more with an on the fence or other side of the fence audience.

Going right along with the sinking ship of the Bush Administration’s credibility is the recently (17 Nov 05) announced investigation of Douglas Feith "of manipulating information".

Where does the buck stop?

Credibility: a requirement for a Spokeman but not a country?

Human nature is fascinating, everybody knows that. We either tend to believe people or we tend not to believe people. Sometimes we want to believe what is congruent to our belief systems and disbelieve that which is not. This to-believe-or-not is influenced by by the valiance of the item and the visibility or frequency of the item, to borrow from Jarol Manheim. In the case of a country, the relationship with the news provider may cause a leaning one way or the other, and in the case of a reporter, influence the output, in this case the news.

Pressbriefingscscott The construction of the White House Press Secretary, in the American tradition, provides a level insulation from the President and the Administration as whole. When messages fail to maintain positive traction with the reporters in the room, the inoculative effect of the messenger increases. Because of intentional independence of the Spokesman, potential "crash & burn" media briefings may be seen as frustration in reporting (the reporter might to work more since the information desired is not as readily available as desired or expected), a loss of credibility from the Spokesman, but apparently not of the Administration. In the case of Scott McClellan, his rumored resignation is founded on this notion.

According to PR Week (14 Nov 05):

are certain things no effective press secretary can do without. Topping
the list are a podium, a BlackBerry, and credibility.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan certainly has the first and
probably the second. It’s the third that some are starting to doubt.

First, it is interesting how much leeway certain people get. The desire to trust, if it matches our pre-formed beliefs, is strong and for reporters who are dependent on the Press Secretary for their jobs, they really want to trust him. Interesting is this trust is not transferred to the Administration, or distrust for that matter, in equal amounts. The Press Secretary is a convenient firewall.

In contrast, the spokesperson of the UK Prime Minister is not identified by name nor is there a picture of the "Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson" (seen as the PMOS or PMS). The language of the PMOS is polite and formal, as is expected of the British of course, and never standing in front of the PM to take a bullet. The difference is largely in the managerial style of the chief executive. The buck stops with the Prime Minister for he has to defend it personally and weekly during the Prime Minister’s Question Time in Parliament. In reality, the PMOS is the spokesman for the government of the Prime Minister. This model makes the American Press Secretary more like a separate office, which is the goal when trying to insulate.

There are a couple of interesting exchanges Scott McClellan had with the press recently that should have reflected poorly on the Administration but because of the construct of the Office of the Press Secretary, had far less of an impact on the Administration’s credibility. The impact being mostly constrained to McClellan himself. The credibility problem only becomes the White House’s problem when it hurts a certain level because, in point of fact, the Press Secretary is granted his own leeway.

In a Press Briefing 13 Oct 05 the Press Secretary attempted to dodge and twist questions and answers but the press was having less and less patience with it. Attempts to defer to DoD, sometimes allowed, were not. On 8 Nov 05, there was a long back and forth with a reporter asking for a clear yes or no answer with the Press Secretary dancing around.

The reality of his likely resignation is not his deteriorating (deteriorated?) relationship with the press, but the need to get a new lightening rod in the press room. The reporters give the Press Secretary a lot of freedom at the beginning of his shift, more so than they should but an understandable amount considering the relationship. A less distinct office would allow less time to "get up to speed", a disadvantage to any entity looking for distance between policy and message.

Recruiting Goals and the Executive

News about recruiting is not generally interesting and usually far from exciting, usually a less exciting version of the press releases that triggered the story. Of course, there is more information behind the story and interesting aspects of what was not told. My interest is in the later part.

An AP story, Military Recruitment Hits October Targets (10 Nov 05), is an all-too easy re-write of a press release:

The Army, which missed its recruiting goal for 2005 by a wide margin,
got off to a good start in the new budget year by exceeding its October
targets for the active-duty Army as well as the National Guard and

Continue reading “Recruiting Goals and the Executive

White phosphorus: who knew what and why? did they care?

What do people hear when the news says the "the Pentagon now admits using white phosphorus despite earlier denials"? It sounds a lot like the United States Armed Forces lied. What the public hears, both foreign and domestic, is another cover-up. Critical to the real story, especially this one, is who really said what and what is the "Pentagon".

An analysis on the BBC News website (16 Nov 05) used that exact phrase (emphasis mine):

The Pentagon’s admissiondespite earlier denials – that US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year is more than a public relations issue – it has opened up a debate about the use of this weapon in modern warfare.

The admission contradicted a statement this week from the new and clearly under-briefed US ambassador in London Robert Holmes Tuttle that US forces "do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons".

From a news story on the BBC News website the same day (16 Nov 05) (emphasis mine):

The US has now admitted using white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year, after earlier denying it.

In both of these, just two samples among a huge number of news stories and blogs on the subject, switch between military and civilian personnel without care or knowledge.

The Eccentric Star Public Diplomacy blog has an excellent list of news stories on this and some very good analysis about conflicting information within the "monolithic", per foreign audiences, US government. The foreign press and public do not discern a difference between military and civilian in the United States because either a) the military elites are the civilian elites or b) military statements come through civilian channels either implicity or explicitly. In the US, the fraying civil-military relationship pushed the military to make its own statements.

As is the case for the last several years, the civilian leadership disregarded input from the military leadership, likely not even asking about before responding. The Administration’s demonstrated distrust and lack of faith in the military tears at the foundational civil-military relationship on which democracy is built. This situation, if one simply scratches the surface, is indicative of the friction between civil and military leaderships.

The evidence used by the military and the media to show the "US Government" know of the use of "Willie Pete" is a journal article, "The Fight for Fallujah". The public relations "issue" created by the civilian leadership failing to properly research the question led to the negative reaction by the world press and global public. This could have been diffused earlier by establishing credibility and emphasizing the miscommunication.

Rarely included in the news or blogs is a quote by Pentagon spokesman, Lt Col Barry Venable, stating "earlier denials had been based on "poor information"". The public relations problem is mostly because the Administration does not forcefully move to correct the misinformation or, more importantly, lend credibility to the reason why the improper denial was advanced in the first place.

Are we safer?

This article requires little additional commentary, although much could be said to explain & reinforce the commissions statements. From (14 Nov 05) US – 9/11 body attacks White House:

The US commission that investigated the attacks of September 11 2001 warned on Monday that the government was failing to move quickly to isolate terrorist groups and discourage weapons proliferation.

The report gives failing grades of “insufficient progress”, “minimal
progress” and “unfulfilled” on US efforts to prevent terrorists from
acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD), better defining the US
message to the Muslim world, and establishing clear standards for
terrorist detention among all members of the US-led coalition fighting
the war on terror.

The status report called on President George W. Bush to “maintain a
sense of urgency” in making non-proliferation, securing nuclear
material and preventing terrorists from acquiring WMD his top national
security priority, as well as demanding that Congress provide the
necessary resources for the effort.

Update on the Cruise Ship Pirate Attack

This is an update / post mortem on my item on LRAD and Defending the cruise ship

Since I posted the item from the TimesOnline stating a sonic weapon (named LRAD from the manufacturer) was used to repel a pirate attack, the major news outlets have since updated their stories to reflect this information. It seems the cruise ship owner has also realized the value the weapon, although a press release on their site does not acknowledge the device.

The "ultra luxury" cruise industry obviously has a lot to lose with
increasing acts of piracy and an increase in the number of
piracy-related deaths. This may bring a problem that has been growing
for the last decade to the forefront of international news, sneaking behind the front pages for years has been increasing concerns of disruption to shipping channels.

Questions about the ships location
(only 100 miles from shore) are now being raised. It is sure that
anti-piracy laws (which laid the foundations for the Laws of War and
the term filibuster) will also be discussed, especially framed as acts of terrorism (criminal without pecuniary gains) acts and not acts of robbery. From a follow-up AP news story:

Seabourn has said it appeared the attackers were pirates whose
motivation was robbery. But Petersen doubted that was the case, because
he said pirates would have tried to disable the ship’s steering and
propulsion if they wanted to get onboard. Witnesses said the attackers
shot grenades toward passengers.

Here is the WashingtonPost’s post-mortem on the incident.

Consequences of privatization of security .:. in practice in Iraq

The details are clear on this one. Any security change, as the article notes, is scary and likely to result in problems. However, when it is the Green Zone and elections are coming up, are corporate concerns more important? Would this change happen if these were public force (i.e. US Military) units instead of private force units? Probably not. The hand off would be delayed or there would be a significant overlap, something that is simply not possible with these private companies. From Green zone security switch causes anxiety:

Though the entrances and perimeters of the zone are
patrolled by Iraqi forces and some coalition troops, much of the
interior — including the embassies and the 12-story Council of
Ministers building — is guarded by a private security company.

British-based Global Strategies Group lost the contract for the job in an open bidding process and handed over responsibility on Tuesday to Triple Canopy Inc., a Virginia-based company formed after the 2003 Iraq war by Delta Force veterans.

This is one of the most significant items:    

concern is that Triple Canopy employees have been recruited mainly in
Latin America and speak little English. Global Strategies relies
heavily on British-trained Nepalese Gurkhas and Sri Lankans, a majority
of whom speak at least some English and often speak it well.

wonder if the Latin American soldiers were details in the bidding
process and if said process including evaluation criteria on the
military impact of this. Generally, the ability of Private Military
Companies to interact with regular military is ignored. In this case,
it is clear that is not possible.

This and similar contracts are approved by the civilian leadership,
in this case the State Department, and not the military leadership.

58 percent question his integrity

From the WashingtonPost: Bush’s Popularity Reaches New Low.

58 percent in poll question his integrity.

Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office — the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.

Examining the Bush Administration’s record in military security policy reveals a key marker of democracy is derisively dismissed. Outsourcing of key military, and hence political, missions in the “Global War on Terror” to private military forces is corrosive to effective and practical political leadership, ownership, and management that are not lost on the military elites.

While the popularity rating is more interesting to the media, it is the sub-headline of "58% question his integrity" that is more important. It has already been said that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have done more damage to our military than any enemy could possibly do. Between Wolfowitz overruling military commanders on force sizing for Iraq (Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Force’s Size) and delays in providing equipment (body armor, up-armored vehicles) and stop-loss orders, the ability to replenish our forces is diminishing. This hits on three sides: recruiting the grunts, the officer corp morale, and the breadth of the population with direct relations with members of the military. More later…

The LRAD and the cruise ship

There is an interesting piece of information not in either CNN or BBC as of this writing on the pirate attack on a cruise liner, the Seabourn Spirit, off the coast of Somalia. From the TimesOnline:

The liner used a sonic blaster to foil the pirates. Developed by American forces to deter small boats from attacking warships, the non-lethal weapon sends out high-powered air vibrations that blow assailants off their feet. The equipment, about the size of a satellite dish, is rigged to the side of the ship.

Sonic "weapons" have reportedly been used by Israeli military in Gaza and Lebanon. This "poor man’s system" (not cheap when considering the cost of operating a jet but cheap in the terms of R&D) uses jet aircraft to create a sonic boom, intentionally creating shock waves that locals (Palestinians) say is similar to "an earthquake or huge bomb. They describe the effect as being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and ‘leaving you shaking inside.’"

The device used by the cruise ship was a "proper" sonice weapon, designed and developed for a specific purpose.

The weapons technology the cruise ship apparently had, according to the TimesOnline, is an LRAD (Long Range Accoustic Device).
This 45-pound, dish-shaped  non-lethal weapon is response to the 2000
USS Cole attack as a deterrent to small boat attacks. Apparently, these
devices have been used on US ships since the summer of 2003.

the Army and Marines have added this auditory barrage dispenser to
their arms ensembles. Troops in Fallujah, a center of insurgency west
of Baghdad, and other areas of central Iraq in particular often deal
with crowds in which lethal foes intermingle with non-hostile civilians.

the growing stable of non-lethal weapons is a Star Trek phaser gun made
real: the Active Denial System will repel enemies with a painful energy

I am curious if the TimesOnline got it right since other sources, including the WashingtonPost, CNN, and BBC did not report on this (as of this writing / posting). CNN reported the cruise ship outran the pirates. The BBC reports ‘the crew simply took evasive action without returning fire’. According to Daily
International Vessel Casualties & Pirates Daily Report
, "gunmen sailing in 3 boats later abandoned chase as they could not venture into high seas".

Or, are they being fanciful. I would tend to believe they got it
right if their description of the cruise ship is correct. It was odd to
read in BBC / CNN the ratio of crew to passengers by better than 1:1 on
the US-owned ship. The ship, owned by a Miami-based subsidiary of
Carnival Cruise Lines, must be an "ultra-luxery" boat with such a high complement of sailors / staff to passengers. Hence, their ability and desire to have such a device.

Modern weapons for modern, indiscriminate war. It will be
interesting to see if news starts to report the use of the LRAD or if
it disappears. This defensive measure is conceptually similar to
equiping airlines with counter-measures against SAM (surface-to-air
missile) attacks.

[UPDATE: CNN reported 7 Nov 05 — one day after I wrote this article — that a ‘sonic weapon’ was used. They did no indicate their source.]

:: SEE UPDATE 9 November 2005 ::

Marines get OK for Special Forces

Lurking below the surface of better integration with domestic and foreign militaries is one of the last paragraphs in the news announcement Marines get OK for Special Forces:

Also, many veteran special forces troops have been lured into the booming private security industry, where their skills can command salaries of more than $200,000 a year.

This commanding statement alludes to a real problem of highly trained professionals: pay or honor. This doesn’t have to be the dialectic it is. I believe the drive for special operations is an effort to reinvigorate the institutional aspect of the military, away from the occupational, while combing greater pay and skills.