What happens when you put two military forces within close proximity with each other, do not integrate C2, or otherwise share IFF resources? Is it called friendly fire when a US military force fires upon a US corporate force?

The Marine Corps Times,, and NPR have raised the profile of an incident last month where US Marines halted a private military force comprised of US and Iraqi citizens…

Marines with Regimental Combat Team 8 detained 19 civilian contract
workers in Fallujah, Iraq, in late May after the contractors were seen
firing from their vehicles on Marine positions and Iraqi vehicles,
according to a Corps press release.

The Marine Corps times is the only news outlet I reviewd that included
the reference the governing rule of law for private security forces, Memorandum 17 issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority in its last days (also stored here since the CPA website may be offline after 30 June 2005).

Private security companies in Iraq are regulated under Memorandum 17, a rule enacted
under the Coalition Provisional Authority that requires them to
register with the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Trade and
be free of a criminal record or terrorist ties. The memorandum also
spells out a “code of conduct” that stipulates that when contractors
use their weapons, they must “fire only aimed shots, fire with due
regard to innocent bystanders [and] immediately report [the] incident
and request assistance.”

The company involved, Zapata Engineering, put out a statement on 9 June 2005 disagreeing with the Marine’s account of being fired upon or witnessing Zapata’s men firing from their vehicles.

On Saturday, May 28, 2005, Zapata Engeineering employees were engaged in a routine convoy in Northern Iraq. Marine Corps personnel in a nearby outpost intercepted the convoy team. Citing
security concerns, the Marines escorted the convoy without incident to
Camp Fallujah for questioning. Convoy personnel cooperated fully with
the Marines’ requests. Prior to this date, we had safely completed
hundreds of similar convoy missions in Iraq.

The fact Zapata Engineering was engaged on a US Army Corps of Engineers contract is important in how this could play out. Memo 17 requires registration and provides certain limitations ("primary role of PMC is deterrence") and constraints ("liable under applicable criminal and civil codes") but enforcement requires the backing of the US government.

The UK House of Commons issued a report in 2002 identifying the US as having the most
extensive regulatory regime, partially as a result of attempts to control weapons
technology and partially as a result of the American legalist tradition. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of 1986 has a significantly high threshold and limited functional oversight. A functioning bilateral Status of Forces agreement (CPA’s Order 91, also available here, is a related problem here)  would be indicative of a functioning government capable of upholding its contractual obligations.

The US Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) of 2000, along with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), apply to persons who are employed by or accompanying the armed forces outside the
United States or who are members of the armed forces and subject to UCMJ and
who are not a national or resident of the nation in which the crime occurred.
The punishment for committing the new crime is that which would have been
imposed under federal law had the crime been committed in the United States. However, Zapata’s forces were not accompanying US armed forces and MEJA has no teeth and has never been used.

There is always the humanitarian law bucket. The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) of 1789 and the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 1991 rely heavily on expensive prosecutions within the US. Zapata, if they were to press charges, would likely not have the financial resources or the strong case.

The most likely resolution of this situation is the US government threatening (with the potential to follow through) to terminate the contract with Zapata.

This incident is clearly a harbinger of things to come. What happens when things go more wrong? See a detailed timeline of the Belarus mercenaries conducting (possibly) extracurricular services for the Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivorie November 2004. The retaliation by the French was severe and then promptly silenced by the same. This was likely due to their desire to limit foreign interest in their (re)colonial intervention.

When outsourcing fails you

Microsoft’s South Korean MSN site, apparently very popular, more so than the US version, is operated by a third party. This vendor apparently did not patch their servers hosting MSN Korea, allowing for the malicious code to be inserted. On the technical side, disconcerting is the (currently) unknown (or not made public) duration the malicious code was operating.

Source: – Microsoft:MSN site hacked in South Korea – Jun 2, 2005.

Microsoft acknowledges that hackers booby-trapped its MSN Web site in South Korea to steal passwords from visitors.

Continue reading “When outsourcing fails you”

Remote Sensing

Remote-control and remote-sensing warfare is advancing each day. Add to my previous post on remote cameras this nugget of information:

These ‘rocks’ … will be sent from an aircraft and will detect enemies by ‘listening’ to them from 20 to 30 meters. These sensors should be operational within 18 months and they should be cheap enough to leave them on the battlefield after they completed their tasks.

Source: Roland Piquepaille and DefenseTech

Closing and reducing the sensor-to-shoot window is but one element here, other dimensions are intelligence and security. Similar to the acoustic nets for submarines, these can be a force multipliers for recon and perimeter sentries, among other applications. We need to be cautious not to rely too heavily on technology to provide us the answer whether to shoot or not. The new asymmetric enemy will foil the best technology. We need to keep humans in the loop to give the human interpretation.


Criminal Funding of Terrorism Continues

Terrorist groups have frequently relied on criminal acts to fund their operations. The short-lived era of state-sponsored terrorism has apparently ended with the latest wave of globalization. Terrorist organisations are forcibly less dependent on state or Wahhabite funds, depending on the cause and benefactor. Pecuniary resources are, of course, necessary to further any operation and as Bruce Hoffman notes, "terrorist campaign[s] [are] like a shark in water: it must keep moving forward…or die."

Continue reading “Criminal Funding of Terrorism Continues”

Ignoring history doesn’t change it

From: ABC News: U.S. Brochure Drops Arms-Control Deals.

The brochure…lists milestones in arms control since the 1980s, while touting reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. But the timeline omits a pivotal agreement, the 1996 treaty to ban nuclear tests, a pact negotiated by the Clinton administration and ratified by 121 nations but now rejected under President Bush.

I don’t have time to comment yet, will add to this later, but this seems a bit revisionist. It is one thing to disagree and debate with valid (your perception may vary) arguments, but to ignore something with the hopes people will forget and move along? So many anecdotes, so little time.

Make Law(fare) Not War(fare)

From: INTEL DUMP – Bring ’em on.

New Army War College journal piece says we should be worried about our enemies fighting us in our courts — I say "lawfare" is vastly preferable to "warfare".

An excellent article from a must-read site.

Remote (far and near) monitoring advances

Looking for some remote monitoring? Two really cool options: the Mini Unattended Ground Imager (MUGI) and Eye Ball R1.

First, the MUGI from Defense Tech: Buried Cameras for Hidden Foes. This neat device includes such hot features as a laser marker to "close the sensor-to-shooter cycle", the ability to leave physically unattended for long cycles, and of course, remote control. The notion of this forward air traffic controller is slick, but the in-place knowledge is still lacking, for those considering peppering the operational theatres with these. However, what if next to the fake rock hiding the camera in say an urban environment, there was a Batman-style cave garage for an RC car to go zooming in for a better look?

Now for the Eye Ball… Think of a bowling ball. Think of hurling it down stairs, through a hole, into a cave and you’ve got the new Eye Ball R1. Put the ball anywhere, even on a remote controlled car which the article mentions may have already been done.

Eye Ball R1’s omni-directional camera can rotate at 4 rpm until a
target is identified, and then give the operator a 55-degree horizontal
and 41-degree vertical field of view, as well as near-infrared (IR)
spectrum night vision capability for low-light deployment/night

BALL? STRIKE!: Throwable Spy Camera System.

The value, besides being able to know what is around the corner or in the room, is the future intersection of RC mobility, remote observation, lethal/non-lethal force, and communication toward those little spider things from Minority Report.

Guides to Britain, Iraq (for WWII GIs but also for today)

Before returning from a term at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, a friend gave me a book a great little book: Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942. This was issued to American GIs headed for the to-be-UK and is full of great little bits. Here are but a few of them:

  • "The British have theatres and movies (which they call "cinemas") as we do. But the great place of recreation is the "pub".
  • The English language didn’t spread across the oceans and over the mountains and jungles and swamps of the world because these people were panty-waists.
  • [The] British [are] reserved, not unfriendly.
  • It is always impolite to criticize your hosts; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies.

This is a fun read that is appropriate to anybody traveling there even today. While I was trying to find the equivalent book on the French, which I remember was not as kind as the one above, I found this: A Short Guide to Iraq. Issued by the US War and Navy Departments servicemen (did any women go there?) going to Iraq to defend the oil fields. It is amazing how timeless this book is. You can read the whole thing here.

I never did find the French book, which I did see online two or three years ago. Maybe some French hackers took it offline.

Foreign Affairs – Pitch Imperfect – Sanford J. Ungar

In an era when public opinion and perceptionmatter, when social networks are more important than military networks,
and the resulting interconnections can form terrible insurgencies, why
are we not acknowledging the power of media? The demise — or cutbacks
if you’re an optimist — of the VOA inspite of a proven track record is
short sighted. A full frontal cultural and media attack, sublte and not
sublte, is necessary to counter perceptions and understandings of the

Link: Foreign Affairs – Pitch Imperfect – Sanford J. Ungar.

Summary: The Voice of America — the United States’ best tool of public diplomacy — is being subjected to systematic cutbacks, even as the country’s international image is suffering. Washington must reverse the trend or face even greater hostility abroad.