Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kenya: Cable Cites Potential Local Link With U.S. Firm

A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopt...A black water MD-530F Helicopter on-site of a car bomb explosion

Kevin J Kelley
2 December 2010

New York — The whistle- blowing website wikileaks Tuesday released a US diplomatic document, marked "confidential," that makes specific references to Kenya.

The mentions on Kenya are contained in a February 12, 2009, cable to the State Department from James Swan, the American ambassador to Djibouti, concerning a controversial US security firm's proposed anti-piracy activities in the Horn's waters.

Ambassador Swan was seeking guidance from the State Department about his embassy's "appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater," the US contractor that was prospecting for clients seeking protection from pirate attacks.

On one hand, US embassies are supposed to assist US companies in making business deals in host countries. On the other hand, Blackwater was being depicted by critics as a lawless mercenary operation.

In 2007, the contractor's employees shot dead 17 civilians on a street in Baghdad, with some commentators saying this incident was typical of Blackwater's "spray and pray" tactics -- meaning its personnel shoot randomly when they feel threatened. Ambassador Swan suggested in his cable that Blackwater "will likely engage Oman and Kenya in the future".

Explaining that Blackwater would use a former US research ship to conduct armed patrols from a port in Djibouti, the ambassador noted that "in the event of a mechanical malfunction, the only facilities capable of repairing BW's [Blackwater Worldwide's] ship are located in Mombasa."

Ambassador Swan further noted that Blackwater had briefed officials at the US embassy in Nairobi about its plans. The company also intended to apprise the embassy in Nairobi of its operating procedure once it had been approved by legal reviewers, the cable stated. Blackwater had no intention of handing over captured pirates to Kenyan authorities, Ambassador Swan added.

"Blackwater does not intend to take any pirates into custody, but will use lethal force against pirates if necessary," he wrote. The 183-foot US-flagged ship, the "McArthur," would carry .50 calibre machine guns and an unarmed drone, the cable indicated. It said the ship's personnel would consist of 15 crew members and 18 armed guards, all of them US citizens.

Blackwater, today known as Xe Services, ultimately abandoned its anti-piracy initiative because the company was unable to attract any clients for its proposed security operations off the East African coast.
Wikileaks says it has received some 1800 US communications on the topic of Kenya as part of a trove of more than 250,000 secret US diplomatic documents it obtained from unnamed sources. The group has so far released only 471 of those documents.  View the original article here
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