Policy WATCH:
Exclusive
US to Promote Use of Armed Guards on Vessels
Sec of State Hillary Clinton Orders Embassies to Sell the Use of Contractors
By ROBERT YOUNG PELTON 11/04/2011
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Somalia Report has obtained an unclassified document from the U.S. State Department that orders American embassy staff to promote the use of armed security guards on commercial vessels around the coast of Somalia.

The five page document is a "demarche" request which encourages "the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on merchant vessels to deter or prevent pirating off the Horn of Africa." What is more surprising is that this October 27, 2011 memo is straight from the desk of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It is a stunning reversal of opinion for Clinton, a well known opponent of the use of private security companies and a political appointee who has openly discussed taking steps to eliminate them. As a presidential candidate running against President Obama she sponsored legislation entitled H.R.4102 "Stop Outsourcing Security Act". The suggested legislation was created in November of 2007 proposed banning the use of security contractors.

"The United States is increasingly relying on private security contractors to perform mission critical and emergency essential functions that historically have been performed by United States military or government personnel."

The bill went on to present the idea that the use of contractors was undermining the US mission in Iraq. It even went so far as to set a six month deadline to remove the private security who protected State Department personnel in Iraq, then provided by a half dozen companies that included Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and others under the World Wide Protective Services contract and replace them with federal employees.

The legislation failed for the simple reason that there simply weren't enough troops or government employees to replace them.

Since then Clinton found herself actually working and traveling while being protected by those same security contractors. Although she has never publicly stated her support for the use of contractors (often called 'mercenaries' by the media) there were moves to dramatically increase the number and scope of private security to protect State Department staff in Iraq under her watch.

So with her on the record disdain for armed private security it is surprising to see Secretary of State Clinton suddenly become an advocate for the industry.

Consider this statement made by then New York Senator Hillary Clinton running for president in February 2008:

"From this war’s very beginning, this administration has permitted thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable. These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the door is long past due. We need to stop filling the coffers of contractors in Iraq, and make sure that armed personnel in Iraq are fully accountable to the U.S. government and follow the chain of command."

Now fast forward to October 2011:

"Drawing on talking points in paragraph 9, Post is requested to demarche host governments and/or members of host country's shipping industry to encourage the responsible use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) on merchant vessels transiting high-risk waters off the Horn of Africa, in addition to other counter-piracy measures."

Clinton specifically requests diplomats to promote the use of PCASP on "merchant vessels transiting the high-risk waters off the Horn of Africa, in addition to other counter-piracy measures." The "Sensitive" document goes on to present the 'no ship taken while under armed guard' mantra to overcome the shipping industries lack of enthusiasm for armed men on board. The document then provides a series of talking points to convince nations to support the use of private security guards on board ships and offers to work with these nations to work through the various ITAR restrictions related to weapons on board.

Somalia Report is neither a proponent or opponent on the use of armed guards aboard ships because the industry generally does not want to have lethal force on board, but a quick glance of our list of October pirate attacks and how they were deterred tell a tale that cannot be ignored.