The Observer has a piece today which claims that U.S. military contractors are running “covert military operations” in Somalia and not only that, but the CIA is absolutely on board with a scheme that directly contravenes a long standing UN embargo against the troubled nation.

The companies named by the Observer include Florida and Reston, Virginia -based ATS worldwide and the Virginia based Select Armor, which can be added to the shadowy TopCat Marine Security, another firm based in Virginia which has questionable dealings in Somalia.

Drawing on work done by the newsletter Africa Confidential, the piece suggests that e-mails between the firms involved show that the private military sector “has been given ‘carte blanche’ to use three bases in Somalia ‘and the air access to reach them’” in support of the transitional government, headed by ex-warlord Abdullahi Yusuf.

Michele Ballarin, a listed contact at Select Armor also writes, “‘My contact whom we discussed from the agency side requested an in-person meeting with me. I arrived in New York at 2340 last night and was driven to Virginia – arriving at 0200 today.’” – which the Observer takes to refer to the CIA.

Although I can’t get access to the Africa Confidential article ($38 anyone?) – its precis does give a flavor of the e-mails they have obtained. “The documents refer to Uganda’s willingness to secure arms supplies using its own end-user certificates (in contravention of the UN arms embargo) and makes disparaging remarks about ‘the fucks’ in the United Nations who have been ‘snooping around’ Select Armor’s personnel.”

These operations appear to have been centered around the DoD, rather than the CIA (the DoD controls 85% of the U.S. intelligence budget). An e-mail from a Chris Farina at ATS states that “We may have to re-focus our efforts in the US among the DOS [State Department] and DOD [Defence Department] to bring any forward movement to this effort.”

This implies strongly that rather than a basic CIA operation, this “effort” is a Rumsfeld product, emerging from the murky soup of agencies and offices around the Pentagon and the ghoulish military/neocon shills that populate them.

Let’s see if we can find out something about the dramatis personae.

At its website, ATS displays an array of courses dealing with the many ways to kill a person. One, for example is “intended to provide each student the cutting edge skills in the tactical world of rural sniping.” Another, dealing with “urban sniping” promises that in four days, “The student will gain the knowledge and confidence to be an effective Designated Marksman (DM)” which seems like a bold claim to me, unless there is a very low threshold of experience needed to be sent off to Iraq as a designated marksman.

Like any innovative modern military contractor, ATS has also branched off into disaster relief, scrabbling as well as anyone for the pork which has flowed since hurricane Katrina. Claiming to be “a company uniquely qualified to assist with disaster recovery” the serives provided by ATS relief only really extend to immediate concerns like securing property from looters and airlifting wealthy victims (in the lingo, “damage assessment”, “security teams” and “intelligence support services.”)

ATS claims to have a recommendation from NBC, quoting them as saying that “There’s a unique new business here in the Panhandle of Florida that’s doing its part to help the hurricane relief effort” which is, surprisingly, ATS – yet NBC has no record on its website of saying such a thing.

I eventually found it, cached on google at a Florida affiliate, WJHG (Panama City, FL). Correspondent Jackson Davis visited the military training range run by ATS in the small town of Altha, Calhoun county, Florida. What he found there is interesting, including the testimony of ATS employee (“Chief of Staff” no less) John Schaper that,

“We’ve ramped up and prepared to support follow-on missions in support of the U.S. military and governmental agencies…We’ve executed our operation in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Central and South America. We work primarily for the U.S. government in conjunction with the private sector or companies.”

Consisting of ex-military personnel, Schaper says that the purpose of ATS is to “make it easier on the military to contract out and train these forces in order to deploy them in hot spots throughout the world” including, perhaps, “denied areas” like Somalia, or even Darfur, where it is not politically acceptable for U.S. regular forces to operate, until that is, a crisis of suitable proportions can be engineered to allow some form of military intervention.

According to its own site, ATS is closely linked to WVC3 group (another military contractor) which is owned by Fox News analyst Bill Cowan and Kenneth R. Curley (via his company Raymond Associates LLC) who himself served as an official under the CPA in Baghdad and before that in the U.S. Naval administration bio here. This document suggests to me that Curley is a part of the ATS “team” – being a giveaway.

The other names at the bottom of the document are Bill Cowan, the Fox analyst and Chris Farina, whose e-mails with Select Armor and references to the CIA are apparently exposed in today’s Observer article.

Ken’s on the left, in Baghdad, 2003

Cowan himself claims to be non-partisan, but his ex-business partner in WVC3 certainly isn’t. Carlton Sherwood, after leaving the company in 2004, produced Stolen Honor – a documentary purporting to unmask the “real John Kerry.”

As for Kenneth Curley, he’s a bona fide Republican benefactor (Sweeney for Congress, $1,000 – dated 11/09/2001). A small investment in Sweeney has surely gone a long way, with Sweeney now a member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Committee. Sweeney and Curley go way back via the Irish American Republicans, working on the frontline to secure the election of Bush in 2000.

As their own hype puts it, “Dubbed the “Wild Geese of Miami,” the Irish Republicans successfully fought-off the attempted theft of the Presidency. Grant Lally served as the GOP Floor Manager of the Miami Recount, battling to protect the integrity of the ballots…Congessman John Sweeney served as overall Bush political director for the south Florida recounts, a role for which President Bush awarded him the knickname “Congessman Kick-Ass.”

In 2004, they boast “The IAR trained over 2000 GOP poll watchers, the front line of Republican anti-fraud efforts in Ohio” – while one of the IAR heavy hitters jetting off to Ohio “to make the crucial difference” was, Colonel Kenneth Curley.

Curley sits on the board of directors of IAR, an organization with a fantastic level of access to Congress and the Federal government (with members ranging from John McCain, to George Pataki, John Sweeney and Tom Feeney).

Anyhow, now that we’ve established the links between Curley, Sweeney, the Homeland Security committee in Congress and the Bush election theft machine, back to the underlings.

Chris Farina, an ATS employee quoted by the Observer is on a Conservative talk show called “Danger Zone” tonight, so don’t miss it. The (right-wing) Foundation for the Defence of Democracies describes him as a “former Special Forces operative” in its intro, and he’ll be chatting alongside FDD hack Andrew McCarthy, show host Richard Carlson and, one of his bosses – Bill Cowan.

It’s an incestuous business. Could be interesting to see what they come up with regarding Somalia.

As for Select Armor, the other company named, according to its own website, it is “a woman-owned enterprise HQ in The Plains, VA” but with offices “Santa Fe Springs, CA, Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates, Salzburg, Austria, and Baghdad, Iraq” – a true multinational.

Oddly, despite championing woman ownership, it also lists the company founder and chairman of the board as a Canadian ex-Special Ops guy, Douglas Eaton.

The company provides CBRN (basically the gamut of WMD perils) to other firms and governments – it’s site is full of ghoulish pictures of rubber and gas mask clad “first responders” while it’s proudly displayed motto is “Select Armor – For a Brutal World” (are they for a brutal world, or just providing ‘solutions’ for it?).

To protect its clients against global terrorism, Select Armor offers tactical training in conjunction with a prestigious partner, ATS worldwide services. If the Observer is right, then this tactical training has extended to fighting a civil war in a far off African nation, at the behest of the Pentagon or the CIA.

The current President and CEO of Select Armor is certainly a woman, Michele Ballarin, whom the Observer flags in its article as linked to the “agency” – either DHS or the CIA.

Her name comes up as a contact in the horse breeding business in Virginia, via a company called Cambridge Asset Management (and her e-mail address –, if you’re after an elegant Wolf Crag Lipizanner). Weird training for counter-terrorism though, but no weirder than Browny’s training for FEMA management as a specialist in Arab horses.

Investment information portals describe CAM as a “Boutique investment bank specializing in mergers, acquisitions, and financings of technology companies in the middle market” (whatever that means) while CAM is seeking “Sound strategies, offerings committed to leadership in market segments targeted. Companies who have first mover advantage and are targeting rapid growth markets. Companies whose offerings are compelling, differentiated, and who are building sustainable offerings which enable rapid market penetration through intellectual property, patents, and trade secrets” with its capital stock of $250 million.

Presumably Select Armor qualified admirably, with a genuine ‘rapid growth market’ in stoking public fearsof WMD attacks and there seems to be nothing more ‘sustainable’ than gobal instability to keep the profits rolling in.


6 Responses to “Somalia Confidential: Another Honeypot for Well-connected Con-men and the Private Military Junket, September 2006”

  1. huud Says:

    somalia problem has been fueled by usa.

  2. […] U.S. agent who was flagged in 2005 as seeking to organize an invasion of Somalia. That story is covered elsewhere by myself, and I urge you to read those pieces to get a flavor of how closely involved Ballarin, […]

  3. any updates coming ?

  4. SAMERIA Says:


  5. Marla Magill Says:

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