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Private Security Firms

So reports are now surfacing that say those six armed western-looking dudes filmed talking to Libyan rebels near Misurata last week may be mercs hired by wealthy Arab states who are participating in the operations to oust Gadhafi.

From the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper:

One possibility is that the men could be former British special forces, working privately. It has long been thought that Britain has boots on the ground in Libya. In March it was announced that Britain was sending advisers to the country to provide ‘logistical advice’ to rebels fighting in the east of the country.

The Mail has been told that ex-SAS mercenaries, funded by Arab states, could be used as forward air controllers for the rebels, calling in pinpoint air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces.

One source said: ‘We could indirectly employ former military people. A lot of the oil companies over there already have ex-special forces personnel working there.’

As we wrote earlier this week, it’s already been acknolwedged that they are likely ex-SAS and other special operators. Who knows, maybe they’re even part of Blackwater USA founder Eric Prince’s new effort to raise a small merc army for the UAE, a country that is participating in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya.

Check out this great footage by Al Jazeera of Libyan rebels fighting Gadhafi’s troops. Most significant are the images of what are supposedly armed western troops liasing with the rebels at the 2:10 mark. This may well be the first footage of western “boots on the ground” (sorry to use that clichéd term) at the front lines of the Libyan fight.

Update: The men are apparently ex-British SAS and other “western employees of private security companies” who are indeed helping coordinate air strikes by NATO attack helicopters against Gadhafi’s forces in the vicinity of Misurata, the Guardian newspaper is reporting. This shows that NATO has added private security contractors and attack choppers to its push to oust the crazy colonel.

Special forces veterans are passing details of the locations and movements of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces to the Naples headquarters of Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, Canadian commander of Nato forces involved in the military operations, sources said.

The targets are then verified by spy planes and US Predator drones.

“One piece of human intelligence is not enough”, a source said.

The former soldiers are there with the blessing of Britain, France and other Nato countries, which have supplied them with communications equipment. They are likely to be providing information for the pilots of British and French attack helicopters who are expected to start firing at targets in and around Misrata later this week.

According to the Guardian, the footage was shot last week around the time that reports surfaced claiming that the French and British were sending attack helicopters into the Libyan fray. The clip repeatedly mentions the threat that Gadhafi’s tanks and heavy weapons still pose to the rebels and how much of a difference attack choppers would make in dealing with the tanks. Al Jazeera even notes that the regime has learned to hide its tanks the second NATO jets are heard overhead and suggests the westerners may be laying the groundwork for helo strikes.

As the The Guardian notes, there have been numerous reports of British SAS and even CIA forces on the ground in Libya helping to train rebels and possibly guide in airstrikes for several months. Oh, and don’t forget the SAS team that was briefly detained by the rebels when it choppered-in unannounced in an apparent effort to make contact with the anti-Gadhafi forces.

This comes as NATO has significantly upped the number and intensity of air strikes against Gadhafi’s troops and his command and control facilities in Tripoli. The increased pressure seems to be working, rebel morale is high (as the video claims) and five of Gadhafi’s generals have just abandoned him. We’ll see where this latest development takes the fight in Libya.

By Kevin Coleman — DefenseTech Cyber Warfare Correspondent

Last week the Washington Post reported that the Cyber Command is seeking authority to launch cyber attacks in efforts to protect U.S. interests. This request is said to have drawn objections from administration lawyers concerned about the legality of offensive cyber operations. The right to bear cyber arms and the right to return fire in cyber space are both issues we have discussed recently on this blog. As you may recall back in April of this year, the Pentagon took a retaliatory tone when it asserted its right to return fire against cyber attacks aimed at the United States.

They say timing is everything so… Last week, I received a tip about a private sector entity returning cyber fire. The tip came with a high degree of confidence and raised a number of concerns. First of all, if the given the administration’s legal advisors are concerned about the legality of returning fire in cyber space, how legal is it for private sector organizations to be doing it? Secondly, most cyber attacks are routed through intermediary servers that have been compromised and are unwilling/unknowing participants in the attack, so returning fire on them is problematic to say the least. The final concern is; could a retaliatory strike by the private sector, or for that matter, an individual seeking revenge for an attack on their personal computer, escalate to a full fledged cyber war?

While it is unclear if any laws are being broken by that private company (a component of our critical infrastructure) returning fire, this is a very slippery slope.  It is not inconceivable to think that if the private sector and individuals are permitted to return cyber fire, the amount of retaliatory strikes would grow uncontrollably and further escalate cyber tensions between countries.

By Bryant Jordan
Defense Tech Chief Investigative Correspondent

Private security companies working under Defense Department contracts in Afghanistan are siphoning off some of the best and brightest from that country’s security and police forces, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says.

That’s the finding of a committee investigation into private security contractors in Afghanistan. The reason the Afghans are taking the contract jobs is simple — money.

“Many of them are recruited by higher-paying private security firms,” Levin said in a statement released during Gen. David Petraeus’ testimony to the committee. Levin said he is concerned that the U.S.‘s own contracting practices may be harming the war effort by luring away from the Afghan forces that are expected to take over the fight many of its best people.

He also noted that private security contractors often draw from militia forces, thereby “empowering local powerbrokers and warlords who operate outside the government’s control.” Levin said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military leader in Afghanistan, has acknowledged there are problems with the contracting practices and that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force would assess what needs to be done to reform them.

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