UPDATED: CAPTAIN Freed; SEALs Slay Three Pirates. Crew Retakes the Ship, Pentagon Says! Early Reports Indicate At Least One Pirate Captured
All through the piracy crisis off of Somalia the US Navy and the State Department have made the argument that their hands are largely tied unless the pirates seize an American flagged ship.
Now they have, with yesterday's seizure of the Maersk Alabama and its 20 crew members. The White House, aware that the legal basis for armed retaliation has been laid, issued a statement. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the national security team there is "closely monitoring the apparent hijacking of the U.S.-flagged ship in the Indian Ocean and assessing a course of action to resolve this situation."
The crew's safety is the top priority. However, the Navy is steaming to the scene. Once US ships are on station they will doubtless follow the tactics, techniques and procedures they have developed in consultation with the shipping companies and their insurance companies. They will monitor the ship to ensure the pirates do not harm anyone on board. They will watch for the ransom drop. Once the ransom is dropped the White House must decide whether to blow the pirates out of the water as they flee the scene -- which would certainly be satisfying and might well help deter future acts against US-flagged ships -- or seize them and ship them to the US for prosecution or turn them over to Kenya, with whom we have an agreement to try pirates in their courts.
Somalia has no functioning government in the area from which the pirates hail, but the State Department has made clear it does not want to take harsh actions that might rebound on the rump government that largely operates from Djibouti and in the country's north. So my bet is we will spend hundreds of thousands -- if not several million -- dollars catching these guys and trying them in the ole US of A, if only to send the message that we will not tolerate such actions against US ships and will follow the letter of our laws in a humane fashion.