Let me start by saying that Jessica Buchanan, the American aid worker rescued with her Danish colleague from pirates last night by SEAL Team 6 in Somalia, sounds like a selfless woman; I’m happy for her and her family she is now safe.
But the rescue got me thinking about our country’s efforts to combat two types of pirates: those who exploit lawless areas around the globe to kidnap ships or people for ransom, and those who exploit international boundaries to evade copyright laws. So I wanted to look more closely at what went on here. I’m not sure either approach we’re using works (and I’m quite certain that SOPA would be worse), but I am interested in taking a step back and thinking about piracy in general.
First, the details. Here is Defense Secretary Panetta’s statement. President Obama released this statement on the raid.
On Monday, I authorized an operation to rescue Jessica Buchanan, an American citizen who was kidnapped and held against her will for three months in Somalia. Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home. As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission, and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts.
Jessica Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being. Last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan’s father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks that she will soon be reunited with her family. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice. This is yet another message to the world that the United States of America will stand strongly against any threats to our people.
Buchanan and her colleague are just 2 of 150 western hostages held by groups described as Somali pirates
Obama said we would not tolerate the abduction of our people, but Buchanan has been in custody since October 25.
And this operation freed just two of 150 hostages currently held by groups described as Somai pirates. Hostages include Indian, South Korean, Filipino, and Danish sailors, as well as a British tourist and two Spanish medics kidnapped in Kenya. These hostages, of course, remain in custody.
Then there’s the American freelance journalist taken hostage Saturday from the same area, Galkayo, from where Buchanan was kidnapped last October.
Several local leaders in Galkayo had just returned from trying to secure the release of another American, a freelance journalist who was kidnapped last week in Galkayo. He remains in captivity in Hobyo, a pirate den on the Somali coast, because the pirates holding him refuse to let him go without a hefty ransom.
I would suggest his presence raises questions about what the ultimate goal for the raid was. Was it just Buchanan’s rescue, or the journalist’s, too?
Reuters quotes a local leader, currently negotiating for the release of the journalist, as saying that 12 helicopters remain on the ground.
“About 12 U.S. helicopters are now at Galkayo. We thank the United States. Pirates have spoilt the whole region’s peace and ethics. They are mafia,” Mohamed Ahmed Alim, leader of the Galmudug region, told Reuters.