Jessica Buchanan

We Are All Pirates Now

I recommend you start reading this story, on how the Navy wants a floating base, a “mothership,” to float around the Middle East from which to launch paramilitary operations, at paragraph 18 out of 20:

Ironically, the term “mothership” is also commonly used to describe a vessel used by Somali pirates. After hijacking a large container or cargo vessel, pirate crews often turn it into a floating base to extend the range of their skiffs or speedboats far into the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Gulf.

While the story reminds that our “mothership” will actually return the Navy SEALs to maritime missions, it’s also worth noting that the two threats the article cites to justify the urgent retrofitting of an old ship to serve as our “mothership”–Somali pirates and potential Iranian responses in the Straits of Hormuz–are both asymmetric threats. We plan to use this “mothership” to match their “mothership.”

Now, aside from the many answers to the question, “what could go wrong?” I had while reading this story, I couldn’t help but thinking how we’re increasingly fighting terrorism with non-uniformed enemy combatants, fighting piracy with tactics borrowed from the pirates.

The three big things that distinguish us from them is our money, our ability to control of the financial transfer systems, and our drones.

But other than that, I think we are become pirates.

Playing Whack-a-Mole with Somali Pirates

I questioned yesterday whether the raid to free Jessica Buchanan would help or hurt efforts to free an American freelance journalist who was captured on Saturday close to where Buchanan was being held.

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.

He was speaking from Hobyo, a pirate base north of Haradheere, where he said he was negotiating the release of an American journalist seized on Saturday, also from Galkayo.

It turns out I was right. The pirates holding the journalist have moved the journalist three times since the Buchanan rescue.

“Holding hostages in one place is unlikely now because we are the next target,” [Somali pirate Hassan] Abdi said, referring to the raid in a phone conversation with The Associated Press. He expressed concern that the U.S. had pirate informants.

“It wasn’t just a hit and run operation, but long planned with the help of insiders among us,” Abdi said, noting the soldiers had struck at the time when the pirates were least on their guard.

The gang has moved an American kidnapped on Saturday in the northern Somali town of Galkayo three times in the last 24 hours, he said.

I’m curious, too, about Abdi’s claim we had informants from within the pirate group. Remember DOD claimed we took no captives from the pirates, but other sources said we took 3-5 captives back to Djibouti.

The AP story goes on to predict that pirates will increasingly keep their captives at sea, in mixed-nationality groups, to make such raids harder.

So I guess my suspicions yesterday were correct–this raid may do little to solve the pirate problem.

What If Obama Sent SEAL Team 6 after Online Pirates?

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.

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bmaz The modern police, cops first citizen's lives second, state is pervasive+invasive: We need to step, and get, back: https://t.co/W6CdD0Np3f
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emptywheel Also, anyone want to start a pool on how long Bandar will really be booted this time?
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emptywheel Can someone ring me when the definitive account of the Bandar booting is done?
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emptywheel @biasedreporter Huh. For how long, this time?
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emptywheel If we had 5 Judge Rakoffs in every federal courthouse this country would be in better shape.
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bmaz @biasedreporter Whatever. @AC360 did a fantastic job with Marissa Alexander and @JeffreyToobin They really did given TV constraints.
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bmaz It is 70º and dry where I am in Phoenix. I'm a punch the next pasty ass visitor from Seattle or New England that complains about the weather
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emptywheel @charliearchy Man, who do I ask to be able to use "fucked" in a Salon headline?
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bmaz If you all in the Beltway think Loretta Lynch is grand bi-partisany nom, and not the worst of Holder without the best of him, quit you jobs.
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emptywheel Walter Pincus apparently wasn't not watching the trial I actually watched. https://t.co/DdM3C20iFV
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bmaz If Orrin Hatch will support+McConnell will let through, Lynch's nom, that is NOT a sign of "bi-patisanship" you Beltway morons. Wake up.
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emptywheel @electrospaces Plurality of orders used by FBI to get Internet data not available using NSLs. That FBI gets directly. @dametzger
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