Navy Seals rescuing Captain Richard Phillips from pirates were restricted by Obama’s delays and rules of engagement – Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

A forwarded email that blames President Obama for delays in the rescue of Richard Phillips, the captain of the ship named the Maersk Alabama, which was taken over by pirates off the coast of the African country of Somalia. It claims that Obama delayed the deployment of Navy Seals by 36 hours and limited the rules of engagement so the rescuers could not act unless Captain Phillips’ life was imminent danger.

The Truth:

Our investigation into this story did not find any evidence that President Obama delayed important decisions in the rescue of Captain Phillips. Throughout the entire ordeal the President was kept informed on the situation with briefings and twice gave orders to engage the pirates.

The Washington Times looked thoroughly into the incident and came to the same conclusion.  In an exclusive article on 4/22/09, the Times concluded, “President Obama dispatched two separate teams of Navy commandos to carry out last week’s rescue of a merchant ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates but left the operational details and rules of engagement to military commanders.”   Click for Washington Times article.

Several versions of this email have been submitted to TruthorfFction.com and some claim to come from an unnamed USMC General or Retired Navy Rear Admiral Lou Sarosdy.  In an April 21 ,2009 Virginian Pilot article Sarosdy said that he did not write this.    Click for Virginian Pilot story.

Military veterans who have read the email doubt that it was written by an insider, as it claims.   The terminology and acronyms used in the email were not consistent with military standards, indicating that this eRumor might have been written by a civilian with no or little knowledge of the military.   The acronyms “CPN” for Captain and “RIB” for rigid hull inflatable boat  if used by anyone in the military would be “Capt.” and “RHIB”

Richards Phillips was the Captain of the American flagged vessel Maersk Alabama and was rescued by US Navy Seals after a 5 day ordeal of being held captive by Somali pirates on a lifeboat.  Piracy has been a problem off the East African coast but this was the first takeover of an American ship by pirates in modern history.

Shortly after midnight April 8, 2009, while on route to deliver food aid to Uganda and Somalia the Maersk Alabama was attacked by the pirates about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia. The Alabama crew of 21 worked feverishly for more than three hours using fire hoses to fend off boarding attempts by the pirates. Eventually four pirates armed with AK-47 rifles managed to board the cargo ship.   Sometime during the fight the crew of the Alabama managed to disable their vessel and went into hiding near the steering compartment. Shortly after that the pirates boat was scuttled.

About twelve hours later the crew emerged and managed to overtake and capture one of the pirates. The three other pirates had Capt. Phillips prisoner. In an attempt to secure the safety of his crew, Capt. Phillips offered himself as a hostage along with a 28 foot lifeboat from the Alabama.. In an attempt to secure the release of their captain the crew gave freedom to their pirate prisoner, but the pirates did not reciprocate. Captain Phillips remained in the hands of his captors.

The closest Navy vessel, U.S.S. Bainbridge arrived on the scene on April 9, 2009 at 1AM.  In the meantime, other US Naval vessels and US Navy Seals were on route to the incident as well.

According to the Washington Times article, there was no delay in granting authorization to the officers on the scene to take whatever action was necessary to protect the life of Captain Phillips.

A Whitehouse spokesperson gave truthorfiction.com an event time line of President Obama Actions on the Pirate Situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.  The Whitehouse used “POTUS”, an acronym for President of the United States :

TIMELINE

08 April 2009 early AM post arrival at Andrews

POTUS apprised of breaking development regarding American flagged vessel with American crew being hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

08 April 2009 0900

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation regarding American flagged vessel with American crew being hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

08 April 2009 1030

Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) group meets to coordinate planning for the situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia. (NOTE: MOTR includes OSD Policy, National Military Command Center, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of State, Coast Guard, FBI, Maritime Administration, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council).

08 April 2009 1100

Presidential Daily Brief. Included update and discussion on piracy situation, POTUS requested regular daily updates and tasked review of policy questions.

08 April 2009 1300

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

08 April 2009 1800

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

09 April 2009 0800

Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) group meets to coordinate planning for the situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

09 April 2009 0900

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

09 April 2009 0945

Presidential Daily Brief. POTUS sought update on situation and review of policy options.

09 April 2009 1300

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

09 April 2009 1600

Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) group meets to coordinate planning for the situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

09 April 2009 1800

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

10 April 2009 0800

Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) group meets to coordinate planning for the situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

10 April 2009 0900

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

10 April 2009 0945

Presidential Daily Brief. Included update and discussion on piracy situation.

10 April 2009 1300

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

10 April 2009 1400

Deputies Committee Meeting in White House Situation Room. Meeting called to review policy issues related to ongoing piracy situation.

10 April 2009 1600

Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) group meets to coordinate planning for the situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

10 April 2009 1800

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

10 April 2009 2000

POTUS requests readout of Deputies Committee meeting. National Security Council gives POTUS telephone update on current situation and conclusions of Deputies Committee. POTUS gives Department of Defense policy guidance and certain authorities to set of U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions.

11 April 2009 0730

Maritime Operation Threat Response Group – inter-agency working group – meets by Video Teleconference to update on current situation.

11 April 2009 0900

POTUS receives briefing paper update from Situation Room on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

11 April 2009 0920

National Security Council gives POTUS telephone update on current situation. POTUS gives Department of Defense policy guidance and certain authorities to additional set of U.S. forces to engage in potential emergency actions.

11 April 2009 1300

POTUS given paper update on situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

11 April 2009 1400

Maritime Operation Threat Response Group – inter-agency working group – meets by Video Teleconference to update on current situation.

11 April 2009 1600

Senior Level, inter-agency Secure Video Teleconference to consider situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

11 April 2009 1830

National Security Council updates President on situation and planning for hostage contingencies.

12 April 2009 0930

Senior Level, inter-agency Secure Video Teleconference to consider situation in the Indian Ocean off of Somalia.

12 April 2009 1230

POTUS seeks and receives situational update on action leading to rescue of Captain Phillips.

12 April 2009 1600

POTUS called USS Boxer to speak with Captain Richard Phillips. POTUS also called Mrs. Andrea Phillips in Underhill. POTUS also called Commander Frank Castellano, Captain of the USS Bainbridge, and Vice Admiral William McRaven, Commander Joint Special Operations Command, to express appreciation for the work of our military personnel in securing the release of Captain Phillips.

updated 04/22/09

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Having spoken to some SEAL pals here in Virginia Beach yesterday and asking why this thing dragged out for 4 days, I got the following:

1. BHO wouldn’t authorize the DEVGRU/NSWC SEAL teams to the scene for 36 hours going against OSC (on scene commander) recommendation.
2. Once they arrived, BHO imposed restrictions on their ROE that they couldn’t do anything unless the hostage’s life was in “imminent” danger
3. The first time the hostage jumped, the SEALS had the raggies all sighted in, but could not fire due to ROE restriction
4. When the navy RIB came under fire as it approached with supplies, no fire was returned due to ROE restrictions. As the raggies were shooting at the RIB, they were exposed and the SEALS had them all dialed in.
5. BHO specifically denied two rescue plans developed by the Bainbridge CPN and SEAL teams
6. Bainbridge CPN and SEAL team CDR finally decide they have the OpArea and OSC authority to solely determine risk to hostage. 4 hours later, 3 dead raggies
7. BHO immediately claims credit for his “daring and decisive” behaviour. As usual with him, it’s BS.

So per our last email thread, I’m downgrading Oohbaby’s performace to D-. Only reason it’s not an F is that the hostage survived.

Read the following accurate account.

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Philip’s first leap into the warm, dark water of the Indian Ocean hadn’t worked out as well. With the Bainbridge in range and a rescue by his country’s Navy possible, Philips threw himself off of his lifeboat prison, enabling Navy shooters onboard the destroyer a clear shot at his captors, and none was taken.

The guidance from National Command Authority, the president of the United States, Barack Obama had be en clear: a peaceful solution was the only acceptable outcome to this standoff unless the hostage’s life was in clear, extreme danger.

The next day, a small Navy boat approaching the floating raft was fired on by the Somali pirates and again no fire was returned and no pirates killed. This was again due to the cautious stance assumed by Navy personnel thanks to the combination of a lack of clear guidance from Washington and a mandate from the commander in chief’s staff not to act until Obama, a man with no background of dealing with such issues and no track record of decisiveness, decided that any outcome other than a peaceful solution would be acceptable.

After taking fire from the Somali kidnappers again Saturday night, the on-scene-commander decided he’d had enough.

Keeping his authority to act in the case of a clear and present danger to the hostage’s life and having heard nothing from Washington since yet another request to mount a rescue operation had been denied the day before, the Navy officer unnamed in all media reports to date decided the AK47 one captor had leveled at Philips back was a threat to the hostage’s life and ordered the NSWC team to take their shots.

Three rounds downrange later, all three brigands became enemy KIA and Philips was safe.

There is upside, downside, and spinside to the series of events over the last week that culminated in
yesterday’s dramatic rescue of an American hostage.

Almost immediately following word of the rescue, the Obama administration and its supporters claimed victory against pirates in the Indian Ocean and declared that the dramatic end to the standoff put paid to questions of the inexperienced president’s toughness and decisiveness.

Despite the Obama administration’s (and its sycophants) attempt to spin yesterday’s success as a result of bold, decisive leadership by the inexperienced president, the reality is nothing of the sort. What should have been a standoff lasting only hours as long as it took the USS Bainbridge and its team of NSWC operators to steam to the location became an embarrassing four day and counting standoff between a ragtag handful of criminals with rifles and a U.S. Navy warship.