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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Continuing Coverage of the Captive Captian's Rescue
Aired April 12, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We know that you, the viewer at home, is excited about this. A lot of you are emailing us, going on our Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or iReport.com. Here's what some of you are saying.
MusicloverforObama says, "Wow." That's all wow. HurricaneMe says, "I think it's great. Now, he can go home to his family, a wonderful Easter surprise." Mayhaven says, "Thank God they were finally able to save the captain! What brave Navy soldiers we have."
Chicajones says, "Awesome job, just another day at the office for these guys. Our tax dollars are well spent. Great training pays off." She says, "Hooyah!" I think she meant to says, "Hoorah!"
All right. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or iReport.com. You can become part of our community here on CNN and get your responses in.
Our continuing coverage of the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips continues right now.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcoming our overseas viewers at CNN International.
By most, if not all accounts, Easter Sunday took a huge turn for the better. It happened around 12:20 Eastern Time here in the United States this afternoon, that's when U.S. Navy SEALS shot and killed the trio of well-armed Somali pirates and rescued American cargo ship captain, Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by pirates in a lifeboat for five grueling days at sea.
Here's what we know right now about the successful military operation that unfolded 5 1/2 hours ago off the coast Somalia: Captain Richard Phillips is safe aboard the USS Boxer, where he's been given a medical checkup and declared to be in good shape and resting comfortably. Navy officials say they considered Phillips in imminent danger and took advantage of a tactical mistake by the pirates, who apparently left themselves prone to naval sharpshooters. Three pirates were killed -- another pirate, a supposed negotiator, taken into custody.
We're all over this breaking news here tonight with crews deployed from the coast of Africa to here on the home front. Our Stephanie Elam live in Underhill, Vermont, Captain Phillips' hometown. Susan Candiotti live in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, in the captain's maritime alma mater. That's where he went to school. And CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr live in Bahrain headquarters for the U.S. Naval Force Central Command.
We begin with Barbara, who has a new information about this dramatic conclusion.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, to say it was dramatic is rapidly beginning to be quite an understatement. We are learning new details about the rescue of Captain Phillips. If you think it reads and sounds like a Hollywood movie, this was reality out on the ocean off the coast of Somalia.
A senior U.S. defense official is now telling CNN that there were a number of Special Operations forces involved that they parachute- jumped from an aircraft overhead into the ocean, covertly making their way to the Bainbridge. Of course, the Bainbridge knew that they were coming, they boarded that warship, and for the last several days, Navy snipers hid on the fan tail of the Bainbridge, keeping that lifeboat in their sight at all times. Not visible to the pirates, but those Navy snipers, after jumping out of that altitude aircraft got to the Bainbridge, hid.
They had the pirates in their sights and they took advantage as you say when the pirates made the mistake, two of the pirates in their sights and they took advantage, as you say, when the pirates made the mistake -- two of the pirates showing their heads and shoulders outside the lifeboat, the third pirate holding an AK-47 to Captain Phillips' back. The commander on the scene made the call, imminent danger to Captain Phillips' life. We are told quite bluntly that the three Navy snipers took shots to the heads of each of the pirates. It was decisive action and it was successful, we are told.
Besides the imminent danger, we also have learned that the Navy came to understand over the last day or so the pirates had become increasingly agitated. There had been shots fired, additional shots fired beyond what we have reported. The pirates were agitated. They were upset. The negotiations were not going well.
So when they saw that AK-47 pointed at Captain Phillips' back, the snipers took the shot and the decisive action became very happy news for Captain Phillips and his family -- Don?
LEMON: Three shots, Barbara, and three men down, and a successful rescue attempt.
OK. That's the drama that played out on the high seas. Thank you, Barbara Starr.
What about on land? Nowhere is the news of the captain's rescue more welcome than in Underhill, Vermont, hometown of Captain Phillips and his family. And that's where we find our Stephanie Elam live with a smile on her face.
And you're witnessing that all over his neighborhood, I'm sure, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's so true, Don. We were able to speak to a neighbor shortly after the news broke that Captain Phillips (AUDIO BREAK) the way he expressed it is when Captain Phillips gets back, there may not be a ticker tape, it may be more in the shape of flurries here, snow flurries, that has been flurrying all day here. But overall, the town is ecstatic with the news.
We were out here waiting for a press briefing from someone representing the family, actually coming from the shipping company. And while we are here, a car pulls up and two college-aged looking women got out of the car with (AUDIO BREAK) of excitement. I can't express to you how happy they sounded as they pretty much through the car in park (AUDIO BREAK).
So, the excitement is spreading here now as the town is getting word that Captain Phillips is indeed safe, and that he's going to come home and see (AUDIO BREAK). We do know, also, that Captain Phillips has been in touch with his wife, Andrea. They have spoken at this point. So now, it's just a matter of time before he gets back here to his small town here in Vermont.
LEMON: Hey, Stephanie, I don't know if you were listening. Did you hear what the vice admiral said about the Easter eggs? That Captain Phillips had a message ...
ELAM: Yes, I did.
LEMON: ... to his wife and his kids. He told his son, he said, "You know what? Don't eat those Easter eggs, don't touch them yet because I'm coming home."
ELAM: Right. There is, I think, a slight joke there about (AUDIO BREAK) Easter egg that, you know, the son was going to eat. He's like, leave that alone because dad's coming home and he'll have a chocolate Easter egg when he gets here.
But the other point here, too, is that it is Easter Sunday, Don.
ELAM: And a lot of people (AUDIO BREAK) around the country and around the world for the safe return of Captain Phillips, and at this point, the family is saying those prayers have been answered.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Stephanie Elam in Underhill, Vermont. This is good news and that's why we're smiling.
Let's go to another place where people are very happy about this successful rescue. We'll take you now to Massachusetts and the maritime academy. CNN's Susan Candiotti is there.
Susan, what are they saying about the best-case scenario that played out today, and also, anymore whistles from that boat?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've been sounding that whistle all afternoon, as a matter of fact, Don. And, sure, best-case scenario, this is what everyone was hoping for.
Moments after the news broke out, so did smiles on everyone's face here at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which has a special connection to a number of people on that crew, including, of course, Captain Richard Phillips. He graduated from here in 1979. And someone else who was freed, Shane Murphy, he was the one who took over the helm when Phillips was taken hostage. He was a guest lecturer on this campus just a few weeks before he set sail on that now fateful trip.
The admiral of the academy here said he couldn't be happier with what the Navy SEALS pulled off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An amazing amount of coordination. This is a dangerous opportunity for them to take. For us, we don't care how it went down, only that we've got Captain Phillips safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: And once again, we got to play those horns for you one more time. This is what happened around 12:15, just after the news was reported on CNN that Captain Phillips had been freed.
CANDIOTTI: Sounding the ship's whistle, that's of the training ship Kennedy, which is over my shoulder now. What had happened was there is a skeleton crew on there of some cadets who were on duty on this Easter holiday weekend and they couldn't resist the temptation to sound off on their happiness. Back to you, Don.
LEMON: I have to tell you, Susan. I was coming from Easter brunch with bunch of folks, friends and family members, and we were listening to you on satellite radio when that happened and someone in the car said, "Oh, my gosh, poor Susan." And I said, "No, this is a great moment live on television." These guys are celebrating and you handled it very well, and the whole world is happy about this.
Do you agree?
CANDIOTTI: I'm -- it was just nice to let it play out and if you remember, since you heard that admiral who happened to be standing there sort of commented after each time the ship's whistle sounded, saying great news, and that kind of thing. So, he was enjoying it as much as anyone was.
LEMON: Yes. Susan Candiotti, we appreciate your reporting. Thank you, Susan. Stand by because we want to go now to CNN's Kate Bolduan. She joins us now with live reaction from the White House.
Kate, what input did the commander-in-chief have in today's military action? He gave the orders, correct?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He gave the orders. We now know that, Don. We heard from administration officials as well as straight from the Pentagon briefing, the vice admiral saying the orders came straight from the top. We've learned that President Obama twice gave the go-ahead for a military action, for military operation. As we've learned, it was a standing order if the on-scene commander saw that the captain was in imminent danger, and as an administration official puts it to me, to use appropriate force with the focus on saving and protecting the life of Captain Phillips.
Why twice give the orders? Well, an administration official says it was for technical reasons as more forces, more resources moved in to the region. The first go-ahead, the granting of the authority came Friday at 8:00 o'clock in the evening here Eastern Time. The second then, the following morning, yesterday, at 9:20. And, of course, now we know that they did move ahead with that operation.
And let me read a statement that was released following the news coming out of Captain Phillips being rescued. This comes from the president.
"I am very pleased that Captain Phillips has been rescued and is safely on board the USS Boxer. His safety has been our principal concern, and I know this is a welcome relief to his family and his crew. I am also very proud of the efforts for the U.S. military and many other departments and agencies who have worked tirelessly to secure Captain Phillips' safe recovery."
Everyone from Washington all the way over there at the USS Boxer -- big smiles tonight. We also know that the president has had the opportunity to call the USS Boxer, to speak to the captain himself as well as calling his wife and his family.
LEMON: Yes. And, Kate, you know what? We have been sort of reporting this very tense with our faces because we were concerned about this captain as the rest of the world was. Now, we can smile ...
BOLDUAN: We can relax, yes.
LEMON: ... as we are reporting this story. This is good news.
Thank you, Kate Bolduan, with the reaction from the White House.
And you know what? We're going to get a reaction we're hearing from the family in Underhill, Vermont. That should happen for us in about 30 minutes. We're going to hear from them. That's what we're hearing from our sources and our correspondents on the ground. You don't want to miss that. Make sure you stay tuned to CNN for live coverage of the successful rescue of Captain Rich Phillips.
Also, if you're at home and you want to be on our show, be part of our community. Log on to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or iReport.com. We read your responses live on the air here. We want to know what you think about this good news and what should be done about that one pirate who was taken into custody.
You're watching CNN: The most trusted name in news.
LEMON: All right. We're following breaking news here today on CNN. The rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean. It has come to a successful conclusion. We're reporting good news today.
But I want to bring some someone who knows a lot of information about this situation and offer us a perspective here -- because despite international gathering on all of this, there's really been some sort of, you know, I guess, consternation about what exactly to do about these pirates on the open sea. It is a big area.
Mark Kimmitt, who is a retired general from the U.S. -- retired U.S. Army general. And he's also a former assistant secretary of state during the Bush administration, not exactly secretary of state.
Tell me what your title is again during the Bush administration?
GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET): I was the assistant secretary of state for political military affairs.
LEMON: There you go. So, there's some sort of consternation about exactly what to do with these pirates because there is a big -- we're talking about huge bodies of water there that they are trying to combat this in.
KIMMITT: Yes, that's right. Admiral Gortney described it as basically 2/3 of the United States. And you can imagine how difficult it is for the Navy to patrol that with 25 or 30 ships, along with the ships from the international community. Imagine if you only had 25 or 30 police cars in 2/3 of the United States. But nonetheless, there are practical measures that have been taken recently and can be taken to end the problem with piracy in this area very much in the way it was ended in the Straits of Malacca years ago.
LEMON: And this one particular sniper operation really -- I'm being told that this came from the time when had tall ships, when we used to go ship to ship operations trying to deal with this and then this is a -- this sniper unit is a very old unit and are very well-experienced in this type of operations.
KIMMITT: Well, I don't know about that. But what I do know is that piracy is a problem for the United States. It goes back to the time when Thomas Jefferson was minister to France. He had the problem with the Barbary pirates, in many ways the formation of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps owes its formation to the problems that we had with piracy in the 18th century.
LEMON: We talked about the resources that the United States as well as other countries in the international community had devoted to this. Is this something that you feel because of the vast area that it is, that can really be gotten under control on the oceans or is it something that you're going to have to deal with on land before it even gets to water?
KIMMITT: Well, it was that very point which the United Nations took up in December of last year and in the new United Nations Security Council 1851 which dealt with piracy off the coast of Somalia. It not only permitted counter-piracy operations on the water, but as necessary, on the land, as well. So, as Admiral Gortney said, you can't simply fight piracy on the narrow area of the water. You got to fight piracy not only at -- on the water, but at its roots, as well.
LEMON: OK. Let's go through this scenario about how it happened. And I'm reading from the notes that I took from the press conference that the vice admiral gave just a short time ago.
He said one of the pirates got off of the rigid inflatable boat on to the Bainbridge. They were working with him to negotiate when it happened. He had been injured. They were towing -- the Bainbridge was towing that rescue boat that Captain Phillips was on, trying to get it in to calmer seas, also taking them medical supplies if they needed it -- water, food, and exchange of clothing.
It is very interest to go hear about this, especially the towing and them having contact with the pirates. We had not heard that throughout the negotiations here, just learning that.
KIMMITT: Well, that's not surprising because, again, at the point you had the captain, you no longer had a piracy situation, but you had a hostage situation. And this is standard hostage negotiation playbook in terms of how you treat the hostage-takers, how you treat the hostages, and how you surround them and work the situation to bring it to a successful resolution.
LEMON: OK. And Barbara Starr -- CNN's Barbara Starr, who is our Pentagon correspondent, was reporting just -- she said that these U.S. Navy SEALs parachuted, covertly, into the water, made their way to the USS Bainbridge, were on the fan tail of that ship, out of sight of these pirates, and had been watching them in their scopes and had them in their sights for a while and then decided to do this.
KIMMITT: Well, they decided to do that when it became clear that there was an imminent danger to the captain. At that point, the captain of the Bainbridge who has that very, very difficult decision in his hands made the right decision, in my judgment, and gave permission to engage the pirates to save the life of the captain. And they did that very successfully, and that's a tremendous credit not only to the SEALs, to the entire organization, but to that captain on the Bainbridge who knew he had to make a tough decision, apparently didn't blink when he made that decision, made it and it was the right decision to make.
LEMON: OK. I literally have 10 seconds here left, I want to ask you, who has ultimate say-so into where this pirate goes? Is it the president of the United States, is it the African government, is it some sort of mutual agreement between the two?
KIMMITT: Well, I think, ultimately, it's going to be the decision of the United States Justice Department. If -- they're the ones that now own and have custody of the prisoner and they're the ones that are going to have to make the decision on the best disposition.
LEMON: Eric Holder -- is that going to be the attorney general?
KIMMITT: It will be the Justice Department. LEMON: OK, great. All right. Thank you very much for that, retired General Mark Kimmitt. We really appreciate you joining us here today in the CNN NEWSROOM and giving us some very good information here.
KIMMITT: Yes, glad to be here.
LEMON: And just ahead: An inside look at the Somali pirate from someone with firsthand experience of them. He has experienced Somali pirates before and he's going to give us some information probably we have never heard of. We'll talk to him moments away.
Plus, reaction from the crew of the Maersk Alabama on their captain's rescue. We spoke to them, as well. Our Stan Grant is standing by.
Stay with us.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. You're watching CNN.
And we're following breaking news. U.S. cargo ship captain, Richard Phillips, rescued from the clutches of Somali pirates after five days in captivity.
Dr. Bob Arnot is a former network news correspondent and he's been up close and personal with Somali pirates.
Dr. Arnot, thank you for joining us here. And we are very happy to have you on. As I understand, you have up close personal information, you've been there and as I understand, we have photographs of you with the pirates who were armed and when you met with them.
Talk to us about who these guys are when you spoke to them. What did you learn from them?
DR. BOB ARNOT, FMR. NBC, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the guys you see in the picture, Rahma (ph) was the lead pirate who took down the Saudi Arabian oil tanker, remember, a month or two ago. He was a simple security guard in Mogadishu. What happened was that when the UIC, the Union of Islamic Courts was taken down by an Ethiopian invasion, this security guards had nothing left to do. So, they went north and they become pirates.
He took down a $200 million ship if you include the price of the oil there, got a $3 million ransom, but on his way back in would pay with his life when the ship overturned. It's believed, by the way, that the U.S. Special Forces were involved with that particular incident.
Now, these pirates, here's what's so interesting. You know, Don, how everybody says, why can't all these navies out there in the Gulf of Aden stop the pirates?
ARNOT: The pirates realize that at this time of year through the beginning of May, the seas in the Indian Ocean are like bathwater. LEMON: Calm. Yes, they are calm.
ARNOT: So, they can go 200, 300, 400 miles offshore in a little boat like you see right there. And these are simple fishermen; these are not the hardcore pirates. They're ...
LEMON: And they're doing this, Dr. Bob -- are they avoiding the U.S. and Russian and Chinese by going into the Indian Ocean?
ARNOT: Absolutely. That is -- how you can cover a million square miles? So they're going where they know the navies aren't. They look like fishermen. So, if you pass them with a helicopter or a ship, it doesn't look like very much.
Then when they're ready to strike, what they do is they take RPGs, bazookas, they shoot them in the air, which is a terrifying sound. Use grappling hooks, get on to the ship, and then it's all over.
Now, they're almost like freelancers. What they do then is they call back to the pirate base, to the hardcore pirates, and they say, "Look, here's what we've got." Then in aid -- and then the one, Don (ph) -- the hardcore pirates start to negotiate.
Now, these guys are really bad. They're real gangsters. They're ex- Somali marines, navy. You know, remember, when Somali was a country, they were merciless. If you were in Somali waters, you were dead. They're not afraid of killing anybody.
The difficulty with these particular pirates, the fishermen is, there are hundreds of thousands of these guys and they don't care if they get kill, the mainstream pirates. So they go out, they freelance, then the big guys take over.
LEMON: It's very interesting because, Dr. Bob, you had covered Somalia since 1991. And according to our Pentagon correspondent, the pirate that's captured may be as young as 16 years old. Tell us about these young guys, and how they come to this, Dr. Bob?
ARNOT: Well, you can go to these pirate bases. I was up on Bosaso, which is the capital of Puntland, and Puntland is sort of, you know, the main pirate nation, if you would. They're, you know, waters have been overfished. You know, the Russians, the Polish, the Japanese, have been in there. There's no more fish left, there's no country left, there's no place to get a job.
So what do they do? They take their fishing boat, they go offshore, and they try to get a vessel.
Now, it's interesting in terms of the investment part of it. Let's say you want to invest in pirate futures. Roughly 20 percent is going to go back to the sort of cheap pirates, 30 percent goes to equipment like the grenades and the RPGs and the GPSes. And now, the 20 percent goes to the town elders. You've got 30 percent when it's all over. But it's a very simple investment for the businessmen on shore.
LEMON: So, Dr. Bob, I really have a short time here, and I want to get to two key points. What I think I'm hearing you say in this is the key to this, maybe how to fix this, is to get to the elders and talk to them and that may have some sort of influence on these pirates?
ARNOT: Absolutely. The thing to do is to go to the elders who run those three main bases and say, "Listen, we'll help you with the development; we'll help you with organization here." But you got to clear out the gangsters.
The other part of this is the new Transitional National Government. Back in 2005, the UIC cleared out the pirates. They can do it again. They need redirection.
There's some bad guys in that government. They need to have U.S. friendly cabinet ministers, and they basically, by themselves, can clear these pirate bases off. But we have to put the emphasis on dealing with this TNG and getting behind them.
LEMON: Look, Dr. Bob, you answered the second part of my question because I was going ask you about the transitional government.
LEMON: What about reaching out to them and you answered it.
Dr. Bob Arnot, a former network news correspondent. He has been covering Somalia since 1991, and has really some great information. Some of the best information we've gotten about the pirates themselves. Dr. Bob, I'd like you to join us later if you can. So, we appreciate you stopping by and talking to us.
ARNOT: Great reporting, Don. Great -- Herculean task, a wonderful story.
LEMON: Thank you very much, sir. Appreciate it.
The latest development out of Somalia as we continue our coverage of the dramatic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips.
Also, tell us what's on your mind tonight. What should we do with these pirates? What should the government do with the pirate they have in custody? Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and iReport.com -- you can be part of our community here and get your response on the air.
DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: You're watching CNN. Welcome back.
We're updating our breaking news tonight. U.S. Navy SEALs have shot and killed a trio of well-armed Somali pirates and rescued American cargo ship Captain Richard Phillips who was held hostage by pirates in a lifeboat for five grueling days at sea.
Here's what we know about the successful military operation that unfolded five and a half hours ago off the coast of Somalia. Right now, Captain Phillips is safe on board the "USS Boxer" where he has been given a medical check up and been declared to be in good shape and resting comfortably. Navy SEALS say they considered Phillips in imminent danger and took advantage of a tactical mistake by the pirates, who apparently left themselves prone to naval sharpshooters. Three pirates were killed, another pirate, a supposed negotiator, taken into custody. Captain Richard Phillips was held captive about five days. Each day, generated its own headlines.
Here's how it played out from beginning to end.
LEMON (voice-over): Early Wednesday, the 500 foot "Maersk Alabama" was going south off the coast of Somalia when it was boarded by four armed Somali pirates. A scuffle broke out and the pirates escaped in the ship's 28-foot enclosed lifeboat with Captain Richard Phillips as a hostage.
UNIDENTIFIED SEAMAN: I want to clarify something right now. We never lost control of this ship.
UNIDENTIFIED SEAMAN: They never had it.
UNIDENTIFIED SEAMAN: We never took it back from them. They never had this ship.
UNIDENTIFIED SEAMAN: We never fought to take it back.
UNIDENTIFIED SEAMAN: You had Captain Phillips, but they never had this ship.
LEMON: The "USS Bainbridge" arrived on the scene the next day. Phillips jumped off the life boat in a bid to escape, but was quickly recaptured. The Alabama was given a security detail and sent on to Kenya.
SUSAN CRONAN, SISTER OF CREW MEMBER: I feel horrible about him, that he's stuck out there. I think that my brother and the crew, when they were told to leave and head to Kenya, I can only imagine that they felt horrible leaving the captain behind.
LEMON: On Good Friday, the guided missile frigate, the "USS Halliburton," also arrived on the scene. On Saturday, the Navy sent a small group of sailors in a boat to try to make contact with the pirates, but as the sailors approached the lifeboat, they were fired on by the pirates, and retreated. The Alabama docked that night in Mombasa, Kenya. They FBI declared the ship a crime scene and quarantined the crew.
UNIDENTIFIED SEAMAN: This man is a hero, a national hero. Everybody on this ship owes their life to this man right here.
LEMON: Late Easter Sunday, the Navy launched a rescue operation that resulted in Phillips being freed. Three pirates were killed and one of the pirates was taken into custody.
LEMON: That's how it played out. And I want to bring in now Chris Voss. He is a former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator.
Thank you very much for joining us here.
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI LEAD KIDNAPPING NEGOTIATOR: My pleasure.
LEMON: Listen, I want to talk to you about the latest information that Barbara Starr gave us, telling us about how the sharp shooters parachuted into waters covertly, and then made their home for the next couple of days on the fan tail of that ship.
VOSS: Well, if you're going to fortify your tactical positions, which is what they did, without causing the hostage takers, the pirates, to become more upset, you have to do it in a fashion where they don't see it. You're always at the risk in that sort of a move. It was very wise for them to do this in a way -- secure the perimeter, if you will, even more closely in a way that didn't cause the pirates to get more upset or interfere with the negotiations.
LEMON: Chris, stand by, because I want to bring in Harry Humphries. He is a former Navy SEAL. He joins us now live from Los Angeles.
Chris, Harry can probably tell us about this negotiating tactic and about these sharpshooters.
Not surprising to you that these sharpshooters parachuted in and then made their way onto the fan tail of that ship without the pirates knowing it, is it?
HARRY HUMPHRIES, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Well, guys, sea, air, land is the words used for the acronym SEAL. Our capabilities reside in those terrains. The eyes-on concept is an ancient concept in our community. We get eyes on before we do anything else. And typically, the eyes- on, of courses, will be with precision rifle. The more precision rifles you have in varying directions towards a potential target, the better off you are. So obviously, this is a continuation of an old philosophy and, as you can see, works quite well.
LEMON: And it was being reported that the policy or at least the strategy, I should say, is a better word, was to wait the pirates out. And I think in most people's minds, we were thinking, Chris, that as we were waiting them out, that mean, oh, they're going on go, we need some food, we need some water. And then they would sort of wear them down. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite was happening. The guys out there who were negotiating with them were trying to get into their good graces and offer them food and water and any sort of clothing or medical attention that they needed.
VOSS: Well, both things happened at the same time. I mean, you try to wear them down, but you have to manage the situation also. People become too exhausted if they go without sleep completely. They can't think. They become psychotic possibly and have some kind of psychological break and you have to manage the risk. And clearly, managing the risk all along was something they were conscious of. And they were prepared to act if the risk got unacceptably high, which it did in this instance.
LEMON: Harry Humphries, this is a split-second decision on the part of those sharpshooters?
HUMPHRIES: This particular operation is a command-initiated operation. There is an element either within the tactical unit or, in this particular case, perhaps the ship's captain or the senior tactical officer from the SEAL community aboard the bridge with the captain, calling the shot. The shooters will report over microphone "We have the target. We have the target. We have the target." And all they're waiting for is the command to say "Initiate, initiate." And when that command goes, it's very, very controlled. We don't want Wild West issues going on out here. This is a very professional, high-level unit that operate under extreme control and top secrecy, I might add.
LEMON: But from the time it takes them to say on the radio, we have the target, we have a target, and get back, that has to happen really quickly. And on top of that, this ship is moving in the water because they're trying to toe it to calmer waters.
HUMPHRIES: That's true. There are certain resources available that I'm not at liberty to discuss, but suffice it to say that the precision shooters within the SOC community, the special operations community, SEALS being only a portion of that community.
LEMON: Precision shooters is a good way of putting it. If you want to finish your thought, go ahead.
HUMPHRIES: No. Basically, that's all I was going to say is that a precision shooter with resources to stabilize. But those are resources that we don't want to get into.
LEMON: And we said precision shooting.
I don't know if we can, but if we can bring back those pictures, because I want Chris and Harry to look at these pictures from Dr. Bob Arnot, that when he was with some pirates there as he covered Somalia. If we can look at the pictures because we're talking about precision shooters from the U.S. Navy SEALs. And then we're talking about guys who have these crude weapons and who have AK-47s and other weapons, and may not be trained to shoot them in the way that the U.S. military are trained. There you go. The U.S. military is trained to shoot.
And so there is a definite advantage there, Chris, when it comes to the U.S. as far as picking these guys off if they have to.
VOSS: Well, that's the nature of the game. This is what we're confronted with, with criminals all the time. People who have guns don't necessarily know how to use them. And fortunately, we have people on our side that do.
LEMON: Hang on one second, because I want to remind our viewers -- I'll get back to you in a second -- that we're awaiting a press conference from family members, we believe, that's going to happen in Vermont. That press conference can happen at any moment. It should be anywhere between now and the 7:00 hour eastern. A press conference from Captain Rich Phillips' family. That will happen in Vermont, in Underhill, Vermont, where we've been standing by and watching the family members and the neighborhood there and waiting.
There you go. There are pictures from that neighborhood. And as I said, and a press conference going to start shortly. We are anticipating that. And I know you at home are anticipating, as well, because we want to hear from the family. This is a happy occasion, a happy time for them.
Quickly, before I go to break, I want to bring Chris back in.
Chris, let me ask you this. Dr. Bob said the key here, before you even have to get to the negotiating part, before anyone has to be taken hostage, anyone is hijacked, you have to get in there, you have to have some intel and you've got talk to the elders. Because I know part of this plant, at least I read, was to arrest several pirates in Somalia, either yesterday or the day before. And the elders said, no way, you have to get to these guys first.
VOSS: Well, that's part of it. There are several sort of linchpins here that hold the infrastructure together behind these pirates, and the elders are part of it. This negotiation with the elders became engaged while they were in the midst of doing business as usual. And I think the approach by our Department of State, who have been very involved with this all along and supporting this, will be to continue to talk to the elders and the different clans and begin to get some cooperation with them.
LEMON: Chris Voss, who is a former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, and the guy you see there with the lighter colored hair is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, part of the folks today who helped with the successful rescue.
You can smile, guys, because this is good news.
Thank you very much.
And speaking of good news, we're standing by for a press conference that's going to happen in Underhill, Vermont, just moments away. You can see -- let's take the shot from our affiliate. They're preparing to get ready there. Oh, that shot just went down, but they're preparing for the press conference. It can happen at any moment. We're told possibly 6:45 eastern. It could start before then. It could start a little bit of after. So you don't want to go away. You want to keep your TV sets tuned right here to CNN.
We'll have more of the breaking news of the rescue of an American sea captain by the U.S. Navy just ahead. We will talk with a lot of folks who have very interesting information about exactly what went on and what should happen next. And the family speaks moments away. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.
LEMON: We're following breaking news today here on CNN, the successful rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean. He had been held captive for five days by Somali pirates.
I want to bring in now Said Samatar. He's editor of the "Horn of Africa Journal."
Said Samatar, without question, you have published many an article on Somali. You gave us some very good information last night Mr. Samatar. I got e-mails saying they wanted to hear more of what you had to say. Hopefully, you can hear me. Give me a thumbs up if you can hear me.
SAID SAMATAR, EDITOR, "HORN OF AFRICA Journal": Yeah. I can.
LEMON: You can hear me. OK.
Let me ask you about the mentality of these pirates because we're hearing that one of the pirates got off the boat to try to negotiate with officials over there, got on to the "USS Bainbridge," also had an injury from a scuffle, but then didn't want to go back. So tell us about the mentality of these pirates.
SAMATAR: The mentality is to make money. And they say that the most dangerous enemy is the enemy that's not afraid of being killed. These are desperadoes who are not afraid of getting killed. And it is very difficult to successfully deal with people like that.
LEMON: The problem stems from -- and you said this last night -- in order to fix this problem, if it is fixable, you have to do it on land. You've got to go into the community and get intelligence. You have to talk to the elders. You have to establish relationships.
SAMATAR: Absolutely. I wholeheartedly second what the doctor said. The elders are central to the solution of this problem. But in order to know which ones to go, you have to have intelligence on the ground. For example, we know that there are two clans in that area -- I don't want to name names -- one to the south, one to the north. Do the Americans have any clue which clan did the pirate comes from?
LEMON: And do you think that we do? Judging from what you have seen, do you think -- judging from all of the pirate attacks and attempts that happened on the oceans?
SAMATAR: I do. I know where they come from. But I'm wondering whether the Americans know.
The other thing is you've got to bring the Puntland government into the picture. This is a pirate nation. Over the last two century, you have an empire or something that is rising in that area, and that Puntland lived and prospered on plundering ships. They would bring the loot to the king and the king will redistribute the loot. I cannot believe that the Puntland government is not implicated, are not part of this. LEMON: No one's heart, at least here in the west, is bleeding for the pirates because they have wreaked havoc on many people and ship and crew. I guess the mentality of the pirates, they feel this is their last resort. They're poor. They're starving. And this is a wave bringing home what they think their families need in order to survive.
SAMATAR: Well, that's part of it. But I don't believe that it is completely -- in fact, according to my information, the organized piracy, the guys with the sophisticated weapons and two-way communication gears, are financed from overseas by Somali gangsters, as well as non-Somalis who are in Nairobi, Kenya, London, Italy. So you've got a criminal enterprise that is highly sophisticated.
LEMON: OK. Hey, listen, I've got to move on. But I want to ask you something. You brought up a good point last night. If you could finish talking about it. We were talking about the al Qaeda connection, the possible al Qaeda connection between these pirates.
SAMATAR: Al Qaeda, yes. We know there was an al quad connection. For example, Hussanatahiro (ph) who was killed by a U.S. missile attack about six months ago, was trained under the supervision of bin Laden himself. However, we must not exaggerate that. Somalia is not a territory for Islamic terrorists. Just because the Somali clan is attractive military against terrorists (ph), anytime you need a command and control distraction.
LEMON: All right, Mr. Samatar, thank you very much. We really appreciate that.
We want to go now to Vermont where a press conference from family members is about to get under way. As you can see it's the same spokesperson that gave the statement earlier. I believe her name is Ms. McCall, who gave the press conference earlier and talked about the family's wishes and that their prayers had been answered.
We're going to listen in to this conference and we'll back.
ALLISON MCCALL, MAERSK CORPORATION, LTD & PHILLIPS' FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: I'm Allison McCall. I'm here on behalf of the Maersk Company to support the Phillips family.
Andrea asked me to come outside, actually, and to talk to you a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm sorry. Can you step a little closer?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you step up to the mike? Thank you.
MCCALL: Andrea asked me to come out and talk to you all. She's not personally ready to be talking to you all, but she wanted me to come out and just let you know that she and her family have felt a tremendous amount of support from the entire nation. The thoughts, the prayers, the sentiments, the support you've shown has really helped them endure this very difficult situation. She believes she can feel it and she believes that her husband felt it out there in the middle of the ocean. So thanks to the entire nation, the local community, the state of Vermont for all your help there.
She's also thanking you for your continued support of Captain Phillips and his family. Obviously, this is a long journey. And she appreciates the continued support.
Andrea spoke to her husband earlier. She was laughing while she was on the phone with him. She was saying his trademark sense of humor is still very much intact and he's in great spirits. And if you guys could just have seen her light up when she talked to him, it was really remarkable. So those two have a tremendous bond. And he's very energized and she's very energized, so it's a great thing.
They're currently sorting out next steps. Obviously, they have a lot to deal with here. They need time to regroup. They're all looking forward to being reunited as a family. They have no plans to speak to the media personally at the moment. They need to just get themselves together and spend some time together. And we hope that you will all respect the fact that they need a little bit of time.
Andrea also wanted me to tell everyone who was involved with the rescue effort, thank you, both stateside and abroad. She wants to thank the Navy and she wants to especially thank the families of those involved with the rescue effort. They were probably pretty worried about their loved ones too, so thanks to all of you from the Phillips family.
They are all just so happy the entire crew is safe. They're overjoyed that the entire "USS Alabama" crew is doing well. Of course, they're very happy about Richard. They're also very it's a happy ending for everyone involved on the "USS Alabama" crew.
The night's wrapping up here so we're going to ask you all to please leave the premise now. Family and friends, please respect their privacy as well. They've had a tough time too. I think you can all imagine this has been a long and exhausting day. So we're going to ask you please not to interrupt them and invade their space as they leave the house for the evening. If you all could just wrap it up for the evening here and give the family a break this evening?
I'm not going to be taking any questions at this time, but I wanted to thank you all again and just reiterate just how happy the family actually is, and thank the entire nation for the support that they've shown. Again, everybody inside of that house has really felt the positive energy and prayers and thoughts. They're just very grateful to all of you for that.
So thanks very much. Happy Easter. And have a good night.
LEMON: All right. That was Allison McCall of Maersk. And she is speaking on behalf of the family and she did it very kindly with a smile on her face, basically telling the media to get out and leave the folks alone because they needed some time to regroup and think about their next steps, which is absolutely true.
Just real quick, I want to reiterate. She says the wife of Captain Phillips wanted to thank the entire nation for their support, also thank the people who were involved in the rescue effort, and saying -- you heard the spokesperson there saying, when she spoke to her husband she lit up. They have a tremendous bond. This is good news. And with a smile on her face, she said, I'm going to ask you to wrap it up and leave us alone.
So, we will see exactly what's going to happen next. And we're going to continue following this developing story that's playing out all over the world that people are interested in.
You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news. We're back, moments away.
LEMON: All right, to our continuing coverage of the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips. I want to turn our conversation now over to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider who joins us from Los Angeles.
Bill, let's talk about the administration's handling of this particular incident.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, every president faces their test often in the first year of his presidency. And this was certainly a test for President Obama. President Reagan faced such a test with the professional air traffic controllers' strike, which he handled skillfully. The biggest test was President Bush in his first year who faced 9/11. This was also a test for President Obama, because the question had been raised -- I certainly heard it in the diplomatic communities, is he tough enough, is he strong enough to face a test like this?
He gave the standing order for decisive action to be taken if the commander of the ship was in any immediate danger. That's exactly what was done. The negotiations were taking place with the United States government, so clearly President Obama was very much involved in this. And the successful outcome, I think, will be a tribute to his leadership.
LEMON: All right, senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill, thank you very much for that.
New details coming up on CNN about the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips. Back in a moment.