Kudos to the Navy in general and the Navy SEALs in particular. The Financial Times has a good story on the matter, including a description of the President’s role in authorizing the rescue:
US Navy commandos on Sunday rescued an American ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean in a daring operation that left three pirates dead and ended a dramatic high-seas saga.
Four Somali pirates had held Richard Phillips in a lifeboat since their aborted attempt to hijack the Maersk Alabama, a US-flagged cargo ship, on Wednesday.
Vice-Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of US naval forces in the region, said Navy snipers shot the pirates after determining that Mr Phillips was in “imminent” danger. President Barack Obama had authorised the Navy to take action if Mr Phillips’ life was at risk.
So, there was authorization for the Navy to engage if Captain Phillips’s life was in danger. Vice-Admiral Gortney then acted on the authorization, which means that his order was the catalyst for the rescue operation, while the President’s authorization set the rules of engagement.
The interesting question going forward is as follows: What will the Obama Administration do to prevent further such pirate sea-jackings?