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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
American Ship Captain Rescued From Pirates
Aired April 12, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, breaking news. He is safe, the American ship captain, rescued from pirates. Freed in a daring operation by Navy SEALS. Three Somali pirates killed by sharpshooters.
We have got all the latest on how it all went down right now on LARRY KING LIVE.
This is a special Sunday night live edition of LARRY KING LIVE. The United States Navy showed it meant business when it appeared Somali pirates were going to kill Captain Richard Phillips. Snipers made their move, took out three of four men holding the American ship captain hostage. Phillips was in quote, "imminent danger", with an AK-47 pointed at his back. A daring rescue on this Easter Sunday. We are going to get into how it all happened with an outstanding panel and a great crew of reporters as well. Let's go first to our reporters in Manamah, Bahrain, Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon correspondent, and in Mombasa, Kenya is Stan Grant, CNN correspondent as well.
Barbara, from your standpoint, what is the latest. Where is the captain? What is happening?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is now on board a ship. We will have first light here in the Middle East and off the coast of Africa in a couple hours, Larry. And by all accounts the U.S. military is making fairly rapid plans to try and get Captain Phillips back to his family as soon as possible. He is said to be in good medical condition. A big sigh relief with the U.S. Navy here in Bahrain tonight. It all was a textbook operation, Navy commandos, sharpshooters killing three of the four pirates, freeing Captain Phillips, bringing a very happy conclusion to this situation on Easter Sunday, Larry.
KING: And thank you, Barbara. Stay right with us. Stan Grant, did all this happen because they were going to apparently going to kill the captain?
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what we were hearing, Larry, that the decision was being made because they felt that the captain's life was in, quote, "imminent danger". They say that the weapons the pirates were carrying, AK-47s among them, were being pointed at him. Now, that's when the Navy SEALS decided to strike. And as Barbara said there, there is praise for the decision they have been able to carry out this operation and being able to free the captain unharmed. Of course, this news has been very much welcomed by his crew members who are here in Mombasa in Kenya. They brought the ship in here, the Maersk Alabama about 48 hours ago. And they were very, overjoyed at this news. They're also maintaining, Larry, that at no stage did the hijackers actually take over the ship. That the crew members fought back and were able to wrest control of the ship from the pirates.
At the moment I can also tell you the FBI is on board that ship. It's been declared a crime scene. They're debriefing the crew members. And the crew members will stay aboard until that investigation is finished and then they will go home and once again meet the captain that they call a hero. Larry?
KING: By the way, here is a video of the captain right after his release. Let's watch a minute of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD PHILLIPS, FREED HOSTAGE: Thanks, guys the thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Barbara, are the people there surprised that they were going to kill the captain?
STARR: By all accounts, Larry, it was over the last many hours possibly day or so we are told that the situation deteriorated on board that small lifeboat where he was being held. A U.S. official very familiar with what transpired tells us that the pirates became very agitated, they were anxious, they had been frankly bobbing around in this thing for a few days, the seas were rough, they had no propulsion, and they were becoming increasingly, increasingly agitated about what might happen to them. Shots were fired on more than one occasion we are told. Possibly as many as three times. So the Navy was keeping very close watch. The snipers were actually on the fantail, on the back of that navy warship that was just a couple hundred yards away, well hidden. The pirates couldn't see them. But the snipers could see the pirates. So when two of them made the mistake apparently of putting their head out into the open and the -- they saw that the captain had an ak-47 to his back, that's when the commander on the scene said "that's it. This man is in imminent danger. We are taking decisive action."
And as I think now, as many people know, President Obama had issued standing guidance, standing orders if you will, that if it was determined Captain Phillips was in imminent danger the military already had the authorization to go ahead. By all accounts it was all carried out and over and done with within seconds. Really a textbook operation. The kind of thing you hear about in the movies. But this time it was for real.
KING: Stan, that ship was carrying humane supplies for Kenya. Did that now get delivered?
GRANT: Yeah, it has been delivered. The Maersk Alabama was carrying food supplies. Now it was destined for the World Food Program. Here is the twist in the towel with this, Larry, the food supplies were destined for Somalia. I spoke to the World Food Program country director for Somalia and he said they are in desperate need of the supplies. Somalia is a lawless state. There has been no functioning central government there for many, many years. Warlords have been fighting for control. An Islamist movement has moved up out of the south. A rebel movement which has captured very, very large tracts of the country including the capital of Mogadishu. Ethiopia was there fighting for a while. And then it pulled out. Rebels came back again. So Somalia is in a dire state. And desperately need these food supplies. The World Food Program country director, was sag to me if these pirate attacks continue it will imperil the food supplies into the future and ships won't feel secure enough to deliver them and that hurts the Somalian people, the same place the pirates come from, Larry.
KING: Thank you, Stan. Thank you, Barbara Starr, thank you, Stan Grant. When we come back an outstanding panel we have assembled late this afternoon in order to bring to you the most solid information we can on this intriguing Easter Sunday story. We'll be right back to meet them. Don't go away.
KING: Before we meet our panel let's check in with our CNN correspondent Kate Bolduan, she is on the phone. We want to check how involved was the president in all of this, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Larry. It was something we have learned more as the day has progressed. We learned from an administration official as well as a time line that the White House eventually released. The president, President Obama twice granted authority to the Department of Defense to give the go ahead to use force to rescue Captain Phillips if need be. The first go-ahead came on Friday at 8:00. That's when the president gave the nod for a military operation. And then again, Saturday morning at 9:20.
And I learned from the administration official that that was more of a technical thing for the second time as more forces and more resources moved into that region. And as we learned during the Pentagon briefing today, this was a standing order from the president. So the on-scene commander, if he saw that Captain Phillips was in imminent danger, President Obama had given the authority to move. And of course now we know, they did just that. And lastly on this timeline, Larry, we see -- we look through, I have got four pages of the timeline that the White House released, just kind of ticking off exactly when the president knew what. He then found out of course, this afternoon at around 4:00 the president was able to call the USS Boxer to speak with Captain Phillips himself and he also spoke with his wife and his family.
KING: Thank you, Kate. Kate Bolduan always on the scene. Our CNN correspondent. Now Let's meet the panel. Here in Los Angeles, Harry Humphries, he is president of Global Studies Group and former Navy SEAL. In New York, a return visit with James Christodoulou, CEO of Industrial Shipping Enterprises, one of his ships hijacked off Somalia. That was last November, its crew of 28 was held for 56 days. In Washington, Chris Voss, former FBI lead international kidnap negotiator and CEO of the Black Swan Group. And in Atlanta, Alex Fraser, former U.S. Navy ship captain who has lots of anti-piracy training. Harry, as a Navy SEAL operation, was this tried and true?
HARRY HUMPHRIES, FORMER NAVY SEAL: This is a classic hostage rescue situation. The tactical forces got on scene as rapidly as possible. The entity split up into two elements. The one element of course, tactical, maintaining eyes on the target. So immediate response can go down when necessary. And of course the second element is the negotiations element. Very important part of the whole scenario. The negotiation is where we want it to happen. We want the negotiation to resolve the issue without any deaths. These gentlemen brought it upon themselves, it was deemed necessary, the command initiated an assault, and the three snipers took out the perpetrators.
KING: James, why did your situation last so long?
JAMES CHRISTODOULOU, CEO, INDUSTRIAL SHIPPING ENTERPRISES: Well ours was a little bit different, Larry. First of all we had a much, you know, more crowded ship. We had 28 crew members being held by at times 40, 40 different pirates. And we just didn't have the same resources to -- to bear in our case as -- as the Alabama had in this case. We didn't have military or government involvement or help. Not that that -- you know may have made matters any better. But that's why.
KING: Chris, from a standpoint of negotiation, is this a failed operation? Or is this the only way to do it when you are faced with this?
CHRIS VOSS, FORMER FBI KIDNAP NEGOTIATOR: No, this is an absolute success from a negotiation standpoint. In the U.S., about 82 percent of our situations are, are resolved with a combination of negotiation and tactics. The more I hear about this the more I am amazed what they accomplished with negotiations. Actually getting the tugboat to be towed behind the navy ship is a phenomenal accomplishment. The negotiators, managed to get one of the pirates onboard the Navy ship. So there was a tremendous amount of set up if you will, for the negotiations to see this either the rest of the way through or to work hand in glove with tactical resolution exactly the way that it did.
KING: Alec Fraser, as a former captain with experience by the way in the region we are talking about. And lots of anti-piracy training. What about this whole operation, if anything, surprised you?
ALEC FRASER, USN, (RET): Well it was a -- an operation as Barbara and Harry were referring to that was textbook. But textbook operations don't just happen. There is a lot of training, there is a lot of preparation, there is a lot of patience. And when Harry was talking about the fact that the ship was being, lifeboat was being towed that is a huge preparation. Because behind a destroyer and heavy seas that can proceed along you can get a quiet area behind the ship. Fifty yards or so behind the ship is the lifeboat. For snipers to be able to take a shot on a relatively stable lifeboat is huge compared to, as Barbara Starr was saying, bobbing around.
KING: When are you trained to shoot, Harry?
HUMPHRIES: The shot in this particular situation because, two reasons, one very high level of authority has to authorize the shot. That can go as high as CENTCOM. In this case, the scene commander, the highest commander was NAVCENT, Admiral Gordney who we are seeing on TV now.
KING: The question is do you shoot when you see someone in danger or is that the only time you shoot?
HUMPHRIES: As the shooters we are on mikes with Central Command, that could be the bridge or the senior TAC, we say we have target, we have target, we have target. Then the exercise will go that way until the commander says, execute. And when you execute command goes then the three shots go simultaneously.
KING: Pretty sharpshooters.
HUMPHRIES: They are excellent, excellent shooters.
KING: We'll be back more with our Harry Humphries, James Christodoulou, Chris Voss and Alec Fraser. By the way we'll also include your phone calls. Don't go away.
KING: No one was watching and waiting with more interest than Captain Phillips' family. Earlier today a spokesperson for them had this to say about the dramatic turn of events. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALYSON MCCOLL, PHILLIPS FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: Andrea asked me to come out and talk to you all. She is not personally ready to be talking to you all. 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, the thoughts, the prayers, the sentiments, the support you have shown has really helped them endure this very difficult situation. And 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 you the entire nation, the local community, the State of Vermont for, for all of your help there. She also is 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 is 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 is very, energized and she is very energized so it is a great thing.
They're kind of sorting out next steps.
Obviously they have a lot to deal with here. They need time to regroup. They are 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 -- 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 involved with the rescue effort, thank you. Both stateside and abroad she wants to thank the Navy and 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 U.S. Alabama crew is doing well. Of course they are very happy about Richard. Also very happy it is a happy ending for everybody involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll be back with more.
KING: Back with our panel in a couple of moments. Let's check in with Stephanie Elam, in Underhill, Vermont near the home of the Phillips'. Imagine things are pretty happy there tonight?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely, Larry. We, we definitely saw a change in tone. Although a chilly day here in Vermont. Snow flurries throughout the day. Not a lot of people out and about. But the few people we did see today, definitely cheering the news that Captain Phillips is safe. One way we noted happiness, lots of horns honking throughout town. In fact, when the extended family and friend at the Phillips' home today, when they left this evening, they all, not all ready to come before the cameras, they all were honking with their joy, excitement and news that Captain Phillips is safe after he had spoken to his wife, Andrea a few hours before that.
KING: Hang right there, Stephanie. We will have a question more or two. Susan Candiotti in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts. The obvious question why are you in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Larry. That is on the cape. It is the site of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. A close connection to what happened over there, because Captain Richard Phillips is a 1979 alum of the academy here as is in second in command, Shane Phillips, part of the crew of the Maersk Alabama. So everyone here has been following this very closely. For the first unofficial reaction, everybody received word, heard of the release on CNN, well, a skeleton crew aboard the training ship Kennedy right behind me started sounding the horn, the whistle, ship's whistle. Listen.
Larry, that went on through out the day. People walking around with big smiles on their face. It was thrilling here. People were exhilarated to hear the news. And what is also interesting about the academy is that they train all of the cadets here and have for years in how to fend off piracy attacks and only recently did they institute a pilot program for maritime academies in the country on how to use small firearms also in order to ward off these attacks.
And it was only just a couple weeks ago that Shane Phillips, the second in command, or Shane Murphy, excuse me, second in command, he lectured here just before he went on that fateful trip.
KING: Wow. And Stephanie, is it safe to say that the Phillips, Captain Phillips is a popular person in Underhill, Vermont?
ELAM: Well, you know, Larry it's interesting. Because when you talk to people here in the town. This is a small rural community. It's pretty much at the base of Mount Mansfield which I'm told is the highest point in the State of Vermont. So these people are the kind of people that enjoy having a lot of space around them. Maybe have some farm animals. Do some farming. Bump into your neighbors at the general store at the end of the street.
So, a lot of the people I talked to didn't know, perhaps, Captain Phillips personally but did remember seeing him running the lawnmower in front of his house, being very dedicated to his family when he was here. That note was consistently said through everyone I talked to. He always was very dedicated. A dedicated husband. A dedicated father. Doing his best to be there for his family when he was here. And that holds true to what we have heard about him at sea. That he would also put his crew, as the top priority when he was away at sea.
So that part is staying pretty much the same here. The Phillips family have been getting so much love and support, outpouring not just from the country but also from right here in Underhill, Vermont. You can see yellow ribbons tied all along the fences here. On mailboxes, they were everywhere. There is ribbons being passed out in stores around this part of Vermont as well. Saying, bring back, safe return for our captain. Our local hero. Talk now of how they will celebrate when they get back here. One neighbor joking other places have ticker tape parade. Here they will probably have snow flurries and some other way to celebrate his return.
KING: Thanks, Stephanie. Good reporting. Stephanie Elam in Underhill. One other thing, Susan, does that Maritime Academy, do they train people about piracy?
CANDIOTTI: Yes, they do. That's one of their specialties here. Part of the curriculum here. And piracy is a big issue here and has been for years. In fact, the admiral here told me earlier today that it is time for the world to focus on this worldwide issue. He said we have to break, in his view, the pirates' business model, where they see a ship, seize the ship, demand a ransom, and continue to make millions and millions of dollars. So, he hopes that the world will help to try to break that cycle.
KING: Thank you, Susan. Susan Candiotti in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts. Back with our panel on this special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
KING: Welcome back. We're talking about the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips earlier today. Snipers shot and killed three of the Somali pirates who had held him hostage for almost five days. Our panel is assembled. Joining us on the phone as well is retired commander, Kirk Lippold, Kirk knows the dangers of foreign waters, he was in charge of the USS Cole. And he is a retired commander from the United States Navy. There are no comparisons here, the Cole to this, except the threatened ships, right, commander?
KIRK LIPPOLD, FORMER NAVY COMMANDER: Actually, Larry, there are a lot of comparisons with this. When it comes right down to it. When you look at the leadership and the training that went into successfully executing this hostage rescue, there is really very little difference between how my crew performed on October 12, 2000, and the professional manner participating and working on USS Bainbridge carried out this successful end to a very, very difficult and time consuming hostage rescue mission.
And I could not be prouder of that captain and their crew and everyone that participated in it.
KING: Stay with us, commander. Would you agree with that, Alec?
FRASER: Absolutely. You just don't -- things just don't happen. They have to be practiced. And they have to be practiced over and over again. In this particular case, things went well because everyone had already exercised as Kurt was talking about, these type of drills before. So if you train the way you are going to fight then you do well when you have to go into a battle.
KING: Harry Humphries, training, training is the key to all things isn't it?
HUMPHRIES: It is the key to all things. Train hard, fight easy. Basically is what we say. You instinctively do what you train in the extreme consequence situations.
KING: Why don't I think of the image of Navy SEALS as marksmen? I picture them underwater and climbing up and putting, bombs and ...
HUMPHRIES: Lots of pictures of Navy SEALS in my mind. The acronym, sea, air, land, S-E-A-L, describes the various environments we work in. That's very, very accurate. The skill sets that the folks have today are immense. Every discipline has a group that specialize. And the precision shooter group, or the -- or the snipers are probably the some of the best snipers in the world if not the best.
KING: Huh. What, Chris Voss, does the FBI do now?
VOSS: Well they're going to, they're going to conduct a full investigation. Which almost seems as -- as almost routine matter now that -- that the pirates are dead and it appears that the one is cooperating. And they'll decide what sort of follow-up they may need to engage in. If other cases come this way and to be prepared for more cases. And if I could add one more thing also in terms of what the FBI has been doing. There is an interagency group that works out of Washington, DC and the National Security Council, the Hostage Working Group. I used to be a member of that group also. And the State Department, State Department counterterrorism, all of the interagencies work very hard behind the scenes to coordinate as much as they possibly can. I know there was a tremendous amount of work done by the other agencies in support of this as well.
KING: James, you negotiated with -- with pirates, right?
CHRISTODOULOU: Yes, I did.
KING: How do you think based on what your dealings with them were they're going to react to this?
CHRISTODOULOU: Well I hope that in the future they start to really think twice about the serious consequences of pirating and hijacking ships on the high seas. It is a terrible scourge. I am thrilled that Captain Phillips has made it home safely. He is a hero. And an example to all of us. And I'm sure his thoughts and prayers go out to his fellow mariners, more than 300 are being held now in the region for their safe return also. And I hope that this deters pirate activity in the future and serves as a lightning rod to continue as President Obama said, "our resolve" to fight piracy and prevent it from escalating.
KING: Alec, there are 300 around the region still being held?
FRASER: Well, I think, don't know the exact number. But they're being held. I think the more interesting thing is that no one has really been shot. We have hostages. We have prisoners basically. But what we have been doing is paying ransom. Go back to the Barbary pirate days when the American Navy was first founded. As a matter of fact, Captain Bainbridge one of the frigate captains that did that. A matter of ransom, paying ransom. After a while that didn't work. And we had to go in and take the Barbary pirate cities, Tripoli being one of them. And Barbara Starr said it very well this afternoon that in order to fix piracy, we have to fix Somalia.
KING: What is the duty Commander Lippold, of the captain, is he responsible for all things that occur?
LIPPOLD: Larry, accountability stops and starts with the commanding officer. From the day he says the three greatest words in a career, which is I relieve you, you assume total accountability and responsibility for what goes on on your ship, for good or for worse.
And I think that Commander Castellano did an absolutely outstanding job as the on scene commander in managing obviously number one a difficult situation, but clearly the eyes of the world were upon him and his ship and how they would perform. He worked from what I can tell extremely well. Keeping his chain of command informed. Letting the -- the hostage negotiators from the FBI work with him or through him to manage those negotiations if they were ongoing over a period of days.
As well as having people from outside his command come aboard his ship, establish a relationship with his crew, work with him very quickly to integrate them so they knew what the operations were on the ship, what the tempo was on the ship then being able to allow them to execute a mission that obviously ended in superb success today.
I mean you couldn't ask for any better. And it is a real testament to how well he runs his ship. And I give him all of the credit in the world for doing a great job.
KING: And he was there, Harry because he was I guess the closest ship in the region right?
HUMPHRIES: He was an element of Combined Task Force 151 which has a distinct task to do anti-piracy work in the -- in the Indian Ocean as well as the Gulf of ...
KING: That is their role?
HUMPHRIES: That's their role. They're part of a multinational group, a consortium if you will of foreign nations, naval powers that are working together to try to extinguish this piracy problem. The captain of the vessel is responsible for everything that happens on that vessel. The tactical team that arrived on that vessel is probably led by a tactical commander who works right with the captain.
KING: We'll be back with more right after this. Don't go away.
KING: We are joined on the phone, obviously, please understand we put all this together late this afternoon. People are coming in and out. I know that Harry will be happy to hear this because Dick Marcinko is on the phone with us. They go back a long way. They were on this show together 20 years ago. Dick is the former United States Navy Seal, retired commander of the founding member of the founder Seal Team Six Counterterrorism. Dick, what do you make of what happened today?
DICK MARCINKO, FORMER SEAL: Well I think happy homecoming. Good to have everybody on your show tonight.
KING: You know everybody.
HUMPHRIES: Now we are complete. MARCINKO: You know it certainly is a great way to end the holiday having pushed it over the rock and have the captain free. And once again shows us that the young kids they're well trained and they are an oiled machine. And just turn them loose and they'll do whatever they're told to do.
KING: Do you think, Dick, this might prevent any piracy or just another incident and on they go?
MARCINKO: Larry, unfortunately, I think it is just going to continue. You know -- I know that it is a probably not the right day to say it. But you know until you go to shore and mop them up they're going to keep on going. Because there is no reason for them not to do this. They have been making good money at it. The only problem. I don't know where you spend $3 million in Somalia.
But at any rate, you know, I'm afraid that, eventually we're going to have to go in and, and the way I look at it, with my other company, Red Cell Global, there is roughly 10,000 pirates in three different major organizations there, so it's not like a walk in the sun for anybody.
KING: You agree with that, Alec Fraser?
FRASER: It's difficult. The coast of Somalia is like the entire East Coast of the United States. There is a lot to find. And some of the boats that they're using are fishing boats. Sort of pull them up on the beach. Not like a port you go into that you can actually identify where the locations are. So given that entire coast all the way up the Horn of Africa it is going to be a hard thing to do. Projecting naval power around the globe has been suck the United States and other nations have done for hundred of years. But the opportunity to go in on a large coast like that makes Iraq look, you know, like a small, easy place to do business.
KING: James, what were they like to negotiate with?
CHRISTODOULOU: Well, they were polite. And we made -- a great point of trying to keep it businesslike and very professional. There was no hostility. We tried to keep all of the ego out of it. Because for us the only objective was to get our crew out. We had no other options. We didn't have this type of military or government support. And it was a very tedious, but I have to say, professional and -- and polite negotiation that went on for 55 days.
KING: Huh. We are going to take a break. You stay on the phone with us Dick. We'll be back with the whole panel on this edition, Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: When word of Captain Phillips' release reached the crew of the Maersk Alabama everyone on board erupted in cheers. And here's what they had to say about the ordeal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to clarify something right now. We never lost control of the ship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never had it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never took it back from them. They never had the ship. They didn't have the ship. They had Captain Phillips but they never had the ship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am the chief engineer and I guarantee you they never had control. I took it from the bridge. Just as they walked on the bridge with guns and stuck guns in his face, in the captain's face. The captain said, the bridge has been compromised. I took control down in the engine room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the bravest men I have ever met. Right here. Right here this man is a hero. A national hero right here. Everybody on the ship owes their life to this man, right here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Exuberant crew. But I imagine rather typical of people who serve like that. You are watching LARRY KING LIVE, a special Sunday night edition. We'll be back with more right after this.
KING: Safe to say that we don't know much about the men who, who pilot and captain these cargo ships. Dick Marcinko, what do you think of people like Captain Phillips?
MARCINKO: One, you have to certainly recognize his leadership skills. I have been fortunate enough to go to the Maritime Academy and give talks up there on threats of terrorism, and from their perspective. How they feel about sailing in these kind of waters, with some times one gun held by the captain on board. And the fact that they put in horrendous hours and they know that they're sailing out in harm's way. They are sailors, they work hard, they play hard. And they are red, white and blue.
KING: James, the captain who worked for you, what was he like? How did he deal with all of this?
CHRISTODOULOU: Very much like Captain Phillips. I have to agree with your other guest. These men are heroes. All of them. He deals with the pressure and responsibility of running a ship. Of managing a crew and a cargo around the world dealing with a lot of uncertainties and they're all heroes. But he dealt with the steadfastness and leadership skills that the captain demonstrated and he did it over a 55 day period. My hat is off to both of those men, all of the sea captains, they're all heroes.
KING: It's safe to say, Chris Voss, that -- they're the captains of the cargo ships are the people we know least about. Wouldn't you agree? VOSS: Yes we, do. They come to light in instances like this. And people from my unit are, are lucky enough to get out and, and be able to help them and disrupt the actions of hostage takers that are acting against these guys.
KING: Alec, they must get good training?
FRASER: They do get good training, Larry. But I want to mention, Commander Frank Castellano, who is the captain of the Bainbridge and he and his team and crew have done a superb job of organizing this with patience, with good training, and organization to go through it. The thing about the captain is that he is responsible for everything. And no matter what happens he is responsible for it. So whether you are the captain of a merchant ship or the captain of a Navy ship it is all the same responsibility. You are out there by yourself. There is no one to come help you. If you are not the one who is making the decisions whether to avoid a storm, to keep from running aground or what to do in a situation like this, the captain is the one that makes the decision. He is sort of the god at sea.
KING: Harry, do you agree?
HUMPHRIES: Absolutely do agree. The captain is the king at sea. His word is the ultimate word. The tactical units, however are under separate command.
KING: The Navy SEALS didn't answer to the captain of the USS Bainbridge?
HUMPHRIES: If they're under the captain of the Bainbridge there is a relationship with the captain of the vessel. No question. But the tactical decisions are probably done, I'm not going to say definitely, probably done through the tactical chain of command which is different than the ship's chain of command.
KING: Do you agree, Dick?
MARCINKO: Yes, Larry. You know, everybody did a great job and it's good to have a success story to talk about on Easter Sunday evening. But to say what, cover what everybody else said, the captain of the ship is there to go down with his ship and in this case Phillips saved the ship by leaving it. Kind of a reverse play on the traditional roles.
KING: What, do you think, Alec Fraser, is going to happen to the captive pirate?
FRASER: First of all, the going down with the ship routine went out a long time ago. We just plan on saving the ship and not getting into that situation. And you know, before I answer that question, Larry, in going along with your other questions, I think Harry or Dick, it would be interesting on the chain of command discussion as to who gave the order to fire? The snipers are on the fantail, some heads popped out of a hatch on the lifeboat and at that particular point, there's not time to call someone else and say what do you think? Can I do this? Someone had to do the authority to do that. And I think they could probably illuminate us a little on this.
HUMPHRIES: I defer that on Dick Marcinko, but I'm sure that's a question that we shouldn't be talking about.
KING: Not talking about. Dick, you want to respond?
MARCINKO: I will just -- for the listeners, Larry, one that is all set up. The skipper of the Bainbridge certainly had his guidance as to what the situation was, and other reports I've seen today said that he was independent steaming out there and would make the call. Well-informed. The tactical commander, when he squeezed trigger, much like on any other series plays where I have a target, the tactical commander normally deploys saying when I get a shot I'm going to take it. And in international waters, I would guess that when they launched to do this, they already had programmed who had what call what and where.
KING: We're going to take a break now. James, thanks for being with us. I understand he has to go. James Christodoulou. When we come back, I'll pick up with our question on what happens to the captive pirate right after this.
KING: Before I get to that question, let's get a couple calls in. In Minneapolis, hello. Minneapolis, go ahead. Are you there?
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: I have a question about the privacy -- my question is, who's the responsibility for Somalian privacy and fishers?
KING: Somalian privacy?
CALLERS: Whose fish are out there.
KING: Do you get the question?
HUMPHRIES: I think it's a human rights question, and basically it's a good question. The fact that the Somali crew of that vessel did, in fact, take another vessel by force subjugates them to an international look of the law saying they're trying to hurt or harm someone in which case that person has a right to defend themselves, or that flag or that nation has a right to come to their rescue and this is the situation here.
KING: New York City. Hello.
CALLER: Yeah. Hi. How you doing?
The question is, this is not the first taking. It's been going on for some time. Who has the responsibility for policing the international waters and that that point are we going to see armed commercial vessels with marshal-type people on these vessels to protect them?
FRASER: I would go back to say Alfred Mahan (ph) said a long time ago he who controls the sea lanes of the world controls the world. And so nations throughout history have been using their naval forces to protect the sea lanes, and it's not one nation in international waters. It's whatever national interest you have for particular sea lanes going somewhere. Navies aren't as large as they used to be. The United States Navy was approaching 600 ships or so back in the Reagan administration. It's down to almost 300 now.
To project the forces, where we are in Somalia and around the world from the Pacific to Mediterranean, it's a large area to cover with a small number of ships. So protecting it, it's very tough.
KING: Yeah, and Harry says there's 280 ships.
HUMPHRIES: Actually it's smaller, but the fact that this is a coalition of a the willing naval powers situation, we have many other nations involved in NAVCENT terms of manning, patrolling the waterways. But you're right. I mean, we are so thin these days that that we couldn't possibly cover this area.
KING: Chris, I'll ask you. What's going to happen to the captive pirate?
VOSS: They'll probably give him an opportunity to cooperate as much as possible, because he came to the Navy ship and didn't want to go back. This certainly is grounds for leniency there.
If he was a witness, if he was a conspirator to a crime in the United States, he could easily get with a minimal amount of time served and try find his way back to his old life.
KING: Might pirates seek his return, maybe bargain it?
VOSS: No. I don't think so. At this point in time, it's probably known that he wanted to stay on the ship and he didn't want to return to the pirates in harm's way. So I doubt strongly if anyone's going to try him and take a hostage to exchange for him.
KING: Let's round robin it. Dick Marcinko, is this going to get worse before it gets better?
MARCINKO: Yeah. My kidneys say yes, Larry. They're making too much money, as everybody has said, we just don't have enough assets out there to stop them. Until we give them a crushing blow that they have to think about, they're going to continue.
HUMPHRIES: I agree with Dick. We have a very well organized entity on the shore that has an excellent business model, and as long as we continue to pay them they will continue to put skips out there to take vessels down. KING: Chris?
VOSS: I think it's, if it was only a military solution, as long as there's that kind of poverty in that part of the world, the pirates will reform until they have a more stable government and some sort of another way to make a living.
FRASER: In this particular area to fix piracy, you have to fix Somalia. We don't have the assets to do it everywhere but we'll have to do something. Arming the merchant ships is - will probably start looking like a fortified San Quentin, where the fences and barbed wire keep people out rather than in.
KING: And Dick, wouldn't you be chicken - chicken is a bad word to use with you. Wouldn't you be kind of apprehensive about taking merchant ships through that area?
MARCINKO: Not if I had my rules of the road, Larry. We should test on it. The crews need to be armed and be prepared. There are some less than lethal devices available. It means the shipping companies will have to kick in and not rely on insurance benefits and we're going to have to make some heavy policy decisions at management level within shipping.
KING: So this is a happy day, but we can't say we're optimistic. Right, Harry?
HUMPHRIES: Absolutely correct. Until the world looks at piracy as the threat that it can be, we will continue to have this problem. And I don't see a serious effort to try to get into Somalia to stabilize the mission.
KING: Our outstanding panel in addition to the journalists who reported with us. Harry Humphries, president of Global Studies Group, former Navy SEAL, with us earlier, James Christodoulou of Industrial Shipping Enterprises. Chris Voss, former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, Alec Fraser, former U.S. Navy ship captain and on the phone, Dick Marcinko, the former United States Navy SEAL.
We'll continue to monitor the story. Check out our blog, cnn.com/larryking. And for updates, now more on this is breaking news story, into the CNN NEWSROOM and Don Lemon. Don?