With the recent hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, it is no surprise that Martin N. Murphy, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) in Washington D.C. and author of Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in the Modern World, has been asked to comment.
In the Guardian, Martin Murphy argues that despite the efforts of various navies to prevent piracy, the “pirates are winning” and have found ways to get around whatever safeguards have been established. In an article on the Wired Web site, Murphy points to the difficulty of legal prosecution as another stumbling block in deterring piracy. After two decades of civil war, the Somali legal system is not functional and the world’s navies have no clear legal rights. Thus, in many cases, the Somali pirates are just let go after they are captured. As Murphy states, “the potentials for legal embarrassment are quite numerous” for the United States and other nations with ships vulnerable to piracy.
For more, there is a video of Murphy discussing the links between piracy and terrorism. And, here is a short excerpt from Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money, in which Murphy warns of piracy’s ability to distract from efforts to combat terrorism:
“Terrorism at sea while currently a minor threat to international order has the potential to develop. If current trends continue, it is likely that the sea will become a more contested space, one which terrorists are likely to be presented with more potential targets and more opportunities to mount attacks….
There may be no proven links between pirates and terrorists, but in some contexts pirates (and criminals generally) can nonetheless assist terrorists by sustaining a milieu that deflects intelligence and law enforcement attention away from terrorist activity. Criminals such as pirates and smugglers do not have to cooperate with terrorists to achieve this affect; they can help them inadvertently by simply going about their normal business.”