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Senator Mark Kirk offers legislative options to sink Somali pirates

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markkirkIn the wake of the killings of four Americans last week, U. S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) says he will advance anti-piracy legislative options to safeguard U.S. economic and security interests off the coast of east Africa.

“The murder of four Americans shows the requirement for a tough response to Somali pirates,” Senator Kirk said. He is calling his effort to explore anti-piracy options the “Decatur Initiative,” named after the legendary Navy captain Stephen Decatur, who became a national hero when he recaptured the U.S. frigate Philadelphia from pirates in Tripoli during the Barbary War of 1801-1805.

“Captain Decatur, for whom Decatur, Illinois, is named, torched the Philadelphia so it couldn’t be used by the pirates again,” Senator Kirk said.   “I think we could learn an important lesson from that strategy.”

Senator Kirk said he is studying the advancement of several anti-piracy legislative options, including but not limited to, establishment of:

  • A Pirate Exclusion Zone that would allow the immediate boarding and/or sinking of any vessel from Somalia not approved and certified for sea by allied forces;
  • An Expedited Legal Regime permitting trial and detention of pirates captured on the high seas;
  • Blockade of pirate-dominated ports like Hobyo, Somalia.
  • Broad powers and authority to on-scene commanders to attack or arrest pirates once outside Somalia’s 12-mile territorial limit, including the sinking of vessels if a local commander deems it warranted.

Through his position on the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Kirk will explore financial links between pirates and the terrorist groups al Shabaab and IQIM, and target pirates with financial sanctions in the same way as other terrorist networks.

With his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he will review U.S. expenditures to support stabilizing governments in the region.

“This effort will recall the spirit of President Thomas Jefferson and the first major mission of the U.S. Navy,” said Senator Kirk, a 20-year intelligence officer in the Naval Reserves.  “The open ocean should become increasingly dangerous for pirates to operate against the world’s most powerful navy.”

March 1, 2011

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