Pirates, Terrorists and Maritime Intelligence

Washington, DC Aug. 1st, 2006 ---- The image of pirates, portrayed by Johnny Depp and Dustin Hoffman leads most to believe that they were cartoon characters from several hundred years ago. Not so they are alive and well, and terrorizing ships in many parts of the world. The numbers are barely reported, for many small craft dare not report boardings, and many just disappear. The major shipping companies would sooner swallow the loss than face increased crew levels, and increased insurance premiums.

The Cruise companies hardly want to portray the high seas as anything other than a calm blue expanse for rock climbing, and watching Whales play. But there is an ominous note being sounded, thanks to George Bush and Israel. The militant anti-American groups springing up around the world are looking for ways to strike at the heart of the Great Satan, where it hurts.

Already fragmented groups have been very successful in attacking shipping. Even the mighty USS Cole was crippled in a very high profile attack. But the Cole was a strongly built warship, designed to take a pounding and live to fight back. The mega cruise ships and tankers are a different matter. Already an attack was foiled on a small high end luxury cruise ship off Somalia, already a hot bed of piracy. 6,000,000 passengers use US Cruise ships every year, and they are very vulnerable. The design of the new giant floating mega hotels is cause for concern in many quarters. The 113,000 ton Crown Princess has many worried as being too "Top Heavy" after rolling 20 degrees following a reported steering error. Holding 3,100 and 1200 crew they are tempting targets in a growing anti-American world.

Unlike the USS Cole these floating Gin Palaces are made from thin steel sheeting, and not designed to stay afloat after a couple of RPG rounds rip holes along the water line. Fortunately they operate in local waters, and unless Bush attacks Venezuela they have little to fear.

Oil tankers, chemical transports and LNG transports are a different matter, if the situation in the Middle East gets any worse. I have written many times about the Strait of Hormuz, and how it could choke the world economy. It only takes a few dedicated fanatics in a fast boat to sink an of the big Super Tankers. As long as there is a command structure in Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas than that seems a distant threat. But once the command and control organization has been destroyed, and the small splinter groups "Do their own thing" then it is almost a certainty. Nothing says "Smash the Mighty Satan" better than a burning Oil tanker blocking the Strait. The loss if the gamble doesn't work, a handful of extremists who want to die for the cause.

But consider good old free enterprise piracy. How much would Exxon pay Hezbollah to get it's tanker back, together with a full cargo of Oil? What would Rumsfeld do in such a scenario. Order the Air Force to bomb the tanker and kill the pirates.

At the other end of the scale there are the thousands of Baby Boomers sailing the Seven Seas on their dream yachts. The Marinas of Florida are already choked with them. What a great fundraiser for any anti-American group, and what a soft target for the economically depressed militants in the region. Remember Cuba will begin to disintegrate, even explode in the months ahead as Castro hands over power to his chosen successors. Dumb Congressmen don't realize that Fidel Castro was our best ally in the region, despite the disgusting way the US treated him to please the Mafia and the Batiste Cubans in Miami. That Caribbean could turn very nasty in the months ahead.

Governments don't want the public to hear of the hundreds murdered, the attacks or the $21 Billion a year lost to piracy, because they are vulnerable, and unprepared to warn. The Bush Administration operates in a secret vacuum, which hides gross incompetence under a Top Secret Security Clearance. The Maritime Intelligence Network, dismantled after the end of the Cold War, is again being cobbled together in secret, as part of the military. Any foreign nation, and any foreign port would be crazy to share all it's information with them, an arm of the Pentagon "Shock and Awe" machine. Instead of creating an Open Source environment and sharing with the many shipping companies, ship operators, and private sailors, they throw more data into the bogged down, hopelessly inefficient Homeland Security quagmire, thus ensuring successful high profile attacks to justify more funding and keep the public on edge.

The next 9/11 will not come by way of a hi-jacked commercial airliner. It will come from a hi-jacked commercial ship that glides peacefully through the flawed inspection procedures, and into the vulnerable heartland of a major port city. The paperwork will be in order, and the overworked, underpaid, and underfunded inspection personnel will not have their suspicions aroused. The Security Cleared Maritime Intelligence teams will have tracked the ship, and will have noticed nothing out of the ordinary, in their new luxurious headquarters, complete with landscaped serenity.

The lone sailor too can rest assured that these palatial surroundings will house the best analysts, paid less than a Used Car Salesman to watch the Caribbean, Pacific and China Sea for areas to avoid, and carefully note every Mayday from a skipper as his wife is raped and murdered, then note his screams as he goes too. But don't worry it will all be classified Secret so no-one else will know. For keeping a happy face, and telling the TV audience that everything is "Just Fine" in the world is what the Bush Administration do best. You have to admire their skill.

See more on Maritime at http://www.ComLinks.com/marintel/mmenu.htm

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