Foreign Policy’s daily Situation Report offers a droll story that illustrates the growing respect for communications rules among those who routinely break the law. “Piracy has plummeted off the coast of Somalia,” it reports, extrapolating from the decision of a pirate called “Big Mouth” to quit the business. “Big Mouth” famously held a press conference to announce this. Something was clearly up. As the joke goes, a pirate does not ask for directions (or instructions?), he relies only on his gut feeling, a compass or a treasure map.
This is obviously the result of sustained, multi-pronged measures to combat piracy. It’s becoming just too hard – and dangerous – to do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The State Department says the last successful attack on a commercial vessel was in May 2012. That is remarkable, however you look at it.
The US government has not been slow to seek global applause for its contribution to anti-piracy efforts. Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told Foreign Policy that “we’re seeing more pirates prosecuted, fewer ships being attacked, the statistics are striking.” In a pointed reference to “Big Mouth”, Mr Shapiro continues with evident satisfaction: “The investment is not paying off in the same way that it once did, so there are people who are exiting the business.”
But here’s a droll possibility. Might “Big Mouth” have been a plant? A propaganda recruit of the State Department? If not, how about this further droll possibility: Might he now find new employment as a poster boy for the US government’s anti-piracy initiatives? Remember ‘Catch Me if you Can’, the biographical crime film about Frank Abagnale, that con artist who was the very Picasso of cheque fraud? Eventually, the FBI turned to him as the ‘technical expert’ who could help catch other forgers. “Big Mouth”, there may be a job awaiting.