October 11, 2013

Real story not quite as tidy as ‘Captain Phillips’

In fact, many more than three shots were fired, $30,000 went missing and the integrity of the SEALs was questioned.

By Adam Goldman
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Oct. 2, 2013, photo, Capt. Richard Phillips, arrives for the screening of “Captain Phillips” at the Newseum in Washington.

The Associated Press

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The Maersk Alabama cargo ship lifeboat is seen on display at the National Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla., recently. The Maersk Alabama vessel was seized by Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia on April 12, 2009. The pirates captured Captain Richard Phillips and they fled together on the lifeboat.

The Associated Press

The $30,000 was never recovered. As part of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, SEALs were polygraphed, according to former and current law enforcement and military officials who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about the case. It’s not clear if all the SEALs who responded to the hijacking were polygraphed.

Nobody was exempt from questioning. Investigators interviewed Capt. Frank J. Michael, who was the executive officer of the Boxer and among the highest-ranking Navy personnel to enter the lifeboat after Phillips had been saved, a former U.S. official said.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Courtney L. Hillson declined to discuss SEAL tactics or specifics of the case but said: “The case was ultimately closed without evidence of wrongdoing.”

Weinstein said his client, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly 34 years, had no idea who took the money, and he didn’t think the pirates threw it overboard. Weinstein said there were plenty of people who had access to the lifeboat after the shooting stopped. He said the crime scene was “contaminated.” According to Phillips’ account of the kidnapping, the money could have easily been concealed in a small bag or someone’s pockets.

In his book, Phillips writes that while he was held hostage on the lifeboat, a pirate took the money out of the bag and began dividing up into piles. There were “two stacks of hundreds, one of fifties, then twenties, fives, and tens ... I never saw the money again. Later, when they gave me a sack to lean against, I felt the stacks of money inside, but I never spotted the cash out in the open again.”

Kevin Speers, a spokesman for Maersk Line Ltd., said the missing money remains a mystery: “We simply don’t know.”

In the new film “Captain Phillips,” viewers shouldn’t look to the movie for the complete story. It doesn’t depict the aftermath inside the lifeboat or the criminal investigation that followed.

Director Paul Greengrass said the movie wasn’t intended to tackle every twist and turn but hews to the truth.

Greengrass said he was aware of the shooting that took place inside the lifeboat and grappled with how much bloodshed to depict. In the end, he made narrative judgments. The final violence wasn’t necessary. The result was the same: Phillips was saved, and the pirates were killed.

What happened to the money didn’t concern him.

“Movies are not journalism,” Greengrass said. “Movies are not history.”

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