Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Senator Collins calls for tougher punishment for pirates

The Senate Armed Services Committee today heard testimony on efforts to combat piracy on the high seas. The hearing comes less than a month after Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates who tried to hijack the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Armed Services Committee, called for stronger anti-piracy policies and tougher penalties for those who are caught and convicted of piracy.

“Very few of these pirates have actually been brought to justice,” said Senator Collins. “As long as they’re being paid off and there’s little risk of being caught and prosecuted, this activity is going to continue.”

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Collins has discussed U.S. military and anti-piracy efforts with the Commandant of the Coast Guard and with the Chief of Naval Operations. She has called for a collective effort, including a coordinated international naval presence and enhanced security efforts by the commercial shipping industry, to help achieve a long-term solution to this problem.

Today, the Armed Services Committee heard testimony from Michèle Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Vice Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., USN, Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; and James Caponiti, Acting Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration,

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