Until then, the powers that be were apparently trying, with excruciating patience, to figure out what to do. The pirates, meanwhile, put on a good front.
Somalia's Islamist insurgent movement al Shabaab, on Washington's list of terrorist organizations, lambasted the international naval patrols aimed at keeping ships safe.
"You are the ones who are the pirates. Leave our waters. You will be defeated," said a spokesman. The group denies it has links with the pirates, most of whom used to be poor fishermen.
It should be noted that the Maersk Alabama was attacked some 350 miles off shore in the Indian Ocean, in what are presumably international rather than Somalian waters.
Soon after the unsuccessful hijacking attempt, the FBI started a criminal investigation. It was reported that
The FBI investigation is being run out of New York because the office there oversees cases involving U.S. citizens in Africa. Other field offices take the lead depending on where in the world the crime occurs.
The FBI has a legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and has agents elsewhere in Africa to assist the investigation.
Whether charges ever get filed depends on how the standoff plays out. If the pirates are captured at sea, it will be much easier for U.S. authorities to prosecute.
The pirates have summoned reinforcements and are trying to make it back, with the hostage, to lawless Somalia. That would make it harder for authorities to stage a rescue attempt and would make the FBI's case murkier because the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Somalia.
It had previously been reported that the crew of a U.S. destroyer on the scene was cooperating with the FBI in attempting to resolve the matter of the hijacking of the U.S. Flag vessel and the taking hostage of Captain Phillips.
Meanwhile, the United States appeared puzzled and undecided about how to deal with al Shabaab, one of the principal terrorist organizations in Somalia whose spokesman referred to above claimed that the folks trying to limit piracy are themselves pirates and should go away. The possibility of strikes on Somalian soil generated rather heated discussions.
Some in the Defense Department have been frustrated by what they see as a failure to act. Many other national security officials say an ill-considered strike would have negative diplomatic and political consequences far beyond the Horn of Africa. Other options under consideration are increased financial pressure and diplomatic activity, including stepped-up efforts to resolve the larger political turmoil in Somalia.
Neither increased financial pressure nor increased diplomatic activity seems likely to do any good at all, however: There is no viable government in Somalia with which to engage in "increased diplomatic activity," and since piracy has become a major revenue source for the people of Somalia, it is far from obvious where the "increased financial pressure" might be applied.