Pod Hostage Diplomacy

Michael Scott Moore, German-American journalist and former hostage in Somalia | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

March 02, 2022 SenseOfDuty Media Episode 26
Pod Hostage Diplomacy
Michael Scott Moore, German-American journalist and former hostage in Somalia | Pod Hostage Diplomacy
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In 2012, German-American journalist Michael Scott Moore was investigating pirate kidnappings in Somalia when he himself was taken hostage by Somali pirates. Michael was taken at gunpoint, held in terrible conditions and in many different locations including at one point – on a ship. A few days into his captivity, SEAL Team 6 successfully rescued 2 aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted also held by Somali pirates but in a different location. During that rescue, 9 pirates were killed. As a result, the pirates holding Michael were determined to make sure there wasn’t going to be another successful rescue. He ended up being held in captivity for 977 days.

This week, we have the honour of speaking to Michael himself. He walks us through his captivity, how he was taken, the terrible conditions, the different locations he was held in, the other hostages who were with him, the $20 million dollar ransom demand, how his mother was working to secure his release, the media blackout around his kidnapping, keeping fit while in captivity, his failed escape attempt and how the pirates responded, getting sick, finding the will to survive and his eventual release. 

Michael also talks about his ongoing recovery from this trauma, his advice for other former hostages, military vs diplomatic options for hostage rescue, a SEAL Team 6 plan to rescue him, the US government’s stance on not negotiating with hostage-takers, payment of ransoms as well as media coverage. We also talk about the importance of journalism and how the public can help.

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Michael Scott Moore, German-American journalist and former hostage in Somalia | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

SPEAKERS

Daren Nair, Michael Scott Moore

 

Daren Nair  00:05

Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world. Together with their families, we share their stories every week, and let you know how you can help bring them home. I'm Daren Nair. And I've had the honour of campaigning with many of these families for years. These are some of the most courageous and resilient people among us. People who have never given up hope, people who will never stop working to reunite their families. And we will be right there by their side until their loved ones are back home. Thank you for joining us. And now, let's meet this week's guest. Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. There is a lot going on in the world today. And a lot of it good and a lot of it bad. We know what's going on, because we read the news. We watch documentaries. We hear the people affected tell their stories. Behind every news article, behind every documentary is a brave person that took the risk to go to a dangerous place to tell their story. These brave people are called journalists. One of these journalists is German and American citizen, Michael Scott Moore. In 2012, Michael was investigating kidnappings by pirates in Somalia, when he himself was taken hostage. He was held in captivity for 977 days. Michael writes about his story in the international best selling book, titled, "The Desert and the Sea: 977 days captive on the Somali Pirate Coast." Now I've had the honour of speaking to many former hostages. They are amazingly strong and resilient people. And they are not defined by the worst thing that has ever happened to them. In addition to being a journalist, Michael is also a novelist.  He's the author of a comic novel about Los Angeles titled, "Too Much of Nothing," as well as a travel book about surfing, titled, "Sweetness and Blood," which was named the best book of 2010 by The Economist. He has won Fulbright, Logan and Pulitzer Center grants for his nonfiction work, as well as McDowell and Wallace Foundation Fellowships for his fiction work. Michael grew up in California, but worked for several years as an editor and writer at Spiegel Online International in Berlin. He's written about the European migration crisis for Businessweek, and politics, travel and literature for The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, New Lines Magazine, GQ, The New York Times, Lit Hub, SF Weekly, the New Republic, Pacific Standard, The LA Times, The Daily Beast, The LA Review of Books, and many more. He maintains a website at www.radiofreemike.net. Today, we have the honour of speaking to Michael Scott Moore himself. Michael, we're so sorry for what happened to you. And we're also so grateful that you are now free and back home. Thank you for joining us today. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  03:16

Thanks Daren. Me, too. 

 

Daren Nair  03:19

Can you please walk us through what happened to you?

 

Michael Scott Moore  03:22

Well, in... for most of 2011, I was covering a trial of ten Somali pirates in Germany. I was working for Spiegel Online in Berlin. And the trial was happening in Hamburg. And I was going back and forth every couple of weeks for most of the year because it was a historic trial. It was the first time that any pirate had been in front of a German court in about 400 years. So, it was a big story in Europe, not very well known in the States and I was writing about it for Spiegel Online. And during the trial, I found ways to go to Somalia, connections and so on, in what seemed like a fairly safe manner and to a region that other journalists had been to. So, by the end of 2011, I had organised a trip with one of the journalists, a documentary maker, named Ashwin Raman. He's an Indian guy who does documentaries for German TV. And we were going to work on our various projects. I had a book idea and I wanted background on this story from... from Hamburg. And we found a fixer who could take us to one really relevant town called Galkayo in central Somalia. And Ashwin was going to do a documentary of some kind. And so we went there, and we had ten days of actually really good research. We hired security, and we were supposedly the guests of the local clan, the [Isaaq?] clan. and we had... we planned to stay for about two weeks, and the first ten days were terrific. And then Ashwin decided to fly to Mogadishu, which was a slight change in plan. And so, we went to the airport. And slightly unexpectedly, you know, I didn't expect to go to the airport more than we had to, but we were... we had to do everything together to keep our security together. And that morning, actually, the security fell apart. We... we went to get Ashwin's plane in a car that belonged to the regional president. But we had only one gunman. And it was after Ashwin got on the plane, and we drove back in the car that a truck full of gunmen was actually waiting for us by the side of the road. So, someone figured out that we were going to the airport that morning. And that truck turned out to be full of pirates. It was actually a battle-wagon, or something called a technical, very common in... in Somalia. And the truck was waiting for us. And when it saw our car, it actually aimed a cannon that was mounted in the back, probably an anti-aircraft gun, right through our windshield, overpowered our guard, and ten gunmen came off the bed of the Toyota. And, with... with Kalashnikovs, fired into the air, opened my side of the door, my side of the car, ripped me out of the... out of the car, and started to beat me with their rifles. They bloodied my scalp. They broke my wrist, took my backpack away. They broke my glasses, which I was wearing, and they bundled me into another waiting SUV, not far away. And we drove off for about three hours into the Somali Bush. And after that I was a captive. I mean, I was a hostage, with them for the... for the next two and a half, almost three years. While it was happening, first of all, I went into denial. I wasn't sure that it was really happening. I thought, well, okay, maybe it's just a, you know, a stop of some... some gunmen who think they have authority here. They want to check my papers or something like that. That illusion lasted about a second. And while I was getting kidnapped, I thought, oh my god, this is gonna be horrible for my family. And I was right. The... the pirates... So, all this took place on land. But this was certainly a pirate gang, as I would learn in a few months, but the pirates took me out into the bush. And there was a camp sort of waiting for me. There were another number of gunmen. And, although I couldn't see very well because my glasses were gone, I was aware that there was some other hostages there, too. And there was also a small, thin mattress waiting for me, just on the dirt at the base of a small cliff. And that was where I lived for the next 24 hours. And so, it was all very well planned. I mean, these guys kind of knew where... where they were going. And, in the morning, the pirates got a car together and put me and these other two hostages in the backseat and drove us into Hobyo, which is a coastal town about, you know, half an hour, maybe an hour away from where we had camped. And, slowly, I got to know those other two hostages. They happened to be fishermen from the Seychelles. And, as it turned out, all the other hostages I met from that moment, were fishermen of one kind or another. And for the first three months or so, I was held with these guys in various places, either prison houses in Hobyo, or camps out in the bush, completely in the open and some... in Somalia. And then, finally, in about March of 2012 this is, one hostage and I noticed that there was a ship anchored off Hobyo, a brand new ship with bright lights at night and that kind of thing, which we saw when we went to the bathroom outdoors. And since I couldn't see very well, I relied on my friend, Rolly, one of the fishermen from the Seychelles, and he said, "big ship, hey." I said, "yeah, I kind of saw that. But what was it? Did you see a flag?" He said, "I didn't see a flag." But he said it was like a 50-metre ship. And he said it looked like a fishing vessel to him, and he asked one of the pirate guards and the guard said this had just been captured by the same gang out on the water somewhere. And within two weeks, maybe three weeks, we were on board that ship. The pirates put us on board probably to consolidate investments, for guards or something like that. And we spent the next five or six months, so for most of the summer of 2012, Spring and Summer 2012, living on board this hijacked vessel, which had turned out to be a tuna ship, run by a Taiwanese company and crewed by about 28 men from around East Asia and Southeast Asia. So, that turned out to be the most interesting phase in my captivity, because I was learning an enormous amount about what happens on board a ship once it's been hijacked. No other...no other western journalist had experienced that. And, in the meantime, I got to know a bunch of those guys very well, even though we didn't necessarily have a common language. And, in the meantime, I've actually been able to go visit some of them, too. But I spent about five or six months on that ship, and I actually tried to escape. And after that, they put me on land for another two years or so. And after the ship, that was the most harrowing phase of capt..., and also the longest phase of my captivity. I was held alone with a guard team. I had no one else to talk to except pirates. And I was held well inland, instead of on the water, and inland in sort of bare concrete prison houses, where there were mosquitoes and terrible food, and terrible water and that sort of thing. So, things got quite a bit worse after I was held on the ship. And that's... so, that's more or less the shape of... of my captivity. I was finally released in September of 2014, when a... when a ransom was raised, and an agreement was made with the pirates. The pirates originally demanded $20 million, which blew everybody's minds. And the final settlement was $1.6 million. And on the last day, the pirates took me out to the bush somewhere, put me in another car and the other car had one driver. And, for the first time, I was in a vehicle without gunmen. And so, very slowly, I started to realise I was actually going free. By that point, I didn't trust anything that the pirates told me so, until later that... later that day, I wasn't convinced I was going free. But, eventually, somebody drove me to the airport, the same airport where we had seen Ashwin fly away more than two years ago, two years before. And there was a Cessna waiting for me, and a bush pilot, frankly, more than a bush pilot, a hired hand named Derek, and he flew me from Galkayo down to Mogadishu. And eventually, I went to Nairobi, and then back to Berlin to my apartment,

 

Daren Nair  12:38

Again, we're sorry you had to go through that. And we're just grateful you're back home. 977 days? I mean, wow! What were the conditions you were being held in? Because I have read some of the pieces you've written since you've come back home. Obviously, the conditions vary, depending on where you were. At the beginning, I think you were in the... out in the open on the thin mattress you mentioned, then on the ship, obviously you're with other hostages and obviously, at sea. And then I think when you came back on land, you were in this building where you were sleeping with pirates in the room, and they had guns. So, can you just talk to us about the different conditions you've been held in?

 

Michael Scott Moore  13:28

Yeah, they were always bad. But sometimes they were less bad. The ship was the best as a matter of fact, but it was crowded. It's just that on the ship, there were no insects, no mosquitoes, very little chance of disease, or malaria or anything like that. And the food was decent. The... the ship since it was newly hijacked, had a stocked kitchen, lots of frozen stuff that, uh, two cooks would would then prepare with some fresh rice every day. And we also could catch fresh fish. I think we were anchored over a reef. So, using handlines, we caught fresh fish, fish stews and stuff, and stuff like that. That was not to be compared with the horrible food that we had on land, which was always, you know, close to dog food. And since I'd had some experience of that before getting on the ship, I didn't want to go back to land, which is one reason I tried to escape, but the... but the conditions on the ship would... were better, even though they were terrible. They were crowded. They were not clean. They were better and cleaner and more amiable than the conditions on land, because we were with, you know, the group of hostages. We could talk. You know, we had society. That was different from and a little bit separate from the pirates. The pirates didn't really come down to our deck very much. They just watched us from a deck upstairs with... with their guns. But we didn't have to deal with pirates everyday if we didn't want to, or every hour of the day. And then after that, the hou... series of houses I was held in were from the outside at first glance, they looked like villas, you know. They looked like a house that a pirate boss maybe was trying to build. And then you went inside, and you realised it wasn't even half-finished. It was just a concrete shell. And it looked like it was a house that a pirate boss was possibly waiting for an infusion of cash to finish. So, these were half-built structures that had just concrete floors, maybe some rudimentary plumbing. Sometimes it was a ruin. I mean, we actually did stay in a... what seemed to be an Italian ruin, with a toilet that looked like it had been smashed by a sledgehammer. But, in any case, it was never comfortable, and we had to sleep on a concrete floor on thin mattresses under mosquito tents. And the mosquitoes were, every evening, you could hear the mosquitoes, you know, when the sun went down. And that was because of standing water. And in the other parts of Somalia, including the bush, there aren't quite so many mosquitoes. But shortly after I got back on land from the ship, right, I came down with malaria. So, those conditions were never good. And that continued until I left. I mean, sometimes we went up to the bush or something like that, but never for... for very long. But, having said that, I have to say that living alone in a... in a shelter like that, even though I was never out of... out of sight of... of these pirates with guns, it was a little bit better than the conditions that the crew of the ship wound up having to live under when they left the ship, which was... That happened about a year later. The ship finally gave out in 2013. And when they were moved as a group onto land, they had to live out in the bush, under the blazing sun, maybe under a bush, I mean, actually a thorn bush for shelter with a little bit of a blanket over it or something like that. But very little water, very little shelter from the sun, and terrible food, I mean, even worse food than I was eating in the houses. So, those guys were treated even worse than I was. And I know that from having visited them meantime.

 

Daren Nair  17:18

So many questions. First of all, first of all, the escape attempt on the ship. Was that ship at sea when you tried to escape?

 

Michael Scott Moore  17:27

Yes, because the... the anchor chain broke at the very end of the summer. And I don't think any of the pirates realised that I could swim. First of all, I'm a surfer. So, I knew that while we were anchored, maybe a mile or two from Hobyo from the... from the shore, that looked like a decent swim to me. That looked like something I could do. But so, I was thinking all summer long about that. But I didn't. I just... I didn't want to do something that would, you know, cause the pirates to open fire. And if anything, I wanted the whole ship to be rescued. You know, I wanted to attract some sort of military rescue, so we could all go free. But by the end of the summer, it was evident that that wasn't going to happen. There was also no movement in the negotiations for my ransom. And, at some point one afternoon, the ship bounced a little bit and the anchor chain, which had been problematical all summer long actually snapped, and the ship started to... We were anchored in a strong current, and the ship started to move and also twirl in the water. And I thought, well, we're going to land now, no matter what. And the crew got the ship under control and got the engine running. But the engine sounded terrible. And I thought this ship isn't gonna last very long. It had been deteriorating actually all summer. And we're probably going to go to the land sooner than later. So, because this ship is almost certainly being watched by, you know, American surveillance, I'm going to try and jump. Now... now's my chance, you know. I waited till nightfall. But we were... we were underway. We were not... we had no anchor. I didn't think the ship had any way to turn around. I didn't think it was in good enough condition for any sort of manoeuvres. And I thought, well, if I jump, I will be out in the water in the dark, which is something I could probably handle. But, also, we're under observation. And if the Navy knows what it's doing, maybe they can send a rescue, you know, if I'm out there long enough on my own. I could probably get the shore without drowning. And the ship, I thought, was just going to keep moving. I noted the... the direction of the swell. I jumped and swam with it and got away from the ship really quickly. I mean, that part went really well, and there was no gunfire But, immediately, there was an uproar on the ship, and they turned on the search lights, and they actually stalled the ship. And, on that same swell that I used to swim away from it, they started to move, they started to let the ship drift in my direction. And I knew that a larger vessel was gonna move faster than I could, even as a swimmer. And so, eventually, I'll get keelhauled by this ship that had barnacles all over the hull. I could have dodged it. I could have played games with it in the dark. But that... that seemed a little bit futile. So, after about half an hour in the water, I gave up. And they... they threw a life ring attached to a rope and hauled me... hauled me up. And, after that, you know, the... the pirates were pretty mad. They weren't too pleased with that at all. They put me in solitary confinement on the ship in a little cabin, and I wasn't allowed to talk to anybody. And, then after about three weeks of that, they put me on a boat sent me ashore.

 

Daren Nair  21:01

How did you keep fit while in captivity? Because you mentioned to me that when you came back home, and you were in Germany, you couldn't run. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  21:11

Yeah, that's true. 

 

Daren Nair  21:12

So did you have the stamina to swim all the way to shore?

 

Michael Scott Moore  21:18

At that point I did. I... so, I knew that if I was going to do something like that, I would have to be in shape. So, whenever I went back to my cabin to sleep, I did yoga. And I did pull-ups on the ship. I mean, we all found ways to try to keep in shape. There just wasn't very much room for it. There was one day when two of the Filipinos were, you know, started jogging in place. But it was lucky that the escape attempt had to happen in that first year, you know. I was still in reasonable shape at that point. But by the end of two and a half years, although I had continued to do yoga, you know, every... every day, which really helped both body and mind, I was probably in worse shape than I realised. So, in other words, if I had tried to run after a year or two, I probably wouldn't have made it. And I know that because when I got back to Berlin, I knew that I was, you know, thin and weak and everything like that. But when I tried to run for a tram, I realised I didn't... I just didn't have the muscles. I had atrophied so much that I didn't have a stride to run. And that... that had to... I had to get that back somehow. So, I didn't realise how weak I was, I think, even though I knew I was bad.

 

Daren Nair  22:07

You mentioned that, after the ship, they took you back to land and you contracted malaria. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  22:41

Right. A few months later. 

 

Daren Nair  22:43

Did they give, you know... did they give you medication? Did they take care of you? Did they just...?

 

Michael Scott Moore  22:47

Yeah, they did eventually. And that's another difference in treatment, by the way, because two of the guys from the ship, when they got sick, died. And the difference is that the pirates probably expected a lump... a lump sum of money for the group of men, as opposed to, you know, "keep Michael alive, otherwise no money." So... so, there was... there was a difference in treatment that was pretty stark. And, but even so, the first thing they gave me when I was sick was antibiotics. And then, after day two or so, feeling like, you know, completely miserable, I said, "do you have quinine which was...  I thought I was asking for quinine. That turned out to be the message... the word for medicine. And they first brought me Chloroquine as a matter of fact, which is an all-purpose malaria drug, and it didn't work. So, then they brought actually someone with a... a blood test... a little... They had a runner who went back and forth between the house and the outside world. And he brought a blood test, one of those things that you just peel out of plastic. And I said, "this place is so filthy, you're not going to put that in my hand." "So, well, if you don't want... want that you don't... won't get any, you know, any medicines." So, I made sure to scrub my hand with soap, but we didn't have any disinfectant or anything like that. But we did that without, you know, any bad infections happening and they brought it to a clinic. And sure enough, a day later, the runner brought back a little sack full of medicines that included not just something for malaria, but also for typhoid. Apparently, I had both. And after that, it was another week or so, and it was better, but I truly wanted to die during that week. I mean, malaria is horrible. And in that kind of a situation, the only thing that helps you keep a certain amount of hope alive is, you know, your health. And when it goes... God, that was a miserable...

 

Daren Nair  24:53

So, how did you stay strong?

 

Michael Scott Moore  24:57

After I got better, it's not clear. I mean, you know, once the year mark had passed, I realised I wasn't going to get out very quickly. And I started to really despair, you know. But I learned that there was a difference between just having enough hope to live from day-to-day and living for that moment when you get released. And I had to learn to stop living for that moment when I would get released. Because gradually, it dawned on me that there was, maybe the easiest way for me to get out would be... would have been a military rescue, you know, and a hostage has maybe a 50% chance of surviving one of those. So, I gave myself basically, very roughly 50-50 odds of getting out alive at all, at some point. So, you know, a year, a year and a half in, I stopped living for that moment, when I would get out. I simply decided that I would just live from day-to-day. And the pirates were constantly telling me, you know, "Michael, you'll... you'll get out in two weeks," you know, and if... if the first two times or so that I believed that and then I would... you would get hopeful, you would go up on the cycle. And then, when two weeks came along, and there was no... no response, it was this devastating sort of despair. And I had to get myself off of that cycle. So I... I learned not to hope, in the sense of living for the future. I learned not to live for that day that I was gonna get... get out, because I... I saw a pretty good chance that I wasn't going to get out. So, that's a... that's a slightly different answer than most people expect. I think when people asked me how I maintained hope, the actual answer is that I didn't, you know, I had to detach myself from that whole complex of hope and despair. On the other hand, I did agree to live, you know, that... that in itself was a hopeful act. So, that's a wrinkle in my answer.

 

Daren Nair  26:57

I understand. Obviously, I haven't gone through what you went through, but I can understand what you mean. You mentioned you were hoping for a military rescue. Right? And Somali pirates had also kidnapped two aid workers, who were working for the Danish Refugee Council. This was American citizen, Jessica Buchanan and Dane, Poul Hagen Thisted. They were rescued by operators from the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, DEVGRU for short. Most people may know DEVGRU by their previous name, SEAL Team Six. Now, we are grateful that Jessica and Poul were freed, and thank the brave operators of DEVGRU for what they do every day. But I understand nine pirates were killed. And that made things worse for you, as you were still in captivity in a different location. Right? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  27:47

That's true. They were captured a few months before I was captured. 

 

Daren Nair  27:50

So, the rescue attempt happened... 

 

Michael Scott Moore  27:52

Within the first week. Yeah, no, it was really swift. And I was... It took me a couple of months to realise what had happened. But I had not even had my first phone call home before it happened. And it dawned on me, I think, by month two, what... what all had happened. I started to hear rumours and bits of the story, but it took a couple of months for me to piece it all together. No, it was a tremendous rescue effort. It was extremely bold by the SEALs, because there had been almost no military activity by Americans in Somalia since the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, which was a complete disaster for the US military. I mean, it was the most demoralising thing since Vietnam that the US had been involved with. So, when I first went to Somalia, I didn't think there was going to be any chance of a military rescue in case of kidnapping. I thought, well, the US military is pretty shy about operating in Somalia. So I, you know, I didn't think that was even a possibility. When I learned that it had happened, then the gear starts to turn in my head, and I thought, well, maybe it is a possibility. Either lightning strikes only once, and they're not going to come get me or they've learned how to do it. And they might come get me. I can't say that I was hoping for it, because I knew that something like that would be risky. But I knew it was one possible way for this thing to end. And, sometimes, I was so angry at the pirates that I, you know, I wished for it, but I knew that it was also a risk to me. You know, there's always a good chance that the hostage will get killed in something... in a situation like that. As it turns out, I think that the successful rescue probably encouraged the military to make plans to come get me. You know, I had no way of knowing that but I had... I could hope for it. And it turns out that, like I said, it was not something I understood right away because the pirates tried to tell me that the hostages got killed. So, that happened on maybe day four of my captivity. I called my mother for the first time on day seven. And the pirate bosses were shouting into the phone, they said, "tell her that, you know, if there's a rescue attempt or something like that, another rescue attempt, then Michael will die." And my mom's only response was, "oh, yeah, the rescue." And I could tell from her tone of voice that that wasn't a bad thing. And I still had no idea what anybody was talking about. But then, maybe in February, I talked to another pirate boss, made another phone call, and the boss tried to say, "nine Somalis were killed in that rescue attempt. The hostages were killed, too. And by the way, here's a video report on it, you know, saved as a sound file on my phone," and he hit play on that, and through his phone in the dust, this is at night, there's no light but the moon. And I heard in very clear English that those two hostages had been rescued alive and taken successfully back to Djibouti. And that actually put me in a good mood. So, and that also told me something about the boss's English. He didn't realise that that report was going to contradict his story.

 

Daren Nair  31:15

So, you mentioned there were attempted rescue attempts...

 

Michael Scott Moore  31:18

I think they started...

 

Daren Nair  31:19

... to bring you home. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  31:19

They started to make clear plans, yeah. So, in other words, that... the... it wasn't a question of lightning not striking twice. It was they were... they were really encouraged by the success of... of rescuing Jessica and Poul, and they started to make... make more plans to get me. And they simply never came together.

 

Daren Nair  31:36

Why did they not come together? Was it because you held very far inland, and then you were held on the ship with all the other hostages. Now, obviously, it's very difficult for a military rescue attempt. Now, I understand, it will most likely take place at night, given they have night vision--the pirates don't. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  31:56

The pirates don't.

 

Daren Nair  31:57

But then again, if it's very far inland, they need to get there. As silent as helicopters can be, there'll definitely been lookouts that can hear the helicopter and radio in. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  32:10

Sure.

 

Daren Nair  32:11

Or you would have to hike multiple kilometres to the site, hoping you don't go past or alert any sentries. Do you have any idea what the rescue attempt was like and where it was going to take place?

 

Michael Scott Moore  32:26

No. For... You mean for me? No. I mean, I have some... some vague outlines. I just don't know... I don't have a way of verifying them, you know,

 

Daren Nair  32:34

Don't get me wrong. I'm not asking you to divulge anything confidential. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  32:37

Right. I think there was a plan to get me off the ship. And if it was a plan to rescue everybody on the ship, then, you know, I'm fully in favour of that. If it had been, you know, a bloody rescue attempt, where they only took the American and some of the other hostages were discarded, that would have been a disaster. So, if it was called off for that reason, then good, fine. I don't know. And in these... in these cases, I think all the stars have to align. And everybody, including the President has to be confident that it's going to... it's going to come off well. So, you know, I'm... In... in the end, nobody... nobody was killed. You know, I got out without... without bloodshed, with one exception. But that happened after I left. And it was self-inflicted by the pirates. So, I think groups like the SEALs, or DEVGRU, are very good at looking at a situation and finding a way to work with it. You know, I don't think they have one way of coming to do it. But the one... the... the rescue you just described where a helicopter lands well away from the camp, and no one can hear it, and the operators come up, you know, by... on foot a long way in the dark, that's exactly how Jessica got... got rescued. So, I have a feeling that the pirates were trying to avoid that same scenario. But it's surprising to me that shortly after it happened, we were held for weeks at a time in the bush. So, I as far as I'm concerned, they were vulnerable to the same sort of rescue. We were.

 

Daren Nair  34:14

I've interviewed the families of many hostages on this podcast, and I know many more. One of the individuals I know about is French journalist, Olivier Dubois, who is currently being held hostage in Mali, I believe by a terrorist group that is an affiliate of al Qaeda in the Sahel. So, his partner, Deborah Al Hawi Al Masri, has stated on France 24 in an interview that she... she was asking President Emmanuel Macron, French president, to prioritise a diplomatic option for securing his release, not a military one. And the reason for that was, as you said, there is a likelihood, there's a high likelihood, that the hostage may be killed in a military rescue. Now, given that you were in this position, you were the hostage. It was your life on the line as well as the operators that would have to come and rescue you. What are your thoughts on this?

 

Michael Scott Moore  35:08

Well, so, I do think that the... any government looking to rescue a hostage should ask the family's opinion, should ask for input from the family. Because there there have been cases where the... the government sent operators in and the family actually preferred no military option. And it went wrong. and the hostages were killed. So, that's bad, too. In fact, that might be one of the worst... worst possible scenarios. In my case, when I realised how... how slowly negotiations were going, in other words, when I was back on land after the... after the ship, and I noticed that the 20 million demand had not yet budged downward, I was so angry and so frustrated that I actually found... found a way to tell my mother on the phone, that I was not against a, you know, a military option. And I think she mentioned that, too. So, that kind of input is important. It's always an open question whether the government is going to listen, right? Because they, in fact, don't want to pay... pay ransoms or help ransoms to be paid, or watch a criminal group, or especially a terrorist group, get rich, you know, from a deal like that. And that's quite understandable. So, I actually think that in those... those few cases where it's possible, and there are only a few countries in the world that have operators like that, that can do it, that a military option should always be considered, because that's one very stark... It's one very stark disincentive for... for kidnappers. But it's... the problem is that there's no way to say that, in every case, it's the thing to do, because every hostage case is different... is different, and every hostage case is very difficult. So...

 

Daren Nair  37:00

I completely agree with you. There are many variables, and they change within seconds. So, I completely understand. So, you mentioned during your description of what happened that you were ultimately released, because your family and a number of US and German institutions cobbled together a ransom of 1.6 million US dollars, I believe. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  37:25

That was a fund my mom was...

 

Daren Nair  37:28

Yeah, so they asked for $20 million for you, right? As if you were Beyonce. And no offence to Beyonce. I'm sure she could afford it.

 

Michael Scott Moore  37:40

Or as if I were a ship, as if I were a cargo vessel.

 

Daren Nair  37:44

Yes. And they got 1.6 million, but after 977 days, and I understand from some of the articles, you've written that they had to... It cost them $2 million to keep you captive.

 

Michael Scott Moore  38:01

Possibly. Yeah, that was one story I heard. I... In any case, they were extremely disappointed by the amount of money they got in the end. And, in fact, they probably held me a year longer than they had to to get that money. So, because of some quirks in the negotiations, they screwed up, you know, they they did it badly. And I think my case helped convince at least that pirate group that kidnapping was not the best business model for them.

 

Daren Nair  38:29

So, again, we're talking about ransoms here. And you mentioned something that's key, which is the US government's position to not negotiate. I know Diane Foley, for instance, the mother of murdered journalist, James Foley, says governments need to negotiate. Right? Because they should prioritise bringing back Americans or citizens of whichever country are being held captive. And some countries in Europe generally do negotiate. Their priority is the life of their citizen. And then they deal with disincentivising or punishing the hostage-takers later, but the priority is to bring the captive home, bring one of their own home. The reason your... your mother and these institutions had to come up with the ransom was because the government was not going to help. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  39:20

Right.

 

Daren Nair  39:20

What is your stance on this? I mean, what is your position on this government stance? Because if... if they say "we are not going to negotiate," then given that you were in that position, it was your life. It was the time you lost. You could have died. What do you think? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  39:39

Well, this is also complicated, but I think that the... the government... if the... if the family wants to negotiate, the government should not stand in the way, which the government all but did with the Foley family. Jim Foley's case was slightly different from mine because he was held by a terrorist group, and I think their original gambit was they asked for 100 million dollars for Jim. There was some support for my mother, just advice when it came to negotiating. So, there... there was not a, in my case, the government didn't get in the way of that. And I think that's how it should happen. I don't think the government should negotiate directly with... with criminals or terrorists, either. And I'm not sure. You know, I'm not sure that aspect of the policy should change. The thing that happened with Jim, and I hope it doesn't happen with another family, is that someone on the Security Council, when Obama and his people were talking about the case, went a bit rogue. I think they got a little... little bit angry at the whole situation. And they actually told Diane, or somebody in the family, that it was illegal for the family itself to raise money and pay a ransom to Jim, because that would have been material support for Islamic State. So, in other words, providing material support for a terrorist group was against American law, and that the US government couldn't facilitate that or couldn't countenance it. I've been told in the meantime, that... that most... that most American officials never say that to families, and... and that guy wasn't supposed to, and in fact, he was eventually moved out of his job. That's the kind of thing that the government should not do is get in the way. I absolutely sympathise with Diane Foley's position that the government should actually do more to help. But in my case, I think... I think everything was done pretty well, in my case. It just took a long time. I mean, that's the problem, which is my case took longer than anyone expected.

 

Daren Nair  41:37

So, if you're not negotiating with terrorists, and a family can't come up with the ransom, that leaves the military option.

 

Michael Scott Moore  41:42

That leaves the military option. Exactly. 

 

Daren Nair  41:44

Right. So basically, the US... if the US's stance is "we do not negotiate with terrorists or Somali pirates," then the only option of bringing you home, if your loved ones can't raise the money for ransom is a military option that... even though that would mean there's a high likelihood of you, the hostage, being killed.

 

Michael Scott Moore  42:07

Yeah, I mean, these decisions are stark. I mean, these stresses are stark. You know, you can wish it weren't so but unfortunately, those are the... it's only a handful of options.

 

Daren Nair  42:20

There's also something else that's quite important here. Your case wasn't known in the media. Your mum made the tough decision to keep your case quiet, because as you've written before, in articles, hostages made famous by media coverage grow more expensive. So, can you elaborate further?

 

Michael Scott Moore  42:38

Yeah. So, I didn't know this, but my mom did make that decision. That's another decision that should be left up to the families by the way. In fact, the... the family should absolutely lead in these decisions more than the government. They should not just be consulted, they should... they should be able to say yes or no. And that's how it worked, too. The FBI told my mom, these are the options, you'd have to wait. But, you know, should we try to ask for immediate black... blackout or should we just go to town with with coverage? And my mom agreed that it should be kept out of the newspapers while I was a captive, because making me a famous hostage while I was in Somalia was tantamount to making me a very valuable hostage. So based on her decision, Spiegel, which was my employer, I wasn't there for Spiegel, by the way, but they... they were my employer, they called German and American newspapers and said, "we're trying to keep this quiet. You know, we think that's the best way forward." And that... that happened, by the way with David Rohde, too, when he was held by the Taliban. He was there for the New York Times, and the Times called around and said, you know, "please back off of any stories, we're trying to keep it quiet." It's a strategy. I can't say it's a good strategy. I would say it's a reasonable strategy if the government is helping behind the scenes, and the family feels satisfied with that. But even my mom got frustrated. And sometimes she said, you know, to one of the FBI agents, "Steve, I'm gonna go national." So, she got so frustrated that sometimes she wanted to tell the world, but I'm neutral about it in my case, because it did not shorten the amount of time I was held. On the other hand, whenever we did a video out in the bush, some sort of proof-of-life video or recording, the pirates got excited, and the next day they would listen to the BBC in Somali, the Somali service, expecting some sort of big story about me, and they never heard it. So, just to frustrate that, it's not a bad idea. But I think that it's... it's a balancing act, because I don't think it always helps keep down a ransom, you know, it certainly didn't lower the demand in my case. It did frustrate the pirates. They were hoping for, you know, big coverage and a big payout. And they didn't get it. But as a result, they just held me longer.

 

Daren Nair  45:08

Now, you mentioned the other hostages in the vessel. You've met them since they've been released. Now, they didn't get as much media coverage, as you have. Can you just talk about them, how they're doing, what happened, how they were released? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  45:23

Sure. I'm... I'm trying to rectify that. As a matter of fact, I'd like to write about them. But this is a tee-shirt I got from Cambodia. I was just in Cambodia in November. And so, I saw three of the four Cambodians who were on board. The other guys I've contacted just through Facebook. But once COVID lifts, I want to see, you know, a bunch of the others. They were from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and a number of them were in China, two are from China. They're doing okay. I can tell that the three guys from... in Cambodia were still suffering and still traumatised, but they've got families, they've got kids, you know, they have lives and they're moving on. So, it was nice, it was great to see them, and it was really cathartic to sit down and talk to them. We had dinner and then had beer, and we talked about Somalia. That part was great. But particularly, in that case, there was a... those men from Cambodia wound up on the ship, I think, through a system of labour trafficking, which they weren't even aware of at the time. And there's a story to be told there, which I'm trying to write right now. It's brutal. I mean, in that sense, those guys were trafficked twice, you know, they were... they wound up on a ship that they didn't expect to work on over by Africa, and then they got held hostage. So, you know, their bodies and their souls were used for money twice, by people who didn't have very much mercy. 

 

Daren Nair  46:07

So, how were they released? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  46:54

Eventually, there was a ransom, but they wound up in the hands of... their case wound up in the hands of some, basically, some volunteers. Some negotiators who were in charge of cases that... where the men had more or less been abandoned by their respective governments. And that happened in this case, in... in part, because some of the men were spirited out of their own countries without proper papers and that kind of thing. So, the Cambodian government, in particular, I don't think did very much, because they didn't even trust who... who the men were, that... that... that was an extremely sad story.

 

Daren Nair  47:30

So, how long were they held? You were held for 977 days, almost three years.

 

Michael Scott Moore  47:34

Almost three years. They were held for almost five, and I think there was only one group of seafarers that was held longer. There were... there was one group of Thai seafarers that... just four guys who were held over five years. And this group from the Naham 3, they were the last significant ship to be captured in this Soma... Somali pirate era. And they were among the record holders, being held the longest by by pirates.

 

Daren Nair  48:04

In your opinion, why do you think they were abandoned?

 

Michael Scott Moore  48:08

I think that the... first of all, the pirates were were probably completely stubborn and unreasonable when it came to negotiating. So, I get the feeling that whoever started negotiations early, stepped back and gave up. And also, in the eyes of their respective governments, they were just not very important people. They were, in some cases, like I said, I think they were trafficked. And in other cases, the governments just had other things to worry about.

 

Daren Nair  48:42

That's sad to hear but, it happens so many times around the world.

 

Michael Scott Moore  48:48

The... I shouldn't... I should mention the three, the group in charge of negotiating for their freedom was led by Colonel John Steed, a British, you know, former military man, who was based in Nairobi, and he did a fantastic job. So his... his group, which was originally under the aegis of the UN, and then eventually moved to another organisation, did tremendous work for those guys.

 

Daren Nair  49:14

Yes, I'm aware and I'm hoping that I can interview Colonel Steed soon. We've spoken about your captivity. Obviously, it was traumatic. It's been, what, seven years since you've been released?

 

Michael Scott Moore  49:29

It's... Yes, since the release, yeah.

 

Daren Nair  49:32

I follow you on Instagram. I follow you on Twitter. I'm speaking to you now. You seem quite relaxed and chilled. No one would see you today and suspect you were held hostage for 977 days. And that's a good thing. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  49:47

That's a good thing. 

 

Daren Nair  49:47

And I'm happy you seem... you look like you're doing quite well. So, what was the recovery process like after you came back home?

 

Michael Scott Moore  49:57

Well, when I first got out, I was certainly not doing well. And it took at least a year to get back to full physical strength. And I mean, part of a good recovery, I think in the meantime, too, mentally, is not taking the mental recovery for granted at all. I'm not convinced that I, you know, am fully recovered. And I do have panic attacks and that kind of thing. I still don't sleep very well. But whatever it is, I'm high functioning. And the... but... the acute recovery, which took a year or maybe a little more, that was... that was significant because, like I said, I didn't even know how bad it was when I first got out and was first back and in my apartment in Berlin, not only did I not have the muscles in my legs to run and to even jog for the tram, my ankles and my knees swelled up and for like, the first two... two or three weeks, I could barely walk. So, after I tried to run for the tram, this swelling set in, and just from trying to lead a normal day in Berlin, and I was in extreme pain for a while. And that's simply because everything, all the ligaments and everything were were so degraded and so atrophied. And I had a severe protein deficiency, that my body just reacted to the sudden need to move by protesting, you know, by swelling up. That was what the first few weeks and first few months were like, I mean, it was miserable. And it was a question of making sure that I ate well and exercised and did yoga, took care of my body, as well as my mind. That helped all that come back to normal. One thing that was important, though, I think, at least in my case, was that the psychologist who was with me didn't diagnose me with PTSD. And that's in spite of the fact that I clearly had symptoms. But I... I think there was nobody who was under any illusions what was wrong with me, right? So, I knew something was wrong, I knew that I had to recover. And frankly, the body and mind know how to recover. So, you have to let them, you have to help them. And, instead of sitting around thinking, "oh, my gosh, I have PTSD, what am I going to do?" you just get on with it, and do things that are actually good and healthy. That aspect of mental health, which is what we think about mental health can also shape it is something I'm still extremely interested in. It's very difficult to write about, but I'm going to try.

 

Daren Nair  52:43

Now, who are the people, or institutions or NGOs or charities that helped you out when you were recovering, if any, because most of the families with loved ones taken hostage that, at least, I know of, aren't very rich. 

 

Michael Scott Moore  53:02

Right. 

 

Daren Nair  53:03

They are just normal families going about their lives. They had a loved one taken hostage. And financially, it can be devastating. Access to health care, access to sufficient health care depends on which country you're in. In... I'm in the UK. We have access to the National Health Service. Even in the UK itself, access to mental health care, even prior to the COVID pandemic was very bad.

 

Michael Scott Moore  53:31

Right.

 

Daren Nair  53:31

Unless you need critical care, you're unlikely to get it anytime soon. So, were there any NGOs or organisations that helped you during your recovery? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  53:43

No, I....

 

Daren Nair  53:44

Or did you have to go and look for this yourself? Or did you have to go and pay for this yourself?

 

Michael Scott Moore  53:48

No, none of the above. I think that I was lucky to be in Germany, so that the... the medical tests, I mean, I saw at least four doctors when I got back. I had all sorts of tests and everything that I was very lucky that in Germany all that was, you know, I was insured. And it was not complicated and not expensive. So, I was lucky for that reason. And once I learned what was wrong with me, once I took a blood test and realised that the main thing that was wrong, also in my brain, was the protein deficiency. I learned... I addressed that pretty quickly, you know. The psychological help, the psychologist I mentioned, he's an American, and he tends to see almost all American captives. In fact, I just talked to him on the phone yesterday. He's great. And he was always available. And I think it was better to have him to talk to than to be checked into a psychological clinic or something like that, which is what the Germans wanted to do. You know, "he must have PTSD, treat him like he's sick, put him in the hospital." You know, all those things that actually the German system would have wanted to do and which he resisted on my behalf, I think would have hurt. In fact, because I was... I could be up and walking around, I could function a little bit. So, at least in my case, I think allowing myself to recover, instead of being treated like a patient was a better option. But that doesn't mean that I didn't need help. I mean, the outfit that I work for right now, Hostage US, was called Hostage UK in those days that Hostage US didn't yet exist. But they... from Hostage UK, I received a sort of pamphlet giving some advice about how to recover and what to expect and how long to expect it to last. And that was extremely helpful. And that was probably more helpful than anything I received from either government. The pamphlets that I got from this or that government were not particularly helpful. But that's not to say that psychologists within each system are... were not good. In fact, they were good. There was a German, too, that I talked to. But I... those were the... those were the broad outlines of my recovery. I'm sure somebody else's might look different. But the main thing that any hostage needs is, first of all, the support of the family. So, emotional support from your family is crucial. And second, yeah, access to health care. So, if something is wrong, or if you need tests to find out what is wrong, you... you can get all that without going broke. So yeah, absolutely. And actually, I think in the meantime, Hostage US tries to help with some of that. In America, when a hostage comes home,. sometimes healthcare can be, you know, a hurdle.

 

Daren Nair  53:48

So, I know you mentioned Hostage US. You're on the board of Hostage US. Can you just tell us what they do? Because I've interviewed nine American families and former hostages, and every single one of them has said great things about Hostage US. Can you just tell our listeners what they do? And how to get in contact with them if necessary? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  57:13

Sure, yeah. So, there's a Hostage US website, which is the easiest way to get in touch with them. But what they do is provide support for families. That... and that network of support didn't exist. Before, when I got out, it didn't exist in America. And it was pretty new, and in the UK, and it... it tries to fill the gaps in support for families, above all, but also hostages when they return in the things that a government can do. You know, when someone gets... gets kidnapped, the family is left to sort of flounder around and try and do something, and possibly deal with things that only the hostage can normally deal with, including credit card bills, paying taxes, extremely mundane things that, you know, the rest of the family might be locked out because of online passwords or something stupid like that. So, Hostage US can anticipate some of those things and help and give support where no government normally would, because these are too boring and too small, and... although they're important to the family. And the other thing is that this... this got put together informally. In my case, my... my mom was put in touch with other hostage families. So, she got to know Diane Foley while both Jim and I were still hostages and still alive. And she got to know a couple of other people who had been held in Somalia, so she could talk to people and get a sense of what I was going through. And she could talk to other parents who were going through the same thing that she was. All that is extremely important. And Hostage US has managed to sort of formalise that. So, in any case, if a family comes to us, we can put them in touch with other people to talk to just to commiserate and answer questions. And also, we can help just with practical details that might be extremely difficult, but also really predictable, in any case. So, it's a... it's a niche that we fill, but it's a really important one. And so that's it, that's all we do. We, you know, we don't help with negotiations or ransoms or anything like that. That's not part of the mission at all. It's just to fill the gaps in what the government might do or failed to do in any hostage case.

 

Daren Nair  59:33

Keep up the great work.

 

Michael Scott Moore  59:34

 Thank you. 

 

Daren Nair  59:35

What advice would you give other people going through the same trauma?

 

Michael Scott Moore  59:41

So, what I said would be my advice, like I said, every case is different and everyone has a different mental state and a different mind. But I think that if you're, you know, if you don't have to go looking for what's wrong with you, you know, once you come out of captivity, it's pretty clear what's wrong with you, and you are traumatised. You may have PTSD. But it's not that important to go and label it. It's not that important to sit back and say, "oh my gosh, I've got this thing that's extremely vague. And we don't know how to define it. And what am I going to do?" That part is not useful. The part that is useful is the stuff that your... your body actually needs, you know, the actual things that you need to recover. I think that was a pretty good call on the... on the part of my psychologist when I got out. Of course, if you need help, and of course, talk to somebody. Therapy is good. But there is a sense in which you can play tricks on yourself by saying, "Oh, my God," you know, can add a layer of suffering to think, "oh, my gosh, I have PTSD." PTSD is just a description, you know, and one thing that... that I'm interested in writing about now, too, is what other words there might be in other languages and other cultures for the same thing. Because that will shape... that in turn, shapes someone else's experience, and someone else's response to it. But I think, as long as you don't have to go looking for what's wrong, you know, as long as quite clear, then you don't have to dwell on the diagnosis, and you can get along, get on with, with recovery. There's always... and I... I probably am still sitting on a great well of anger and emotion and that kind of thing. And there's always stuff like that that can be worked out. But that can be worked out in time.

 

Daren Nair  1:01:32

How do you come to terms with, I mean, when I was writing the monologue, for this podcast episode, I made it very clear to say that you're a journalist. It's dangerous work. But very important, especially if you want to live in a democracy. Journalists are targeted around the world. If you... if you go follow the Committee to Protect Journalists, you will know that there are many journalists that have been killed in countries like Mexico, for instance. So, when you went to Somalia to investigate these kidnappings by Somali pirates, this is important work. The reason I say that is, I've watched the other interviews, right. The first thing, as well-intentioned as they are, the first thing they asked you is, what were you doing going to Somalia? Or what were you thinking going to Somalia? Don't get me wrong? I understand why they were asking them. But you're journalists. It's what you do. Right? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:02:33

Well...

 

Daren Nair  1:02:35

Yeah, so what are your thoughts on that? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:02:36

Well, so...

 

Daren Nair  1:02:37

Because I wouldn't say it's victim blaming. You knew there was a risk. You took appropriate security precautions. They didn't work out as... as it can happen. But when people asked you that, as if it was your fault. You went to Somalia, this is usually what happens. So why did you go? I mean, how do you respond? Or even if you don't say anything, and just smile?

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:03:03

Well, so I... I understand the question that... that's the... those questions don't actually bother me, because I dealt with them while I was a captive. You know, I thought that to myself over and over, and I had plenty of time to wonder about it and suffer, you know, as a consequence, and... and think, well, maybe it's better if I just off myself, you know, this was this has gone completely wrong. I... I... I knew it was dangerous when I went. We spent months trying to put together a good security team and make plans for all eventualities and stuff like that. Ashwin knew what he was doing in Somalia, too. And, you know, but we also both knew that there was a very high risk of kidnapping. So that, by the way, helps with the mental health too, because I knew what I was getting into wasn't a complete shock. You know, I knew the landscape, basically. And I knew, I had read up on hostage cases, too. So, it didn't come from nowhere, which sometimes a hostage case does for an NGO worker or somebody else who hasn't done all that research. In my case, that was part of my job is to know some of that stuff. But I... I still think even after I've everything I've been through that, not writing about places like this is worse than writing about them. So, in other words, the world has gotten... gotten more chaotic in the last 20 or 30 years. Arguably, there are many more places that a journalist should not go to, by that logic. You know, during the 60s and 70s, hippies could go from London to India, through Afghanistan, through Iraq, through Syria, through all these places that are supposedly now off limits to westerners, and I don't think that they should be off limits. In other words, at least for trained journalists and people who have done their homework. Those places also still need to be reported on. Doesn't mean there needs to be a flood of journalists. But I'm against the idea that we should just stay out. And like I said, even after I've been through... through what I've been through, I'm still against that idea. On the other hand, these are serious risks. And they were serious risks that I knowingly undertook. So well, I'm not offended when people ask me those questions. It's, especially from the outside, it's a reasonable question. And like I said, those are questions that I asked myself over and over when I was a hostage.

 

Daren Nair  1:05:48

Understood. Now, what can the US government do to minimise the likelihood of this happening again? Don't get me wrong, hostage taking has been going on for decades, if not centuries, if not thousands of years. What can the US government do to minimise the likelihood of what happened to you from happening again?

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:06:06

I'm honestly not sure. So, one... one thing that probably does not work, is, you know, announcing from the State Department podium, that we don't pay ransoms, even if that's a good public-facing policy. Just because someone in a suit says that doesn't mean there will be fewer kidnappings. One thing that... so first... first of all, my pirates wouldn't have... wouldn't even be able to understand the English, you know, would have to be first... first be translated. And second, they would be too cynical to... to believe something like that. One language, all criminal groups and all terrorist groups do understand, is violence. So unfortunately, a consistent record of successful rescues would be a deterrence. So if a pirate in Somalia had learned, just by listening to the radio that almost every American hostage, for example, that was captured, was rescued at the cost of Somali lives then those kidnappers are going to be less inclined to help kidnap another one. That goes for British and French and Israeli and a few other nationalities. Unfortunately, it's only a handful. And if you keep going down that road of proba... probability, a hardcore policy like that is also going to cost hostages' lives. So, I can't advocate it. But it's the only thing that I can think of that's an actual deterrent. Aside from that, just good information. You know, the... the State Department has to be realistic about where journalists and other people will go, but also very good about warning, you know, when they shouldn't go. All the warnings on the State Department website would have been there before I went to Somalia. So, it wasn't gonna keep me out. But there's, I think, there's a very limited amount that... that a government can do. And journalists in general, I think, need to be clear with their organisations, especially in a freelance situation, you know, what the red lines are, what the limits are, and what needs to happen.

 

Daren Nair  1:08:16

You're a German citizen as well. What did the German government do to the best of your knowledge? And what can they do? Because you... we mentioned that there were attempted rescues by DEVGRU, which is US Naval Special Warfare Command. We didn't hear about attempted rescues from German Special Forces.

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:08:35

Right. I don't...I would say, if there were any plans by the German forces, I haven't heard about them. But what I do know is that the Germans in... as part of the European naval force group, they were down there, but they were on the water. I don't think they were on land, but I don't know. They... they also supported my family. I mean, I had family in Germany, too. And they played a similar role that, you know, there's a cognate to the FBI, there's the Bundeskriminalamt, is a sort of federal agency in Germany that goes after crimes committed against German citizens, and so that they were involved just like the FBI was, and apparently the two got along pretty well as far as sharing information. But I think it's... it was the Americans that took the lead. So, it was kind of a supporting role. I hope that, you know, that's what a government can do. A government can support. A government can't, you know, cause magic to happen in all sorts of directions.

 

Daren Nair  1:09:38

Can the international community do anything?

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:09:42

I mean, that's a broad question. It's the same. It's a question of support more than absolute prevention. I mean, I do think that a hard line against... against kidnapped... kidnappers is... is more or less the way to go but, like I said if it's... if it's just, you know, words from a government agency, then there's not a whole lot of... people, criminals don't listen to that.

 

Daren Nair  1:10:12

What would you want the public to know? And what can the public do to help?

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:10:17

Well, in a case like mine, so when it's a case of a journalist, you're right. There's always a tendency to blame the journalists for going where they went. But almost always, if it's a responsible journalist, those... those... the things that go wrong are a question of judgement calls made in the field, you know, and most people who've been to a dangerous place to report know that if things go right, it's also a question of luck. So, I think that's important for people to under... understand, but also in general, especially when it's not a journalist. You know, NGO workers are also doing very good work in the field. And it's not... it's not a case for victim blaming. Otherwise, the, you know, hostage cases are so individual and so idiosyncratic. it's hard to generalise.

 

Daren Nair  1:11:11

Yes, I absolutely agree with you, Michael. Now, we're almost at the end of our interview. Is there anything else you'd like to mention? 

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:11:18

I think... I think we've covered it, to be honest. 

 

Daren Nair  1:11:20

All right. That's good, then we cannot say this enough. We're grateful you're back home. Thank you so much. And thank you so much for all that you do helping other hostages and their families. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.

 

Michael Scott Moore  1:11:33

Thank you, Daren. Thanks for the podcast. 

 

Daren Nair  1:11:35

You're welcome. It's an honour to help. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We're not just a podcast, we're a community. If you're on Twitter, and would like to post a message of solidarity to the families or have any questions for us, please tweet it using the hashtag #PodHostageDiplomacy, and we'll get back to you. If you like what we're trying to do, please do consider supporting the show financially. You can do this using the support the show link in the description of this podcast episode. We're grateful for any contributions, no matter how small. Thanks again for listening. And we'll be back next week. Take care.

Intro
Who is Michael Scott Moore?
Walkthrough of what happened
Conditions Michael was held in
Michael’s attempted escape
Contracting malaria
How did Michael stay strong?
SEAL Team 6 hostage rescue
Military vs diplomacy options for hostage rescue
The ransom
US government stance on negotiating with hostage-takers
No media coverage of Michael’s kidnapping
The other hostages held with Michael
Michael’s ongoing recovery
Getting help with the recovery
Hostage US
Michael’s advice for other former hostages
Victim blaming
What can the US government do?
What can the German government do?
What can the international community do?
What can the public do?