Posts Tagged US Code

Letter Of Marque: Title 33, Chapter 7 Of The US Code–Regulations For The Suppression Of Piracy

Yep, this exists, along with Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 11 of the US Constitution. I thought this was pretty cool, because we definitely have laws on the books for getting private industry involved with the suppression of piracy.

I also liked these laws, because they defined captures. That the US can authorize private industry for capture of pirates. This is important to note, because at this time, there is only a Defense Industry in place for the suppression of piracy. Meaning, companies are only providing guards to defend vessels with the possible use of force. No one has the authority to arrest or capture pirates.  So basically we have a system in place that only allows for the ‘killing’ of pirates in the course of the defense, but god help us if private industry actually arrested folks?

By arresting pirates, we can find out information about pirate operations and we can keep these thugs out of the business of piracy by letting them rot in a prison. It would also give companies some authority for when pirates surrender. An effective Offense Industry could profit from the capture (or killing if pirates fail to surrender and become violent), and thus removing those threats from the seas. I should also note that the US congress used to pay privateers for the capture of British sailors and seamen during the War of 1812 using a bounty system. In other words, companies must be compensated if you want them to actually arrest and detain pirates. Without incentive and and well defined legal authority, ship owners and security guards on these boats will want nothing to do with capturing anyone.

Or we can continue to promote this current Defense Industry where companies either kill or wound pirates in fire fights and then allow pirates to escape–so they can go attack some other vessel. Hell, why would companies be compelled to kill pirates in the first place with such a system?  Killing pirates or arresting them, would eliminate the sweet deal ‘Defense Industry’ we have that benefits from having active pirates.  Something to think about when talking about when dealing with today’s piracy issues. –Matt


Title 33, Chapter 7 Of The US Code– Regulations For The Suppression Of Piracy

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History: U.S. Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 81-Piracy and Privateering

   So there you have it, a legal framework for how to deal with piracy or fire up the privateer machine to go after these Somali pirates.  It’s a little old, but blow off the dust and do a little tweaking, and these old laws could definitely be applied to this modern day scourge of piracy

   All kidding aside, if you really get into the language of these laws, you can totally get a feel for what that era was like back then.  It was part business, part warfare, and this was our attempt at regulating this massive industry back then.  Crude-yes, but at least they were rules to keep everyone in line.  Something we can certainly learn from. –Matt


U.S. Code 



1651. Piracy under law of nations

Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.

1652. Citizens as pirates

Whoever, being a citizen of the United States, commits any murder or robbery, or any act of hostility against the United States, or against any citizen thereof, on the high seas, under color of any commission from any foreign prince, or state, or on pretense of authority from any person, is a pirate, and shall be imprisoned for life.

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