What they saw was the head and shoulders of two of the pirates emerging from the rear hatch of the lifeboat. Through the window of the front hatch they saw the third pirate, pointing his AK-47 at the back of Captain Phillips, who was seen to be tied up.
That was it: the provocation that fulfilled the president's order to act only if the captain's life was in imminent danger, and the opportunity of having clear shots at each captor. The order was given. Senior defense officials, themselves marveling at the skill of the snipers, said each took a target and fired one shot.Ok, so we've got pirates who attacked a ship, took the captain hostage, and when the President finally gave approval to act is was ONLY on that condition that the action was allowed.
And I'll bet he was upset that the captain wasn't injured to prove the need to fire.(why no, I'm not feeling generous toward the President on this)
Yeah, Jimmy Carter II.