Military sources close to the scene accused the President of actually hampering the rescue effort. According to Jospeh Farah of World Net Daily:
Multiple opportunities to free the captain of the Maersk Alabama from three young pirates were missed, these sources say – all because a Navy SEAL team was not immediately ordered to the scene and then forced to operate under strict, non-lethal rules of engagement.
They say the response duty office at the Pentagon was initially unwilling to grant an order to use lethal force to rescue Phillips. They also report the White House refused to authorize deployment of a Navy SEAL team to the location for 36 hours, despite the recommendation of the on-scene commander.
The White House also turned down two rescue plans offered up by the Seal commander on the scene and the captain of the USS Bainbridge.
The SEAL team operated under rules of engagement that required them to do nothing unless the hostage's life was in "imminent' danger.
Eventually, the commander of the Bainbridge decided to take matters into his own hands when it came to interpreting his instructions not to fire unless there was "imminent danger," giving the President a plausible back door should things have gone wrong.
In fact, when the USS Bainbridge dispatched a rigid-hull inflatable boat to bring supplies to the Maersk Alabama, it came under fire that could not be returned even though the SEAL team had the pirates in their sights.
Many hours before the fatal shots were fired, taking out the three young pirates, Phillips jumped into the Indian Ocean with the idea of giving the snipers a clear target. However, the SEAL team was still under orders not to shoot.
Hours later, frustrated by the missed opportunities to resolve the standoff, the commander of the Bainbridge and the captain of the Navy SEAL team determined they had operational authority to evaluate the risk to the hostage, and took out the pirates at the first opportunity – finally freeing Phillips.