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On my 5th watching of Captain America: The Winter Soldier recently, I suddenly realised that I don't actually understand what sets the events of the film in motion.

At the start of the film, Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff and the STRIKE team are sent to rescue a ship, the Lemurian Star, from pirates. It turns out that;

Romanoff had a secondary mission - retrieving data from the ships servers at the behest of Nick Fury. A member of the World Security Council, Alexander Pierce, later claims that Fury hired the pirates in the first place in order to give Romanoff an excuse to get the data.

So my question is;

Why was Fury suspicious of the crew of the Lemurian Star in the first place, and did he really hire the pirates?

  • I don't think he was suspicious of the crew per say, I think he was trying to find out if any part of Project: Insight had been compromised. – Monty129 Dec 30 '14 at 15:00
  • To answer the question in the title, I think the Lemurian Star was a launch ship, right? I don't have access to the film right now, but as I recall it was where the Insight Satellites (the things that would help coordinate and target the Insight Helicarriers) were being launched from. – Nerrolken Mar 30 '15 at 15:19
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TL;DR : Yes, Fury hired them. Fury wanted the data without anyone KNOWING he had the data.


Prior to the beginning of the film, Nick Fury had reason to believe that elements within SHIELD - possibly even the World Council itself - had been compromised. While he had no idea the corruption was as widespread as it was, he still had reason to doubt whether or not anyone could be trusted, even upper-level agents like Natasha. We have no idea what evidence he found that caused this suspicion, but it's possible that he only trusted two people at that point - Maria Hill and Phil Coulson. Even then, he kept things as compartmentalized as possible:

Even fully trusting Coulson, Fury did not reveal his faked death to Phil until after the events of the film. He did, however, authorize Agent Koenig to reveal that information when the time was warranted. The exact nature of the Koenig "brothers" is still unknown, so they may not qualify as actual people (current evidence indicates they may be Life Model Decoys (LMD), aka androids.

It's also important to remember that Nick Fury is a sneaky SOB even under normal conditions. To quote Tony Stark, "he's THE spy. His secrets have secrets". When he suspects something is up, he gets uber-sneaky. He wanted to get the data being carried by the Lemurian Star, but wanted to do it in such a way that no one within SHIELD knew he had the data. His suspicions turned out to be warranted, as

Agent Sitwell, the agent in charge of the Lemurian Star operation, turned out to be a mole for HYDRA. Any requests for the data that went through normal channels would have certainly gone through Sitwell.

To get around this, Fury hired the mercenaries to hijack the ship, then sent in a team to "recover" the ship. Sending either Hill or Coulson would have looked unusual, so he was somewhat limited in his options. A team lead by Natasha & Rogers wouldn't arouse suspicion, and trusting either of the two was a calculated risk. Assuming that Rogers might object (again warranted), he ordered Natasha to retrieve the data without telling anyone else on the team about her objective. Had this occurred, Natasha would be the only person who knew that Fury had the data, which is something Fury could work with. She did not appear to know the nature of the data, either, which is probably another reason he trusted her with the retrieval mission - she was known for getting the job done without asking questions.

EDIT: I should add that, as events unfolded, Fury obviously decided he could trust Captain America and, by extension, Natasha, with what was really going on.

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There was a conspiracy going on inside the S.H.I.E.L.D. by hidden HYDRA guys. And, Nick Fury suspected that thanks to his great experience and criminal mind.

Directly asking for data couldn't work because the compromised crew might give falsified data. It's also possible that Nick Fury didn't want to let his enemies know that he knew about something secret. So, Nick Fury hired pirates to hijack Lemurian Star as a cover to grab authentic data using his own trusted agent.

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    Actually, the part of the film you are on about, where Nick Fury is locked out of his own files, is AFTER the hijacking and subsequent rescuing of the Lemurian Star. I believe that it is the retrieved data from the Lemurian Star that he is locked out of. – Dr R Dizzle Dec 30 '14 at 15:18
  • @DrRDizzle My Mistake. Removed that. BTW, Nick Fury never tried to access Lemurian data. That data led Cap to Zola. – Baby Yoda Dec 30 '14 at 15:27
  • He used Black Widow to get the data - who he clearly doesn't trust all that much because he doesn't tell her about his secret hiding place after he fakes his own death, tying in to Natasha's uncertainty about who trusts her and who she is in this film. And the memory stick we see Nick trying to decrypt IS the one from the Lemurian Star, later passing off the memory stick to Steve Rogers. So I still don't know why Fury would feel the need to investigate his own project with no indication of Hydra within SHIELD at this point. – Dr R Dizzle Dec 30 '14 at 15:41
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    @DrRDizzle No, your assumption is wrong. In Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, it is shown that there are protocols protecting sensitive information from low level Agents. Here, trust isn't an issue. It's just generic safety protocol. And, ultimately, the location was revealed to her and Cap because it was special case. – Baby Yoda Dec 30 '14 at 16:06
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    @DRRDizzle: Not necessarily. If things went south, good agents might continue to obey their superiors, not realising that those superiors were Hydra. We see this in the film; all the agents that went after Captain America can't have been Hydra, because there were too many of them. If it wasn't for Natasha having previous experience with the Winter Soldier, she may well have been one of them. And Fury didn't plan to fake his death from the beginning; he was kind of forced into it by the whole 'getting repeatedly shot' thing. – James Sheridan Dec 31 '14 at 5:37
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The Star was a ship with the capacity to launch satellites on its own. Project Insight has its own dedicated network of spy satellites, spread throughout the world and providing information to the Insight carriers and the automated weapons systems on them. This network, I guess, requires satellites to be on specific geosynchronous positions throughout the world (which is why SHIELD is using things like the Star instead of just sneaking the satellites on whatever NASA is launching).

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Although somewhat confusing the storyline is made up of all the suggestions here. The Lemurian Star is a ship setup to launch satellites for the "World Councils" Project Insight. As such it has SHIELD agents and obviously the Hydra double agent Sitwell on board. Fury making sure everything is on the up and up (since he trusts no one) tries to find out what is going on and therefore has to set up a scenario to obtain the information by hiring pirates and then sending in Cap to rescue them while Romanoff recovers the data. He only becomes suspicious that SHIELD has been compromised when he discovers that the data on the drive has supposedly been encrypted by him, which it wasn't. This is part of a convoluted plot by Secretary Pierce who is hiding Insights real intent from the World Council. And who knows that Nick will refuse to participate once he knows the real objective of Project Insight. So knowing how Nick operates sets out to incriminate him so that he can dispose of him. It is what is called in black ops as the "double blind operation" or in simple terms being too clever for your own good, where you think you are being smart but are actually distracted by your own cleverness and walk right into a trap. A trap set by Secretary Pierce and which Nick walked right into. It should be added how clever Secretary Pierce is as in the end he gets what he wants which is the activation of Project Insight. Of course all the confusion could have been avoided if the editors had simply added a scene of Fury asking Pierce to delay project insight at the very start of the movie but that would have given everything away.

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Nick Fury Hired the pirates because the agents that the pirates captured worked for Hydra, and wern't really a part of shield.

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    What do you think your answer adds compared to the other answers here? – curiousdannii Apr 1 '15 at 21:45

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