Sunday, February 26, 2006
In yet another example of how the Bush Administration is dissembling over the UAE ports deal, today it was revealed that the takeover involves 21 ports..not 6 as previously reported.United Press International - Security & Terrorism - UAE terminal takeover extends to 21 ports
According to P&O Ports North America's website, the UAE owned Dubai Ports management takeover involves 11 ports on the East Coast, ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas.
The deal is set to go through March 2 unless Congress intervenes.
Dubai Ports has offered to delay the deal because of the publicity to allow Congress to be briefed..and to allow it's high powered and high priced lobbyists, including ex-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschelle, ex-Secreatry of State Madeline Albright and ex-Republican Presidential Candidate Bob Dole to work the phones and press the flesh.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. said after the briefing she expects swift, bi-partisan approval for a bill to require a national security review before it is allowed to go forward. She will have lots of help on the other side of the aisle, including Republican majority leader Bill Frist.
President George W. Bush on Tuesday threatened to veto any legislation designed to stall the handover. This is shaping up into a major showdown.
There is a 1992 amendment to a law that requires a 45-day review if the foreign takeover of a U.S. company "could affect national security." Many members of Congress see that review as mandatory in this case.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, comprised of officials from 12 government departments and agencies, approved the deal unanimously on January 17...just like they've approved every deal but one out of about 1580 or so.
The same day, the White House appointed a DP World executive, David C. Sanborn, to be the administrator for the Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation. Sanborn had been serving as director of operations for Europe and Latin America at DP World.
"The structure of the deal led us to believe there were no national security concerns," said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson.
That little tidbit above should reveal how seriously the Committee vetted this deal!
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R- Va., said he will request from both the U.S. attorney general and the Senate committee's legal counsel a finding on the administration's interpretation of the 1992 amendment.
Congress is also not happy about the way the were not notified as the Administration tried to slip this through the cracks.
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley stated in a letter to Bush on Feb. 21 that he specifically requested to be kept abreast of foreign investments that may have national security implications. He made the request in the wake of a controversial Chinese proposal to purchase an oil company last year.
"Obviously, my request fell on deaf ears. I am disappointed that I was neither briefed nor informed of this sale prior to its approval. Instead, I read about it in the media," he wrote.
The Associated Press broke the story Feb. 11, Joshuapundit wrote about it Feb. 12 and the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank, wrote about it Feb. 13. CSP posited the sale as the Treasury Department putting commerce interests above national security.
Gee, you think?
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England is worried about alienating countries in the Middle East the United States is trying to court as allies in the war on terrorism.
"It's very important we strengthen bonds ... especially with friends and allies in the Arab world. It's important that we treat friends and allies equally around the world without discrimination," he said.
Does that mean the the UAE is on the same footing with America as Australia, Great Britain and Israel? That doesn't seem to pass muster with me.
Real and long standing alliances, Mr. Deputy Secretary come from shared values and not from relationships of convenience. If the US errs on the side of caution and stops this takeover of our ports, does that mean that our loyal allies at the UAE are going to start supporting al Qaeda again?
Port Security is a major issue in the USA. Since the Homeland Security merger, Customs and Immigration have been merged into one organization, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, and customs enforcement has been pushed to the curb, given the USA's problem with illegal immigration, and the ICE is already stretched to the limit, as I wrote here.
Port facility operators have a major security responsibility, and one that could be exploited by terrorists if they infiltrate the company, said Joe Muldoon III. Muldoon is an attorney representing Eller & Co., a port facility operator in Florida partnered with M&O in Miami. Eller opposes the Dubai takeover for security reasons.
"The Coast Guard oversees security, and they have the authority to inspect containers if they want and they can look at manifests, but they are really dependent on facility operators to carry out security issues," Muldoon said.
The Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002 requires vessels and port facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans including passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; establishing restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and/or installation of surveillance equipment.
Under the same law, port facility operators may have access to Coast Guard security incident response plans -- in other words, they know exactly where the weak points and loopholes in the system are.
"The concern is that the UAE may be our friend now ... but who's to say that couldn't change, or they couldn't be infiltrated. Iran was our big buddy," said Muldoon.
In a January report, the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out the vulnerability of the shipping security system to terrorist exploitation.
CFR suggests a terrorist event is likely to be a one-time operation on a trusted carrier "precisely because they can count on these shipments entering the U.S. with negligible or no inspection."
"All a terrorist organization needs to do is find a single weak link within a 'trusted' shipper's complex supply chain, such as a poorly paid truck driver taking a container from a remote factory to a port. They can then gain access to the container in one of the half-dozen ways well known to experienced smugglers," CFR wrote.
Still want our friends at the UAE watching the store?