Saturday, March 04, 2006

Port Security Is a Big Deal: Halt the Ports Deal

The Blogosphere is saturated with opinion about the United Arab Emirates (AUE) Ports deal, by which the Bush administration plans to hand over operation of our ports to a UAE-owned company. But the so-called MSM has largely downplayed it. Meanwhile, the printed media has been a day late and a dollar short giving the topic full coverage. And the right wing-punditocracy and blogosphere would have you believe that those who opposed this deal are un-American, anti-capitalist, and bigots. None of those things are true. But you'd hardly see that mentioned on talk TV or radio. At a time when our government treats its own citizens as the enemy, this unbelievable security breech is, well, unbelievable. It is clear the man has no shame.

There are good reasons to halt the arrangement, which, among other things, violated the CFIUS procedure requiring a 45-day investigation. Sure, there's an "investigation" now, but it's being conducted non-transparently by the House of Bush. The Congress has been unconstitutionally blocked from its proper oversight role. And Bush keeps on keeping on, doing his level best to spend his time trying to work against the wishes of most Americans.

For an excellent read on the subject, jump to the article at The Village Voice.

It came as a surprise to many that Britain had the ports management deal most recently. And for not suspecting such things, shame on us. For the record, regarding the British deal, I don't agree with that either. We should have guessed that Bush would sell of everything important to the US, though. After all, Bush has wrecked the economy, with trade and budget deficits. Our huge and growing national debt has made us vulnerable to takeovers. And the effort to offshore American interests and jobs continues unabated. But no country should surrender its ports to the management of another country. That act makes a mockery of "Homeland Security."

Media Matters has refuted some myths and facts of the deal. I've condensed them and added comments below. You can get the full story here:

1. As suggested above, Dubai Ports World (DPW) is not just a Dubai-based company, but rather a UAE government owned entity. This fact kicks in the automatic requirement a 45-day investigation, but none was started until Republican Peter King, worried about port security in New York, raised a stink.

2. There is a huge difference between a British company and DPW managing our ports. Since DPW is government entity, Bush is handing over a foreign government to manage our ports. As Media Matters notes:

UAE does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Also, they have cited a discovery by U.S. investigators that more than $120,000 was funneled through UAE bank accounts to the 9-11 hijackers, and the 9-11 Commission's finding that the UAE "ignored American pressure to clamp down on terror financing until after the attacks." These critics contend that because DPW is controlled by a member state of a country with what is arguably a "mixed" record on terrorism, CFIUS' review of the transfer was not in accordance with the law.

3. Contrary to administration claim, DPW did not decide on its own to request an extended security review. Assuming BushCo would leave reason on the shelf and knee-jerk approval of this deal, the review should have happened automatically. In fact, it only happened when Senators and Congresspersons cried foul.

4. The administration's review of the deal was not thorough, but rather extraordinarily casual. Indeed the Coast Guard voiced its concerns. Feb 21, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a key member of CFIUS, had minimal information about the deal. And when the story broke, we were told Bush himself didn't know that much about it. And the CFIUS review didn't examine the links between possible ties of the UAE and terrorist groups. It should be widely know by now that UAE was host to the money-laundering banks which financed 9-11. Two hijackers hailed from UAE. Prior attempts to attack Osama Bin Laden's base camp were halted because members of the UAE royal family were meeting at the camp.

5. It's untrue that the administration "exacted extra security concessions" from DPW. In fact, the "concessions" are more like a wink-wink between the parties. Articles from both the AP (read it here) and the New York Times (read it here) illustrate the point.

6. It's also untrue that US agencies conduct all port security. According to Carl Bentzel, a congressional aide who helped write the 2002 act requiring port security, that US Customs and Coast Guard are "in charge," but not usually present.

7. Democrats haven't just discovered the issue of port security, but have consistently raised this issue.

8. The claim that national security is (pnly) a right-wing value is absurd and that Democrats are merely "triangulating" on the subject is absurd and outrageous.

9. The Dubai Ports Deal is not a partisan issue, but a bipartisan one. It's also one which coalesces most Americans.

Those failing America are the Bush administration and its increasingly hysterical right-wing chattering class. The majority of Americans don't want this deal to happen. That should be the end of it. If Bush is is serious about securing our nation, he would rethink this arrangement. Instead, the administration sends in the attack-dogs to defame questioners, who merely reflect the view of the American people. Even if they reflected minority views, though, they should not be targeted by the radical right or enablers of the unitary theory (all-powerful executive) of the presidency. Critics and citizens are not the problem here. No man or woman is above scrutiny or above the law. And this applies to the president.