I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the news of port security being handed to a company that's fully owned by a foreign government. As Reed Hunt remarked, the UAE could not own a US television station, but port security? No problemo.
Like Kevin (more here), I'm a little queasy about bashing this on grounds of foreignness. By the same token, however, this is the umpty-umpth example of President Bush saying "Hey, trust me, don't sweat the small stuff, it's all good" when he's proven time and again that he doesn't deserve any such trust. I certainly can't disagree with the notion, expressed by Rep. Jerry Nadler, that Congress ought to have a look at this before we go signing on any dotted lines. If there really is nothing to worry about, we can still go forward with it.
I've printed a couple of press releases, from Nick Lampson and Rep. Chet Edwards, beneath the fold for your perusal. And just so we're clear that the objections to this are bipartisan, I invite you to read Rep. Sue Myrick's letter to President Bush, which if nothing else is admirable in its pithiness.
Oh, and one last thing: It's always worthwhile in these matters to see who might be benefiting from the transactions in question. I'm just saying.
UPDATE: Tom DeLay has now criticized the port deal. So who's in the President's corner on this now?
Houston – Former Congressman Nick Lampson today continued to voice concern over port security in response to revelations that Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates are receiving contracts to load and unload military equipment at two Southeast Texas ports. Lampson is running in Texas’ 22nd congressional district against Tom DeLay, who in yesterday’s Pasadena Citizen refused to take a stand for or against a deal allowing the UAE to run operations at US ports.
“I want to build good relations with the United Arab Emirates and count them as allies in the war on terror,” Lampson said. “But there are better ways to do that than handing over operations at security sensitive sites to the UAE. Apparently, this may happen right here in Southeast Texas. To outsource port operations of this highly sensitive and strategic nature defies logic.”
The Beaumont Enterprise reported today that the English company to be sold to a state-owned United Arab Emirates company just renewed a contract to provide services at ports in Texas.
According to the Beaumont Enterprise, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, whose sale to Dubai Ports World is causing Congressmen on both sides of the aisle to speak out, recently renewed a contract to operate terminals at the ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi. The terminals handle military cargo. The journal Army Logistician reports, "Almost 40 percent of the Army cargo deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom flows through these two ports."
Nick Lampson believes only American companies should be in charge of operations and security at American ports and airports. He believes we cannot have financial decisions taking precedent over the safety and security of our citizens.
(Washington, DC) - U.S. Representative Chet Edwards today said Congress should put a hold on the sale of six U.S. seaports to Dubai Ports World run by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Since the United Arab Emirates was the home base of two of the 9-11 terrorists, the deal has been met with bipartisan resistance on Capitol Hill as well as with the governors of Maryland and New York. Edwards also signed a letter to the Administration stressing the need to halt the deal.
"Congress should immediately pass legislation to stop this transaction and hold hearings because the American people have a right to know the facts on how this decision was made before, not after, it becomes a done deal," said Edwards.
The deal was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a secretive 12-member board that includes Cabinet members and White House officials. The panel operates behind closed doors, with little or no input from Congress. The $6.8 billion contract goes into effect March 2 unless Congress acts. President Bush has said he will veto any legislation that cancels the port sale to the UAE despite widespread dissatisfaction among members of both parties with the deal.
"I know how serious this issue of port security is because I initiated the effort three years ago to add $85 million dollars to the budget to fund nuclear detection devices at foreign seaports. Administration officials had told me that if terrorists had ever obtained nuclear weapons, a likely method of delivering those weapons would be via ship containers coming into U.S. seaports since less than 5% of these containers were inspected," said Edwards. "Given my work in this area, it just doesn't make sense to put American families at risk by quickly pushing through a questionable transaction that would have a Middle Eastern government directly involved in U.S. port operations."
The United Arab Emirates was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Libya. According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system. After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden's bank accounts.
"I don't understand how the U.S. government can say that it is unsafe for American seniors to import drugs from Canada but it is safe for the homeland of two 9/11 terrorists to be in charge of 6 major US seaports," said Edwards.
Why Port Security Matters
* U.S. seaports handle over 95% of our nation's foreign trade worth over $1 trillion a year.
* A weapon of mass destruction detonated in a container at a seaport could cause tremendous numbers of casualties, and an estimated economic loss ranging from $58 billion to $1 trillion.
* The 9/11 Commission report concluded that terrorists have the "opportunity to do harm as great or greater in maritime and surface transportation" than the 9/11 attacks.
* The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that ports will have to spend $5.4 billion over 10 years to maintain a basic level of security.