Friday, February 17, 2006

Port Sale A Threat To National And Economic Security

While the majority of the mainstream media has been focused on the non-story of Vice President Cheney's hunting incident, this has gone largely unnoticed:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration on Thursday rebuffed criticism about potential security risks of a $6.8 billion sale that gives a company in the United Arab Emirates control over significant operations at six major American ports.
Lawmakers asked the White House to reconsider its earlier approval of the deal.

The sale to state-owned Dubai Ports World was "rigorously reviewed" by a U.S. committee that considers security threats when foreign companies seek to buy or invest in American industry, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, run by the Treasury Department, reviewed an assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies. The committee's 12 members agreed unanimously the sale did not present any problems, the department said.

"We wanted to look at this one quite closely because it relates to ports," Stewart Baker, an assistant secretary in the Homeland Security Department, told The Associated Press. "It is important to focus on this partner as opposed to just what part of the world they come from. We came to the conclusion that the transaction should not be halted."

I'm not expert in this field, but on its face the sale presents an enormous threat to our security. The company is a "state-owned" company, and while the UAE has cooperated in our efforts in the War on Terror, there is a troubling past that can't be overlooked:

There are several 9-11 connections to the United Arab Emirates. Many of the hijackers entered the U.S. via UAE, much of the attack's planning was done there, and the FBI says money for the operation was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the UAE's banking system.

The above referenced World Net Daily article also notes this from The Washington Times

"Do we really want our major ports in the hands of an Arab country where al-Qaida recruits, travels and wires money?

"We should be improving port security in an age of terrorism, not outsourcing decisions to the highest bidder. The ports are thought to be the country's weakest homeland-security link, with good reason. Only a fraction of the nation's maritime cargoes are inspected. …

"President Bush should overrule the committee to reject this deal. If that doesn't happen, Congress should take action. The country's ports should not be owned by foreign governments; much less governments whose territories are favored by al-Qaida."

It should be noted that this sale not only has national security implications, but economic implications as well. These ports are essential for the import and export of goods and services, so it is in our economic interest as well as our national security interest to control their activity.

We are already dependent on foreign sources of oil to keep our economy running,  we can't afford to give any foreign interest the ability to control the flow of our goods and services. Not only would this foreign interest be able to bring threats into this country through our port system, they would also be able to largely control the timing and delivery of essential goods and services. I don't believe I am out of line when I say that this has the potential to become the worst political calculation in our nation's history. I pray that I am wrong.

President Bush has the authority to kill this deal, and in the interest of our national and economic security, he should do so without batting an eyelash.

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