Thursday, February 16, 2006

Border Security Includes Port Security

If someone told you more than four years after 9/11 that the US would be on the verge of turning over port security to a foreign national company from the Middle East, you would probably shake your head in dismay (and followed quickly by anger, fear, and the shroud of the Dark Side falls).

Does someone think that this is really such a good idea? Apparently the Bush Administration thinks so.

I don't get it.

Port security is of the utmost concern and we've repeatedly been told of security issues and problems securing the ports against terrorists. So, instead of finding a US company to provide this security, the US government was going to turn over security at eight major ports to a company based in Dubai. That means that foreign nations will have access to our national security and border control policies and procedures. It may needlessly put Americans at risk because of lax security in the Middle East. Terrorists could penetrate the company involved and assist compatriots in the US without being detected.
The U.S. government should urgently review the security implications of a $6.8 billion deal granting a Dubai-based company management over key ports including New York, U.S. lawmakers said on Thursday, citing terrorism concerns.

Analysts and port sources doubted the takeover of British company P&O by Dubai Ports World would have any impact on security. They cited multiple layers of screening and protection involved in global shipping, particularly among such major operators.

P&O shareholders voted on Monday in favor of the multibillion-dollar bid, giving the United Arab Emirates-backed firm control over the management of P&O's global operations, including in the major U.S. ports of New York and New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami.
Of course those shareholders would support such a move - it's a huge plus to the company.

It's benefits to US national security? Not so much.

And while the Bush Administration is defending this deal, there's bipartisan support for Congressional review:
Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., urged congressional hearings on the deal.

"At a time when America is leading the world in the war on terrorism and spending billions of dollars to secure our homeland, we cannot cede control of strategic assets to foreign nations with spotty records on terrorism," Fossella said.

Critics also have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Outsourcing the operations of our largest ports to a country with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security and commerce accident waiting to happen," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "The administration needs to take another look at this deal."

Separately, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Thursday it will conduct its own review of the deal and urged the government to defend its decision.

In a letter to the Treasury Department, Port Authority chairman Anthony Coscia said the independent review by his agency was necessary "to protect its interests."

The lawmakers pressing the White House to reconsider included Sens. Schumer, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Reps. Foley, Fossella and Chris Shays, R-Conn.
You've got to wonder just how much review was done, when the Port Authority wasn't even involved in the process of screening participants who might take over operations at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

UPDATE 2/17/2006:
Welcome Michelle Malkin readers. Take the time to check out my site, and be advised that I'm working on a followup to this postinga new posting is up.

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