Monday, February 20, 2006


Lawmakers at odds over Arab control of ports
Members of Congress, Bush administration disagree on security question

Associated Press
Feb. 20, 2006

WASHINGTON - Members of Congress and the Bush administration are at odds over whether security is compromised by an Arab company’s takeover of operations at six major American seaports.

Some lawmakers expressed concern Sunday that the safeguards are insufficient to thwart infiltration of the vital facilities by terrorists.

At issue is the purchase last week of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE. Peninsular and Oriental runs major commercial operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended the U.S. security review of DP World in various television interviews Sunday.

“We have a very disciplined process, it’s a classified process, for reviewing any acquisition by a foreign company of assets that we consider relevant to national security,” Chertoff told Tim Russert on “ Meet the Press .”

The government typically builds in “certain conditions or requirements that the company has to agree to make sure we address the national security concerns,” he said, but added that details were classified.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said later he wasn’t as sure.

“I’m aware of the conditions and they relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures, but it doesn’t go to who they hire, or how they hire people,” King told The Associated Press.

“They’re better than nothing, but to me they don’t address the underlying conditions, which is how are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al-Qaida or someone else? How are they going to guard against corruption?” King said.

Critics have cited the UAE’s history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

A Miami company, Continental Stevedoring & Terminals Inc., has filed suit in a Florida court challenging the deal. A subsidiary of Eller & Company Inc., Continental maintains it will become an “involuntary partner” with Dubai’s government under the sale.

Michael Seymour, president of the North American arm of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, said in a statement that company lawyers would have to examine the lawsuit before he could comment on it.

He noted, however, that his company “is itself a foreign-owned terminal operator that has long worked with U.S. government officials in charge of security at the ports to meet all U.S. government standards, as do other foreign companies that currently operate ports in the United States.”

“We are confident that the DP World purchase will ensure that our operations continue to meet all relevant standards in the U.S. through ongoing collaboration between the port operators and American, British, Australian and port security officials throughout the world,” Seymour said.
Lawmakers from both parties questioned the sale as a possible risk to national security.

“It’s unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history,” Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Most Americans are scratching their heads, wondering why this company from this region now,” he said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “It is ridiculous to say you’re taking secret steps to make sure that it’s OK for a nation that had ties to 9/11, (to) take over part of our port operations in many of our largest ports. This has to stop.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Arab journalists Friday at the State Department, that it was “the considered opinion of the U.S. government that this can go forward.” She pledged to work with Congress because “perhaps people will need better explanation and will need to understand some of the process that we have gone through.”

At least one Senate oversight hearing is planned for later this month.

“Congress is welcome to look at this and can get classified briefings,” Chertoff told CNN’s “Late Edition.” “We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system.”

Snave's notes: I say NO WAY to this sale. I read at J. Marquis' site "Are We There Yet?" that the amount of money the U.S. would make is $6.8 billion. I think there are better ways than this to raise money. If Chertoff is willing to o.k. this kind of sale in order because "we still want to have a robust global trading system”, despite the U.A.E.'s dubious record, I think he needs to find a different line of work. Maybe this sale wouldn't make it more likely that WMDs could be smuggled into the U.S. by terrorists, but on the surface it sure seems like it would. Sorry Dubya. Find a different way to raise your money. Maybe rescinding some of your tax cuts would be a way to start.


Blogger GTX said...

In politics everything is economy at this days. To use the same scenario of a terrorist stealth to claim protection of the nation or the need to protect the business, It's all the same (when no fiscalization is done to cargo boats that may cause a huge environmental problem). In Portugal we say, "Two rabbits caught with the same stick." Changing to hydrogen fuel the fast we can and half of the world problems disappear. But that, oh that won't pay in short period of time, so investors continue to forget the future. Someone has sell guns to them to achieve that shorten period of time to their investments and now they fear them, what a crazy world...about corruption, don't make me they concern!

3:26 AM  
Blogger Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

GTX, I don't think this question is one of corruption so much as it is of truly mind-blowing stupidity. That said, provided Dubai Ports World allows for serious and substantial security checks by our government on their employees who work at domestic ports, this could merely be a bad idea instead of a potential c.f.

4:29 AM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

They don't care about safety, Snave. It's all about money flow.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

This morning Governors George Pataki of New York and Robert Ehrlich, Jr. of Maryland are reported as saying legal action may be explored as a way to stop this sale. Both are fairly well-regarded Republicans. It isn't just Democrat Senators from New York that are complaining...

Maryland officials apparently did not get any advance notice of this pending sale.

In Miami, where over a million cargo containers were delivered last year and where a lot of cruise ships are based, a company has filed suit to block the takeover of port facilities there.

I think this whole thing is just another bad idea from a bad administration.

6:51 AM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

I almost crapped myself when I heard this!

They are just asking for another 9/11.


9:44 AM  
Blogger GTX said...

I'm anguish with all this stuff. Instead of dancing days, these days are spent with an eye over the shoulder. What a crap are they turning this world on? We only give them bad ideas...But this fear clime it fits perfectly well to develop other businesses...

10:07 AM  
Blogger Paul G. said...

This is Facism

2:13 PM  

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