SSBG

A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

STOP THE PORT SELLOUT

Posted by ssbg on February 18, 2006

By Michelle Malkin   ·   February 16, 2006 10:10 PM
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By Michelle Malkin   · 00port.jpg
Forget about the Cheney accidental shooting. Based on my e-mail and the growing outcry from both sides of the political aisle, this was and is the big story of the week–and it’s picking up steam:  

[LES KINSOLVING]: The government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has approved a deal that will put six major ports in the United States under the control of a state-sponsored company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. And my question: Knowing, as we do, that the Arab Emirate was tied in many ways to the 9/11 hijackers and their deeds, and knowing the critical nature of port security and protecting the nation, will the President step in and stop this deal from going into effect March 2nd?[White House Press Secy SCOTT McCLELLAN]: Well, my understanding, Les, is that this went through the national security review process under CFIUS, at the Department of Treasury. That is the agency that is responsible for overseeing such matters. And this includes a number of national security agencies — the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Justice, among others, and there is a rigorous review that goes on for proposed foreign investments for national security concerns. And in terms of specifics relating to this, Treasury is the chair of this and you should direct those questions to Treasury.

 

No. The buck stops with the White House. The president has the ultimate authority to stop the deal. And he should.

Yet, as I noted earlier today, the White House is standing by the approval of the $7 billion sale giving United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World control over significant operations at six major American ports.

You can find background on CFIUS, the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, that makes recommendations on foreign acquisitions, and the Exon-Florio provision, which gives the President broad powers to block certain types of foreign investment, here (pdf file).

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Reuters notes:

Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said the 12-agency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, chaired by Treasury Secretary John Snow, had reviewed the transaction and did not object.Snow is a former chairman of freight rail company CSX Corp., which sold its global port assets to Dubai Ports World for $1.15 billion in 2004 — the year after Snow had left the company for the Bush administration.

Stewart Baker, assistant secretary of policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said Dubai Ports World had a solid security record.

“We could not find anything concrete that led us to believe that the transaction ought to be stopped for national security reasons,” Baker told Reuters.

 

Really? They couldn’t find anything concrete? The New York Post did:

True, the deal reportedly was approved by the top-secret U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which decided there was no security risk.But at a time when security in the ports remains unacceptably lax, we wonder whether this is a wise move.

Dubai Ports, after all, is owned by the United Arab Emirates, whose banking system – considered the commercial center of the Arab world – provided most of the cash for the 9/11 hijackers. Indeed, much of the operational planning for the World Trade Center attacks took place inside the UAE.

And while the Bush folks now consider the UAE a major ally in the war against terror, the Treasury Department has been stonewalled by the emirates, and other Arab countries, in trying to track Osama bin Laden’s bank accounts. The new leader of Dubai, one of the seven small countries that make up the UAE, has said all the right things about fighting radical Islam since 9/11. But this remains very much an Islamist nation, where preaching any religion other than Islam is prohibited.

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Frank Gaffney also warns in the NY Sun:

This is not the first time this interagency panel – called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – has made an astounding call about the transfer of control of strategically sensitive U.S. assets to questionable purchasers. In fact, as of last summer, CFIUS had, since its creation in 1988, formally rejected only one of 1,530 transactions submitted for its review.Such a record is hardly surprising given that the committee is chaired by the Treasury Department, whose institutional responsibilities include promoting foreign investment in the United States. Treasury has rarely seen a foreign purchase of American assets that it did not like. And this bias on the part of the chairman of CFIUS has consistently skewed the results of the panel’s deliberations in favor of approving deals, even those opposed by other, more national security-minded departments. Thanks to the secrecy with which CFIUS operates, it is not clear at this writing whether any such objection was heard with respect to the idea of contracting out management of six of our country’s most important ports to a UAE company. There would certainly appear to be a number of grounds for rejecting this initiative, however:

* America’s seaports have long been recognized by homeland security experts as among our most vulnerable targets. Huge quantities of cargo move through them every day, much of it of uncertain character and provenance, nearly all of it inadequately monitored. Matters can only be made worse by port managers who might conspire to bring in dangerous containers, or simply look the other way when they arrive.

* Entrusting information about key U.S. ports – including, presumably, government-approved plans for securing them, to say nothing of the responsibility for controlling physical access to these facilities, to a country known to have been penetrated by terrorists is not just irresponsible. It is recklessly so…

…How could even a stacked deck like the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States find it possible to approve the Dubai Ports World’s transaction?

Could it have been influenced by the fact that a former senior official of the UAE company, David Sanborn, was recently named the new administrator of the Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration? Until recently, Mr. Sanborn was DP World’s director of operations for Europe and Latin America.

Or is it because the U.S. government views – and is determined to portray – the United Arab Emirates as a vital ally in this war for the Free World? A similar determination has long caused Washington to treat Saudi Arabia as a valued friend, even as the Saudis continue playing a double game whereby they work simultaneously to repress terrorism at home and abet it abroad.

Whatever the explanation, the nation can simply no longer afford to have the disposition of strategic assets – including those that have a military or homeland security dimension – determined by a Treasury-dominated panel whose deliberations and decisions are made in secret without congressional oversight.

Either the president or Congress should see to it that the United Arab Emirates is not entrusted with the operation of any American ports, and that the Treasury Department is stripped of the lead role in evaluating such dubious foreign investments in the United States.

 

One of my readers offers a different view:

My husband works in the international transportation industry. In fact, his boss at one time was Dave Sanborn, the man that the White House has appointed to a post within the Maritime Commission. Dave was most recently working for DWI in the Dominican Republic and has worked for them before. DWI is not “buying the American ports” as I see frequently misrepresented in articles about this in the MSM. American ports cannot be bought.They are buying the port operating division of a London-based, British-owned Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. That purchase will include current contracts that P&O ports has with the various ports listed in the stories. There are other port operation companies out there. The port in New York or any of the other ports mentioned could choose to contract with some other company if they do not want DWI being responsible for operating terminals in these ports. As we understand it the same employees who work for P&O currently will still be the employees that work there after the purchase goes through.

I don’t think there are suddenly going to be Arabs running all over the ports. Anymore so than there already are. Actually because of regulations and unions, more and more of ocean shipping, port operations and terminal operations in America are being run by non-American companies. Just a heads up…as we read the stories the information is so fact challenged. My husband does think there is room for some clarification, but to have Chucky [Schumer] out there trying to make this into a “the Bush adminstration IS NOT concerned about port security” is just spin.

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Well, she makes a few good points about the how and why of the deal. But whether we should do it is the key issue. And my bottom line is that the deal looks bad and smells worse.

I’m with the Washington Times:

The root question is this: Why should the United States have to gamble its port security on whether a subsidiary of the government of the United Arab Emirates happens to remain an antiterrorism ally?The Committee on Foreign Investment is the wrong place for this decision to be made; it appears to be little more than a rubber stamp.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, among others, is asking tough questions about this deal. For once, we agree with him: 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 Qaeda.

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