Port (in)Security and Presidential (in)Sincerity
Understandably, there is growing national concern about a Bush administration decision that has the potential to negatively affect the ports of New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, and Philadelphia. Oh, and about 40 percent of the Army cargo deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom that flows through Beaumont and Corpus Christi.
Why the concern? Nothing much, just the decision to ok continued outsourcing of the operation of the six ports above to a company called Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. This company is being acquired by Dubai Ports World, a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Arab Emirates. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has so far declined to conduct a full 45-day investigation. To that end, a group of congressmen and senators have asked Treasury Secretary John Snow to direct them to conduct such an investigation.
Among their concerns are the questionable ties of the UAE to nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Additionally, they point out that currently “only one in 20 shipping containers entering the U.S. is physically inspected. A single terrorist incident could shut down our system of container transportation, affecting our entire economy, as well as facilities relied on by the DOD as military load-out ports.”
I’m not anti-commerce, anti-trade, anti-foreign investment. I do, however, feel that the administration should be taking a more cautious approach to national security in this instance, especially since the President himself feels that National Security is so threatened that he is justified in ignoring the constitutional limits of his office so that he can conduct illegal surveillance on U.S. soil. The problem here is not that it’s a foreign company who will be running these ports, but that it is essentially a foreign company owned by and answering to a foreign government.
The last thing New Orleans needs is a terrorist incident involving our port. As the Senators and Representative calling on Secretary Snow to investigate point out, “only one in 20 shipping containers entering the U.S. is physically inspected. A single terrorist incident could shut down our system of container transportation, affecting our entire economy, as well as facilities relied on by the DOD as military load-out ports.
Two GOP governors (Pataki of New York and Ehrlich of Maryland) are concerned enough about the implications of the deal that they are considering attempts to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states.
Look, there’s nothing that I would rather do than pile on a Bush Presidency plagued by moral and intellectual deficiencies. But simply trotting out a few Yes Men and a normal administration critic to state their belief that the administration has done its due diligence homework is not enough. When you’re in charge of an administration of not-to-be-trusted fuck-ups, you don’t get to avoid scrutiny just by claiming that you made the company agree to certain super-secret conditions to ensure national security.
Especially since you haven’t done a great job at securing our ports to begin with. Not when a news organization can sneak depleted uranium into the country under the noses of port security. If I were conspiracy minded, I might think that an administration as morally deficient as this one might agree to this just so that they would have an excuse and a scapegoat if there were a terrorist incident involving a major port.