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.

10 Comments so far

  1. Jack Ware (unregistered) on February 21st, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

    I guess I’ve always thought that the outsourcing of National Security was a bad idea no matter who you outsource to. If the president’s rhetoric is to be believed then it’s too important to trust to anyone else. It’s the old fox guarding the chicken coop thing. But then, more recently I’ve begun to beleive that our own government is completely unable and unwilling to protect the American People. In fact, I don’t believe that is even on the agenda. Outsource it – don’t outsource it – whatever. I can no longer differentiate between one group of bastards and another.

  2. Laurie (unregistered) on February 21st, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

    Maybe, president Bush will go hunting with Vice president Cheney?


  3. Joe B. (unregistered) on February 21st, 2006 @ 4:17 pm

    Bush’s defense is that a British company was already running these ports. And by running the port, we’re talking about port management, not port security, necessarily, or U.S. Customs operations. More like an airport functions (anyplace but New Orleans, that is). The municipality / state leases the physical plant to a company to run. The employees are most likely US nationals who are members of various unions.

    So BushCo., in typical pass-the-buck fashion, has now said that he’ll veto any attempt to block this deal, and demanded that Lawmakers explain why a Middle Eastern company is “held to a different standard.”

    I don’t know, maybe it’s because they’re not just a Middle Eastern company but a division of a Middle Eastern COUNTRY perhaps? A country about which legitimate questions can be asked concerning their ties to nuclear proliferation and terrorists. I don’t want to see him go hunting with Cheney, although he can if he’s feeling lucky, I suppose, but he has yet to veto any piece of legislation. And now he’s threatening to veto this? He’s the one that needs to be explaining things. But we’ve learned, or should have by now, that he considers himself and his administration beyond the law and beyond having to explain or justify any action. Even Clinton wasn’t this arrogant. And, as anyone who has seen the movie version of “Hunt for Red October” knows, arrogance kills.

  4. Laurie (unregistered) on February 21st, 2006 @ 5:10 pm



  5. NO_Doc (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

    Sigh. Well, in defense of Bush it *is* true that the security at the site won’t change. The HSA and US Coast Guard will still be there and in the same capacity as before. The UAE is about as moderate/pro-Western as a Middle Eastern country can be.

    Does it mean we need to let ’em take a cut of everything that comes through our port? Not necessarily. But Bushie needs their help in the war on terror or he won’t get anywhere fast. So, bet that they’re going to get it.


  6. Spitting Onu (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 1:13 am

    Up here in the Northern Plains we just recovered from a Historic event —may I even say a “Weather Event” of “Biblical Proportions” — with a historic blizzard of up to 44 inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities ands and cut power to 10’s of thousands.


    George Bush did not come.

    FEMA did nothing.

    No one howled for the government.

    No one blamed the government.

    No one even uttered an expletive on TV.

    Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.

    Our Mayors did not blame Bush or anyone else.

    Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else either.

    CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, or NBC did not visit – or report on this category 5 snow storm.

    Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.

    No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House.

    No one looted.

    Nobody – I mean nobody – demanded the government do something.

    Nobody expected the government to do anything either.

    No Larry King, No Bill O’Rielly, No Oprah, No Chris

    Mathews and No Geraldo Rivera.

    No Sean Penn, No Barbara Streisand, No Hollywood types to be found.

    Nope, we just melted the snow for water.
    We sent out caravans of SUV’s to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars. The drivers of big trucks pulled people out of snow banks and didn’t ask for a penny.

    Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snow bound families. Families took in the stranded people – total strangers.
    We Fired up wood stoves. Broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns.
    We put on an extra layers of clothes because up here it is “Work or Die”.

    We Did Not Wait For Some Affirmative Action Government To Get Us Out Of A Mess Created By Being Immobilized By A Welfare Program That Trades Votes For ‘Sittin At Home’ Checks.

    Even though a Category “5” blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

    May a suitcase nuke get what Katrina missed you fucking sloppy second whores!!!!

  7. Laurie (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 1:46 am

    Allowing any country in with out a back ground

    check is extremely irresponsponsible.

    They keep bringing up the words, “profiling,

    discriminantion and allies” and almost every one

    shuts their pipe. It’s time we stop allowing words

    to stop our thoughts from occurring. Any one

    else noticing this. You can check out metroblogging

    Dubai through this site.


  8. Ann (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 6:31 am

    The State Department reported in 2005 that UAE is in constant violations of human rights including, but not limited to – slavery, torture, and repression of basic freedoms such as travel and particapatory democracy. But since they supplied the cash for 9/11 and laundered Taliban and Al Queda ill-gotten gains afterwards, I suppose they qualify as a “great ally” in the “war on terror.” They say keep your enemies close, but *geesh*


  9. Joe B. (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    Tell you what, Northern Plains friend, when it snows 44 inches INSIDE your and everyone else’s Northern Plains house, write us back. Empathy will be yours. Till then, I’d like you to keep writing, because it’s important to keep the mindset of people such as yourself in plain view. :)

  10. Joe B. (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 10:58 am

    First, Bush didn’t even know about it until after it became headline news.

    Second, the impact on security is unknown. From what I can gather, the company has agreed to mandatory participation in a security program that is voluntary for other companies. Why it would be voluntary for anyone is another story. At the same time, they’re being cut some slack on record keeping when other companies are usually forced to meet higher standards in terms of keeping records on U.S. soil where they’re subject to subpoena.

    UAE is claiming that they are good friends of the U.S., but for a society with a lot of human rights problems, as someone pointed out, you’d think they’d be more cooperative in terrorist hunting than they have been.

    The bottom line is that I don’t trust this administration to cut deals with countries that have ties to oil money that are in the best interest of the country vs. the best interest of BushCo. The reason this has become such a huge deal is that the administration has reached the end of its credibility and nobody with half a brain believes anything that they say. They are turning even their supporters into cynics.

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