A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

When Chuck Schumer and Bill Frist agree on something, some would likely take it as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Get your affairs in order folks-- armageddon might be on its way. Frist has agreed with Schumer that the deal which sells the British company currently running six of the U.S.'s biggest ports to a company in the United Arab Emirates needs further review.

Good for them, I say. I understand Bush's stance that we have to be seen as treating companies fairly. Indeed we do, but personally I would want extensive-- and open-- reviews of any transaction that affects ports, airports, nuclear power plants, etc. Nobody's saying, "We can't do business with them-- they're arabs." We're saying, "Let's review this very carefully since it could significantly change things in an area of high risk, an area that has been identified as a likely target for terrorism." The fact that the 9/11 terrorists and al-Qaeda have ties to the UAE is also a matter of concern-- not sufficient to say no, in and of itself, but sufficient to raise a red flag or two. Or three.

Truly it would be pathetic if Bush chose this issue-- of all the bad bills, policies, budgets and just plain stupid issues he has signed off on-- to exercise veto power for the very first time in his presidency.


"They ought to listen to what I have to say about this," the president said. "They'll look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."

Bush, who has never vetoed a bill as president, said on the White House South Lawn:

"This is a company that has played by the rules, has been cooperative with the United States, from a country that's an ally on the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."

I think that this is a bad move by President Bush. I don't like the concept of foreign management of critical infrastructure, and I think that he should take a step back and look a bit more closely at the ramifications of this decision. Unfortunately, I don't think that he will do that.

If anything were to happen at a U.S. port managed by DP World, or if anything used in an attack on the U.S. came in through a port managed by DP World, then the President is going to have a lot of questions to answer.
Chris Muir's Day By Day cartoon touches on this today.
Not to be a talking head, but I sure hope that this is the thing that forces the administration to acknowledge that there are other branches of government that should occasionally be informed of what is going on.
But I doubt it.

And go Apollo Anton Ohno!!! We could really use another metal.
Why? Are we running out of metal? Insufficient quantities of iron, gold and whatnot about? I thought Ohno was a speedskater-- he's also a metallurgean?

Sorry Troy, couldn't help the snark. Well, I could've-- but I chose not to.
C'mon, Troy.

Not to be a talking head, but I sure hope that this is the thing that forces the administration to acknowledge that there are other branches of government that should occasionally be informed of what is going on.

First, departments of the Executive Branch make up the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). That group was created in 1975 in order to review investments in the U.S. which had the potential of affecting our national security, while at the same time conducting the reviews in secrecy in order to avoid the divulging of corporate information that could help their competitors (no one will want to invest in the U.S. if their company's trade secrets will become known to the competition).

Second, can't the other branches of government catch some of this without expecting the Executive to hold their collective hands and walk them through the process? If the Legislative and Judicial Branches are that inept, do we really want them having access to any sensitive information?

Third, the Legislative Branch is informed of this and pressing for a more in-depth review. The most refreshing aspect of this is that we have finally found a topic that can achieve bi-partisan support.

Outside of that, there are cogent arguments that are being made in favor of the ports deal:

The Transaction Is Not About Port Security Or Even Port Ownership, But Only About Operations In Port. DP World will not manage port security, nor will it own any ports. DP World would take on the functions now performed by the British firm P&O – basically the off- and on-loading of cargo. Employees will still have to be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. No private company currently manages any U.S. port. Rather, private companies such as P&O and DP World simply manage and operate individual terminals within ports.

DP World Has Played By The Rules, Has Cooperated With The United States, And Is From A Country That Is A Close Ally In the War on Terror. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a solid partner in the War on Terror. The UAE has been extremely cooperative on counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation and has provided considerable support to U.S. forces in the Gulf and to the governments and people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I still remain opposed to DP World getting this contract, but in my defense, and in the words of Pat McCurdy, I am an uptight, hostile, bigoted Republican. I think that we do need to consider that DP World, as a managing entity, will have access to our security measures and protocols. While an attack may not come through a DP World managed port, if the controlling UAE were to pass on information regarding port security to unsavories, what would stop terrorists from committing an attack at a Danish managed port in the U.S. (and, yes, there is a Danish managed port)?

This needs to be looked into much more closely, and I hope the deal is scrapped. But, to be fair, this is not a case of the administration ignoring other branches of government. The CFIUS is made up of departments under the Executive, and to accuse the current administration of excluding other branches of the federal government for executing duties required of the Executive Branch for more than a quarter-century is disingenuous in the least.
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