Selling Out Our Port Security
I'm worried that this is playing into some ridiculously hysterical anti-Muslim fears, but it's not like the United Arab Emirates has been a great ally in the war on terror. Why, then, this?
The Bush administration dismissed the security concerns of local officials yesterday and restated its approval of a deal that will give a company based in Dubai a major role in operating ports in and around New York City.
Representatives of the White House and the Treasury Department said they had given their approval for Dubai Ports World to do business in the United States after a rigorous review. The decision, they said, was final.
Dubai Ports World is buying the British company that currently operates the cruise-ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan, one of the biggest cargo terminals in New York Harbor, and terminals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and other big ports.
Several lawmakers, including Representative Peter T. King of Long Island, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, have criticized the administration for its approval of the deal, saying it was done too quickly and without enough scrutiny of the ramifications for security at American ports.
"In the post-9/11 world, there should have been a presumption against this company," said Mr. King, a Republican. He added that people in the intelligence community had told him they had concerns about how the company operated the port of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.
"I'm going to be pushing as hard as I can to slow this down." Mr. King said.
Mr. Schumer said that he was concerned that the company could be infiltrated by terrorists with designs on exploiting the vulnerability of American ports. He noted that the Sept. 11 attacks were financed in part by money that passed through banks in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is a very interesting country. The New Yorker ran a long article (not online) on Dubai and their architechtural insanity (they're building a miniature version of the world out of man-made beaches in the middle of the Gulf, for example). Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, quoted in the NY Times article, appears on the Arab version of "The Apprentice" in the Donald Trump role. The country is the most ostentatious, the most visually schizophrenic, in the entire world. This is likely a pure business venture for them. They'll simply be a titular head and there is not expected to be a strong U.A.E. presence in the ports (heck, they don't even build anything in their own country; South Asians do all the manual labor).
However, being so in love with money leads to the kinds of things like becoming a financial base of operations for the September 11 attacks. And they're located in a part of the world where dealing with Islamist extremists is simply part of doing business. This is a country that has refused to cooperate with Treasury Department officials in tracking Osama bin Laden's bank accounts.
Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that another country should not have any kind of control over something so vital to our national security. If Dubai wanted to buy out our Border Patrol and run it as a for-profit company, would we let them? Of course not. But there is arguably a greater risk at our nation's ports than there are at the borders. Especially considering the fact that practically none of the containers are even checked.
In the end, this is a case of the rich getting far richer. Our government doesn't have a problem dealing with countries tied to terrorism as long as they get lots of money back in the deal. Instead of holding hands with extremist governments and those who fund them, this time, we're giving them the keys to the country. Be sure to lock up at night!