Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush Must Reconsider

The Golden Rule of Foreign Policy: Ask Jimmy Carter. Do the opposite.

Bush has agreed to allow a Saudi owned company run security for some of our highest volume ports.

Jimmy Carter said, no big deal. ''The overall threat to the United States and security, I don't think it exists,'' Carter said on CNN's The Situation Room. ``I'm sure the president's done a good job with his subordinates to make sure this is not a threat.''

President Bush - Please please please reconsider.


At 4:00 PM, Blogger spd rdr said...

Reconsider, hell. If this goes through, I'm done with you.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger portia said...

Gee whiz spd, sometimes, you just know how to make a girl smile:)

Politically, the decision is a disaster, but from a security standpoint I don't know how much a difference the decision to outsource the contract makes. Besides, foreigners owned the contract for the past 6 years before the transfer to Dubai. Nothing will change: The same DHS personnel will screen the cargo, the same longshoreman will load/unload the containers, and the same Coast Guard will patrol the coast line, and therein lies the real problem.

Our overall port security, the lack of safeguards, and the pitiful amount of $$$ devoted to it, is a travesty and leaves us wide open to the potential for bad guys to do bad things. Until we get serious about tracking container traffic, requiring shippers to install electronically sealed containers which would show tampering, increasing radiation and x-ray equipment and checking containers at the port of departure instead of when they arrive ("port-of-origin" controls), I fear it may not matter who has the contract. As long as individuals can a travel undetected on what has sadly been referred to as Al-Qaeda's Cruise Line, we remain woefully vunerable.

My hope is that this controversy--and the strong opinion on both sides-- will shine a bright light on one of our major weaknesses in the WOT, and what many believe will be the locus of the next attack on our shores.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

I'm not totally up on the issue, but Portia makes a lot of sense.

My first thought was that holding some of the buildings and some of the controls for port entry don't change the Swiss cheese we currently have for security - or not. Either we have security or we don't. Those agents are ours.

I'd rather hold Bush accountable for other conservative issues like taxes, spending and border control. He's had the energy to run the most vigorous and penetrating foreign policy since the Reagan administration. Why can't he be as effective at home?

Besides, with the shape of the southern border, who needs to run an American port?

At 4:04 AM, Blogger camojack said...

"The Golden Rule of Foreign Policy: Ask Jimmy Carter. Do the opposite."

Sounds like excellent advice.
(But it's not Saudi owned...)

At 9:41 AM, Blogger KJ said...

First, the foreign company before was British. That is an ally. UAE is an "ally" by convienence only. A Zogby poll found 70+% of the Saudi people want the US to be harmed. We bought their govt's support. That's all.

And the company is Saudi owned. It is an arm of the state, just like that oil company that wanted to buy Chevron or some such was an arm of the Chinese govt.

Portia's argument is that the security is all the same. I don't think so. They are going to hire replacements. Why did Bush say "we have assurances of increased security on some point" if there is no security issue at all? He's talking out of both sides of his mouth. Why in the hell would he threaten a veto of legislation to overturn this decision? He hasn't vetoed a damn thing, and this is his cherry popping veto? That's nuts.

I'm with spd. This stinks and makes no sense. I'd rather give the deal to Haliburton.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger portia said...

I think the deal stinks KJ but not for most of the reasons you mention, I think it smacks of more of the same f*ck you attitude, more of the hubris and disregard for other branches of government (and actually for our entire system of governance), that persists in today's WH. My complaint is not with UAE owning the contract but with any foreign government or company managing our seaports. If UAE had not succeeded in acquiring London's P&O, we'd be looking at a joint venture between Singapore and the government of China running our ports. Shades of Unocal. Any better? I don't know. Six years ago when the contract first went out to bid, not one American company bid on it. Not even Haliburton:) Stunning.

The point I was trying to make earlier is that with or without the handover, we still are not safe. The Administration's last budget devoted $175M to port security and that was more than it initially proposed. How can that be? How is it that we allow 50,000 plus containers to arrive on our shores every day yet we devote these meagher amounts to securing our ports? We worry about ballistic missiles but why bother when you can put a bomb in a box that sails right into one of our harbors. We don't have any excuses to say this won't happen.

None of us have enough zeros in our imagination to count the financial devastation that would ensue from an attack on our shipping industry. I dare say it would make the airline's shutdown after 9/11 look like a passing cloud on a sunny day.

As stubborn as Bush is, I don't believe he'll use his first veto to slap down this firestorm. I think he'll buckle. If he doesn't it very well could be political suicide.

Either way, we're still no safer...with or without the deal.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

If he pulls out the veto for this, I'm with spd.

I think our saving grace in this has been that if they can't kill lots of people, Islamofascists don't want to risk finding out if there are virgins in heaven or not.

Sooner or later someone will get wise and use some strategery, and the ports could well be the target - particularly if we're talking about taking out oil tankers.

As far as security, there's still the port authorities, the coast guard, and the FBI, and at least two of those three won't be in the hands of any "contractor," Saudi or otherwise.

I agree that the Mideastern allies have been bought. But that's better than not having their attention at all. It's what makes the GWOT winnable - we all know we're not going to go colonize that broad swath of a region that lacks most of the basic developments for civilization. Not. gonna. happen.

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

...we allow 50,000 plus containers to arrive on our shores every day...

I think all of you ought to stop and think about that very interesting statistic for just a moment.

A few other facts you might want to consider:

I have been doing a bit of reading.

Apparently there are only four companies capable of doing this type of work in the world and they are all foreign:

Singapore, the UK, Hong Kong and the UAE

And furthermore DP (the Arab company) has apparently agreed to keep on all the Brit staff and longshoremen, so there will be no turnover of staff from the previous go-round.

As several port workers have already pointed out, the majority of US ports are already under foreign ownership, including several Arab firms. So this is, apparently, nothing new except to folks like me who have been asleep at the wheel and opportunistic politicians on both sides of the aisle who want to turn this into another Halliburon scandal when the govt. hires one of the ONLY 4 FIRMS IN THE WORLD LARGE ENOUGH TO BID ON THE JOB.


What a victory for common sense.

At any rate, even if we searched every container that came in we would not be safe. Besides, there are many ways to attack a port: cargo is only one small avenue.

Terrorists attack people, not things, and people are everywhere. My husband traveled all over the world doing threat assessments on ports and installations. It's a moving target.

And KJ is dead wrong about the UAE being an ally of convenience. I'd like to see him try to stage 150K troops in the ME without their active assistance.

Or get them home again.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Bottom line: when people like Michelle Malkin and Jimmy Carter line up on the same side of an issue and Bush, who has never vetoed a single thing in 5 years, threatens to go to the mat, thoughtful people ought to be taking a closer look at the facts.

Either it's the Age of Aquarius or Laura's been going to too many Chippendale's shows. Something is up.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

A few other facts you might want to consider:

I have been doing a bit of reading.

Heh. Don't be modest, Cass.

Another problem for Libertarian-leaning conservatives is that we would in effect be telling the British PO whom they can and can't sell their property to.

Shades of Kelo.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Nevermind the merits. I disagree tee. We would be telling them that if they sell their property to nationally run corporations that we don't like they will lose their contract.

FWIW, lots of private contracts have a break clause if the company is sold to another manager.

There is no shade of Kelo there.

Besides, didn't we say no to China's bid to buy a big oil company for similar reasons?

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Pile On® said...

I am not buying the argument that this is okay because they have agreed to keep on the same staff they have now. The management is going to be UAE nationals and eventually there will be turnover and people will be here in our ports that can observe our procedures and be in a position to learn our vulnerabilites.

Even if these people get checked out and pass security clearances they are going to have family back home in a country with a relatively large population of islamic radicals. Even good people might do the work of the radicals is their family is threatened, by people who back up their threats with inhuman violence.

There has to be a better way.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Pile, there is probably no one on the face of this earth who likes changing their mind on an issue less than I do, especially once I've sort of weighed in like a damned fool.

I have to say that I do not like the 'feel' of this one bit. However, I will say in my own defense that I never did give a rats ass whether the owning company was Brit or UAE. It is machts nichts. If you think for one moment we are safer in Brit hands I have a very large boat I'd like to sell you. I am the biggest anglophile you're likely to find around here, but there are some very anti-American folks in the UK right now. That is no guarantee of anything.

Reading the facts is very sobering. And the facts of the matter are simple: our ports have not been in our hands for some time now.

I have my suspicions what this is really about and tain't national security. Not even close. It also ain't pretty.

Follow the money - it will never lead you astray.

I'm sorry. I just don't have time to wade into all this.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...



At 9:23 AM, Blogger cakreiz said...

The Golden Rule is nearly flawless. Yet the more I read, the more comfortable I am with the Administration's decision. The affair seems like a tempest in a teapot. But Jimmy Carter's endorsement scares me to death.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger KJ said...

It smells bad from a corruption angle. It feels bad (a liberal way of analyzing things) from a security analysis. It probably doesn't matter from a practicle analysis, but I have a hard time believing that.

So I fall back on my one infallible position: Carter says its OK. So its got to be stopped.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger portia said...

Interesting overlooked nugget from today's NYT:

"The debate over the sale should also shed light on the mysterious workings of the Committee on Foreign Investment, an interagency body led by the secretary of the Treasury. Under current rules, the committee can approve deals in which foreign companies take over American properties with national security importance after just a 30-day review, and without the approval of the president.

If the committee does not approve a sale within this period it can — or if the acquirer is a foreign government it must — take an additional 45 days to conduct an "investigation," after which it has to make a recommendation to the president, who then has 15 days to approve or reject the deal. While the president must inform Congress of his decision, it has no review power.

In this instance, even though the acquirer was a foreign government, no investigation was conducted and the president was not informed. "

I don't know what's worse: the fact that Bush is admitting that he didn't learn about the sale until after it was approved (McClellan claims Prez first heard about the deal when the media began reporting it this past weekend...yikes)--or that the members of his administration who sit on the Committee didn't feel the need to follow Committee rules including obtaining approval from the POTUS before blessing the deal.

I'd like to say something snarky--really snarky-- right about now but I'll refrain and just say "why am I not surprised?"

At 2:40 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

I'll add some snark:

Bureaucracy. Can't live with it, can't get away from it.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger portia said...

Correction: Looks like Section 731 (Exon-Florio provision) gives the Committee an out--albeit a subjective one--with respect to when the 45-day investigation/notifying POTUS provision is triggered, all because somebody used the conjunction "and" instead of "or." Bloody lawyers:)

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

With difficulty, I will refrain from comment.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger KJ said...

Anyone else singing "Conjunction Function" to themselves right now?

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Cassandra said...

The preceding comments were brought to you by the punctuation mark, " , " and the word " and ".

At 11:50 AM, Blogger portia said...

Forget Exon-Florio, or Congressional hearings, let's just bust their friggin "lease". Love it. Somebody earned their legal fees this week.

At 3:19 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

Isn't that "Conjunction Junction"?

Conjunction Junction, what's your function?
Hookin' up words and phrases and clauses.

Conjunction Junction, how's that function?
I got three favorite cars that get most of my work done.

At 4:33 PM, Blogger portia said...

Oh tee bee, how could you:) Today's ear worm.
Ack! Somebody make it stop.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

I was waiting for that. I just wasn't going to be the one to start lobbing nuclear snark.

But now.... the gloves are OFF suckahs. Heh.


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