Re: Thomas Kean on the controversy
- I heard some of the same reports on Air America, particularly about
the UAE royal family being friendly with Osama bin Laden in 1999. That
is worrisome. A friend of mine on another list sent in this article,
which argues that corporate control of the ports is a bigger problem
than foreign control.
BLOG | Posted 02/21/2006 @ 08:46am
Corporate Control of Ports Is the Problem -- UPDATED
The problem with the Bush administration's support for a move by a
United Arab Emirates-based firm to take over operation of six major
American ports -- as well as the shipment of military equipment
through two additional ports -- is not that the corporation in
question is Arab owned.
The problem is that Dubai Ports World is a corporation. It happens to
be a corporation that is owned by the government of the the United
Arab Emirates, or UAE, a nation that served as an operational and
financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of 9-11
attacks, and that has stirred broad concern. But, even if the sale of
operational control of the ports to this firm did not raise security
alarm bells, it would be a bad idea.
Ports are essential pieces of the infrastructure of the United
States, and they are best run by public authorities that are
accountable to elected officials and the people those officials
represent. While traditional port authorities still exist, they are
increasing marginalized as privatization schemes have allowed
corporations -- often with tough anti-union attitudes and even
tougher bottom lines -- to take charge of more and more of the basic
operations at the nation's ports.
In the era when the federal government sees "homeland security" as a
slogan rather than a responsibility, allowing the nation's working
waterfronts to be run by private firms just doesn't work. It is no
secret that federal authorities have failed to mandate, let alone
implement, basic port security measures. But this is not merely a
federal failure; it is, as well, a private-sector failure. The
private firms that control so many of the nation's ports have not
begun to set up a solid system for waterfront security in the more
than four years since the September 11, 2001 attacks. And shifting
control of the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans,
Miami and Philadelphia -- along with control over the movement of
military equipment on behalf of the U.S. Army through the ports at
Beaumont and Corpus Christi -- from a British firm, Peninsular and
Oriental Steam Navigation Co., to Dubai Ports World, is not going to
improve the situation.
Unfortunately, the debate has been posed as a fight over whether Arab-
owned firms should be allowed to manage ports and other strategic
sites in the U.S. Media coverage of the debate sets up the
increasingly ridiculous Homeland Security Secretary, Michael
Chertoff -- who babbles bureaucratically about how, "We make sure
there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us
that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint" --
against members of Congress -- who growl, as U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-
New York, did over the weekend about the need "to guard against
things like infiltration by al-Qaida or someone else,"
There are two fundamental facts about corporations that put this
controversy about who runs the ports in perspective.
First: Like most American firms, most Arab-owned firms are committed
to making money, and the vast majority of them are not about to
compromise their potential profits by throwing in with terrorists.
Second: Like most American firms, Arab-owned firms are more concerned
about satisfying shareholders than anything else. As such, they are
poor stewards of ports and other vital pieces of the national
infrastructure that still require the constant investment of public
funds, as well as responsible oversite by authorities that can see
more than a bottom line, in order to maintain public safety -- not to
mention the public good of modern, efficient transportation services.
--- In email@example.com, THOMAS JOHNSON <AVRCRDNG@...>
> I just happened to read this AP report before seeing
> these posts. It was all over Air America today (so
> consider the source) that the UAE banking system is
> renowned for it propensity for money-laundering and
> that the country itself is heavily into slave-trading.
> Please don't take this as any type of debate or
> position on the issue... I just thought it was germane
> to the discussion. Excerpted from an AP report late
> Fri. night:
> Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New
> Jersey who led the bipartisan probe of the Sept. 11
> attacks, said the deal was a big mistake because of
> past connections between the 2001 hijackers and the
> "It shouldn't have happened, it never should have
> happened," Kean said in a telephone interview with The
> Associated Press.
> The quicker the Bush administration can get out of the
> deal, the better, he said. "There's no question that
> two of the 9/11 hijackers came from there and money
> was laundered through there," Kean said.
> Kean acknowledged the UAE is now being helpful by
> allowing the United States to dock ships in its
> country's waters, and helping the U.S. with
> "From our point of view, we don't want foreigners
> controlling our ports," Kean said. "From their point
> of view, this is a legitimate company that had a
> legitimate bid and won, and here are all these
> congressmen saying all these things about not wanting
> this company. It looks to them like it's anti-Arab."
> "I think this deal is going to be killed," Kean said.
> "The question is how much damage is this going to do
> to us before it's killed."
> Kean's comments threatened to overshadow moves by the
> company and the White House to appease critics by
> delaying the takeover.
> "Governor Kean knows as much as anyone how risky it is
> to deal with the United Arab Emirates," said Rep.
> Peter King (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y.,
> chairman of the House
> Homeland Security Committee and a leading opponent.
> "This just proves that no real investigation was ever
> conducted, and it's unfortunate that he and the other
> 9/11 commissioners were not contacted before the
> government approved this."
> The former head of the
> Osama bin Laden unit joined in the criticism.
> "The fact that you are putting a company in place that
> could already be infiltrated by al-Qaida is a silly
> thing to do," said Mike Scheuer, who headed the CIA
> unit until 1999.
> The U.S. operations generating the protests represent
> about 10 percent of a global $6.8 billion acquisition
> by the state-run company.
> Republicans and Democrats in Congress have denounced
> the Bush administration for approving the deal through
> a secretive review process designed to protect
> national security in big corporate mergers.
> Lawmakers led by King and Sen. Charles Schumer (news,
> bio, voting record), D-N.Y., plan to introduce
> legislation next week that would put the deal on hold
> while the government conducts further investigation.
> Hoping to forestall such legislation, Dubai Ports said
> Thursday night it would postpone its action
> indefinitely to give Congress more time to look at the