Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cancel The Port Deal

It goes without saying that selling the operations of six U.S. ports to a firm owned by another country is an unintelligent move. Giving control of some of the United State's major access points to a foreign nation has many unsavory implications for national security, and very serious consequences.

So it is no wonder why the governors of two of the states most affected by the ports deal --New York and Maryland-- are not very happy about it:

Two Republican governors on Monday questioned a Bush administration decision allowing an Arab-owned company to operate six major U. S. ports, saying they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states.

New York Gov. George Pataki and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running the U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates...

"Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World," Pataki said in a news release.

"I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them in regards to this transaction," said the New York governor, who is still in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy.

Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he is "very troubled" that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved an Arab company's takeover of the operations at the six ports.

The two governors are correct in comign out publicly in opposition to this deal, especially given that the United Arab Emirates is a country that has an active al Qaeda organization.

Giving control of U.S. ports to a country, even if it is our ally, with these kinds of connections can be seen as nothing other than a serious threat to national security. It would be one thing if the ports were U.S. operated but on foreign soil. However, it is a completely different situation when we are talking about domestic U.S. ports with direct access to American soil.

How long would it take for the UAE's al Qaeda oraganization and its affiliates to pursue a terrorist attack via these ports? Probably not long. This kind of direct access to the United States is the kind of thing al Qaeda spends all of its time trying to find, and if we just hand over the ports to the UAE, it will make that search a whole heck of a lot easier.

Even if you want to completely discount the al Qaeda angle, it seems silly at best to grant control of a domestic port to a foreign country. There are just too many security risks involved, not to mention the complete forfeit of control of a major American shipping port.

I'm not sure how the Bush administration got involved in this idea, or how it is even considering the deal. It would be a very wise move to back away from the deal as sson as possible, and avoid unnessecarily giving up control of America's borders.


Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist weighs in on the issue, and offers some similar commentary:

News that a Middle-East based firm is seeking to purchase the operating rights to several U.S. ports - from New York to New Orleans - raise serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland.

Post 9/11 prudence warrants - at the very least - a more extensive review of this matter. As Ronald Reagan used to say: 'trust, but verify.' And that's what we need to do. The simple fact is, there's no such thing as being 'too careful' in a post 9/11 world.

As of today, I'm requesting briefings on this deal. If the Administration does not put the deal on hold, I will introduce legislation doing so ... to ensure that this decision gets a more thorough review.

Common sense warrants it; our national security requires it.

I expect to be discussing this issue in greater detail this evening when I appear on Hannity & Colmes. I hope you will tune in. Much more to follow in the days ahead...

But Senator Frist is the only one speaking out against the port deal. Criticism is coming from both sides of the aisle.