Monday, February 27, 2006

Coast Guard Weary Of Port Deal

In a document released earlier today, the U.S. Coast Guard warned the administration of the potential for "intelligence gaps" if the U.S. goes through with the Ports Deal:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration that it was unable to determine whether a United Arab Emirates-owned company might support terrorist operations, a Senate panel said Monday...

"There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment of the potential" merger," an undated Coast Guard intelligence assessment says.

"The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities," the document says.

Sen. Susan Collins, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, released an unclassified version of the document at a briefing Monday. With the deal under intense bipartisan criticism in Congress, the Bush administration agreed Sunday to DP World's request for a second review of the potential security risks related to its deal.

The document raised questions about the security of the companies' operations, the backgrounds of all personnel working for the companies, and whether other foreign countries influenced operations that affect security.

"This report suggests there were significant and troubling intelligence gaps," said Collins, R-Maine. "That language is very troubling to me."

The administrations assurances aside, it does seem very plausible to resonate with the Coast Guard's charge that handing the control of U.S. ports over to a company owned by any Arab nation would lead to "intelligence gaps."

Specifically, if the U.S. was not in control of some of its own major ports, it does appear very likely that there would be a higher potential for certain details to fall through the cracks. Even if the U.S. was in charge of half of the ports' operations, the other half of the operations would be vulnernable to intelligence gaps, and surely even this much of an opening would grant al Qaeda or some other terrorist group enough wiggle room with which to inflitrate the ports' operations.

The mere fact that there is a great potential for these intelligence blindspots is enough for me to feel that the ports deal is not worth it. Promoting friendly relations and trade agreements with Arab nations does not have to come at the cost of national security.

What good are these efforts of appeasement if we must sacrifice the safety of Americans and open ourselves to the potential of another terrorist attack?