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February 20, 2006
More Leaders Objecting To Ports Deal

The deal allowing the state-owned Dubia Ports World to take over management of major American ports has raised more objections from Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff tried to assuage fears of security breaches, but the criticism continued:

U.S. terms for approving an Arab company's takeover of operations at six major American ports are insufficient to guard against terrorist infiltration, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said yesterday.

"I'm aware of the conditions, and they relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures, but it doesn't go to who they hire, or how they hire people," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

"They're better than nothing, but to me they don't address the underlying conditions, which is how are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al Qaeda or someone else, how are they going to guard against corruption?" King said.

King spoke in response to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's comments yesterday about conditions of the sale. King said he learned about the government's terms for approving the sale from meetings with senior Bush administration officials.

Perhaps the media can start reporting this deal in more depth, now that they have exhausted the paranoid-schizophrenic dimensions of the Cheney hunting accident nine days ago -- or at least we hope they have. The US could have exercised a veto over the deal by cancelling the contracts held by British-based P&O before they got acquired by DP World. Instead, we seem to have done nothing while control of our ports transferred from a privately-held British corporation to a Arab-state-owned consortium.

Some have claimed that the US should not object to a free-market decision, and others claim that foreign investment should be encouraged. I agree with both of those statements ... within reason. We do not allow foreign ownership of our media because we want to make sure that the American press is not used for foreign propaganda. (Whether it gets used for domestic propaganda is a favorite topic of the blogosphere, of course.) More to the point, we do not allow foreign companies to compete for defense contracts in order to maintain national security.

With that as a precedent, why would we allow a foreign company of any kind control over our ports when we are in the middle of a war against Islamofacist terrorism? Many among us have continued to note the vulnerabilities of our ports as a potential entry point for terrorists, and yet we treat them with less care than a defense contract for toilet seats. American companies exist for this purpose and should have precedence in this market, or if not, then the government should take control of our ports. We nationalized airport security after 9/11; will it take an attack on a port to get us to take those targets seriously as well?

UPDATE: I should note that the limitation on defense contracts applies to prime contractors, as Swab Jockey points out in the comments. Those contractors can buy parts overseas, but they cannot release secured information to their contractors without heavy government oversight -- and they retain responsibility for information and physical security at all times.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 20, 2006 6:35 AM

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