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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

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Scott
The Central Intelligence Agency did not target Al Qaeda chief Osama bin laden once as he had the royal family of the United Arab Emirates with him in Afghanistan, the agency's director, George Tenet, told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States on Thursday.

Had the CIA targeted bin Laden, half the royal family would have been wiped out as well, he said.

Well, then, let’s turn our ports over to Osama’s good friends. What a fine idea. But at least this whole thing totally makes sense now. After all, it's clear that we've simply forgotten about Osama bin Laden.

Scott

The latest excuse:

President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

So he defiantly threatens to use his first-ever veto against any bill passed by his own Republican-controlled congress which might jeopardize this incredibly important deal to turn over control of our ports to another nation.

This incredibly important deal about which he knew nothing.

So. This incredibly important deal was signed, yet neither the president of the United States, nor the Secretary of Defense, nor the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew anything about it.

Who the hell is in charge here?

Scott

Bush Would Veto Any Bill Halting Dubai Port Deal

The administration's review of the deal was conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a body that was created in 1975 to review foreign investments in the country that could affect national security. Under that review, officials from the Defense, State, Commerce and Transportation Departments, along with the National Security Council and other agencies, were charged with raising questions and passing judgment. They found no problems to warrant the next stage of review, a 45-day investigation with results reported to the president for a final decision.

However, a 1993 amendment to the law stipulates that such an investigation is mandatory when the acquiring company is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government. Administration officials said they conducted additional inquires because of the ties to the United Arab Emirates, but they could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur.

I could give 'em some hints.

Scott

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff speaks!

"We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system."

And the thing is, he’s right. He’s absolutely right. We do need a robust global trading system.

But it is not his job to be concerned about that.

I mean, does that really need to be said?

Yes, we do need a robust global trading system, but when trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and how to make me all better, I don’t want any thoughts of a robust global trading system going through my doctor’s head. It’s not his job to worry about that. If he wants that to be his job, he should give up the doctoring thing. Because not only is worrying about that interfering with his ability to treat me properly--surely enough of a task for anyone--but it's a very likely conflict of interest.

If Chertoff wants to worry about the need for a robust global trading system, then he should quit his job as the head of the Department of Homeland Security.

Oh, what the hell, he should quit it anyway. It’s not like he doesn’t completely and totally suck at it. His continued presence in that position after the debacle that was the response to Hurricane Katrina is proof enough that he and the rest of this administration are completely and totally incompetent.

You’ve probably heard the latest, about how we can’t back out of the deal now without offending the UAE. Which is one of the oh so many reasons why we should never have considered entering into it in the first place. Because that’s a vital point that keeps getting glossed over—it’s not that this is a company based in Dubai. It’s that this is a company owned by the United Arab Emirates. This is a company owned by another country. And that is a huge and vital difference.

Companies and countries often have common interests. And sometimes they don’t. And pissing off a multi-national corporation is one thing. And it’s something that’s going to happen from time to time, without question. That’s the way the world works. But pissing off an ally? That’s something else entirely. And not just pissing it off, but insulting it. Which isn't a good (enough) reason to continue with this asinine deal. But it's a great reason never to even enter into such negotiations in the first place.

Not to mention that we’ve made some bizarre and disturbing provisions to enable a foreign government to take over our ports. Such as the fact that they don’t need to keep any business records on US soil, which means they’re not obligated to turn any of them over for any reason. How happy would Enron have been with that business move, had it been available to them? How long until Halliburton moves all its records offshore?

And then there’s David Sanborn, recently appointed the head of the Maritime Administration. Who, oddly, is still on the payroll of…you guessed it, DP World. The White House has already said they don’t see that as a conflict of interest. Making them the only ones in the world.

Oh, and now CNN is reporting that Neil Bush—he who bilked taxpayers out of a billion dollars during the savings and loan fiasco twenty years ago—is in the middle of this financially. The fun never ends.

Scott

So Stephen Hadley, our national security adviser, said President George W. Bush will absolutely not back down on the ports deal.

You remember that port deal, right? Turning over six of our ports to another nation?

Yeah. Turns out, not so much.

It's not 6 ports.

It's 21 ports.

Meanwhile, former governor Thomas Kean, the Republican from New Jersey who chaired the 9/11 Commission, says this deal should never ever have been considered. Then again, what does he know?

Oh, that's right... on this topic, about as much as anyone in the entire world.

Adviser Says White House Set on Ports Deal

Adviser Says White House Set on Ports Deal That 9/11 Panel Head Says 'Never Should Have Happened'

By DONNA DE
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration said Friday it won't reconsider its approval for a United Arab Emirates company to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports. The former head of the Sept. 11 commission said the deal "never should have happened."

Opponents, including the agency that runs New York and New Jersey ports, took their case to court, while the company, Dubai Ports World, stepped up efforts to change the minds of congressional critics.

The president's national security adviser said the White House would keep trying to persuade lawmakers there's more time since the company offered to delay its takeover but the administration wouldn't reconsider its approval.

"There are questions raised in the Congress, and what this delay allows is for those questions to be addressed on the Hill," Stephen Hadley said. "There's nothing to reopen."

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 UAE.

"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 intelligence.

"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, 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 CIA's 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, 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 deal.

Said Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan: "We believe once Congress has a better understanding of the facts and the safeguards that are in place that they will be more comfortable with the transaction moving forward. So, a slight delay would be helpful in that regard,"

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said much of the criticism has an anti-Arab bias.

"We are at war against terrorists, not any religion or ethnicity. Some politicians seem to have forgotten that. ... Such alarm, verging almost on hysteria, harms our efforts to have the broadest coalition possible against worldwide terrorism," Domenici said.

House GOP leaders plan to meet Tuesday to decide whether they will still support immediate legislation to hold up the sale.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, a member of the leadership, said he is "beginning to get what I want, which is to slow down this process so we can take a look at it."

Lobbyists for Dubai Ports went to Capitol Hill Friday to brief staffers. Lawmakers said the company's delay was a positive step, but not a solution.

"I think the onus still remains with the company and for those who approved it, to justify how this is consistent with our national security concerns," said Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y.

In New Jersey, the agency in charge of area ports sued to try to block Dubai Ports from taking over operations there.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey argued in court papers that Dubai Ports World was violating its lease by not getting consent for its pending acquisition of the current port operator, London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who is also suing over the sale, urged other governors to join the case.

Governors of Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania have expressed concerns about the takeover; Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said he trusts his brother the president on such security issues.

But wait! Check THIS Out! The port operator gets access to secret Coast Guard info:

UAE terminal takeover extends to 21 ports
By PAMELA HESS
UPI Pentagon Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A United Arab Emirates government-owned company is poised to take over port terminal operations in 21 American ports, far more than the six widely reported.

The Bush administration has approved the takeover of British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to DP World, a deal set to go forward March 2 unless Congress intervenes.

P&O is the parent company of P&O Ports North America, which leases terminals for the import and export and loading and unloading and security of cargo in 21 ports, 11 on the East Coast, ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the company's Web site.

President George W. Bush on Tuesday threatened to veto any legislation designed to stall the handover.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. said after the briefing she expects swift, bi-partisan approval for a bill to require a national security review before it is allowed to go forward.

At issue is a 1992 amendment to a law that requires a 45-day review if the foreign takeover of a U.S. company "could affect national security." Many members of Congress see that review as mandatory in this case.

The same day, the White House appointed a DP World executive, David C. Sanborn, to be the administrator for the Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation. Sanborn had been serving as director of operations for Europe and Latin America at DP World.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R- Va., said he will request from both the U.S. attorney general and the Senate committee's legal counsel a finding on the administration's interpretation of the 1992 amendment.

Adding to the controversy is the fact Congress was not notified of the deal. Kimmitt said Congress is periodically updated on completed CFIUS decisions, but is proscribed from initiating contact with Congress about pending deals. It may respond to congressional inquiries on those cases only.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley stated in a letter to Bush on Feb. 21 that he specifically requested to be kept abreast of foreign investments that may have national security implications. He made the request in the wake of a controversial Chinese proposal to purchase an oil company last year.

"Obviously, my request fell on deaf ears. I am disappointed that I was neither briefed nor informed of this sale prior to its approval. Instead, I read about it in the media," he wrote.

The security of port terminal operations is a key concern. More than 7 million cargo containers come through 361 American ports annually, half of the containers through New York-New Jersey, Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. Only a small percentage are physically searched and just 37 percent currently screened for radiation, an indication of an attempt to smuggle in nuclear material that could be used for a "dirty bomb."

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the government began a new program that required documentation on all cargo 24 hours before it was loaded on a ship in a foreign port bound for the United States. A "risk analysis" is conducted on every shipment, including a review of the ship's history, the cargo's history and contents and other factors. Each ship must also provide the U.S. government 96 hours notice of its arrival in an American port, along with a crew manifest.

None of the nine administration officials assembled for the briefing could immediately say how many of the more than 3,000 port terminals are currently under foreign control.

Port facility operators have a major security responsibility, and one that could be exploited by terrorists if they infiltrate the company, said Joe Muldoon III. Muldoon is an attorney representing Eller & Co., a port facility operator in Florida partnered with M&O in Miami. Eller opposes the Dubai takeover for security reasons.

"The Coast Guard oversees security, and they have the authority to inspect containers if they want and they can look at manifests, but they are really dependent on facility operators to carry out security issues," Muldoon said.

The Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002 requires vessels and port facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans including passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; establishing restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and/or installation of surveillance equipment.

Under the same law, port facility operators may have access to Coast Guard security incident response plans -- that is, they would know how the Coast Guard plans to counter and respond to terrorist attacks.

"The concern is that the UAE may be our friend now ... but who's to say that couldn't change, or they couldn't be infiltrated. Iran was our big buddy," said Muldoon.

In a January report, the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out the vulnerability of the shipping security system to terrorist exploitation.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. customs agency requires shippers to follow supply chain security practices. Provided there are no apparent deviations from those practices or intelligence warnings, the shipment is judged low risk and is therefore unlikely to be inspected.

CFR suggests a terrorist event is likely to be a one-time operation on a trusted carrier "precisely because they can count on these shipments entering the U.S. with negligible or no inspection."

"All a terrorist organization needs to do is find a single weak link within a 'trusted' shipper's complex supply chain, such as a poorly paid truck driver taking a container from a remote factory to a port. They can then gain access to the container in one of the half-dozen ways well known to experienced smugglers," CFR wrote.

Scott

Whoops.

This is starting to move beyond insane into simply inane. I mean, this is really getting silly.

Homeland Security Objected at First to Ports Deal, Then Went Along With Others

By TED BRIDIS

WASHINGTON Feb 25, 2006 (AP)— The Homeland Security Department objected at first to a United Arab Emirates company's taking over significant operations at six U.S. ports. It was the lone protest among members of the government committee that eventually approved the deal without dissent.

Scott

I mean, jeez. Even the freakin' COAST GUARD didn't like this deal. Said they didn't think it was safe.

Sheesh.

Paper: Coast Guard Has Port Co. Intel Gaps
By LIZ SIDOTI Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration weeks ago that it could not determine whether a United Arab Emirates-based company seeking a stake in some U.S. port operations might support terrorist operations.

The disclosure came during a hearing Monday on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to take over significant operations at six leading U.S. ports.

"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, the unclassified Coast Guard intelligence assessment said.

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

Scott


Joseph King, who headed the customs agency's anti-terrorism efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security fears are well grounded.

He said a company the size of Dubai Ports World would be able to get hundreds of visas to relocate managers and other employees to the United States. Using appeals to Muslim solidarity or threats of violence, al-Qaeda operatives could force low-level managers to provide some of those visas to al-Qaeda sympathizers, said King, who for years tracked similar efforts by organized crime to infiltrate ports in New York and New Jersey. Those sympathizers could obtain legitimate driver's licenses, work permits and mortgages that could then be used by terrorist operatives.

Dubai Ports World could also offer a simple conduit for wire transfers to terrorist operatives in the Middle East. Large wire transfers from individuals would quickly attract federal scrutiny, but such transfers, buried in the dozens of wire transfers a day from Dubai Ports World's operations in the United States to the Middle East would go undetected, King said.

Scott

No, seriously. This is past the point of absurdity.

From today's Jerusalem Post:

Exclusive: Dubai ports firm enforces Israel boycott
MICHAEL FREUND, THE JERUSALEM POST February 28, 2006

The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The firm, Dubai Ports World, is seeking control over six major US ports, including those in New York, Miami, Philadelphia and Baltimore. It is entirely owned by the Government of Dubai via a holding company called the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCZC), which consists of the Dubai Port Authority, the Dubai Customs Department and the Jebel Ali Free Zone Area.

"Yes, of course the boycott is still in place and is still enforced," Muhammad Rashid a-Din, a staff member of the Dubai Customs Department's Office for the Boycott of Israel, told the Post in a telephone interview.

On at least three separate occasions last year, the Post has learned, companies were fined by the US government's Office of Anti-boycott Compliance, an arm of the Commerce Department, on charges connected to boycott-related requests they had received from the Government of Dubai.

US law bars firms from complying with such requests or cooperating with attempts by Arab governments to boycott Israel.


Scott

From The Associated Press:

Republican Will Try to Squash Ports Deal
By LIZ SIDOTI , 03.02.2006, 07:37 PM

One of the most prominent House Republicans on military issues said Thursday he would try to scuttle a Dubai-based company's effort to manage U.S. ports as lawmakers' complaints about the Bush administration's handling of the issue continued to spread.

"Dubai cannot be trusted," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and normally one of the administration's most trusted allies. He called the United Arab Emirates "a bazaar for terrorist nations" and asserted that the United States should not permit DP World to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports.

"I intend to do everything I can to kill the deal," Hunter said.

Across Capitol Hill, lawmakers criticized the Bush administration anew following disclosures that the United States had launched a fresh investigation Tuesday into a proposed business deal by a second Dubai-owned company. Also sparking the furor was word of a previously unconfirmed investigation into a separate transaction by a leading Israeli software firm.

Opening a hearing on the matter, Hunter said it was "quite remarkable" that the administration did not initially undertake a full review of security implications, given that the company is owned by the United Arab Emirates - "a bazaar for terrorist nations to receive prohibited components from sources from the free world and from the non-free world."

Hunter listed instances between 1994 and 2003 in which he said the country helped move materials for weapons of mass destruction, such as heavy water and high-speed electrical switches, to Pakistan, Iran and other countries. He plans to introduce legislation that would require U.S. companies to be the sole owners of infrastructure critical to national security.

The chairman's sharp remarks underscore the political tempest the White House has run into at a time when events in Iraq and renewed interest in the administration's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina have pushed President Bush's popularity downward.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, complained that he learned about the second Dubai investigation from news reports, despite regular meetings and discussions with the administration and others on the ports issue recently.

"Maybe they still haven't gotten their act together over the last few days," said King, R-N.Y.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Scott

ABC News reports:

More than 9,000 truckers are given cards to handle cargo at the ports of New York and New Jersey, giving them access to all areas of the ports. But a new Homeland Security report found that more than half of the truckers had criminal records and nearly 500 had bogus driver’s licenses.

Don't you feel safe? Don't you trust 'em when they say the ports are secure and there's nothing to see here and just move on?

Of course you do.

Scott

GOP Blocks Funding For Port Security, Disaster Preparedness

Moments ago, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that would have provided $1.25 billion in desperately needed funding for port security and disaster preparedness. The Sabo amendment included:

– $300 million to enable U.S. customs agents to inspect high-risk containers at all 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States. Current funding only allows U.S. customs agents to operate at 43 of these ports.

– $400 million to place radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. Currently, less than half of U.S. ports have radiation monitors.

– $300 million to provide backup emergency communications equipment for the Gulf Coast.

Scott

Apparently, Iran turned the job down:

In the aftermath of the Dubai ports dispute, the Bush administration is hiring a Hong Kong conglomerate to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the Bahamas to the United States and elsewhere.

The administration acknowledges the no-bid contract with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. represents the first time a foreign company will be involved in running a sophisticated U.S. radiation detector at an overseas port without American customs agents present.

Because, you know, there's no tension in our relationship with China and won't be at any point in the future.

Honestly, it feels like this administration is practically screaming "stop us before we let our nation get attacked again!" It’d be either sad or funny if it weren’t terrifying.

Scott

Oh jeez. Will this administration ever take our safety seriously? Why does anyone trust these idiots?

From CNN:

Government investigators smuggled radioactive materials into U.S.
From David de Sola

Two teams of government investigators using fake documents were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs, according to a federal report made available Monday.

The investigators purchased a "small quantity" of radioactive materials from a commercial source, according to a Government Accountability Office report prepared for Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican.

The investigators posed as employees of a fictitious company and brought the materials into the United States through checkpoints on the northern and southern borders, the report stated.

"It's just an indictment of the system that it's easier to get radiological material than it is to get cold medicine," said a senior subcommittee staffer about the findings.

Scott

I mean…surely not. Not again. They wouldn’t.

Would they really?

In a deal similar to one that led to the Dubai ports furor in the US earlier this year, Dubai International Capital has purchased for US$1.24 billion Doncasters Group Ltd, a private British aerospace manufacturer that works on sensitive weapons programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The administration of US President George W Bush is conducting a security review of the takeover, and then it will present its findings to Congress.

So it's not our ports this time.

It's just our planes and other weapons.

Words fail me. Sorta like my government.

H/T:AmericaBlog

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