A company owned by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over six U.S. ports, a development that has local and federal elected officials outraged.
A merger deal approved by the federal government has the company currently running the ports, London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, getting acquired by the Emirati firm, Dubai Ports World. UAE has known ties to terrorists and 9-11 hijackers, raising concerns about security issues at the ports involved: New York, Baltimore, New Jersey, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
“On its face, this looks like [expletive] insanity to me,” the Republican minority leader of the New York City Council, James Oddo, told the New York Sun.
“This shouldn’t happen. It really boggles the mind,” Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy told the New York paper. She said the United Arab Emirates is “a big hub for all kinds of terrorist activities. … We know that terrorist money is being laundered there.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also spoke out against the merger, which is scheduled to be finalized March 2.
“Should we be outsourcing our own security?” Schumer said on the Fox News Channel. “We have to have hands-on control of things. And to have United Arab Emirates – I mean, they are a country that’s allied with the U.S., but at the same time a whole bunch of the (September 11) hijackers came from the United Arab Emirates.”
Continued Schumer: “I think there ought to be a full and public review before this company is allowed to control security up and down the East Coast. The issue is not the head of the company. I’m sure he’s been checked out. But how good is their security? How good do they check on their employees? Could people infiltrate this company a lot more easily than they could infiltrate an American company?”
Monday, Schumer called on the Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to review the deal. It was OK’d by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a federal panel composed of the secretaries of 12 federal agencies. Dubai Ports World said in a statement the committee “thoroughly reviewed the potential transaction and concluded they had no objection.”
The senator claimed the committee’s approval “seems to have been unnecessarily fast-tracked.” Other’s have called it a rubber stamp for the Bush administration.
Last month, the White House appointed a senior Dubai Ports World executive, David C. Sanborn of Virginia, to be the new administrator of the Maritime Administration of the Transportation Department, the Associated Press reported.
According to the Sun, Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, noted the United Arab Emirates “has been fueling the insurgency in Iraq. They have hosted a lot of the Sunni insurgent supporters and Sunni insurgents.
“If they’re allowing this to happen in their country – al-Qaida activities and Sunni insurgent in Iraq activities – why shouldn’t they allow it in New York, where it’s going to be more and more valuable?”
Other analysts are less alarmed.
“Does this pose a national security risk? I think that’s pushing the envelope,” Stephen E. Flynn, who studies maritime security at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, told AP. “It’s not impossible to imagine one could develop an internal conspiracy, but I’d have to assign it a very low probability.”
There are several 9-11 connections to the United Arab Emirates. Many of the hijackers entered the U.S. via UAE, much of the attack’s planning was done there, and the FBI says money for the operation was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the UAE’s banking system.
Opined the Washington Times today:
“Do we really want our major ports in the hands of an Arab country where al-Qaida recruits, travels and wires money?
“We should be improving port security in an age of terrorism, not outsourcing decisions to the highest bidder. The ports are thought to be the country’s weakest homeland-security link, with good reason. Only a fraction of the nation’s maritime cargoes are inspected. …
“President Bush should overrule the committee to reject this deal. If that doesn’t happen, Congress should take action. The country’s ports should not be owned by foreign governments; much less governments whose territories are favored by al-Qaida.”
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