Tuesday, February 28, 2006
During the Bush administration's initial review of the $7-billion United Arab Emirates ports deal, the Coast Guard sounded the alarm by citing "intelligence gaps" that made it difficult to determine if the Dubai Ports World company--the state owned UAE entity which bought the port operations from Britain's Peninsula & Oriental Steam Navigation Co--could safeguard America's homeland security and prevent terrorists from infiltrating its ranks.
"There are many intelligence gaps concerning the potential for DPW or P&P assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment," the Coast Guard report said. The document was part of a report by the inter-agency panel with the unwieldy acronym of CFIUS--the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (which includes Homeland Security, Treasury and other departments)--which approved the sale. The report was released Monday at a Senate briefing.
So lo and behold, the Bushies have lied once again. They approved the deal, they said, because it met the rigorous scrutiny of CFIUS and has been deemed a non-threat to the United States. Yet all the while it knew about the Coast Guard's major concerns and failed to tell us about it. Another bungled affair? You betchya.
As for the Bushies' assessment of the Coast Guard itself, the truth is mangled even further. The president keeps telling us it's not the UAE or Dubai Ports World that will be charged with safeguarding America's gateways, but the Coast Guard. True. The Coast Guard is principally responsible for protecting our ports and the roughly 100,000 miles of waterways. But according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the Coast Guard has been faced with resource challenges that leave our ports quite vulnerable. According to Kim Petersen, president of SeaSecure LLC, the nation's largest maritime-security consulting company, the Coast Guard cannot fulfill all of its regulatory, security and search-and-rescue missions. He said the Coast Guard "doesn't have either the people or the necessary physical resources to provide the in-water patrols that are so desperately needed."
It's utterly mind-boggling that Bush has for 4 1/2 years now drilled into our heads that we're fighting a war on terror, and that "we must fight the terrorists over there so that we don't have to fight them over here", yet he's approved the sale of port operations to an Arab nation--one with a drug-trafficking, money-laundering, terrorist-connected recent past--under the flimsiest of circumstances while lying about the true risk.