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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's the Secrecy, Stupid

Well, look who has made a veto threat regarding the potential legislation to block the port deal? Hmmm...remind me again how many things President Bush has vetoed while in office? Yep, that's right -- zero, zip, zilch. (And that's the real zero, not like the Katherine Armstrong no one was drinking sorta zero.) Is it me, or do you sense some behind-the-scenes compromise already in the works on this to save face for the President and his party?

Well, here's a thought -- whatever deal may be in the works, it still doesn't fix the fact that our port security plans are nonexistent and that this Administration has fallen down on the job in this and other Homeland Security matters in the five years since 9/11.

Time Magazine has done a brief article on the UAE port company and the political furor that has risen up around this issue. (Hat tip to reader Stephen Parrish for the find.)
New York Republican Congressman Peter King has insisted the administration revisit its approval of the transfer of control of U.S. ports to "a company coming out of a country where al Qaeda has such a strong presence," and which could be easily infiltrated by the terrorist network. Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey plan to hold hearings on the issue next week, and are seeking legislation banning companies controlled by foreign governments from buying U.S. port facilities. Menendez alleged that the UAE has a "serious and dubious history… as a transit point for terrorism." And in response to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff's insistence that the administration made a rigorous check — without disclosing details — of the security implications of the deal, California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer said "It's ridiculous to say you're taking secret steps to make sure that it's okay for a nation that has ties to 9/11 to take over part of our port operations."
When will this Administration learn that their obsession with secrecy and their penchent for back-door deals is what makes the rest of the nation so nervous?

And, as Time points out, the even more relevant question is: why aren't there sufficient security measures in place -- five years after 9/11 and counting -- to make any question of this UAE company's management of our ports just another business deal? At what point can we expect some real work to be done on a vital national security issue like...erm...port security? And maybe some public accountability from this Administration?

According to Ruth Marcus writing in the WaPo today, not any time soon.
This White House prefers its own truth to the inconvenient facts. Layer onto that a chain of command mentality and a CEO-delegator president and, when reality hits -- whether in the form of a difficult war, a killer storm or a misfiring veep -- it's not terribly surprising that the White House has a hard time adjusting. The real chilling effect is the one that runs down the spine of anyone who learns too much about the way this White House operates.
You wonder why I don't trust the Bush Administration? Read through this article. And think about all the times they have bypassed what was required of them to help out their pals or ignore what was really needed to do the politically expedient thing of the moment.

Back-lit speech in New Orleans isn't really getting reconstruction done, is it? All those no-bid, back-door Halliburton contracts -- priceless. Actual work on important matters like port security or chemical plant security or infrastructure security or...well, pretty much any practical matter that needs to be addressed for proper homeland security? Outsource it to corporate cronies -- including those owned by foreign countries who don't get proper due diligence in the review of their contracts. Oversight? Who needs it.

By the way, if Rep. Peter King wants to really walk the walk, instead of just showboating for the constituents back home, he could actually hold some hearings in the Homeland Security Committee he chairs on this port issue along with why we aren't doing a better job overall with port security.

You know, accountabililty, it's the new buzz among people who actually want a functioning government.

While we are talking accountability, if the company is owned by the UAE, and the UAE has a history of funding Al Qaeda, will the money going to this deal help to fund Al Qaeda? (Hat tip to Praedor Atrebates from the comments. Interesting question for which I am finding no current answers from the Bush Administration. Maybe we're addicted to more than foreign oil. I'm just sayin'.)

What sort of Administration okays this sort of transaction, which will cover 40% of all Army equipment and materials being shipped overseas to our troops, and doesn't even consult with the SecDef or the DoD? ThinkProgress says the Bush Administration did just that -- in Rumsfeld's own words.

And, FWIW, how is it that Rumsfeld can be a part of the Board that "unanimously" approved this, and claim not to have heard about it until just this past weekend. Nice due diligence. Really.

Is this a dereliction of duty and an abrogation of the fiduciary obligation owed to the American public on this issue -- a pass on the required due diligence? I have no idea at this point, but there are sure as hell a lot of questions being raised as the facts and statements keep dribbling out, aren't there? Still think this doesn't have a funky smell to it?

It's the secrecy, stupid.