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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Screw the Security Concerns, There's Profit for My Cronies to Consider

In case you missed it, George Bush's Administration has outsourced control of several major city ports to a company wholly owned by the United Arab Emirates, including the following areas: New York, New Jersey, Miami, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, Beaumont and Corpus Christi.

Yes, that's correct -- the Bush Administration has handed over control of major city ports to a company owned by a nation with a history of financing Al Qaeda activity, including financing the hijackers who attacked our nation on 9/11.

You hadn't heard about this yet? Well, that's because there wasn't any real opportunity for public comment on this back-door deal with some big money Bush cronies.
"We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government," Menendez, a Democrat, said during a news conference. "We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."...

But Menendez and other critics have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

"God, if you have a country that is not doing internally what it should be to prevent the transfer of nuclear parts, we're going to give that country operation of the major ports of this nation?" Menendez asked. "I think not."...

"It's unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history," Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said on "Fox News Sunday." "Most Americans are scratching their heads, wondering why this company from this region now."...

"With all due respect to Mr. Chertoff," O'Malley said. "He was also the Homeland Security secretary who went to sleep after he was informed the levees had broken in New Orleans."
CNN has even more on the issue here. Just based on the level of Congressional outrage, I think members of Congress may have been cut out of any oversight on this as well.

How typical for an Administration which has perfected the art of thumbing its nose at its Constitutional obligations -- the hell with checks and balances and any meaningful oversight, my cronies have an opportunity for more profit. Close the damn deal!

ThinkProgress put together a handy fact sheet on the UAE, including:
– The UAE was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

– The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia.

– According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system.

– After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.
Just the sort of nation we want controlling every piece of cargo and shipping apparatus that goes in and out of this nation's largest ports, right? Because there would be no room for someone working for them who was, say, sympathetic to Al Qaeda to slip dirty bomb componants or biological agents or even new terrorist cell members onto a ship.

Is it me, or does President Bush only hire incredibly incompetent cronies for all the most important jobs dealing with citizen safety and accountability?

Oh, and just so you are fully informed of the inanity of this decision, two of the ports the UAE would now control are responsible for shipping almost 40% of all Army equipment used overseas, in Iraq and elsewhere. (Great catch by ThinkProgress on that.) Yep, that's right -- a foreign company would control the shipment rate of 40% of the US Army's equipment. Sounds like a well-thought-out plan to me, how about you? (sarcasm intended)

Sean-Paul has a thoughtful post on why this is not a racial issue -- despite the Bush Administration trying to paint any criticism as racist as they run for cover now that this outsourcing decision has been exposed to the public. How ironic is it that this Administration would whine about false racism when the facts so clearly point to their incompetence and lack of any real consideration of the risks involved in this back-door outsourcing deal, and their overriding need, again and again, to promote profit and cronyism and the quickie, secret deal for their pals over the safety of the American public?

Here's the bottom line: at what point did this Administration decide that profit for their pals was more important than maintaining the safety of Americans? Was American safety and security ever really the top priority -- or have they just been selling the public one big snow job, to allow them to raise the profits of every corporation they owed for buying their way into the White House?

Seems to me that the lessons of 9/11 were completely lost on the Bush Administration. Their non-existent and incompetent response during Katrina looks more and more like their day-to-day existence, doesn't it? Appalling doesn't even begin to describe this.

UPDATE: Forgot to include a link to this NYDailyNews story on the profits for Bush cronies in this deal. (Hat tip to Just Asking for the reminder. Clearly I need more coffee...)
One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose agency heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World - giving it control of Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and Newark's container port.

Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush's cabinet.

The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World's European and Latin American operations and was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.
And it looks like the Bush Administration bypassed the legally mandated longer review process for port control "when the company is owned by a foreign government and the purchase "could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the U.S."" This whole thing looks worse and worse the more I look into it.