Remember the furor back in 2006 over the news that a Dubai-based company was going to buy a ship terminal operator in the United States?
Remember how all of a sudden many Americans decided against letting a foreign company operate cargo terminals inside the US, despite the fact that the same terminals were already being operated by a foreign corporation? (P&O Ports, UK)
Remember how nobody, including Congress, wanted to take a second and actually investigate what risks there were, if any, given that this purchase would not have changed the fact that the US Coast Guard would have remained in charge of Port Security and that US Customs would still have retained full control of inspecting incoming ships and cargo?
Nobody, especially Congress, bothered to look at any possible benefits this purchase could have brought to the US. This last issue is a shame, because there was a big intelligence benefit this purchase would have brought. An intelligence benefit that was sabotaged by our own Congress which was suffering from Dubai Port hysteria. (Over 30 bills were submitted to Congress over this issue.)
I suspect that the US also lost a huge intelligence treasure-trove. Everyone was running around, yelling about the possibility that someone might get access to something they should not see. Well that works both ways. What kind of intel might the US have gotten access to? Movement of cargo between two foreign ports making it easier to track WMD around the world? What would that have been worth? – Why the UAE is so Important to the Navy and America
Only later did news bring confirmation that the Dubai Ports World purchase would have resulted in a potential treasure trove of intel data for the US:
Former Inside the Ring co-author Rowan Scarborough has written a new book revealing a key reason the Bush administration pressed hard for the 2006 deal for the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World to take over management of several U.S. ports.
According to Mr. Scarborough, the administration wanted the deal to go through because the UAE government had agreed to let the United States post agents inside its global port network who could report on world shipping.
Dubai Ports currently runs port facilities at key U.S. intelligence targets, including Venezuela, China, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.
“Dubai Ports, in essence, was going to become an agent of CIA,” Mr. Scarborough said in an interview. “The arrangement is helping us detect whether any kind of terror contraband was being moved around.”
The management deal to run ports at New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami was initially approved by the Treasury Department-run Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, but was eventually scuttled in 2006 after pressure from Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats raised concerns that the deal would affect U.S. port security since al Qaeda had used UAE as a major financial base for its terrorist network. – Washington Times
Congress killed the deal because the uninformed opinion in the street was against this deal and Certain Congressmen harnessed that opinion to kill the deal.
Not for anything, but guessing the intel possibility was a no-brainer for those in the shipping industry. (Despite this, I did not want to mention anything until the deal had fallen through). So great job Congress for sticking their noses into an issue they had no understanding of and no desire to understand the issue. It was easier to just make it go away. Worse, Congress has access to confidential information that the public does not. It is their job to do what is best, not what is considered popular given the information that they have access to, not what the general public has access to.
Really, if Dubai Ports operating a couple cargo terminals was such a threat to America’s security, why has Congress done nothing about the following port threat example that I note below? (Originally reported here “Try this Port threat on for Size“)
So, how much of a threat do you rate the following in comparison to the Dubai Ports World hysteria?
Put it on this (NSCSA = National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia):
Have it follow this route:
What can you get?
Here all these people are blabbing about what a threat it is for a UAE company to operate ports in the US. (Note: DPW has a number of Americans running it.) These same people have no clue that at the moment there are Saudi-Flag vessels, manned by Saudis carrying tens of thousands of containers into the US each year.
How valid a threat is this? Well according to this recent news story (Found at EagleSpeak) the Indians are very concerned:
Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta Wednesday said terrorists may use shipping containers for the movement of nuclear weapons and called for augmented safety measures at ports.
“Container is the most likely means for the terrorist organisations for illegal transporting of nuclear weapons. Hence, the serious concerns about container security,” Mehta told reporters at a seminar on “Port Sector – Developments and Security”. – Hindustan Times
Sure, the US is implementing 100% container screening. But keep in mind that not all containers on containerships in US ports are destined for the US. Not only that, but not all cargo coming into the US arrives inside containers or even on ships for that matter. And there is no need to hide a WMD inside a cargo shipment. Terrorists just need to hide the weapon somewhere onboard the ship.
Posted just to give everyone something to think about.
Personal Note: I an headed off to Finland for a couple weeks vacation. So I will not be around until the end of March and most likely will not be posting anything other than comments until vacation is over.
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- Leveraging our military relationships on the homefront
- Bring your voice once more unto the breach