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Words of Power #13: The Port Security Scandal
Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey who led the bipartisan probe of the Sept. 11 attacks, said the deal was a big mistake because of past connections between the 2001 hijackers and the UAE.
"It shouldn't have happened, it never should have happened," Kean said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
The quicker the Bush administration can get out of the deal, the better, he said. "There's no question that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from there and money was laundered through there," Kean said…
The former head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit joined in the criticism.
"The fact that you are putting a company in place that could already be infiltrated by al-Qaida is a silly thing to do," said Mike Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit until 1999. Donna De La Cruz, Adviser Says White House Set on Ports Deal, 2-24-06, 2/24/06
The founder and president of the Washington-based Centre for Security Policy (CSP), a small think tank funded mainly by U.S. defence contractors...Frank J. Gaffney was among the first to seize on the government's approval of a Dubai company to manage terminals at six major U.S. ports and helped blow it up into a major embarrassment to Pres. George W. Bush. Indeed, it was Gaffney who wrote the first nationally syndicated column about the approval, which, if sustained, would turn over the management of terminals in the ports of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, and New Orleans to Dubai Ports World (DPW), a government-owned company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
'How would you feel if, in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. government had decided to contract out airport security to the ...country where most of the operational planning and financing of the attacks occurred?' he asked in his weekly column in the right-wing Washington Times Feb. 14.
'It seems a safe bet that you, like most Americans, would think it a lunatic idea, one that would clear the way for still more terror in this country,' he argued, concluding that, 'If the President will not, Congress must ensure that the United Arab Emirates is not entrusted with the operation of any American ports." Jim Lobe, Neo-Con Superhawk Earns His Wings on Port Flap, Inter Press Service, 2/24/06
Here, in approximately 2100 words, is everything you need to know (although you probably don’t want to) about the US port security scandal.
The Case Against The UAE Port Deal In Particular
In early 1999, the CIA found Bin Laden. He was at a hunting camp in the Afghan desert outside of Kandahar. But no U.S. missiles were launched. Why? Bin Laden was hanging out with United Arab Emirates (UAE) royalty, and the UAE is allegedly one of our staunchest allies in the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT).
(Of course, if they are staunch allies, why didn’t they tell us that Bin Laden, who had issued a 1998 fatwah calling for the murder of U.S. citizens anywhere, anytime, was at that location? Then they could have slipped away in their private jets.)
But that's not the only troubling evidence of the UAE’s conflicted nature.
After U.A.E. officials were informed of the CIA's intelligence, the camp was hurriedly dismantled and abandoned, and the source inside of Bin Laden’s Taliban security detail, who had informed the CIA of his whereabouts, was re-assigned.
This background is available to anyone who gives a damn. It is on-line and can be downloaded for free. Just turn to Staff Statement No. 6: The Military in the 9/11 Commission Report.
The UAE is the not only Middle Eastern “GWOT” ally that exhibits a national multiple personality disorder. Indeed, its psychological problems pale in comparison to those of Saudi Arabia (the Saudis are purveyors of Wahhabism) and Pakistan (the Pakistanis are purveyors of nuclear weapons technology, and they still harbor Bin Laden).
The reason a harsh spotlight is on the UAE at this moment is because the House of Bush is determined to give them control over U.S. ports.
“OK, that was in 1999,” you might remark, “a lot has happened since 9/11, maybe it is a different situation now with the UAE.” Oh yes, the situation is different, it is much worse.
Writing for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, Niles Lathem reports that in early February, West Point’s Center for Combating Terrorism released a declassified June 2002 document found in “a batch of internal al Qaeda communications” seized by U.S. forces. Addressed to the government of the UAE, it demanded the release of “mujahedeen detainees” and included a warning:
"You are well aware that we have infiltrated your security, censorship and monetary agencies, along with other agencies that should not be mentioned…Therefore, we warn of the continuation of practicing…policies which do not serve your interest and will only cost you many problems that will place you in an embarrassing state before your citizens…Your homeland is exposed to us. There are many vital interests that will hurt you if we decided to harm them." Niles Lathem, Qaeda Claim: We 'Infiltrated' UAE Gov't, New York Post
And as the intrepid Robert Parry (www.consortiunmnews.com) reports, the port of Dubai has an ignoble reputation as a smuggling center for arms traffickers, drug dealers, and terrorists:
“Press accounts have noted that the UAE’s port of Dubai served as the main transshipment point for Pakistani nuclear engineer Abdul Q. Khan’s illicit transfers of materiel for building atomic bombs as well as the location of the money-laundering operations used by the Sept. 11 hijackers, two of whom came from the UAE. But the year-old mystery of the truck-bomb assassination of Hariri also has wound its way through the UAE’s port facilities. United Nations investigators tracked the assassins’ white Mitsubishi Canter Van from Japan, where it had been stolen, to the UAE, according to a Dec. 10, 2005, U.N. report.
“At that time, UAE officials had been unable to track what happened to the van after its arrival in Dubai. Presumably the van was loaded onto another freighter and shipped by sea through the Suez Canal to Lebanon, but the trail had gone cold in the UAE.” Robert Parry, UAE, Port Security & the Hariri Hit, 2-22-06
The Case Against Privatization In General
There is an even bigger issue than turning over responsibility for U.S. port security to a corporation based in an Arab country with a conflicted nature in regard to Middle Eastern terrorism: the issue of privatization itself
As both David Sirota and John Nichol remark, no corporation, whether U.S.-owned or foreign-owned, should be responsible for the security of U.S. ports.
“There is no better proof that our government takes its orders from corporate interests than these kinds of moves. That's what this UAE deal is all about - the mixture of the right-wing's goal of privatizing all government services (even post 9/11 port security!) with the political Establishment's desire to make sure Tom-Friedman-style 'free' trade orthodoxy supersedes everything. This is where the culture of corruption meets national security policy - and, more specifically, where the unbridled corruption of on-the-take politicians are weakening America's security. The fact that no politicians and almost no media wants to even explore this simple fact is telling. Here we have a major US security scandal with the same country we are simultaneously negotiating a free trade pact with, and no one in Washington is saying a thing. The silence tells you all you need to know about a political/media establishment that is so totally owned by Big Money interests they won't even talk about what's potentially at the heart of a burgeoning national security scandal.” David Sirota, The Dirty Little Secret behind the UAE Port Security Scandal, Working for Change, 2-22-06
“Ports are essential pieces of the infrastructure of the United States, and they are best run by public authorities that are accountable to elected officials and the people those officials represent. While traditional port authorities still exist, they are increasing marginalized as privatization schemes have allowed corporations -- often with tough anti-union attitudes and even tougher bottom lines -- to take charge of more and more of the basic operations at the nation's ports.
In the era when the federal government sees 'homeland security' as a slogan rather than a responsibility, allowing the nation's working waterfronts to be run by private firms just doesn't work. It is no secret that federal authorities have failed to mandate, let alone implement, basic port security measures. But this is not merely a federal failure; it is, as well, a private-sector failure. The private firms that control so many of the nation's ports have not begun to set up a solid system for waterfront security in the more than four years since the September 11, 2001 attacks. And shifting control of the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia -- along with control over the movement of military equipment on behalf of the U.S. Army through the ports at Beaumont and Corpus Christi -- from a British firm, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., to Dubai Ports World, is not going to improve the situation." John Nichols, Corporate Control of Ports Is the Problem, The Nation
The Case Against the Bush-Cheney Regime In Toto
The White House now insists that George W. Bush didn’t know about the deal before it went through, and yet, on Air Force One, shortly after the story broke, Bush himself insisted that he would issue a veto (his first one) against any congressional legislation that overturned the deal.
Perhaps you see the Bush-Cheney people as incompetent or ignorant of the world. Perhaps you see them as something more sinister. Either way, their record is horrendous. Either way, they do not deserve to be entrusted with such decisions.
They blew off the Hart-Rudman commission’s final report prior to 9/11, and fought the creation of the Homeland Security Department (DHS) after 9/11, until they had to accept it because of the political fallout. Once the DHS was established, they subverted its mission with a Crayola crayon “Terror Alert” scheme manipulated for partisan political purposes.
They squandered the post-9/11 good will of the international community just as frivolously as they squandered the U.S. budget surplus.
They resisted the creation of a 9/11 Commission until they had to accept it because of the political fallout, and then they resisted its investigation, applied pressure to mitigate its findings, and have largely ignored its recommendations, especially those related to port security and other extremely vulnerable aspects of critical US infrastructure.
They destroyed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in part through privatization, and lost New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast to Katrina.
Even William F. Buckley and Francis Fukuyama, two intellectual giants of the conservative movement, have washed their hands of Bush-Cheney, at least in regard to the war in Iraq. On 2-24-06, in The National Review, Buckley wrote: “One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed…” On 2-19-06, in The New York Times Magazine, Fukuyama wrote: “The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration’s first term is now in shambles.”
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are not the only governments to have conflicted natures in regard to Middle Eastern terrorism. Two out of the last three U.S. Presidents had, at one time or another, intimate business relationships with the Bin Laden family (and neither of them is named Clinton).
In the 1990s, the authors of the PNAC document wistfully described how it would take “a second Pearl Harbor” to advance their military adventure in the Middle East and Central Asia. On 9/11, they got what they wished for. What impact would a third Pearl Harbor have on the US economically and politically?
The UAE takeover of U.S. ports was due to occur in March, i.e., eight months prior to a mid-term election that could conceivably shift control of one or both congressional bodies, enabling the political opposition to jump-start oversight, initiate investigations, and wield subpoenas.
Well, after he retired from the U.S. Army, General Tommy Franks, Bush’s commander in the Afghan war, told Cigar Aficionado that if there were another 9/11 Bush would declare martial law.
I do not have any faith in the U.S. Senate as it is currently constituted. It has largely abdicated its constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight. I would have more faith in the U.S. judiciary if not for the ascension of Roberts and Alito, with their ridiculous theory of the “unitary executive." This unfortunate development indicates that this Supreme Court will likely overturn any attempt to second-guess the actions of the Bush-Cheney regime.
But maybe the harsh spotlight shed on this scandal has exposed the worst among us and alerted the best among us.
Perhaps it is not too late.
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc.
You can reach Richard Power via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net.