Monday, February 20, 2006

National Insecurity

The Bush Administration have approved the sale of the British firm Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which managed six U.S. seaports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Miami, to Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In case you didn't get that, ask Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff how the administration could allow the management of our national security to be sold to a company in Dubai, which was used as an operational and financial base by terrorists, and is directly adjacent to Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers. Chertoff claims that after a classified review of the national security implications of this sale, it was determined to be safe. This is coming from the same man put in charge of the bureaucratic boondoggle known as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

No one has forgotten what happened during Hurricane Katrina, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to act quickly to the disaster unfolding in the gulf coast. However, many are not aware that FEMA is under the umbrella of the DHS and Secretary Chertoff, whom former FEMA director Michael Brown reported. A recent report by a Congressional committee on Hurricane Katrina found that the response by the DHS and Sec. Chertoff to the disaster was inadequate and lacked initiative among other things. The DHS is responsible for the federal response to both natural disasters and acts of terrorism on our soil, requiring decisive leadership, and a quick response with immediate resources made available to the affected area. Unfortunately, the level of red tape in the newly created DHS is a terrible hindrance on its effectiveness. Nonetheless, there is no excuse for poor leadership in the face of a disaster at any level of government, and accountability is crucial to a healthy democracy. Chertoff could use some leadership advice from the former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani.

In any case, I do not believe many Americans would be comfortable with any foreign entity given the responsibility to manage seaport security in the U.S., let alone a company based in the Middle Eastern country of the UAE. Additionally, I do not believe many will care that the Bush Administration considers the UAE to be allies in the war on terror, especially given the track record of that part of the world. Is it necessary to mention that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are also “allies” of this administration, who are known to have extensive terrorism activities within their own borders? Do we really want to put our trust in a company that could potentially be infiltrated by members of al-Qaeda? Perhaps President Bush feels overconfident with the National Security Agency (NSA) illegal wiretapping program to stop any such occurrence. Happy President's Day!

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