Monday, February 27, 2006

Coast Guard Has Security Concerns Over Dubai Ports Deal

Uh, oh. The Coast Guard isn't so hot for the government-owned Dubai company running ports in the U.S. either. The Associated Press has the story:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration that it was unable to determine whether a United Arab Emirates-owned company might support terrorist operations, a Senate panel said Monday.

The surprise disclosure came during a hearing on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to take over significant operations at six leading U.S. ports. The port operations are now handled by London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

''There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment of the potential'' merger,'' an undated Coast Guard intelligence assessment says.

''The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities,'' the document says.

Sen. Susan Collins, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, released an unclassified version of the document at a briefing Monday. With the deal under intense bipartisan criticism in Congress, the Bush administration agreed Sunday to DP World's request for a second review of the potential security risks related to its deal.

The document raised questions about the security of the companies' operations, the backgrounds of all personnel working for the companies, and whether other foreign countries influenced operations that affect security.

''This report suggests there were significant and troubling intelligence gaps,'' said Collins, R-Maine. ''That language is very troubling to me.''

The fact that the Coast Guard felt intelligence gaps about the Dubai company kept them from making an overall threat assessment of the ports deal suggests to me that this deal was not properly vetted by either the White House or the Department of Homeland Security.

Gee, maybe the 45 day review of the deal is a good idea, eh?

Unfortunately CNN is reporting that the deal for the ports will be concluded on Thursday, before the 45 day review is completed. As of Friday, DP World will own at least six ports in the United States (the UPI is suggesting that the deal may actually be for 21 ports all across the U.S.) No matter what the 45 day review turns up, DP World will be the proud owners of the U.S. ports and the U.S. government will be hard-pressed to do anything about it.

So on second thought, maybe the 45 day review of the ports deal should not take place.

Maybe the deal should just be killed on Thursday before the deal is completed.

Especially since both Tom Kean of the 9/11 Commission and the Coast Guard are warning against it.

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