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Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DUBAI PORT UPDATE....The Dubai port deal continues to be murky. A couple of recent notes:

  • Via Mark Kleiman, the blog Transparent Grid notes that port operators do have responsibility for certain aspects of port security.

    I'm not sure how meaningful this is, but there's obviously some truth to it. The Coast Guard and U.S. Customs may have primary responsibility for security, but port operators have to cooperate with these agencies and implement security practices under their direction. I don't think there's much question that having somebody working on the inside of a port operator would hypothetically make it easier to circumvent normal security procedures.

  • Via Josh Marshall, it turns out that the Coast Guard had some initial qualms about the Dubai deal, though they now say that "other U.S. intelligence agencies were able to provide answers to the questions it raised." Maybe so, but it would be nice to know what those qualms were.

The bulk of the evidence still suggests to me that DP World would be a reasonable and prudent choice to operate terminals at U.S. ports partly because DPW seems to have a pretty good reputation and partly because it's not clear what actual damage they could do even if they were infiltrated by a full-blown al-Qaeda operative. It's easy for people like us to guess endlessly about hypothetical risks, but I haven't yet heard from anyone with real experience in port operations about any specific, concrete risks that would result from the DPW takeover. If there were any serious ways in which DPW might compromise security at the terminals they operate, you'd think we would have heard about it by now.

Still, congressional hearings are good. Hopefully we'll all learn more about this issue over the next few weeks.

Kevin Drum 8:17 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Is this the right room for an argument?

Posted by: Matt on February 27, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

> Still, congressional hearings are good.
> Hopefully we'll all learn more about this
> issue over the next few weeks.

Kevin is starting to remind me of the quote about Lieberman a few months ago, where his travelling companions in Iraq looked at each other and said "what nation were YOU visiting? It wasn't Iraq in this reality".

Not only does Kevin think that there might someday be reality-based grown-ups in Congress, he thinks they are there NOW! And that there will be some sort of meaningful "hearings" where actual information and critical viewpoints will be heard.

How much info did you get about Alito during his hearings Kevin? Did the secret FISA amendment, or Patriot Act renewal "hearings", enlighten you on anything?


Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 27, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Dubai Ports issue is going end up being the tipping point for two people:

George W. Bush and Kevin Drum.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on February 27, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky, don't be silly. Next thing yo know, you might imply that the White House put pressure on the Coast Guard to back off their complaints. As If! The WH never applies pressue -- except on America-Hating Terrorists!

King George cares only about Truth! And protecting the American People, at any and all costs!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on February 27, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oh come on, Kevin!
One of the biggest complaints about the ineffectiveness of homeland security has been lax (non-existant) port security. Furthermore, the state-owned company that is to be givin the contract has been implicated in assisting arms transport for known terrorists and the transfer of nuclear wepons technology.
Just how deaf do you have to be to be unable to hear all that feline yowling coming from this alleged pig in a poke?

Posted by: joe on February 27, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I am a little shocked to discover that American companies have been careully edged out of the international smuggling racket, but, when you think about it, it does make sense.

American companies would be subject to pressure of local law enforcement. But if local law enforcement discovered something going on with a foreign-owned company, sooner or later they'd have to involve the feds, and then it quickly goes nowhere. Because somebody's sure got pull.

This story is mostly about foreign gangsters.

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

The funniest part is the news headline that the 'Dubai company requests a review of the security issues and the President accedes to the reuest'.

You are all a bunch of fools in their view.

Posted by: lib on February 27, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me it's a good idea to engage with our Muslim and Arab allies.

Posted by: BigRiver on February 27, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

"The bulk of the evidence still suggests to me that DP World would be a reasonable and prudent choice to operate terminals at U.S. ports partly because DPW seems to have a pretty good reputation and partly because it's not clear what actual damage they could do even if they were infiltrated by a full-blown al-Qaeda operative." Wow.

Kevin, I'm beginning to seriously question your intelligence. Really. So you now claim infiltration is not that big of a deal? I'm sure you won't mind if the CIA is also infiltrated by some bad guys.

Posted by: Jason on February 27, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

I guess you aren't big among port operators and their employees. Personally I am not sure this is a huge issue. Frankly, if the bad thing is in the box by the time it hits a U.S. port, then we have trouble. It's what happens before the container gets here that's the problem. And, as is obvious, if there are fewer and fewer U.S. port operators domestically, there are none abroad. (By the way, same issue for ocean carriers, almost no U.S. flag ocean carriers and same security issue as port operators.) I'm not knowledgable about how the P&O terminals are operated and who staffs, or what DP World's plans would be in regard to staffing, but two areas of concern would be internal conspiracies being easier in terms of smuggling various bad things and failure to comply with orders from Customs. In terms of terrorism, it's difficult to say how large the risk is, and if it would really be increased due to the hand over, afterall you don't need middle eastern control to have internal conspiracies and failure to obey hold orders.

Posted by: miller on February 27, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Take "No one could have imagined that they would fly airplanes into buildings." and substitute "No one could have imagined they could have smuggled something like that into the country." There's the recipe for another disaster.

Posted by: Joe Bob on February 27, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK


OK, let's go back a few years, like to end of 2002-beginning of 2003, when some people actually believed some of things they were being told by the Bush administration.

Then, consider how much of anything the nation was told by this administration was actually true.

They lied to achieve their objectives. They "mislead."

Now, consider the number of inconsistancies, perhaps lies, we're being provided with about this takeover deal. Bush only learned about the Dubai Ports World deal from the news reports a weekend ago. Then, maybe it was somewhat earlier, per an administration spokesperson. No area of the government had any concerns about the takeover. Well, maybe one. Or two. Or...who knows?

Ooooh, what could the actual facts be? Don't ask them, they won't tell.

Think about these two situations--for minutes, hours, whatever it takes. Try to see similarities, differences.

Remember that a good rule of thumb is that if you can imagine the very worst outcome for a BushCo scheme, it will probably be much worse than that.

Reconsider the conclusion in your post.

Posted by: jawbone on February 27, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, why does infiltration not concern you? I'm getting sick.

Posted by: Sean Locke on February 27, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, what you're forgetting is that not only do you need a reason not to reject the port deal, you hsould have a pretty darn good reason why DPW should have the port deal instead of anyone else.

Your argument seems to be, "none of the reasons to stop the port deal are compelling." On the other hand, none of the reasons to suppose the DPW MUST have it are particularly compelling, either. Given that, we should simply err on the side of caution and scuttle the deal.

Posted by: Constantine on February 27, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty damn obvious by now that the American people just don't want a firm owned by the UAE to run our ports. Period.

It is largely irrelevant whether or not enabling politicians and the UAE and their corporate flunkies can put in place enough safeguards to prevent the UAE or its friends from infiltrating any al Qaeda into those operations.

What the American people pretty clearly are saying is that they don't like the idea of the UAE having its hands in the operation of our ports. It's not a question of whether the UAE can put up firewalls so that they can be trusted -- fundamentally, it's that they don't DESERVE our trust, and so don't deserve the role.

Why should Americans allow a company owned by the amoral monsters who rule UAE to be involved in something as intimately concerned with our homeland security as running our ports? Who the hell are they to expect that such a thing might be considered OK by the American public? Why should we give them a pass for their past bad behavior simply because they can concoct a corporation in an attempt to shield them from accountability?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 27, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'm gonna bet that Kevin is buddies with Carol Browner. The only way this makes sense is if he has been convinced by a lobbyist.

Posted by: tib on February 27, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

The important thing isn't that we don't know of a security vulnerability exploitable by someone within DPW. The important thing is that we'll be allowing someone the opportunity to exploit something we haven't thought of. It reminds me of something I read (don't remember where) about terrorist types in the US foiling (for a while) government attempts to monitor them by intercepting their emails. They used web-based free accounts and would save messages as drafts without ever sending them. The person to whom a message might be intended would log on the same account and check drafts to see if there was something he needed to read. Since the message was never sent, the obvious surveillance failed. That's the point of all this: we'll be setting up one more opportunity for people to think of something we haven't and once again we'll be like that cowboy in the Far Side cartoon, atacked by Indians using incindiary arrows, saying "They're lighting their arrows! Can they do that?" The DPW deal simply leaves, as the sole remaining barrier against serious mischief, our own challenged imaginations. Not that we can't or won't so better, but why not leave at least a little margin for error?

Posted by: easily_amazed on February 27, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Stolen cars and airplane parts are the more likely angle. We don't even have a dime of this business!

Posted by: cld on February 27, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

> Reconsider the conclusion in your post.

Kevin is off in the la-la land (no pun intended) where there are Grown-Up Republicans(tm), True Conservatives(tm), and perhaps a few actual Libertarians who are just bottled up, held back, frustrated, waiting their turn to Reclaim Their Party! Dan Dreznier and a lot of conservative economists are over in that corner too.

They just can't accept that (1) the Radicals ARE the true Republican Party (2) the Radicals have isolated and neutered the so-called grown-ups (3) these calm, rational "grown-up" will NEVER return. Never. In 2008 we will get either Jeb Bush or Feingold, but nothing in between.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 27, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum says

.....partly because DPW seems to have a pretty good reputation and partly because it's not clear what actual damage they could do even if they were infiltrated by a full-blown al-Qaeda operative...


By reading this, you would think this statement was coming from a tenth grader or something, and I'm a sophomore in college.

Kevin, you're not a little bit concerned about "infiltration" from people who want to harm us mightily? You've lost me completely. Rethink this issue very very carefully.

Posted by: Diana on February 27, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Really, the whole deal with the UAE running our ports is one of the symbolism. THAT is in truth what people react to on a gut level.

And the symbol that the American people can't get out of their heads is that the amoral ruling class of the UAE, who recognized the Taliban and went hunting with Osama, might have the ultimate power over our very own ports.

THAT is what people object to, on the most basic level. Everything else is mere rationalization of this basic sense of repulsion.

And why SHOULDN'T people be repulsed? Who is the UAE that they DESERVE to be accorded better treatment, given their past?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 27, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK


I just don't understand why you are insisting on wearing your policy wonk hat on this issue.

No one except the BushCo cronies who stand to gain personally from this deal should actually care whether DPW gets this contract rather than another port operator whose majority shareholders do not happen to have a shady history of connections to the Taliban and Osama.

Why on Earth are you digging in your heels to justify a deal that raises legitimate concerns (even BushCo felt the need to have an agreement about security arrangements)??

Ignore your inner wonk, man! Stop asking whether this particular deal is reasonable and prudent. Listen to your inner political strategist and enjoy the gift that BushCo has given us.

The country would be better off with a different operator -- if only to avoid the shadow of those Taliban and OBL connections (can you imagine if anything ever did come of those? How shattering that would be?). And the Democrats would be incredibly better off if ninnies like you would step up and fight!

Posted by: Sean on February 27, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

franklyO, my sentiments exactly, well said.

I think you should take Kevin's spot...he has clearly lost it.

Posted by: Rhythmwize on February 27, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0 is 100% correct.

it's bad enough Bush smooches and cuddles with the Saudis, now this. SA and the UAE should be in line for punishment, not further enrichment.

Posted by: cleek on February 27, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

I am so boooooored of this subject.

Posted by: Matt on February 27, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Port Operators have full access to the security plans of the Coast Guard and Customs for their ports. And they are therefore required to 'cooperate' with these plans, whatever that means.

Kevin, are you saying that DPW would never pass on those plans to those bent on terrorist acts?

Why take this risk. DPW may be no different that other non-US-based port operators, but why would we allow any of them to get the contracts in the first place.

Airports cannot be controlled by non-US interests. Why are the ports treated differently?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on February 27, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

There a new/ish story out about Al Qaeda claiming to be able to infiltrate UAE, and I repeat my query about possible illegality of part of the deal on tip from cmdicely:



February 25, 2006 -- WASHINGTON Al Qaeda warned the government of the United Arab Emirates more than three years ago that it "infiltrated" key government agencies, according to a disturbing document released by the U.S. military.
The warning was contained in a June 2002 message to UAE rulers, in which the terror network demanded the release of an unknown number of "mujahedeen detainees," who it said had been arrested during a government crackdown in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The explosive document is certain to become ammunition for critics of the controversial UAE port...


Also, Here's some info on the possible illegality of DPW taking over US Army port operations at Beaumont and Corpus Christi, TX. (See http://thinkprogress.org/2006/02/20/uae-military-equipment/ and http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/gaffney/060220/ for reference to the deal itself from both sides of the spectrum.)

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/search/display.html?terms=2170&url=/uscode/html/uscode50a/usc_sec_50a_00002170---a000-.html with excerpt below, and compare http://www.softinfusion.com/gpoaccess/Bill_103-s1337es

Title 50a

2170a. Prohibition on purchase of United States defense contractors by entities controlled by foreign governments

Release date: 2005-03-17

(a) In general

No entity controlled by a foreign government may merge with, acquire, or take over a company engaged in interstate commerce in the United States that

(1) is performing a Department of Defense contract, or a Department of Energy contract under a national security program, that cannot be performed satisfactorily unless that company is given access to information in a proscribed category of information; or

(2) during the previous fiscal year, was awarded

(A) Department of Defense prime contracts in an aggregate amount in excess of $500,000,000; or

(B) Department of Energy prime contracts under national security programs in an aggregate amount in excess of $500,000,000.

(b) Inapplicability to certain cases

The limitation in subsection (a) shall not apply if a merger, acquisition, or takeover is not suspended or prohibited pursuant to section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (50 App. U.S.C. 2170).

(c) Definitions

In this section:

(1) The term entity controlled by a foreign government includes

(A) any domestic or foreign organization or corporation that is effectively owned or controlled by a foreign government; and

(B) any individual acting on behalf of a foreign government,

as determined by the President.

(2) The term proscribed category of information means a category of information that

(A) with respect to Department of Defense contracts

(i) includes special access information;

(ii) is determined by the Secretary of Defense to include information the disclosure of which to an entity controlled by a foreign government is not in the national security interests of the United States; and

(iii) is defined in regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense for the purposes of this section; and

(B) with respect to Department of Energy contracts

(i) is determined by the Secretary of Energy to include information described in subparagraph (A)(ii); and

(ii) is defined in regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Energy for the purposes of this section.


There's some interesting update stuff at the indirect link, which references laws back to 1994.

Posted by: Neil' on February 27, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please wake up. The Coast Guard and HSD had initial problems with the deal, but everything now is okey-dokey? Do you think they were provided with indepth answers to their questions based on a thorough analysis of Dubai?

What evidence is there of this? Susan Collins emerges from a classified meeting late today that was designed to allay all concerns, and she is convinced more than ever that the entire investigative process was "deeply flawed?"

When has this crew done anything right? Why would you or anyone else trust anything that these guys tell us?

A Middle Eastern country will on Thursday control ops at at least 21 ports, a country with previous terrorist ties.

What about this is difficult to understand?

Posted by: kimster on February 27, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is trying so hard to be earnest - he doesn't want to ever conflate his opinion with political purposes. But there are better ways to deal with one's lack of enthusiasm for a concept that is so damn *helpful*. Go ahead and put forth the negatives "to look at", just don't say you are sure it's bad if you aren't.

Posted by: Neil' on February 27, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

The real question is the ocean vessels, not the ports in and of themselves. It would be very informative to know how many US-registered ocean vessels versus foreign-registered ocean vessels are accessing US ports on a daily basis. Also, what mechanisms are in place at foreign ports to track the cargo coming into US ports? Why would people wishing the US harm pick a large secure port when there are numurous smaller ports they could berth at based on the enormous coastline areas that comprise the US?

Port security can only be truly effective if the approperiate processes are in place to better track the tons of shipments that come to this country each day from around the world. Addressing the trade imbalance and exporting more goods would do more than just having a US-controlled port operator.

Once we, as Americans, are ready to truly pay for the increased personnel and logistical support need to actually maintain port security nationwide, this UAE deal might eventually fail, but the real issue of port security will continue to be our Acheille's heel.

Posted by: T.J. on February 27, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

I'm waiting for the obvious solution. The only firm able to do the port management and American owned is, of course, Halliburton !

Congratulations !

Cheney will be proud of you.

Posted by: Mike K on February 27, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Still, congressional hearings are good. Hopefully we'll all learn more about this issue over the next few weeks."

You are doing a heck of a job Kevin...

Posted by: koreyel on February 27, 2006 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that the administration gave DPW an exemption from the usual clause requiring that business records be kept in the US. So there is no accountabillity.

Posted by: cafl on February 27, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Is this the right room for an argument?

Posted by: Matt on February 27, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

No! Wrong Room! This is Debates: Arguments is one room down!

Now, move along!

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 27, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

kevin, you are not having an sensible amount of suspicion about this... please read "Connecting Dubai Ports World, the Carlyle Group, CSX, John Snow, and David Sanborn", for starters.

Posted by: brkily on February 27, 2006 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with frankly0 on all points.

Why should Americans allow a company owned by the amoral monsters who rule UAE...

Yeah, I am sick of plutocracy there and here.

Good point.

Hmmmmmm. Another big hmmmm.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 27, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Crooks & Liars has a post about UAE/DPW threatening CNN in order to shut Lou Dobbs up.

One more viral meme, comin up!

Just what is it about the modern, free, civilized world does the UAE just not get??

Just keep repeating:

"Is this the same diligent respect for liberty, for the free press, and for fair and open debate in a democratic society -- that you claim to use in protecting the security of ports in the UAE and will use in America?!?

At long last, SIR, have you no decency? No integrity?"

This just beats all.

If the tender princelings of the UAE/DPW can't respect the basic tenets of freedom that define the American nation, as well as democracy itself -- how can they be trusted to respect our physical security?

If the censorship/ & possible blacklisting of some minor/major talk show host/TV network is acceptable behavior in America -- then what do we have left to defend?

A minor difference of opinion, some open debate, one uncomfortable opinion from one man -- and the UAE/DPW unilaterally takes American freedom off the table. With threats.

They're hiring lobbyists by the boatload, and paying them off handsomely -- but one guy with an opinion is just too much for them to bear.

It's an aristocracy, all right -- but there's nothing civilized about the UAE/DPW -- or its sense of entitlement.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 27, 2006 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bulk of the evidence? From who? What is their agenda? Are they bought and sold?

You are far too trusting. Not a good way to be given your track record on these kinds of things.

What is needed is an airing by neutral observers.

Posted by: Ba'al on February 27, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Like I said, this may be Kevin's Waterloo. He's posted some real boners before, but this takes the cake. Even Kevin's most faithful are wondering what he has been smoking.

I give our Political Pussycat at most about another month before he moves on. Maybe the LA Times?

Posted by: Libby Sosume on February 27, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Even if this weren't a security issue (I think it is) it raises all sorts of questions about transparency and honesty in the Bush white house. He only found out about it after the fact? Trust him, everything will be fine? What will he benefit from the deal? Why no 45 day evaluation? This stinks from every angle.

Posted by: Deron Bauman on February 27, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: man, you have lost it on this deal. You are as bad as Brosz with a logic puzzle. Bush's support is in free fall. They have no credibility on this or any other national issue. None. Hell, Dubai Ports is even threatening that great "left-winger" Lou Dobbs, for God sake. Snap out of it lad!

Tonight, the world changed and the GOP crumbled. It was a Monday night massacre. ABYSMAL administration poll numbers, Coast Guard, Mardi Gras in a cemetery, 1,300 Iraqie dead in a torrent of violence; Cunningham's bribery menu. Libby, Abramoff. It is horrible.

Only 34% Bush Kool Aid drinkers remain in favor of Armageddon. 18% Cheney hunt club people remain. Kevin, this is the time when a progressive blogger actually needs to grow a spine and present some hard truths and shed some light. Dubai Ports is DOA. You and Zogby are about the only rubes left who are even entertaining this catastrophic idea. Face it, believing anything these guys say anymore is like waving to the President when he is riding a bike near you--foolish!! National security is not something to be sold. We need to build American capability to secure and run America. And maybe even take back our customer help lines and accountants. . .

Posted by: Sparko on February 27, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

"what actual damage they could do even if they were infiltrated by a full-blown al-Qaeda operative" - Kevin Drum (Tonight, 2/27/06)

(My jaw drops sharply)

Define Kevin Drum - An ostrich whose head is firmly buried in the sand by choice.

Posted by: openthedoor on February 27, 2006 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

34% Presidency.

Nixon Territory!

If you hire Nixon ass-kissers, you will get the Nixonian results!

Posted by: lib on February 28, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

The guy who wants to babysit my kids stopped hanging out with child pornographers about five years ago. The whole thing is murky, but it still seems like the reasonable and prudent thing to do to hire this guy. I've made some phone calls, and I can't identify any specific, concrete risks. My wife is all worked up about how the guy used to hang out with child pornographers, but that was almost five years ago, and I think she's just being emotional and is being swayed by mere appearances, not by substance.

Posted by: tom on February 28, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

I can't find a single expert who says Saddam doesn't have a weapons program.

Posted by: Calling All Toasters on February 28, 2006 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK


One of the responsibilities of this company would be software/hardware to route crates or whatever they're called through the port, including customs, onto trucks.

In your dream world, can you even imagine how installing an operative at a high level in that company might make it a *tad* easier to, say, float a crate through security without it being checked? Or even just make it really unlikely that it is checked? No? Are you a moron?

Can you further think that, say, it might be easier to stick an Al Qaeda operative in that company than a preferably domestic, or even british company?


Posted by: Earl Hathaway on February 28, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin's basic mistake has been to view this issue in isolation from all the other horribly unwise decisions by the Bush administration.

Of course, if you ignore the recent history of Bushistas' incompetence and foolishness, it sounds perfectly reasonable to be open minded about the UAE owned company being in-charge of the ports.

But in havens name, why would you ignore the reality of the GWB's bungling in Iraq, in GWOT, in Katrina, in NSA spying -- in effect in all the major issues touched by this administration--and engage in wishful thiking that may be this time Bush did it right?

Posted by: lib on February 28, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Hat tip to tib for the NYTimes/Carol Browner link about lobbyists and the DP deal. This caught my eye since I live in Atlanta:

Lawyers and lobbyists at Alston & Bird, the big law firm based in Atlanta, put together the commercial deal for Dubai Ports, quietly helping win approval from the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States of the $6.8 billion acquisition of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the British company that has contracts to manage several United States ports.
As has been reported, Sen. Bob Dole works for Alston & Bird and was hired to act as congressional liaison for DP World. PoliticalMoneyLine (2/24/2006 2:30:35 PM) has a link to the lobbying registration form [PDF] that lists five names including Dole. Cozy, isn't it?

And guess what? The Aston & Bird Washington office also includes Tom Daschle. Of course, I'm not implying that Tom will profit on this DP deal. Just another former member of Congress who has join a lobbying/law firm, a typical Washington practice. I wonder why Daschle isn't working with his wife?

As this story progresses, follow the money.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 28, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

How about this guy?

"Joseph King, who headed the customs agency's anti-terrorist efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security concerns are well-grounded"

from the Washington Post; via DailyKos
(Sorry, can't get the quote or link thingy to work)

Posted by: MikeN on February 28, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Just one other point.

As I said above, what Americans really react to in this deal is its truly disturbing symbolism. We have the rulers of UAE recognizing the Taliban, refusing to recognize Israel, and going hunting with their good buddy Osama. Then we have the same fine pieces of work expecting -- even apparently demanding under threat of law suit -- to be able to control a company that handles the operations of a number of OUR ports.

Now, you see it is precisely SYMBOLS like these that drive elections and public sentiment. It's been for many years now, and to the ongoing detriment of the Democrats, that it's been the Republicans who have been able to manipulate symbols and gain the confidence of the American public. One obvious example of this was the invasion of Grenada, which was certainly acknowledged, albeit at a later date, to be a symbolic "strike back" by Reagan against the forces of tyranny. In a sense it seemed foolish, but in a deeper sense it displayed some brilliant insight into the working of the public and the world.

Yet here we are, in a case in which the Bush regime, because of its slavish service to corporate interests, is on the dead wrong side of a powerful symbol. And what do Kevin and a number of other Democrats do?

Get in a frantic dither over process and details, losing themselves in the weeds of the issue. There is absolutely no compelling reason in the world that UAE should get this deal to go their way -- none. Yet if all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, Kevin would just hand it over to them with nary further thought.

And then he and they wonder why Democrats seem always to find a way to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

If they're looking for answers, the mirror would be the best and only place to start.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 28, 2006 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

You know, reading all the hyperventilating on this thread from folks who I'm allied with on virtually every other issue we discuss here -- and I'm still with Kevin on the fence.

Doesn't mean I support the deal. Doesn't mean I oppose it.

I just haven't seen any slam-dunk argument either way. And there *are* reasons both to work with companies in the Arab world and which speak to DPW's rep as a port operator, that argue for this deal.

I think Kevin will regret his remark about not seeing the danger of an al Q infiltrator; I expect a retraction by tomorrow. But taking the whole thing in context, there *is* a whole lotta Arab-bashing going on here.

The UAE would stand to lose a whole shitload if we ever were attacked in a way that pointed to our port security.


Posted by: rmck1 on February 28, 2006 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, MikeN for the cite from WaPo via DailyKos. Joseph King pops up in another WaPo story from Canton, OH:

...Joseph King, a John Jay College professor and former counterterrorism chief of the Customs Bureau in New York, described port managers as akin to kings.
They have access to the computers for the Coast Guard and customs; they can track containers; they oversee security contracts, King said. New Yorks ports are badly enough defended because Bush has ignored us. This is just another nail in the coffin.
Unless there's some sort of quid pro quo with U.S. military inspecting containers from DPW points of departure, which can't be publicly released due to inflaming Arab sentiment against the UAE, I think even a hint of risk makes this an if-y deal. Regardless, it's political suicide to back the deal. Hey, finally, a Dem wedge issue!

I say, go for the jugular. Brand me opportunistic. I don't care. We are in a fight for our country against the rule of greed and wingnut ideology that's gutting 141 programs like healthcare and education while the Pentagon budget grows by 7% "to $439 billion, 45 percent greater than when [Bush] took office five years ago. And the $439 billion is only part of the increased largesse for the military-security complex; another $33 billion goes to the ill-managed homeland security agencies. That still doesn't count the war itself--another $70 billion or more."

While it's repugnant to capitalize on this DP port deal politically, it's more despicable to let Bushies loot our treasury without a peep so we can remain nice guys. Sometimes to create peace, you have to go to war.

Battle stations, fellow liberals. Let's roll.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 28, 2006 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

Night all. Tomorrow is another day to bat this around. The issue isn't going away anytime soon.

I respect what you say, Bob. And we can debate it some more. : )

Posted by: Apollo 13 on February 28, 2006 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Question: In the current world context, i.e. the 'War on Terror' etc, what kind of an idiot would call a decision to give operational control over important US ports to an organization controlled by Arabs "reasonable" or "prudent"?

Posted by: eh on February 28, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

I oppose this deal because we are talking about a plutocratic enterprise owned and controlled by a regime in the UAE that does not share our values, spits on human rights, and has no respect for collective bargaining, unions, the right to petition government for grievances, or even free speech.

The Longshoremen should never agree to work for such a plutocratic enterprise, and neither should the American people agree to give this regime trusted status to run our critical infrastructure.

They can be our allies without it being suggested we give them the keys to the house.

Posted by: Jimm on February 28, 2006 at 4:53 AM | PERMALINK

"I don't think there's much question that having somebody working on the inside of a port operator would hypothetically make it easier to circumvent normal security procedures."

That so nice, Kevin. Well, readers here raised this point long time ago, very forthcoming from you to mention it now after only a couple of days. Of course, you had to wait for this info to turn up in a never-heard-of-before blog, instead of relying on the unreliable MSM who ran quotes on this topic long before. Congratulations on waking up, Kevin. And, sry, but I can't resist:

Posted by: Gray on February 28, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I have agreed with you about there being no good reason to oppose the deal. Until this morning when I read this form the Jerusalem Post:

"The parent company of a Dubai-based firm at the center of a political storm in the US over the purchase of American ports participates in the Arab boycott against Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

"Yes, of course the boycott is still in place and is still enforced," Muhammad Rashid a-Din, a staff member of the Dubai Customs Department's Office for the Boycott of Israel, told the Post in a telephone interview.

"If a product contained even some components that were made in Israel, and you wanted to import it to Dubai, it would be a problem," he said."

Posted by: JDH on February 28, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin says, "If there were any serious ways in which DPW might compromise security at the terminals they operate, you'd think we would have heard about it by now."

Indeed, we have heard them(from the WP via Kos):

Joseph King, who headed the customs agency's anti-terrorism efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security fears are well grounded.

He said a company the size of Dubai Ports World would be able to get hundreds of visas to relocate managers and other employees to the United States. Using appeals to Muslim solidarity or threats of violence, al-Qaeda operatives could force low-level managers to provide some of those visas to al-Qaeda sympathizers, said King, who for years tracked similar efforts by organized crime to infiltrate ports in New York and New Jersey. Those sympathizers could obtain legitimate driver's licenses, work permits and mortgages that could then be used by terrorist operatives.

Dubai Ports World could also offer a simple conduit for wire transfers to terrorist operatives in the Middle East. Large wire transfers from individuals would quickly attract federal scrutiny, but such transfers, buried in the dozens of wire transfers a day from Dubai Ports World's operations in the United States to the Middle East would go undetected, King said.

That sounds serious enough, no?

Posted by: FuzzFinger on February 28, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Don't be mean to Kevin. When he gets his dander up, he never backs down, no matter how many facts and how much reality you throw at him. You know, he does have his job as 'cool headed moderate' to fulfill.

Posted by: Doug on February 28, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

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