Wednesday February 22, 2006
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This port deal is not a national security issue. It is an issue of this administration having a continuing problem with understanding how these things will play in the public's mind and not taking steps to set the stage so these things don't come as a shock and are presented in their worst possible light.
Let's try that again.
The Administration has no demonstrated capacity to brief allies on its activities so, when a public announcement is made, they have friends ready to explain to the public, either through or in spite of, the news media, what is really going on.
When the National Security Agency's intercept program became public, it was immediately called "domestic eavesdropping" or "domestic spying."
That went on for two weeks before the White House finally had the President refer to it as "terrorist surveillance."
As H.R. Haldeman was reported to have written atop memos he thought lacking: T-L-Squared.
Too little. Too late.
I have been watching this port thing develop over the past 72 hours and a common theme among Members of Congress is: We can't have foreign companies operate US ports.
Robert Menendez (D-NJ), according to the Liberal website Democratic Underground said, "We wouldn't turn the border patrol or the customs service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either."
This is the key to the problem. None of these goofballs knew that the ports of New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and New Orleans were ALREADY run by a foreign-owned company.
The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a British outfit, has the contract to operate these ports. P & O (as it is known to those of us well-schooled in the port-operations game) is being sold to another company - Dubai Ports World (DP World) which will take over P & O's existing contracts.
All right, so this deal, which has been known to the financial community since November, gets approved by one of those alphabet commissions which happens to involve SIX Cabinet Departments including Treasury, State, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Justice; which they did.
But the Administration didn't think it was necessary to lay the groundwork for the announcement the other day that the sale of one foreign company to another foreign company had been approved.
So, the cable news programming geniuses have been talking about the US outsourcing "port security" to Dubai.
This is like saying the company which operates your local airport - which is to say it decides how much you pay for parking and where in the terminal the Starbucks will be located - is responsible for airline security.
Nor will DP World be responsible for port security. That remains with Customs and the Coast Guard.
The reason the President bristled about this today is because he doesn't think he deserves to be doubted on his commitment to the national security.
It is one thing for Chuck Schumer or Hillary Clinton to complain. It is something else again for Dennis Hastert or Bill Frist to doubt whether the President is strong enough on terrorism.
The Left has been wailing about George W. Bush being, if anything, TOO aggressive on his anti-terrorism efforts using the NSA intercepts as their example. Now those same people are complaining the President is not being tough enough.
Want to know what's really behind all this?
It's an even numbered year and we are 253 days from election day.
It's not about port security; It's about incumbent security.
On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Fox News summary of the issue written largely by Major Garrett; A link to a history of P & O (which is pretty interesting); A link to a history of DP World (which is less interesting, but includes a listing of all the countries in which they do this kind of work); a Mullfoto showing how I was showered with affection during my trip to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and a Catchy Caption of the Day.
Copyright © 2006 Richard A. Galen
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