Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 21, 2006

Dubai ports deal: a common-sense solution

Filed under: Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on February 21, 2006

Since my post on the Dubai ports deal yesterday, the story has continued to grow in political intensity, most recently with Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist’s call for an extended investigation and Pres. Bush’s veto threat this afternoon. And the media continues to do its part to turn up the heat: I’ve been watching Wolf Blitzer and Lou Dobbs on CNN this evening, and it’s clear that heated rhetoric is running miles ahead of sober analysis. At the rate things are heading, this could become a top story for weeks to come. If that leads indirectly to renewed attention to port security and increased federal funding for ports, then perhaps that’s a good thing. But I fear that the Dubai ports story could become a distraction from more urgent homeland security issues, such as passing the Collins-Lieberman chemical security bill or strengthening our disaster response system before the next hurricane season.

That doesn’t have to happen. The Administration should sit down with critics of the deal in Congress from both parties, and work out a sensible compromise that protects both security and legitimate free enterprise. That deal could entail the following:

1. The Adminstration agrees to an extended CFIUS review that includes a full intelligence scrub on DP World and its directors, financial backers, and senior managers.
2. The Adminstration agrees to provide full information to Congress about DP World and the deal in both unclassified and classified forums.
3. The Administration and Congress convene an independent review group of former officials with active (or easy to reactivate) security clearances (for example, former 9/11 co-chairs Kean and Hamilton) to assess the deal, review the same information as CFIUS, and deliver a public opinion on it.
4. If new information is found that causes direct national security concerns, then the Administration will block the deal via Bush’s authority under CFIUS.
5. If there are no new red flags related to DP World, then Congress agrees not to block the deal, subject to the signing of legislation that enhances US oversight over all foreign port terminal operators.
6. That legislation should include the following provisions:

  • Mandate an annual internal security audit by companies with at least 5% market share of port operations in the U.S. that demonstrates what they are doing to prevent insider threats. Audit distributed to the Coast Guard, CBP, and the FBI, among others.
  • Require companies to locate key security-related data at facilities in the United States, place controls on its access, and maintain tamper-proof audit trails of internal company access to certain types of data.
  • Require companies to providing prior written assurance of access by federal law enforcement officials to internal company records and to company directors and senior staff in any relevant investigation.
  • Mandate strong penalties for failures of compliance, up to and including forced divestment.

7. The legislation should also include a one-time provision that facilitates cities’ abilities to recompete their port operations contracts in a way that is efficient and fair to all involved parties.

This seems like a sensible compromise that addresses the key security concerns of this deal and can quickly resolve what unnecessarily threatens to become a full-scale political imbroglio. I’m not naively optimistic that this issue will be dealt with in this manner, but I still hope that political leaders can work through a sensible process to resolve it, so that we can get on with other pressing homeland security issues.

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Comment by DAN

February 22, 2006 @ 12:24 am

What most people fail to understand that the company Dubai Ports is quite likely a CIA front nestled in UAE, and has been for a while.
Accepting that hypothesis, it is then to consider if that is a bad thing or a good thing. I do suspect many if not all of those objecting do NOT have that in mind and its not like we can trust all our own lawmakers anyway. They all have loose lips so telling them such a truth as I hypothesize would only make us all less secure.
And duly I wonder what My Prez was thinking. I understand this company will not be overseeing our security just operation of said ports. Any other company made up of individuals regardless of where it is based is just as likely to have the very same vulnerabilities as this one. Maybe this whole new level makes us more secure. But did MY president, Yes I said My president> NOT CONSIDER THIS WOULD RAISE GREAT CONCERN. The idea that he would threaten veto without first calling in some of those objecting(before the crowd grew) to let then know what was up> is disconcerting to me. I also then consider a trap is being laid and people should just STFU. I am sure of one thing. I AM DAMN GLAD JOHN KERRY IS NOT IN THE WHITEHOUSE.


Comment by Dave

February 22, 2006 @ 1:31 am

Excellent proposed resolution process, however: the The CFIUS (review committee) standard for security is absolutely unacceptable, as outlined in GAO 05-686″ “Treasury, in its role as Chair, and some others narrowly define what constitutes a threat to national security — that is, they have limited the definition to export-controlled technologies or items and classified contracts, or specific derogatory intelligence on the foreign company.” So, there will be scary security holes galore if anyone looks close.
I think the President has truly lost it. Perhaps the collective bumbling of Congress just might save us.
As for the ‘CIA Front’ theory, I don’t have much hope for it: even incompetent spooks would have managed the politics INFINITELY better that has occurred.


Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Coast Guard had concerns about Dubai ports deal

February 27, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

[…] These are the exact types of vulnerabilities that I expressed concern about a week ago, and they are what need to be aggressively analyzed in the extended 45-day review. If that review finds nothing specific, then I’m inclined to believe that this deal should go through, subject to safeguards that protect against an insider threat, as I proposed here. […]

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