Monday, February 20, 2006
Inside the port deal that's giving Bush headaches
Dubai is an amazing place, a small desert port at the edge of the Persian Gulf that has exploded into a work-in-progress of construction cranes and half-built high rises. Every time I visit, it looks different. Bigger, busier, more extravagant. The word boomtown seems inadequate to describe the frenetic pace. It is Hong Kong on steroids at the moment.

But the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located, is also a place touched by 9/11. Terrorist money came through here, so did some of the hijackers, who flew through Dubai's famed airport.

This is how what seemed to be a dull business story about port contracts has become a political and emotional controversy. One shipping company buying another is big money, but not big news, unless the company doing the buying is another one of those go-go Dubai companies, the Dubai Ports World, and the other company controls container shipping at several U.S. ports, including New York.

That's where we are tonight. A company from a country tinged with 9/11 is seemingly suddenly in charge of running several American ports (did I mention the company they are buying-out is also foreign?). The White House says it is OK. International shippers say the company has a great record. But 9/11 families and members of Congress say different. Even the former head of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, says he can understand why politicians are saying "wait a minute."

By the way, the British government also had a chance to block the deal, because the Dubai company would be in charge of a couple of UK ports. It didn't. This one ain't going away for a while.
Posted By Henry Schuster, CNN Senior Producer: 6:30 PM ET
  51 Comments
I've heard a lot about how vulnerable our ports are to terrorism, but I'm not sure how this deal would make us any less safe. I would like to see an objective report on this emotionally-charged issue.
Posted By Anonymous Danny K., Dallas, TX : 6:57 PM ET
Why not sell the lucrative port deal to a US based company, which would also help the economy?
Posted By Anonymous Nina, Honolulu, HI : 6:58 PM ET
I hope this "ain't going away soon". The administration of this country has truly "outsourced" the soul of America and now they are selling our ports to a country that is very much connected to terrorists. I hope America wakes up and fights back with its voting power starting this year. I am outraged.
Posted By Anonymous Judy Stage Brooklyn Michigan : 7:08 PM ET
This adminstration has come up with some stupid ideas in the past, but this one takes the cake. We haven't been able to figure out how to secure the ports ourselves since 9/11 so I guess it made sense to somebody to just let the Arabs do it. We can trust them, right? For once, I hope this government listens to the people (who they are supposed to be working FOR, in case they forgot) and deep six this contract in a hurry.
Posted By Anonymous Donna, Cape May, NJ : 7:11 PM ET
Every time this administration pulls another bone-headed, jaw-dropping blunder I think they can go no lower in their disdain for the American people.

And every time, they prove me wrong; usually within days.
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia Delmar, Portland OR : 7:18 PM ET
You know, I'm a right-wing republican, but I'd rather have Clinton than Bush! Bush is just a traitor, plain and simple. Clinton at least cared about the poor, which we will all be soon, thanks to Bush. Watch Lou Dobbs!!
Posted By Anonymous Lyle, Naperville, IL : 7:19 PM ET
I don't understand this decision, and even though I am a Republican, I don't support it. I think Bush is making a big mistake on this one, we cannot allow any organization that is even remotely involved in 9/11 or any other form of terrorism to control any aspect of this country.
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 7:20 PM ET
September 11th, 2001 is a tragedy that I will never forget, nor will the people of the United States of America. On that day, innocence was lost in America. Many of our freedoms were lost that day as well. The fortunate thing is that we can regain those freedoms and be safe from another attack. I know that it is possible. Overall, we are an optimistic people, and our will is not shaken.

We have numerous private security and management agencies right here in this great nation that are available and ready to be hired (and are in need of the jobs) to take care of certain aspects of Homeland Security, such as airport security, security and management of our nation's seaports, private business security, bank security, and many other areas of importance. Regardless of how vetted that an international company is, there should be NO exceptions made when it comes to the security of our nation- no chances should be taken that could endanger our people and our way of life. The fact that a company from the United Arab Emirates was allowed to take control of the management of ports in 6 major US cities is horrifying.

So, I ask you, fellow citizens of the United States, those of you who have a faith, to pray for our leaders that they will make the right decisions for our nation, and that they will ensure our nation's safety. For everyone, I ask you to contact as many of our leaders as you can, and ask them to try and stop foreign company control in our nation with regard to this port issue and other issues that may affect our national security. The war on terror is no laughing matter. We need to be realistic in our applications against terrorism. The UAE has a number of organizations that have funded terrorists and terrorist organizations (as documented in the 9/11 Commission Report).

Friends, please remain positive in your efforts against terrorism and your efforts to strengthen our nation's security, and in your criticism, please criticize out of the love for America and the love for freedom. Hate is never the answer- remember, we are all human, capable of mistakes, and sometimes it takes iron to sharpen iron.

Thank you, and good day.
Posted By Anonymous Jay, Carbondale, Illinois : 7:22 PM ET
This is just another blunder in a long list by the Bush Administration. Big monied interests take precedence over our national defense and common sense. I think wiser heads in Congress must intervene. What is Bush thinking? or is he thinking? Don't count on it.
Posted By Anonymous Kerry Johnson, Apple Valley, MN : 7:33 PM ET
If this company is so great, I wonder if they would be able to do a better job running the country then Bush has. The bad thing about them going to run the ports is that they will be able to tell terrorist to go ahead and attack this port, the US isnt watching it.
Posted By Anonymous Benton, Indianapolis, In : 7:35 PM ET
I am completely outraged that our politicians would even consider striking a deal with foreign entities to turn over control of our ports! This is completely unbelievable and I cannot fathom how anyone would think it was a good idea! It is unquestionably the worst decision that could be made in terms of our national security. Are we idiots? It sure seems like it to me.
Posted By Anonymous Suzie Whitaker, Pinellas Park, FL : 7:39 PM ET
I don't understand why this deal isn't being halted. This could give our greatest enemies-the terrorists-control of the oil supplies that our country needs in today's day and age of technology. In addition, their port's security would not meet the post-9/11 standards. Someone needs to step in and stop this deal because it's bad for all of us.
Posted By Anonymous Jared, Cambridge, MA : 7:44 PM ET
It is irresponsible for the Bush administration to champion the sale of key infrastructure to foreign entities, particular from areas that are openly hostile to the security of the United States. Is the government so cash-strapped that it's come to this?
Posted By Anonymous Wenton Chan, Boston, Mass. : 7:46 PM ET
If the sale is blocked this will be a prime example of national discrimation and is totally unacceptable. We will isolate ourselves out of the world business theatre.
Posted By Anonymous Asif, Detroit, Michigan : 7:46 PM ET
Actually, we, the public, are just finding out that companies based in other countries have had control of operations in our ports. It doesn't make sense for companies based in any other country to have such control. Period. Ports, transportation systems, utilities, and communication systems need to belong to U.S. owned companies or be under U.S. public control. This is not only because of security concerns but because of severe weather changes which make coordinated, rapid responses so vital.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Vierra, Aptos, CA : 7:53 PM ET
Thanks for keeping an eye on this one. As a resident of Baltimore, MD (one who lives 20 mins from the inner harbor), this story is an outrage. As you so succintly pointed out, why does England own our ports???? I'm sure the reaction in Philly, Newark, New Orleans, NY, and Miami has been much the same; the mayor here, Martin O'Malley, has pledged to do whatever is necessary to stop this. Why weren't we stopping the sale of our ports to England in the first place? How can we defend our borders by selling them?
Posted By Anonymous Lyndsey Husek, Baltimore MD : 7:55 PM ET
I believe the Bush administration has lost all credibility and the Congress needs to step in and review this Dubai purchase. Or better yet, remove Bush.
Posted By Anonymous Laurie,Oswego,KS : 7:57 PM ET
This whole thing definitely seems tinged with racism and ignorance. Rarely do I side with Bush on anything, but I'm afraid I agree with him that this whole debate is a red herring...

Worried about port security? Rather than worry about what country various companies are based in, maybe it's the fact that this whole bizarre system is privatized and in the hands of for-profit corporations should be of some concern. The free market follows its own logic, and usually that means doing whatever one can - cutting whatever corners neccessary - to make a buck.

Would you really like to have a police force patrolling your block whose sole purpose is to hold their own economic bottom-line? Is that really a system we want to protect our ports?
Posted By Anonymous Thoams, New Haven, CT : 8:03 PM ET
Let's rethink this one before allowing such a rash and unbridled action. It's rather obvious that the U.S is oil-desperate;to us and the World. But this move is as though we're admitting that ANYBODY that has the potential to assist in this so-called American state of emergency is welcome to even own a major stronghold of our Nation. Just be our friend! Back to the drawing board,please.
Posted By Anonymous Vanessa Pinkston Atlanta,Ga. : 8:04 PM ET
How many mistakes does this President and his Administration need to make before America wakes up a realizes we "elected" the wrong man twice?
Posted By Anonymous Squazzo, Haddon Township, New Jersey : 8:07 PM ET
It should give Bush and the whole administration a huge headache -- it makes me sick to my stomach! All the problems with security and trafficking and our government approves handing control over to the United Arab Emirates? We might as well hand them every U.S. town and city key next. How much more can we lose before someone in control of the US starts using a couple of brain cells?
Posted By Anonymous Jill, State College, PA : 8:07 PM ET
Being a Supply Chain and Logistic professional and knowing the exposure we currently have, this move widen the gap of exposure to the US by Islamic terrorist groups.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Ward Grand Rapids, Mi : 8:08 PM ET
Once again the Bush administration is proving to be inept and out of control. I am against any foreign company having control of any US port. It does not matter if it's from the middle east or northern Europe. What the hell are they thinking!?!?
Posted By Anonymous Raphael from Washington DC : 8:08 PM ET
Unbelievable! Simply staggering! A world ablze with madness born of a few cartoons. And now we want to give port control to people whose lives are goverend by the same religion whose clerics are calling for death and dismemberment in response to cartoons!
Posted By Anonymous G Dennis Taylor mankato MN : 8:09 PM ET
It's that old saying, "money talks" and that's what it is all about. So maybe the Dubai Ports, Co. should set up a fund so when (not if) some terrorist brings a dirty bomb over through an Arab owned port here in the US they can pay the families that will have love ones lost. Or maybe we should just ask the terrorist to come on over. Give me a break, have we learned anything? I live in a port city and it scares me to think that this can happen. It doesn't make me feel safe that we will be in charge of the security. Why take the risk?
Posted By Anonymous Shawn, Charleston SC : 8:13 PM ET
This is shocking and terrifying news they are *selling our land our ports* to possible terrorist linkage and it is purchased with mony extracted from America by leveraging oil supplies for an illusionary stability in that region and a fickle world peace. Is America benefiting? and if so name the benefits? This irresponsible act does scare me , a lot. There is no bigotry here , just plain sense of vulnerability - - next think we'll put the Pentagon up for sale. the damn fools !!!
Ben
Posted By Anonymous Ben, Whitewater Wisconsin : 8:15 PM ET
The 9/11 hijackers also trained in several states before their mission. Should we ban people from those states from working at ports or airports since their states were "touched by 9/11". Since the Democrats were in the White House when most of the hijackers entered the country, should we ban Democrats from working at ports/airports since their party is "touched by 9/11". Get real guys, if this wasn't an election year this wouldn't be a story.
Posted By Anonymous Ian, Carrollton, TX : 8:15 PM ET
I've got a headache! I'm a long standing Republican and a strong supporter of President Bush. This is a tough one...I'm glad this one ain't going away for a while!
Posted By Anonymous Dan C, Northbrook Illinois : 8:16 PM ET
I agree with former Sec. Ridge that the problem may be abated simply by providing some additional transparency, and perhaps a bit of education.
In your comment, you note that the current operator is "foreign". That is certainly evocative, however the current operator is P&O. This company, while indeed "foreign", is British. While immediately after the Revolutionary War some may question the wisdom of "foreign" port ownership by the British... but time healed that.
The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter who the "owner" is. All owners/operators are subject to the same security requirements... whether U.S., British, or Middle Eastern. Our container ports are currently the least secure entry points to the U.S. It is likely that the mere linkage to the middle east and the fear such a thing evokes (not to mention the political fall-out should something happen) may once and for all compell the U.S. Government to fund the security measures so desperately needed in our ports.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Memphis, TN : 8:17 PM ET
Foreign control of US ports, US wiretapping, VP in charge...What's the threshold for treason?
Posted By Anonymous Ken Salazar-Denver,CO : 8:18 PM ET
How can we make our country safer? First we contract with a foreign country to secure our ports. Then, let's see...oh, maybe we cut the Secret Service and contract with a foreign country to provide White House and presidential security, too!!!
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth Moore, Maryland : 8:21 PM ET
The selling of America has begun already, and has been going on, now they just don't care anymore even if they make it apparent. I was born in this country, and am of Lebanese descent, and I even disagree with this sell. Who will be the employees of this port? What will America really have of material value for herself in the future? The upper 2% just don't care about the 98% of Americans that have to work for a living, and actually do believe in the idealism of America. I know it sounds crazy coming from the son of a foreigner. But I am an American citizen by naturalization, and this is not the country I grew up to believe in anymore. Where is the national pride, I think it has slipped out the door. I think the 2% will sell us off little by little, and don't care what the outcome is down the road. Because they cannot see past tomorrow. I don't care if I sound crazy, but this port deal is the last straw.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin Washington, Birmingham, AL : 8:21 PM ET
Ports are too sensitive to be given to foreign powers to control. Despite the security screens that the firm has passed, there is a lot that can go wrong afterwards. Senators have already raised concerns about hiring procedures and security checks etc. What would stop such a firm from smuggling in Al Qaida operatives or worst, bio weapons? Put it simply, ask yourself this: would you give control of a major airport to a foreign firm with suspect ties? Why would ports be any different?
Posted By Anonymous Chet, Chicago IL : 8:23 PM ET
If this is a reputable company, what's the problem? American companies buyout ports, phone grids, even power plants overseas all the time. If they were Swedish, even Russian, I don't think the commentary would be so bombastic.
Posted By Anonymous Marcos Avellan, Columbia, SC : 8:24 PM ET
It scares me to think that the White House can see no problem with the UAE buying major ports in the US. Will we soon be helping Iran with their atomic endeavors for "peaceful" use of WMD's.
Posted By Anonymous Bill Rad, Bensalem, Pa : 8:25 PM ET
It scares me to think that the White House can see no problem with the UAE buying major ports in the US. Will we soon be helping Iran with their atomic endeavors for "peaceful" use of WMD's.
Posted By Anonymous Bill Rad, Bensalem, Pa : 8:25 PM ET
There may be valid reasons for the government to rethink this deal but I don't think hijackers catching a connecting flight or money in a bank qualify.Neither of those things alone or together is just cause for generalizing that all of the United Arab Emirates is corrupt and ready to attack the USA. Guilt by association is risky business and we could end up setting a very dangerous precedent if we aren't careful.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer Durham, NC : 8:30 PM ET
Now, along with this insanity; I need to know what other countries are ( inside ) this idea. It is clear to me that not only is the UAE part of this madness, as well as loads of money to the Bush administration, but that there are other countires involed that we will be learning about in the very near future.
Years, decades ago, we Americans fought to keep this land ours. Especially the eastern seaboard...Now, our government is begining to give it away for money in their pockets. And the U.K. failing to block this...well they were left behind decades ago for good reasons!!
This is going to really be something to follow, and that is that
Posted By Anonymous TJ Monzon, Va. Beach VA The Home State baby ! : 8:31 PM ET
Bush has gotten away with so many secret things with lyiny and deceit.We cant't let him have a country that is connected to 9/11 run our ports. Everyone must contact their congressman and senator and put a stop to this tradegy in the making.
Posted By Anonymous bob jones.Jacksonville fl. : 8:32 PM ET
The men and women in Washington have lost their street smarts! Additionally, a great deal of money must have changed hands.
I live in NYC - on the street I see a lot of hustle especially by our Middle Eastern neighbors. They don't forget where they came from and are very vocal about telling you this. Why are'nt the politicians listening? They don't live in these neighborhoods and are clueless. I am shocked and appalled that once again our leaders are placing us at risk. Remember, the highjackers were in this country legally. They were cleared and allowed entry to our Country. I saw the planes hit the Twin Towers, I worked in a hospital where we treated the workers, police officers, fireman and others affected after 9/11 was over. How can this be happening now? Please don't tell me they have been cleared. Clearly, you are sleeping, WAKE UP!
Posted By Anonymous C.Ones, Queens, NY : 8:33 PM ET
I think we should have Iran take charge of NORAD and all our nuke silos
Posted By Anonymous Jim Frego, Grants Pass, Oregon : 8:37 PM ET
No way should this be allowed. American cities/people should own American business/ports/land, etc. What is wrong with this administration? I can guess what the payoff was, but better not mention it!!
Posted By Anonymous Moe, Liverpool, NY : 8:41 PM ET
"This one ain't going away for a while."

The politicians that support it will
go away and not be re-elected...
Posted By Anonymous Peggy, Greenville, S.C. : 8:43 PM ET
I'm not sure why we're acting so surprised. Yet another conspiracy orchastrated by "Dubya" and his cronies. Hey, at least I can say I didn't vote for him. Did someone say Halliburton?
Posted By Anonymous Ben, Malvern, PA : 8:49 PM ET
I am stunned at my own ignorance. I had no idea that a foreign company already managed our ports (or some of them).

This is uncomfortable, an insult at best, and a security risk of unimaginable porportions at worst. I can only wonder why are we not capable of managing our own ports? How did that happen? Why does it need to continue?
Posted By Anonymous Sheila Johnson, Greer, SC : 8:54 PM ET
As a former radio officer at sea, I can tell you that the quality and urgency of port security varies widely throughout the world, with the US having some of the very best. The day-to-day details of port operations, cargo contents, vessel schedules and access info, and the ability to exploit that data would be of great value to the bad guys. As it stands now, all of those informational elements travel an electronic highway during the course of vessel management, which we have more control over when we here in the US own the port. I understand that the outgoing company is also foreign, but we should still be able to operate and own our own ports. This is a little shameful. Now, with UAE ownership and control, who else would have access to all of that? Even if the new owners are all a great bunch of people, I still ask if our critical info will be exposed to a different and less honorable group, while traveling an alternate and foreign route. Those with foreign interests that conflict with US interests may gain access, including those without terroristic intentions. It should not be surprising that foreign nationals will act in their own nations best interests if given a choice, not ours. This is no racist point of view, although racists may sound a similar alarm. This is fundamental data security, and risk management with regard to known bad guys with evil stated intentions.
Posted By Anonymous Jerry Beard, Estero, Florida : 9:02 PM ET
I'm a Republican, too, though increasingly embarrassed about it these days. I agree with Chuck Hagel when he says that today's GOP, led by corrupt incompetents like Bush and Hastert, is one that I don't recognize. What ever happend to fiscal discipline, conservation, national pride? And it seems like the only time these clowns believe in limited government is when they're giving away federal land or looking the other way when something like this happens. Soon we'll be selling the Statue of Liberty to the Chinese to finance the deficit, mark my words...
Posted By Anonymous John Cincinnati, OH : 9:19 PM ET
Why is this such a big deal? It's international business at work, we've let so many U.S business' go overseas, thats the problem here. All the emotions surrounding this port issue are the direct result of fear of another possible attack on the U.S and the bigotry and mistrust of the entire Muslim community. Anyway, the ports in question are already run by foreign companies.
Posted By Anonymous Bobby, Madison, WI : 9:32 PM ET
This is just further proof that George W. Bush is a globalist first and an American second. He cares not for the economic downfall of our great nation because he is the steward of global economic interests. The proof is right in front of us people:
1. The US has the largest trade deficit in history (and even a deficit with Mexico for the first time). The president is not concerned and claims that it is simple market forces at work.
2. Oil is at its highest prices ever and the president does not worry. Every other president in recent decades has at least hinted at tapping our reserves to bring the prices down once oil reached $40/barrel. Now with prices at more than $60/ barrel, our president still sees no reason to give americans relief. Record profits from his oil cronies he sees as normal market forces. Easy to say when he isn't commuting 100 miles a day or more to pay for the overpriced home in the only area he can afford that is within reasonable commuting distance of his job like many americans.
3. Jobs continue to stream out of this country while he sits by and watches. Unemployment numbers are manipultated to hide us from the truth. Foreign competitors are violating patents and stealing american intillectual proerty yet still there is no outrage expressed by our president.
4. The president coninually seeks free trade while ignoring the fact that tariffs could protect vulnerable american industries.
5. Selling out our security in support of a foreign power that could care less about our freedom.

I'm with John McCain, we should have not pursue positive relations with nations who would knowingly support our enemies. Radical Islam is spreading throughout the globe. In theocratic states it is especially powerful (as evidenced by the continued bloodshed over political humor). I would love to assume the best for this situation; that this UAE company would never be influenced by radical muslim groups. However, I do not believe that in today's geopolitical environment we can afford the risk. This is not in the same category of curbing the freedoms of american citizens for security, it is just plain business sense.
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Murrieta, CA : 2:16 PM ET
It's not mistrust of the Muslim community, its mistrust of a foreign government with potential ties to our enemies. Turn on the TV and look at all of the flag-burning and chanting of "Death to America" over some cartoons that we didn't even have anything to do with. It will be much easier for someone with those ideals to get involved with this UAE company and manipulate activity in our ports for their own Anti-American interests.

I have no problem with international buisness, but not at the expense of our own security. Would FDR have allowed a Japanese company to run our Pacific ports during WWII? I think the answer is obvious, so why is our current administration so blind?

I fear an attack on U.S. soil facilitated through one of these Atlantic ports will be the wake-up call for our executive branch, unfortunately it will be too late once again.

We cannot let this decision stand, our people's lives depend on it.
Posted By Anonymous Chris , Salem, VA : 2:53 PM ET
"It's also an honor to be here at the Port of Baltimore. It's an impressive place to chopper over. There is a lot of action here in Baltimore. And I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by to talk about how to secure this port, other ports, the borders and our country. That's the task at hand. And for those of you involved with protecting our homeland, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your hard work."
George Bush
20 july '05
Posted By Anonymous jack; Dallas,TX : 7:53 AM ET
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